Updated from 11:40 a.m. EDT

Ten big financial firms said Wednesday they have begun to repay $68 billion in federal bailout money, taking a first major step toward regaining independence.

JPMorgan Chase

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Morgan Stanley

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Goldman Sachs

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American Express

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Bank of New York Mellon

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Capital One

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US Bancorp

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Northern Trust

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State Street

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said they have begun repaying funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Several banks also specified final dividend payments, which will cut into second-quarter results. Goldman, AmEx, BoNY Mellon, Northern Trust and BB&T said they also paid final dividends totaling $510 million. JPMorgan said it has paid a total of $795 million in preferred dividends through the final one.

The banks also stated intentions to settle TARP-related

warrants as well, though none have done so yet. Until those are paid off, the firms still have a connection to the federal government as an investor. The companies are now entering discussions with the Treasury Department to value the warrants before extinguishing them.

Wednesday is the first day banks are allowed to begin repaying federal preferred equity investments made through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, after government stress tests last month determined that nine of the 19 largest U.S. banks had sufficient capital to exit the program. Recipients of federal bailout funds have been subject to criticism from legislators and the public on everything from the amount of consumer and business lending they have undertaken in the financial crisis to executive compensation.

Executives at banks who provided commentary about TARP thanked taxpayers for their investment, and said the government had provided necessary support during a critical time in the markets.

Some also took pains to distinguish their firms from others that still need further support, like

Bank of America

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Wells Fargo

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, or other smaller banks getting fresh funds as well-capitalized firms return them.

Northern Trust President and CEO Frederick Waddell said his firm was "proud to participate in the program as a strong, well-capitalized bank," BB&T CEO Kelly King said that now the funds are largely paid off, the company has "a singular focus on the business of serving our clients." US Bancorp CEO Richard Davis called the repayment a "significant step forward" that will allow the bank to "return to operating from a position of both independent strength and strategic flexibility."

Joseph Woelfel contributed to this report.