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Vulture investor Wilbur Ross on Monday made public a partnership with money management company



to invest in troubled assets alongside the government through a new program.

The Treasury Department's Public Private Investment Plan (PPIP), unveiled in March, will allow large banks like

Bank of America






Wells Fargo


to sell billions in distressed assets clogging their balance sheets.

It is unclear which institutions will sell into the program, but some, including

Goldman Sachs


, have said they may want to participate as buyers.

Ross talked with

on Monday. He declined to discuss

BankUnited Financial

( BKUNA), the troubled Florida bank he is reported to be bidding for along with the

Blackstone Group



The Carlyle Group

. What is your sense of how willing banks are going to be to sell into this plan?

Ross: Nobody knows for sure. But I think there are two questions. One is, will they offer paper? The other is, at what price will they offer it?

When will we know the answers?

We won't know until the sales actually occur. Right now, where the process stands is on the securitization side. The applications had to be filed at the end of last week. So we filed as I'm sure did some others. Treasury has indicated there'll make some sort of a selection by the middle of May to be followed by transactions in June. On the whole loan side, that's being run by the

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. They have not come with any specific dates yet.

How will the auction actually work?

It's unknown at this point.

How does your ownership of American Home Mortgage Servicing help you bid on these assets?

It helps in two regards. When you're dealing with whole loans, particularly in residential, if you have a large number of loans, somebody has to service them. So that's one way, but the more substantive way is American Home is servicing 525,000 mortgages, totaling $110 billion all around the country, so they have a very good insight into what's going on all the time in all the important markets, so that will be very helpful to us in terms of figuring out what to bid.

The PPIP has been widely presented as a steal for investors, with the only risk being that government will change the rules. Are people oversimplifying?

I think they are oversimplifying. The fundamental risk that you're taking is these are difficult securities to analyze and therefore the risk that you're running is that you pay too much for them. That doesn't change because the government made you a loan. In fact, what it means is that you have a little less margin of error because of the risk the lending ends up on top of you.

You've said you'll invest $1 billion in this program. Is that leveraged or unleveraged?

That's unleveraged.

So could you lose the whole billion?

Conceivably, sure.

How much could you make?

That remains to be seen.

How much are you targeting?

If we give that out then we'll pretty well give out what our bids will be and that wouldn't help us in the process.

What assets are you especially interested in?

All the real estate assets: the commercial mortgage backed securities, the residential mortgage backed securities, commercial whole loans, whole, residential mortgage loans, construction and development loans.

In any particular order? Any parts of the country you'll be focused on?

The whole strategy was to put together a big enough group of talent and knowledge to be able to bid on whatever comes into the market.