TARP investment in banks repaid with profit

The portion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that went to banks has now turned a profit for the federal government, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday.

After receiving $7.4 billion in TARP repayments Wednesday, the Treasury has now received $251 billion from banks participating in various bailout programs, which is good for a $6 billion profit from the $245 billion originally handed out to banks. The department now estimates that bank investments under TARP will ultimately net taxpayers roughly $20 billion in profit.

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Furthermore, the Treasury estimates that all the TARP programs combined — including money doled out to banks, insurance company American International Group (AIG) and domestic auto companies — will result in "little to no cost to taxpayers."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said taking TARP into the black for banks represents an "important milestone" for the program.

“While our overriding objective with TARP was to break the back of the financial crisis and save American jobs, the fact that our investment in banks has also delivered a significant profit for taxpayers is a welcome development,” Geithner said.

In fact, the Treasury expects the only lost money from TARP will stem from its foreclosure prevention programs, which were not designed to recoup costs. House Republicans are currently pushing to eliminate a number of those programs in several bills, which the White House has threatened to veto.

When combining TARP with other actions by the federal government driven by the financial crisis — such as the government's financial support of struggling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and various Federal Reserve interventions into financial markets — the Treasury now estimates that the relief efforts of the government combined will result in a $24 billion profit for taxpayers.

The optimistic balance sheet represents a marked turnaround for the bailout program, which was widely decried at the time of passage as an effort that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. However, while the financial performance of the programs has exceeded original expectations, TARP watchers still have aired concerns about the bailout effort.

In its final report, the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP noted that the program came in well below expected costs, but also worried that it may have instilled a "too big to fail" mentality into large American companies, which might now believe that the government will step in if they are in danger of failing. 

Treasury officials have said that the interventions during the financial crisis were not ideal but necessary, and that new tools created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law prevent the "too big to fail" problem from occurring again.