Thursday, November 13, 2008

The cost of the Bailout so far? How about $2.5 trillion..!

Bailout Sleuth:

Although the price tag on the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program is $700 billion, the full amount that the government has invested in its rescue effort for struggling financial institutions appears to be closer to $2.5 trillion.

Bloomberg L.P., the parent company of Bloomberg News, said last week that it filed a lawsuit seeking information on the collateral that a group of banks pledged for some $2 trillion in emergency loans from the Federal Reserve.

Bloomberg asked a federal court in New York to require the Federal Reserve to disclose the identity of the banks that borrowed money through certain financing mechanisms, and to disclose what assets they pledged against those loans.

Bloomberg filed the suit after the Federal Reserve said that it would deny Bloomberg's request for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The financial firms that were eligible for some of the loans through the Federal Reserve included many of the same firms that split $125 billion in the first round of the Treasury Department's relief program.

The Treasury Department has approved more than $170 billion in capital injections for banks that applied to sell preferred stock to the government. It has about $80 billion remaining for additional participants, who must submit their applications by Friday.

The Treasury Department announced Monday that it also is investing $40 billion in the preferred shares of American International Group Inc. The financing it part of a new plan to salvage an earlier rescue plan that was going awry.

The revised plan brings the total assistance that AIG has received from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to $150 billion.

Bloomberg reported that the Federal Reserve made its $2 trillion in emergency loans under 11 different programs, eight of which were created in the past 15 months.

The Treasury Department also made a little-noticed change to tax policy that experts say could save banks that merge with other banks as much as $140 billion in taxes. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the change would be Wells Fargo & Co., which is absorbing Wachovia Corp. in a deal spurred by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s concerns about Wachovia's solvency. According to an article Sunday in the Washington Post, Wells Fargo stands to save about $25 billion in taxes.

Adding together the $170 billion that the Treasury Department has currently agreed to provide banks in additional capital, the $150 billion that the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are providing to AIG and the $2 trillion that the Federal Reserve has provided banks in emergency loans brings the total assistance to $2.32 trillion.

If the estimated savings from the new tax breaks are included, the assistance would climb to $2.46 trillion. That total does not include other measures not focused directly on banks, such as Treasury Department's $200 billion in support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing the Administration's $300 billion HOPE for Homeowners program.

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