February 26, 2024

DealBook: Some Banks Hang On to Bailout Billions

Regions FinancialJohn Bazemore/Associated PressRegions Financial owes $3.5 billion in TARP money, the most of any bank.

While it has been nearly three years since Washington bailed out the banks, the financial industry is still clinging to $19 billion in taxpayer money.

Nearly 500 banks, ranging from beleaguered regional powerhouses to obscure community banks, owe roughly 8 percent of the $245 billion doled out at the peak of the financial crisis, according to Treasury Department data released this week. Regions Financial, a large lender based in Alabama, owes $3.5 billion, the most of any bank.

Even as bailout money has slowly returned to the government’s coffers throughout the year, many banks still refuse to part with their lifelines. Some institutions, well-positioned to reimburse taxpayers through fresh stock offerings, are choosing instead to wait for brighter days when their stock prices are not so depressed.

Other stragglers desperately need the money. Nearly one-third of the remaining debtors have missed their recent dividend payments to the government, according to an analysis by Linus Wilson, professor of finance at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“The percent of deadbeats,” Mr. Wilson said, “will almost surely rise in the short term.”

Next month will be the three-year anniversary of the highly contentious Troubled Asset Relief Program. At the time, as the economy teetered on the brink, the government injected much-needed capital into the banking industry, charging the banks 5 percent annual interest. There is no deadline for repayment, although a steeper 9 percent dividend payment kicks in after five years.

Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, eager to shed the stigma of TARP and its caps on executive bonuses, quickly repaid the bailout money. Over the last two years, other big banks followed suit.

The Obama administration now expects to turn a roughly $20 billion profit on the bank bailouts, programs once seen as a major drain on the government’s bottom line. Still, the overall TARP payouts — which included lifelines to the American International Group, the automotive industry and embattled homeowners — will likely cost taxpayers up to $37 billion.

The $19 billion owed by banks is down 14 percent from May. The decline is partially a result of dozens of banks repaying their debts using a separate pool of government funds. Under a new program intended to encourage small-business lending, smaller banks can exchange their rescue money for cheaper capital, provided they meet certain lending targets.

“Unfortunately, this means that taxpayers will see less money from their risky investments,” Mr. Wilson said.

Only 10 banks have fully repaid their bailout funds over the last few months, Treasury Department data shows. And now, roughly 160 of the 500 debtors are behind on their dividend payments to the government, according to Mr. Wilson.

More than 70 banks have failed to keep up with at least six dividend payments, his research shows, allowing the Treasury Department to appoint directors to the boards of the firms. Some banks are in even deeper. Saigon National Bank in Westminster, Calif., has missed 11 payments, Mr. Wilson said.

Another 12 institutions have a good reason for not paying up: They have filed for bankruptcy.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f6644cb878ce34a482ecd1a764b694b5

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