U.S. taxpayers are still owed nearly $133 billion that companies haven't repaid from the financial bailout, according to a quarterly Special Inspector General Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) report. The report also states that as of December 31, 2011, the Treasury has "written off $4.2 billion and realized losses of $7.8 billion that the taxpayer will never get back," and that it "predicts losses on other TARP investments."
But perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, some programs were designed as a "Government subsidy with no return to taxpayers," according to the report.
Of the $700 billion Congress authorized for the bailout of financial companies and automakers, also known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), approximately $413 billion has been lent. Of the $413 billion, the government has allegedly recovered about $318 billion, or about 77 percent of it, according to the Associated Press.
However, although 77 percent sounds pretty good, keep in mind that the TARP bailouts, which were launched at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008, will continue to exist for years.
According to SIGTARP report:
TARP programs that support the housing market and certain securities markets are scheduled to last until as late as 2017, and Treasury can spend an additional $51 billion on these programs during those years.
"TARP is not over," Christy Romero, the acting special inspector general for the $700 billion bailout, said in a recent statement.
But perhaps even more troubling than the prospect of the continuation of the bailouts or the massive amounts of taxpayer dollars being “written off" is the fact that SIGTARP continues to uncover TARP-related fraud.
While the mainstream media has kept itself busy reporting that a large chunk of the TARP money has been returned, it has failed to report that the known instances of TARP-related fraud has increased since SIGTARP’s January 2011 report.
Consider the following [all emphases added]:
Jan. 2011: “As of December 31, 2010, SIGTARP had 142 ongoing criminal and civil investigations…”
Jan. 2012: “As of December 31, 2011, SIGTARP had more than 150 ongoing criminal and civil investigations…”
Jan. 2011: There were “criminal convictions of 13 defendants for fraud”
Jan. 2012: There were “criminal convictions of 31 defendants, of whom 22 have been sentenced to prison (others are awaiting sentencing)”
Jan. 2011: SIGTARP reported “civil or criminal actions against 45 individuals to date, including 22 senior officers (Chief Executive Officers, owners, founders, or senior executives)"
Jan. 2012: SIGTARP reported “criminal actions against 61 individuals, including 45 senior officers (CEOs, owners, founders, or senior executives) of their organizations)"
Jan. 2011: There were 12 “civil cases naming…corporate entities as defendants”
Jan. 2012: There were 18 “civil cases naming…corporate or other legal entities as defendants…”
Now, to be clear, SIGTARP reports are released quarterly and the above is an annual comparison. However, whether it's a matter of 3 or 12 months, the increase in known TARP fraud is still troublesome. And while it's laudable that SIGTARP has prosecuted and convicted a good number of these financial thieves, it is unsettling to see that that number continues to grow with each report.
It would seem that FBI Director Robert Mueller was correct when he predicted that TARP fraud would become the “next wave of financial fraud cases.”
But before we get lost in these numbers, let’s revisit that part about companies who have yet to repay their debts. Who still owes?
"Among the largest bailed-out companies, American International Group Inc. [AIG] still owes taxpayers around $50 billion, General Motors Co. owes about $25 billion and Ally Financial Inc. about $12 billion," the AP reports.
General Motors Co. still owes about $25 billion? That’s odd. It seems that just yesterday someone was touting the Detroit auto manufacturer as the very model of economic success.
Where does that put us? Billions of taxpayer dollars "written off" and an increase in known instances of TARP fraud. Is there any other bad news in the SIGTARP report?
Actually, there is.
"Treasury bailed out companies in the form of loans. It converted its loans to some of the biggest recipients into common shares in those companies," the AP reports. "Those shares are now trading below Treasury's break-even prices."
What does this mean?
"For Treasury to sell its stock in the largest recipients at the price where taxpayers would break even — $28.73 a share for AIG, $53.98 for GM — it could take years," the AP reports.
Considering that AIG's shares closed Thursday at $25.14 and GM ended at $24.72 (Ally isn't publicly traded), the AP is probably correct.
"We'll continue to balance the important goals of exiting our investments as soon as practicable and maximizing value for taxpayers," Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson said.
While that's supposed to sound reassuring, the bottom line is still this: billions of dollars have been "written off" by the Treasury, SIGTARP is uncovering more cases of TARP-related fraud, and it could take years for the Treasury to offload the stock from the biggest bailout recipients.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.