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Taxpayers on the Hook for $30 Billion
Taxpayers on the Hook for $30 Billion

The watchdog for the nation’s financial bailout program said Wednesday that taxpayers remain on the hook for over $30 billion worth of American International Group’s bailout funds. The special inspector general to the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the New York insurer is now the largest TARP investment. The original bailout for AIG was $161 billion after racking up hundreds of billions of dollars in losses by guaranteeing soured mortgage-backed securities through credit-default swaps without setting aside enough money to pay for them. Since the bailout, AIG’s balance sheet has been pared to $441.4 billion of liabilities with $105 billion in equity at the end of 2011, compared to $952.2 billion in liabilities with $95.8 billion in assets. AIG has sold off a host of foreign assets including AIA (HKG:HK:1299) and Alico. By the end of Q1 AIG’s financial products division has cuts its credit-default swap portfolio from $2 trillion in net notional value in 2008 to $168 billion. “The size of AIGFP’s trading book is greatly diminished, but it may come as a surprise to some that any of AIGFP still exists at all,” the report said. AIG is likely to come under Federal Reserve regulatory oversight once the Financial Stability Oversight Council names which non-banks are 'systemically important' to the financial system. The U.S. Treasury Department said AIG has taken significant action working with it and the Federal Reserve “to restructure, reduce risk and streamline its operations to focus on its core insurance business.” AIG said it would 'welcome additional regulatory oversight' and noted that total government support has dropped by 83%, or $152 billion. The TARP program, after expenditures of $416.1 billion, is now projected to lose between $32 billion to $70 billion for the taxpayer, with $109.1 billion owed as of June 30. There remains 325 banks in the capital purchase program as well as, another 82 banks and credit unions in the community development capital initiative, in addition to TARP holdings in AIG, General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ally Financial that remain outstanding. There are 203 banks and credit unions as well as, two automakers which have paid back all of their shares. The inspector general wrote extensively about bank fraud, including the arrest of the CEO of one TARP applicant, the Bank of the Commonwealth in Virginia, which was the eighth-largest bank failure of 2011. The report said some bank executives turned to fraud instead of admitting to losses during the real-estate downturn and the availability of TARP loans was a way 'to play the float in concealing past due loans as bankers waited for a market upturn'. Some fraud schemes include 'extend and pretend' schemes that extend the due date of a payment, changing loan terms and creating new loans to bring delinquent loans current. The inspector general said fraudulent construction draws, bank-financed sales of bank-owned property or loans, roundtrip transactions creating illusion of capital infusions and 'delay and pray' schemes are other fraudulent schemes.

The U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales of new single-family homes fell 8.4% in June to an annual rate of 350,000 after reaching a two-year high in May. May sales were revised up to a seasonally adjusted 382,000 from an initial reading of 369,000 striking the best month of sales since April 2010. The median price of new homes fell 1.9% in June to $232,600 striking the lowest level seen since January. The supply of new homes on the market would last 4.3 months if they were all sold before any others were built - up from 4.0 months in May. Sales of new homes rose the fastest in the Northeast and fell the most in the South.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported Wednesday that food price forecasts were steady with the government still forecasting 2.5% to 3.5% growth this year and 3% to 4% growth for 2013. The USDA said the full extent of the drought and its effect on commodity prices are as yet unknown.

The Senate on Wednesday wades deeper into a fierce election-year battle over tax policy with a pair of votes about extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Senate Democrats are proposing to extend Bush-era income tax cuts for all but those making above $250,000 a year but Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for all. Under the Democrats’ bill, rates on earnings above $250,000 would revert to 36% and 39.6% from the current 33% and 35% rates while those making less than $250,000 annually would see the lower Bush-era rates extended for one year. The Republican bill would extend the current rates for all earners for another year. Democrats have a majority in the Senate, but even if their bill passes, it would die in the Republican-controlled House so, Wednesday’s votes are mostly about symbolism, not policy-making. According to a Democratic leadership aide, An agreement was emerging to hold votes on both bills later Wednesday however, no vote had been planned on the Republicans’ bill. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said earlier this week, President Obama and Democrats say that wealthy taxpayers should contribute more in the name of fairness and fiscal responsibility. Obama is 'absolutely committed' to allowing cuts for the top two tax brackets expire as scheduled on December 31. Romney and congressional Republicans blast what they say would be an economically damaging tax hike orchestrated by Democrats. The Democrats’ bill includes one-year extensions of tax relief including an expanded child tax credit; an increased American Opportunity Tax Credit to help pay for college education; and an increased earned income tax credit for families with three or more qualifying children. Republicans would eliminate all those extensions. The White House released a report on Tuesday that said the scheduled expiration of those middle-class tax breaks would mean that 114 million families would see an average tax hike of $1,600 next year while the report blamed Republicans for an impasse over taxes. The Democrats’ bill would allow a top rate of 20% on dividends next year, up from 15% now while Republicans would continue the 15% rate. Democrats would impose a top rate of 20% on capital gains, up from 15% currently while Republicans want to keep the 15% capital gains rate.
 

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July 25, 2012


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