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Mon, Jul 20, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Banks say bailout funding helped increase lending


More than 80 percent of the US banks that received federal bailout funds said the money had helped them increase lending or avoid a drop in lending as the recession worsened earlier this year, a survey found.

The survey, released on Sunday by the Special Inspector General for the US Treasury’s US$700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), found nearly 40 percent of the 360 banks surveyed had used some of the funds to build up capital cushions to absorb unanticipated losses.

And a third of the institutions said they had invested some of the TARP money into mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The poll, conducted from February to last month, focused on a question on the minds of many lawmakers, policy makers and commentators: What have banks done with their bailout money?

The bank capital infusion program approved by the administration of former US president George W. Bush last October did not require detailed information from banks on use of TARP funds.

TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky recommended in the report that Treasury require TARP recipients to submit periodic reports to the Treasury on their use of the funds, “such as lending, investments, acquisitions and other activities, including a description of what actions they were able to take that they would not have taken without TARP funding.”

The survey did not make public results from individual banks, partly to address their concerns about divulging sensitive information.

But of the 360 banks surveyed, 300 said it was used to supplement lending activities.

About 29 percent of institutions said they used TARP funds to make residential loans, 18 percent used the funds for commercial mortgages and 17 percent said they made other consumer loans with TARP funds, such as auto loans and personal lines of credit.

Among the 40 percent of banks that said they used TARP funds to bolster capital cushions, economic uncertainty was a key factor cited.

The report cited the following quote as a typical response in this area: It was “in the best interest of [the bank’s] shareholders for the company to gain additional liquidity and a further capital cushion against the economic uncertainties that lay ahead.”

Another 52 institutions said they used the funds to pay off other debts because the government funding was more cost effective.

Another 15 banks said they used TARP funds for acquisitions, mostly to take over failed banks at the request of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, the regulator that administers most bank failures.

Most TARP participants said they did not segregate the taxpayer funds from their other capital or borrowings.

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