Tag Archives: bailout

Larry Summers Should Keep His Mouth Shut

By James Kwak

Larry Summers is well on his way to rehabilitating his public image as a brilliant intellectual, moving on from his checkered record as president of Harvard University and as President Obama’s chief economic adviser during the first years of the administration. Unfortunately, he can’t resist taking on his critics—and he can’t do it without letting his debating instincts take over.

I was reading his review of House of Debt by Mian and Sufi. Everything seemed reasonable until I got to this passage justifying the steps taken to bail out the financial system:

“The government got back substantially more money than it invested. All of the senior executives who created these big messes were out of their jobs within a year. And stockholders lost 90 per cent or more of their investments in all the institutions that required special treatment by the government.”

I have no doubt that every word in this passage is true in some meaninglessly narrow sense or other. But on the whole it is simply false.

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Nationalization Works

By James Kwak

The Treasury Department today announced that it has sold off the rest of its stake in A.I.G. Treasury will focus on the claim that taxpayers made a profit on the deal. As I’ve written before, the story is a bit more complicated.

But that’s a sideshow. The point of nationalizing A.I.G. (what else do you call it when the government buys 80% of a company?) wasn’t to make money; it was supposedly to save the global economy. In any case, things have worked out pretty well: the global economy is intact, though still not healthy, and A.I.G. is a private company again.

Which brings up what, to me, is the bigger question: Why were we so afraid of nationalizing Citigroup and Bank of America four years ago? And isn’t A.I.G. looking like a better company today than those two?

Fairness

“What cannot be accepted are financial rescue operations that benefit the unworthy and cause losses to other important groups – like taxpayers and wage earners. And that, unfortunately, is the perception held by many nowadays, particularly in the United States.”

That’s Brad DeLong (regular blog here) in Project Syndicate (hat tip Mark Thoma).

But Brad, is it just a perception, or is it real? I think DeLong is saying it’s real, but I’m not certain.

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More on Goldman and AIG

Thomas Adams, a lawyer and former bond insurer executive, wrote a guest post for naked capitalism on the question of why AIG was bailed out and the monoline bond insurers were not (wow, is it really almost two years since the monoline insurer crisis?). He estimates that the monolines together had roughly the same amount of exposure to CDOs that AIG did; in addition, since the monolines also insured trillions of dollars of municipal debt, there were potential spillover effects. (AIG, by contrast, insured tens of trillions of non-financial stuff — people’s lives, houses, cars, commercial liability, etc. — but that was in separately capitalized subsidiaries.)

The difference between the monolines and AIG, Adams posits, was Goldman Sachs.

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Back-Door Resolution Authority

Tyler Cowen quotes from Robert Pozen’s yet-to-be-released book:

“In my view, the adverse repercussions of Lehman’ failure could have been substantially reduced if the federal regulators had made clear that they would protect all holders of Lehman’s commercial paper with a maturity of less than 60 days and guaranteed the completion of all trades with Lehman for that period.”

Back when people cared about these things, I wrote a couple of posts on the issue of selective protection of creditors.

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More on Bank of America

Last Wednesday I wrote a highly critical post about the agreement between Bank of America(BAC)  and the government (Treasury, the Fed, and the FDIC) to terminate BAC’s asset guarantee agreement in exchange for a payment of $425 million. I’ve learned some more about this and I think I can reconstruct the government’s perspective on this issue, with the help of someone knowledgeable about the transaction.

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Bank of America $4 Billion, Taxpayers $425 Million

I’m trying to figure out if I should be infuriated about the agreement allowing Bank of America to walk away from the asset guarantees it got as part of its January bailout in exchange for a payment of $425 million. I can piece together part of the story from The New York Times, Bloomberg, and NPR, but the complete story is a bit hazy.

The initial deal was that Treasury, the FDIC, and the Fed would guarantee losses on a $118 billion portfolio of assets; B of A would absorb the first $10 billion and 10% of any further losses, so the government’s maximum exposure would be about $97 billion. Part of that guarantee was a non-recourse loan commitment from the Fed, basically meaning that the Fed would loan money to B of A, take the assets as collateral, and agree to keep the assets in lieu of being paid back at B of A’s option. In exchange, the government would get:

(a) An annual fee of 20 basis points on the Fed’s loan commitment, even when undrawn (if B of A drew down the loan, which it didn’t, it would pay a real interest rate). The loan commitment could be interpreted to be only $97 billion, so this comes to $194 million per year.

(b) $4 billion of preferred stock with an 8% dividend. That’s a dividend of $320 million per year; B of A can buy back the preferred stock by paying $4 billion.

(c) Warrants on $400 million of B of A stock. B of A was at $7.18 the day the bailout was announced and yesterday it closed at $17.61, so if Treasury had gotten an exercise price of $7.18, those warrants would be worth about $580 million now.

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