More than two years have passed since the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (“EESA”) authorized the creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”). On October 3, 2010, Treasury’s authority to initiate new TARP investments expired, marking a significant milestone in TARP’s history but also leading to the widespread, but mistaken, belief that TARP is at or near its end. As of October 3, $178.4 billion in TARP funds were still outstanding, and although no new TARP obligations can be made, money already obligated to existing programs may still be expended. Indeed, with more than $80 billion still obligated and available for spending, it is likely that far more TARP funds will be expended after October 3, 2010, than in the year since last October when U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (“Treasury Secretary”) extended TARP’s authority by one year. In short, it is still far too early to write TARP’s obituary.
Systemically Significant Failing Institutions (“SSFI”) Program. Under the stated terms of the SSFI program, Treasury invests in systemically significant institutions to prevent their failure and the market disruption that would follow. As of September 30, 2009, Treasury, through SSFI, had made and is committed to make further investments in one institution — American International Group, Inc. (“AIG”). This support was provided through two transactions — $40 billion for the purchase of preferred stock from AIG to repay debt owed to the Federal Reserve and approximately $29.8 billion for an equity capital facility that AIG can draw on as needed. As of September 30, 2009, AIG had drawn down $3.2 billion in equity from the capital facility. See the “Systemically Significant Failing Institutions” portion of this section for a more detailed discussion of the AIG transactions.
In the fall of 2008, the Federal Reserve and Treasury faced several key decisions about the future of AIG. After attempts to find private-sector financing failed, they chose to provide assistance to AIG rather than allow the company to file for bankruptcy. FRBNY officials believed that an AIG failure would pose considerable risk to the entire financial system and would have significantly intensified an already severe financial crisis. FRBNY was concerned about the effect of an AIG bankruptcy on key sectors of the market, such as retirement accounts and the credit markets. FRBNY adopted in substantial part the economic terms of a draft term sheet under consideration by a consortium of private banks, the terms of which included a very high interest rate.
By itself, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”) is a huge program at $700 billion. As discussed in SIGTARP’s April Quarterly Report, the total financial exposure of TARP and TARP-related programs may reach approximately $3 trillion. Although large in its own right, TARP is only a part of the combined efforts of the Federal Government to address the financial crisis.