The next beneficiary of the government's $700 billion rescue fund approved by Congress earlier this month could be insurance companies, according to published reports.

The Treasury Department wants insurance companies to participate in the troubled asset relief program, or TARP, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The government could take preferred equity stakes in certain insurers, the paper said.

Only insurance companies with a financial institution holding company regulated at the federal level will be eligible for the initial program, the Journal said.

The federal government already has come to the rescue of American International Group ( AIG), the world's largest insurer, with an $85 billion loan last month. The government has since made more money available to AIG, as it has looked to sell assets to meet capital demands.

The TARP's first major initiative is a plan for the government to make $250 billion in preferred equity investments in banks to shore up capital and encourage lending. Banks including JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Citigroup ( C), Bank of America ( BAC), Wells Fargo ( WFC) and others have already agreed to participate in the program.

A host of regional banks are expected to receive investments by Monday. PNC Financial Services ( PNC) on Friday said it agreed to buy National City ( NCC) for $5.2 billion in cash and stock, the same day it said it would be bolstered by the federal government's purchase of a $7.7 billion preferred equity stake.
This article was written by a staff member of

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