Housing

Planet Money: Meet The Fed's Toxic Assets

Planet Money is a penny-ante player in the toxic-asset game. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is the big money.

The New York Fed spent roughly $80 billion to buy toxic assets from Bear Stearns and AIG during the financial crisis. It has been reporting on the status of its investments — how much income they've generated, what their current estimated market value is, that sort of thing. But the Fed hasn't actually listed which assets it bought.

That just changed.

Late yesterday, the New York Fed told the world which assets it had purchased. The assets the Fed bought from Bear Stearns, which are held by a specially created company named Maiden Lane, are listed here. The assets it bought in the AIG bailout, which are held by special companies named Maiden Lane II and Maiden Lane III, are listed here and here. (Maiden Lane is a street adjacent to the New York Fed's office.)

The NY Fed put out a statement that said it "recognizes the importance of transparency ... ."

The statement didn't mention that the Fed initially refused to disclose what the assets were, and only did so after Bloomberg News won a lawsuit that forced the Fed to pull back the curtain. (The NY Fed argued that disclosing which assets it owned would make it harder to sell them for competitive prices in the future, the WSJ says.)

So what's in there? There are some bread-and-butter toxic assets: Securities backed by mortgages that were given to borrowers who provided little documentation to get the loans, Bloomberg notes. There are also loans for Hilton hotels in New Jersey, Hawaii and Malaysia, and for a Radisson in Florida. And there are bets against credit of bond insurers, such as MBIA.

There's lots more. We'll be digging around in there to see what else we find. And if you find anything interesting, let us know.

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