Treasury provides support for 92 more banks

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by Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:37 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department says it has provided an additional $4.7 billion to 92 banks as part of the government's $700 billion rescue of the financial system.

The department released a list of 49 banks that got final approval last Friday to receive $2.8 billion. It said an additional 43 banks received final approval Tuesday, but those names will not be released until Monday.

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Treasury also confirmed that it had given preliminary approval to American Express Co. and CIT Group to receive support from the $700 billion bailout fund.

The money is being disbursed as part of the government's effort to buy stock in banks, to bolster their balance sheets and spur them to step up lending to fight the worst financial crisis to hit the country in seven decades.

But critics contend that many banks are not using the government funds for the purpose Congress intended.

An Associated Press survey of 21 banks that received at least $1 billion each in government support found that none of them would provide specific answers on how the money was used.

Credit card giant American Express said it had received preliminary approval for $3.39 billion in government money. And commercial finance company CIT Group said it had received approval to obtain $2.33 billion.

The Treasury confirmed that both companies had received preliminary approval for government support. The final authorization comes after lawyers draw up the documents needed to transfer the funds. Under the rescue legislation passed in October, Treasury has two business days after the final documents are signed to announce the actual release of the money.

In the list of banks released Tuesday were 14 banks that do not have publicly traded stock. They were the first institutions in this category of banks to win government funds.

The Bush administration last Friday said it would lend $17.4 billion to General Motors and Chrysler LLC in an effort to buy them time to reorganize and avoid having to file for bankruptcy. GM and Chrysler had said they would run out of cash within weeks if they didn't get help.

Under the White House plan, the two companies must extract enough financial concessions from workers, dealers and other stakeholders by the end of March to show their long-term viability. But the biggest decisions about the industry's future have been left to President-elect Barack Obama.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced Friday that with the decision to provide loans to the auto companies, the first half of the $700 billion bailout fund has been committed. He said Congress needed to approve the release of the final $350 billion.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday he is preparing legislation to require that some of the bailout money be spent for specific purposes, such as stemming foreclosures and reducing mortgage rates. Frank is pushing to get the second half of the $700 billion rescue fund released next month, before Obama is inaugurated.

Frank's bill would impose tighter restrictions on the second $350 billion, such as requiring banks to report on their new lending every quarter and toughening limits on executive compensation.

Frank said his legislation would also include a version of a plan, supported by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, to spend $24 billion to give lenders financial incentives to modify more loans and help more borrowers keep their homes. Bair has estimated it could prevent 1.5 million foreclosures.

It was unclear whether Frank could gain enough support to win congressional approval to release the second $350 billion before Obama takes office, given opposition among Republicans.

Meanwhile, other financial industry groups are pushing to use the bailout fund to help a wider array of companies, including automotive financing companies such as GMAC Financial Services. GMAC is 51 percent owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private equity firm; General Motors owns the rest.

GMAC, which provides financing for GM vehicle and dealer loans along with home mortgages, is having trouble finding adequate support from its bondholders for a debt transaction that would allow it to become a bank holding company and gain eligibility for bailout money.

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