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Eye on the Bailout

Weekly Bailouts Slow to A Trickle… for Now

Every week since mid-November, the Treasury Department has been doling out cash to banks throughout the country as part of its program to bolster “healthy” banks. In the heady days of mid-November, it was billions more every week. Over the past few weeks, that tide has slowed considerably – you can get a real sense of this by scanning the very end of our timeline. The money has been increasingly going to smaller and fewer banks. Last Friday, a paltry $22.8 million went out to five banks (see below). Overall, more than 500 banks have gotten $198.41 billion through the program.

But this would seem to be the calm before the storm. The Treasury Department has indicated that insurance companies will be getting their share of bailout bucks, and given the size of some of the insurers lining up, it’s fair to say that might result in several billion more out the door. And of course, the “stress tests” regulators are performing are just a prelude to more bailouts for the nation’s biggest banks. Those are expected to finish up by the end of this month. And don’t forget Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: at the end of each quarter, they reveal their losses and the government fills the hole with taxpayer money. Fannie and Freddie will be releasing their first quarter results sometime in the next few weeks.

So, well, stay tuned.

Here are the five banks that got money last Friday:

City National Bancshares Corporation: $9.4 million
First Business Bank, N.A.: $2.2 million
SV Financial, Inc.: $4 million
Capital Commerce Bancorp, Inc.: $5.1 million
Metropolitan Capital Bancorp, Inc.: $2 million

Introducing our New Bailout Guide

ProPublica ImagesWe've been working hard over the past six months to keep tabs on the billions flowing from the Treasury Department. But as the government's response to the financial crisis has grown and scattered, it's gotten harder and harder to lay it all out for readers.

The site we're unveiling today will hopefully make all that a lot easier. It gives readers plenty of ways to break down the data: You can see every recipient of bailout money  and the programs the money is being funneled through. We've done our best to translate the Treasury's bureaucratese to plain English (e.g. "Targeted Investment Program" really means "More Money for Citigroup and Bank of America"). Here's a full list of what we have:

One note on our methodology: We've included the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in our database, because even though it's not part of the $700 billion TARP, it's part of the broader bailout of the financial industry.

The 30-Day Bank

New Frontier BankNormally, when the FDIC announces a Friday bank failure it has already found a buyer for the insured deposits and assets of the failed institution. Come Monday morning, life goes on as normal for the failed bank's customers, except that their bank's name has changed.

But when New Frontier Bank of Greeley, Colorado, failed last Friday, the FDIC could not find a buyer. Instead it employed a seldom-used power to create its own temporary bank that the FDIC is calling the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Greeley. How rare is this maneuver? The last time the FDIC used the legal provision that allows it to create its own bank was in 1982.

In that case, the FDIC created a bank to process the failure of Oklahoma-based Penn Square. Congress gave the FDIC the power to create its own banks to resolve failed institutions back in 1933, but by 1982 it was used so infrequently that in the preceding 20 years the agency had only created four of them.

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Meet the New Bailout Boss

Neel Kashkari, left, will be replaced as bailout chief by Fannie Mae CEO Herb Allison (ProPublica Images and Getty Images/Justin Sullivan) It’s Herb Allison, according to today’s reports, who’ll be moving from the bailed-out Fannie Mae to the bailout command center at the Treasury Department. He’ll be replacing Neel Kashkari, the young Goldman Sachs alum who came to be known as the fresh face of the TARP. Fun fact: Allison, at 65, is thirty years older than Kashkari.

With Allison leaving Fannie, both Fannie and Freddie now lack a permanent CEO. David Moffett, who like Allison was appointed after the government takeover last September, jumped ship at Freddie last month. It seems it’s not a very attractive gig.

Banks Returning Bailout Money Kvetch About Repayment Terms

West Virginia's Centra Financial Holdings CEO Douglas Leech, whose bank returned its bailout funds, called the terms of the bailout program wrong and fundamentally un-American.Six banks so far have returned money to the Treasury Department, and despite all being healthy enough to afford repayment, they've tended to be a pretty cross lot. Treasury and Congress changed the rules on them, they say, adding new executive compensation limits and threatening tighter restrictions. And then there's the oft-repeated refrain that banks that have taken the money have been painted with the bailout brush when they got the money under a program that was supposed to be for "healthy" banks.

But for vitriol, the CEO of West Virginia's Centra Financial Holdings, takes the cake. Douglas Leech, who also founded the private bank, told the New York Times, "What they did is wrong and fundamentally un-American."

What's he talking about? When Treasury invests in banks, it buys preferred stock that pays a five percent dividend. On top of that, Treasury has been receiving stock warrants to help recoup more taxpayer money. For the most part, those warrants in public companies are "out of the money," i.e. the stock is trading below the price at which Treasury could acquire them. But that doesn't mean they're worthless, since Treasury could hold them for years, when the stock might rise high enough.

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About This Project

We're tracking where the bailout money is going. Our lead bailout reporter – and blogger – is ProPublica's Paul Kiel. Lead developer is Dan Nguyen.

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  • Our frequently updated database tracks every dollar. In the scorecard, we provide a summary generated from the latest numbers.
Photo by flickr user sparkieblues http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkieblues/3971258497/

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