The TARP TRAP – Banks Want to Return TARP Money

posted by Nima

March 30, 2009 · Posted in General Economics 

CNN writes Bankers: Take your TARP money back:

There’s a growing sense among some bankers that Troubled Asset Relief Program known as “TARP” has become toxic. As a result, they want to bail out of the bank bailout program.

“It should be called ‘TRAP,’ not TARP,” said Brian Garrett, chief executive of Bank of the Bay in San Francisco, who is trying to return bailout funding. “Giving it back is harder than getting it.”

Garrett and other bank executives complain the Treasury’s program to stabilize banks during these turbulent times is actually weighing down their potential for growth.

They’re especially concerned the limits on executive compensation – imposed in February, four months after Treasury starting sending out checks – could make it difficult to hold on to star talent who may jump to financial institutions that are not receiving any Government assistance.

That concern is now magnified after the public whipping insurance giant AIG received for granting executive bonuses. No one wants to be the next AIG (AIG, Fortune 500).

“Things have changed since TARP was announced. The rules have changed,” said Michael McMullan, CEO of the Bank of Florida, who withdrew his application for TARP funds Thursday. “We’re going to need to attract and retain key revenue drivers and great bankers.”

“The more restrictions that we are placed under from the Government, the less value we can deliver to our shareholders in the long run,” said McMullan.

Iberiabank in Louisiana, California’s Bank of Marin, and TCF Financial in Minnesota confirm to CNN Money that they are asking Treasury to take back their TARP funds.

“What these bank managers are saying is – listen, I want the Government out of my backyard, and I just want to give back the TARP, and I want to run my company by myself,” said Paul Miller, Financial Services Analyst at FBR Capital.

TARP is a miserable failure in every regard. The fact that banks are now trying to return money and the Treasury won’t let them is just another perverted outcome of a misguided, panic-driven, and irresponsible policy.

Please consider what I wrote back in mid February:

Most of these banks are now sitting on liabilities that pay out a fixed 5% annually without being able to pass the money on at a premium. Expect them to either buy back those shares (if they can) or at least not to accept any more government money from hereon out.

Whenever a government embarks upon a big project whose scope goes beyond the task of protecting the individuals’ life, health, or property, it is a safe bet that the project will be a disaster, that it will have unintended consequences, and that it will aggravate the situation it was supposed to cure.

These two quotes must be getting old at this point, but I will keep using them where appropriate until everybody gets it once and for all and acts accordingly:

Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged in 1957:

“Politicians invariably respond to crises — that in most cases they themselves created — by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.”

Ludwig von Mises wrote in his analysis Interventionism in 1940:

The various measures, by which interventionism tries to direct business, cannot achieve the aims its honest advocates are seeking by their application. Interventionist measures lead to conditions which, from the standpoint of those who recommend them, are actually less desirable than those they are designed to alleviate. They create unemployment, depression, monopoly, dis­tress. They may make a few people richer, but they make all others poorer and less satisfied. If governments do not give them up and return to the unhampered market economy, if they stubbornly persist in the attempt to compensate by further interventions for the short­comings of earlier interventions, they will find eventually that they have adopted socialism. Advertisement: Get your shortlink before someone else does at

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