When the government wants to spend pork, but not call it pork they rebrand it as an “investment” in our future. Such is the case with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). So, as taxpayers and “investors” how have we fared with our “investment” and how does TARP fit into our dividend portfolios?
In a report issued last Friday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the Treasury lost more than 25% of the $247 billion it spent as of Dec. 31 bailing out banks, according to a report released on Friday.
The CBO used a modified Black-Scholes option pricing model to value the TARP assets. The calculation was based on the present value of the dividends banks are required to pay taxpayers on the warrants issued in exchange for the funds received. The present value of the warrants was only $183 billion at December 31st, resulting in the Treasury providing a “subsidy” to the banks of $64 billion.
Terms of the TARP agreement require banks to pay back 5% annually in dividends for the first five years, and 9% after that if taxpayers haven’t been repaid. The warrants expire in 10 years. Last Thursday, Lawrence Summers, President-elect Barack Obama’s chief economic advisor, promised that the incoming administration would take steps to improve returns on TARP funds for taxpayers, in part by limiting dividend payouts to shareholders.
Prominent financial companies participating in TARP include:
- American Express Company (AXP)
- Bank of America Corporation (BAC)
- BB&T Corp. (BBT)
- U.S. Bancorp (USB)
- Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC)
Some institutions, such as Bank of America, have returned to the trough to feed again off TARP funds. As dividend investors, we must carefully consider whether or not banks participating in the TARP program should be included in our income portfolios.
Full Disclosure: Long BBT, USB