Treasury Lists TARP Expenditures; Questions Remain
The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday released a Congressional report detailing the expenditures so far through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. What the report left out was information regarding the funds promised but not yet paid. For instance, when detailing the automakers' bailout, the report is careful to list the all of the various funds given (and promised) to General Motors Corp. (GM) and GMAC LLC, but fails to mention the $4 billion also promised to Chrysler LLC. Although the report lacks the large-scale details of just how $350 billion was allocated since Oct. 28, 2008 -- when the capital injections began -- it includes lots of minutiae. The smallest purchase made under the Capital Purchase Program occurred on Dec. 23 when the Treasury bought $1.8 million in preferred stock from Chula Vista, Calif.-based Seacoast Commerce Bank. The largest purchases made under the Capital Purchase Program occurred on Oct. 28, when the Treasury injected $25 billion each into JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and Citigroup Inc. (C), which would later on Dec. 31 receive an additional $20 billion through the Targeted Investment Program. And, of course, there was American International Group Inc. (AIG) which, on Nov. 25, gobbled up $40 billion to repay an earlier Federal Reserve loan and keep afloat. "These investments have improved the capitalization of these institutions, which is essential to improving the flow of credit to businesses and consumers and boosting the confidence of depositors, investors, and counterparties alike," the report read, in part. "With higher capital levels and restored confidence, banks can continue to play their vital role as lenders in our communities, a necessary requisite for economic recovery and a return to prosperity." According to the numbers the Treasury reported to Congress, total TARP expenditure comes to $262.9 billion. That's $187.5 billion in invested in 214 U.S. financial institutions through the Capital Purchase Program, a $40 billion preferred stock purchase from AIG, a $20 billion purchase in preferred stock and warrants from Citigroup on Dec. 31, and up to $15.4 billion total invested in GM and GMAC (some of that is still pending). The Treasury also reported some TARP administrative expenses -- a $0.7 million compensation for personnel services and a $3.9 million expenditure in non-personnel services expenses -- through Dec. 31, 2008. Even with the administrative fees accounted for, the Treasury is still lacking some transparency in reporting exactly where all of its $350 billion has gone, although it has acknowledged in the past its funds had been depleted. "As a result of this decision, Treasury effectively has allocated the first $350 billion from the TARP," the Treasury said in a media statement regarding the automakers' bailout. "The actual disbursement of this amount is subject to approval of bank capital applications, many of which remain with the regulators and will not reach Treasury for review until early next year." Overdrawn TARP account It's a given at this point in U.S. history that the government will always exist under a mountain of deficit (the Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday that the government will run a $1.2 trillion budget deficit in 2009, according to a MarketWatch bulletin). With an economy based on consumerism and Americans' insatiable appetite for debt, it's only natural that Treasury secretary Henry Paulson's TARP gifts would exceed the actual amount in his $350 billion coin purse. The only question now is, by how much? And where did all those funds go? According to a mid-December article on CNNMoney.com, the allocations only totaled $348.4 billion, to just within $1.6 billion of the remaining TARP funds lining Paulson's pockets. After the $6 billion pledged to GMAC upon receiving its go-ahead to become a bank holding company, the Treasury's TARP allocations had come to $354.4 billion, according to a Washington Post article last week. The $91.5 billion discrepancy between what the Treasury reported and what it really has allocated is more than just a bank error or a failure to carry the one in calculations. Of course, the argument by some is that Paulson has only promised $354.4 billion, but has yet to pay out all of the funds. The reasoning seems to be he can promise all the capital injections he wants on the understanding that he will some day have the money. Either Paulson will argue successfully for the release of the other $350 billion in funds, or he will be forced to break promises he's already made. Of import here is the simple fact Paulson has promised more funds than he has has in his coin purse, and lawmakers have consistently said the remainder of the TARP funds will not be released without specific action by the Treasury to help out the everyday homeowner. At the moment, the Federal Reserve seems to be doing more for mortgages with its recent rate cuts (with the idea cheap money will circulate down into mortgage finance) and its plan to purchase illiquid mortgage-backed securities, which it began doing Monday. Such was the original intent of the TARP funds granted to the Treasury before Paulson announced in November the strategy had changed to a focus on non-bank capital. So by now, ineffectual Treasury action and double standards should no longer surprise when Paulson announces he's temporarily bailed out the automakers' balance sheets and in the process promised aid beyond his means. The next step will likely be a plea to Congress for additional funds -- a bailout for the bailout, as it were. "As previously indicated, Treasury will work with Congress and the President-elect's transition team on the appropriate timing for release of the remainder of the TARP funds to support financial market stability," the Treasury said in the press release regarding GMAC's bailout. It was a short reminder that the Treasury was aware it was exceeding its spending limit but, in the traditional American fashion, it would worry about that later. Read the Treasury's report. Write to Diana Golobay at firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.