Gretchen Morgenson explains why Wall Street could game the bailout and screw the taxpayers with Paulson’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Consider: A bank wants to sell the TARPistas (also known as TAXPAYERS) a pile of stinky mortgage securities that it currently values at 60 cents on the dollar. Let’s assume that the most recent actual trade between market participants for similar assets was struck at 30 cents on the dollar.
So what’s a fair price that we TARPistas should pay for the assets?
If we bought at 60 cents, a price that the bank would argue is appropriate, we would most likely face a loss. The bank, however, would be much better off than if it had to dump at 30 cents.
Conversely, if the assets were sold at 30 cents, taxpayers could wind up making a profit on the purchase if the assets performed better than expected over time. But the bank would have to write down the value of the assets as a result of the sale, possibly threatening its financial standing yet again.
Do you think, perchance, that financial services lobbyists might be working their Hill contacts right this very minute to ensure that the TARP valuations are rigged in their favor?