TARPaulining All Over
I think they got the name wrong in the first place, that's why it did not get passed. TARP or Troubled Asset Relief Program, it sounded like tarpaulin, the heavy duty netting for lifting heavy goods onto the ships ... no wonder la, the safety net has too many gaping holes in them.
1) Seriously, this will bring back a tighter plan, one that is more accountable and responsible - so, gotta be good right.
2) The original plan did not specify at what price levels will the fund buy the distressed assets at. If they are buying at market, its no use to the banks and financials because it does not add to their capital base. Its the capital that needs to be enlarged. Hence they have to buy at higher than market prices for the whole thing to make sense, or don't buy the assets but give insurance for the assets as a major comfort factor.
3) The biggest obstacle has to be that the naysayers do not want the fund to buy these assets.
4) The release in batches is good to maintain a sense of integrity to the whole process. Shows that the team is managing the lending/injection well before given new parcels of fund. $250bn first, then another $100bn if results are positive. Plus the government will have the option to block the remaining $350m. This will send the message of more accountability at all levels.
5) The other message to the markets is that the US government will NOT just roll over in any future financial crisis. The major financial firms will now know that they cannot simply knock on the doors of Fed or Treasury to help them get rid of the mess they may create in the future. That is very clear.
6) There probably will be structured equity exposure to companies that take money from the fund as the fund is likely to be paying higher than market prices for the assets.
7) The mark to market accounting may be the pink elephant in the room. The rule may be suspended for the time being so that financials which sell those assets may not need to write down the full amount, which would have reduced their capital availability. The rule may be suspended till 2010 (when the fund expires) but only for those instruments affected and taken up by the fund. This seemingly inane accounting move actually may lift the gloom and difficulty of rescuing the affected companies brilliantly by just the stroke of an accounting entry.
All in, its actually not that bad that the bailout fund was voted down, although I did not expect that at all. A tighter second plan will send the right message and drill down on proper and responsible restructuring plans and ramifications. The fact that major equity markets may have lost 5%-8% may actually be good. When the second plan is approved, regaining just 3%-4% of what was lost may then be a big sigh of relief. Still, its a very long road for equities in general. Not yet to get back in.
p/s photos: Mami Yamasaki