Proposed Plan To Deal With Toxic Assets

by Chris Sturr | March 22, 2009

From The Wall Street Journal:

MARCH 21, 2009

U.S. Sets Plan for Toxic Assets
Wall Street Journal
By DEBORAH SOLOMON

WASHINGTON — The federal government will announce as soon as Monday a three-pronged plan to rid the financial system of toxic assets, betting that investors will be attracted to the combination of discount prices and government assistance.

But the framework, designed to expand existing programs and create new ones, relies heavily on participation from private-sector investors. They’ve been the target of a virulent anti-Wall Street backlash from Washington in the wake of the American International Group Inc. bonus furor. As a result, many investors have expressed concern about doing business with the government in this climate–potentially casting a cloud over the program’s prospects.

The administration plans to contribute between $75 billion and $100 billion in new capital to the effort, although that amount could expand down the road.

The plan, which has been eagerly awaited by jittery investors, includes creating an entity, backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to purchase and hold loans. In addition, the Treasury Department intends to expand a Federal Reserve facility to include older, so-called “legacy” assets. Currently, the program, known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, was set up to buy newly issued securities backing all manner of consumer and small-business loans. But some of the most toxic assets are securities created in 2005 and 2006, which the TALF will now be able to absorb.

Finally, the government is moving ahead with plans, sketched out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last month, to establish public-private investment funds to purchase mortgage-backed and other securities. These funds would be run by private investment managers but be financed with a combination of private money and capital from the government, which would share in any profit or loss.

All told, the three efforts are designed to unglue markets that have seized up as investors have stood on the sidelines. One big problem is that many of these assets no longer trade, which means it’s very hard to put a price on them. Banks are unwilling to sell at too low a price, and investors are unwilling to take the risk.

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