TARP Inspector Says Taxpayers Still in the Hole

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The U.S. Treasury Department's own Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, on Wednesday contradicted a previous Treasury statement that the bank bailout program was profitable.

In its quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector for TARP said "It is a widely held misconception that TARP will make a profit. The most recent cost estimate for TARP is a loss of $60 billion," adding that "taxpayers are still owed $118.5 billion (including $14 billion written off or otherwise lost)."

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This directly contradicts a statement by the Treasury in late March, after the agency took losses of $48.8 million after its decision to auction its preferred shares in six banks owing TARP money at a discount, that it had "recovered $260 billion from TARP's bank programs through repayments, dividends, interest, and other income - compared to the $245 billion initially invested," so that "each additional dollar recovered from TARP's bank programs is an additional dollar of profit for taxpayers."

Of course, the biggest TARP recipient was American International Group ( AIG), which received $40 billion in TARP money in November 2008, followed by another $29.8 billion in April 2009, but actually received over $170 billion in aid through TARP and from the Federal Reserve. With TARP preferred shares having been converted to common shares, the government is planning to fully divest its roughly 70% position in AIG's common shares by the end of this year.

After the $700 billion bailout plan was approved by Congress and President Bush, TARP began with then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson meeting in October 2008 with the top executives of eight of the largest bank holding companies and making it clear that they would need to cooperate in the government's decision to provide bailout funds and take preferred stakes in the banks, even if the executives didn't think the bailouts were yet needed.

The initial eight TARP recipients included:
  • Bank of America (BAC) which initially received $15 billion in TARP money, followed by another $30 billion in January 2009, after the company acquired Merrill Lynch. Bank of America fully redeemed its TARP preferred shares in December 2009.
  • Citigroup (C) received $25 billion in TARP money, plus another $20 billion through the government's "targeted investment program." Citigroup repaid the $20 billion in December 2009. The original $25 billion state was converted into common shares with the government completing its sale of the common in January 2011, for a total of $31.9 billion.
  • JPMorgan Chase (JPM) received $25 billion in TARP money, which it fully repaid in June 2009.
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) also received $25 billion in bailout funds, which it fully repaid in December 2009.
  • Morgan Stanley (MS) received $10 billion in bailout funds, which it repaid in June 2009.
  • Goldman Sachs (GS) also received $10 billion in TARP money, redeeming the government's preferred shares in June 2009.
  • Bank of New York Mellon (BK) took $3 billion in TARP funds, fully redeeming the government's preferred shares in June 2009.
  • State Street (STT) received $2 billion in TARP money, and repaid the government in June 2009.

Regions Financial was the largest publicly traded bank holding company still owing TARP money, before the Birmingham, Ala., lender fully redeemed its $3.5 billion in TARP shares in early April.

The TARP Inspector General said that as of March 31, the government still held preferred shares in 351 regional and community banks that had received TARP money, "in addition to 83 financial institutions in TARP's Community Development Capital Initiative ("CDCI"), for a total of 434 still in TARP."

Through the Small Business Lending Fund, 137 banks were able to exit TARP, with the government taking new preferred stakes under the SBLF program.

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Many of the remaining TARP banks were unable to qualify for SBLF, and some have missed dividend payments to the government. Late in 2013, the dividend rate for TARP preferred shares will increase to 9.00% from 5.00%, which for some TARP banks will be a crippling coupon.

So over the next two years, the remaining TARP banks will be under increasing pressure to fully exit TARP or sell to stronger institutions.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.