Monday, March 23, 2009

No Penalty for Early Payoff

Whatever one may think of the AIG bonus scandal, one thing is clear - America is paying attention (well, when it comes to Congress, maybe not close attention, but attention nonetheless)!

There are still more than a few questions about how the TARP money is or is not spent and why it credit markets haven't loosened up. Apparently its irritating some bank executives, to the point that they are complaining about the scrutiny!

Daniel Gross of Slate Magazine has an very practical solution: if you don't like the strings attached to the bailout dollars, just give money back...

"In October, Northern Trust, the Chicago-based bank announced it would take $1.5 billion in TARP funds. But now it's expressing annoyance that members of Congress are teed off about its sponsorship of a golf tournament. The bank, which is in good health, says it didn't seek the funds but agreed to participate because the government wanted all the major banks to take part. So is Northern Trust making maximum effort to pare expenses, conserve cash, or raise new capital so that it can return the TARP funds and avoid all this scrutiny? Not so much. Last Friday, CEO Frederick Waddell said the profitable bank wanted to repay funds "as quickly as prudently possible." Last month it declared its regular quarterly stock dividend of 28 cents per share, which costs about $62.5 million per quarter, or $250 million a year—enough to pay down one-sixth of the suddenly onerous obligation."

We all know its a tough time to be in banking and finance. But it looks as though some of these institutions can (unlike most of us), examine the fine print in their loan papers and make the determination to do without. Congratulations to Darrell G. Byrd, the CEO of Iberia Banks, who made just that decision. Got the money. Checked the fine print. Too much trouble so...

""Our board of directors has determined that continued participation in this program is no longer in the best interest of our company and its shareholders," Byrd said. Byrd announced that Iberia would pay back the funds with interest by the end of March."

Well there you go! Anybody else tired of being bailed out? Last I checked, the U.S. could use $350 billion or so...

Heads-Up: Crystia Freeland's interview with Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of America, is worth watching!

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