NPR logo Bush To Unveil Expanded Bank Bailout Details


Bush To Unveil Expanded Bank Bailout Details

The Bush administration plans to spend as much as $250 billion of the $700 billion bailout buying stock in private banks, greatly expanding protections for the U.S. financial system out of deep concern for the faltering economy, industry and government officials said Monday night. President Bush planned to announce the details Tuesday morning.

Agreement on the plan came after a remarkable Treasury Department meeting between top government economic officials and executives of the nation's largest banks to revamp the most costly financial rescue in the nation's history.

The plan also would provide a way for the government to insure loans that banks make to each other, a critical part of the credit system that has become frozen and put many businesses in peril.

Earlier Monday, stocks soared around the world in response to dramatic government economic relief efforts in the U.S. and overseas — and the possibility of the even bolder American action.

Monday night, the Treasury Department said the administration had decided on "comprehensive actions" to bolster public confidence in the nation's financial system. Bush was to be briefed early Tuesday by economic advisers and then announce the plan, which Treasury said was designed to "restore functioning of our credit markets."

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While the administration refused to provide details in advance, two officials with knowledge of the plan said it would include billions of dollars in spending by the government to purchase stock in banks as a way of providing them desperately needed money so they could resume more normal lending. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were yet to be formally released.

The administration will use perhaps as much as $250 billion of the bailout program recently passed by Congress to buy into U.S. banks, the officials said. The government will initially purchase stock of nine large banks, but the program is expected to be expanded to many others.

In addition, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will temporarily provide insurance for loans between banks, charging the banks a premium for doing so.

This FDIC program would take the form of providing insurance for new "senior preferred" debt that one bank would lend to another. This debt would be insured by the FDIC for three years, helping to unlock bank-to-bank lending, which has fallen dramatically because of fears about repayment in the face of billions of dollars of bank losses because of bad loans, primarily in mortgages.

The officials said that the FDIC would remove for a period the current $250,000 limit on FDIC insurance on bank deposits for non-interest bearing accounts. This would primarily benefit businesses who use non-interest bearing accounts to run their businesses. That money would now be insured, removing the need for these businesses to juggle funds among multiple bank accounts to stay under the $250,000 limit.

Congress as part of the bailout bill temporarily boosted the deposit insurance cap from $100,000 to $250,000.

The administration's proposals were explained during a meeting at the Treasury Department that had been called by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and included the top executives of the largest banks in the country. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also participated in the discussions.

The new approach by the U.S. government is modeled after parts of the strong initiatives in Europe, where governments put $2.3 trillion on the line Monday in guarantees and other emergency measures to save banks there.

The $700 billion rescue program that Congress passed on Oct. 3 will continue to feature the purchase by the government of banks' bad assets but will now devote a significant part of the effort to direct government purchases of stock in banks, an idea that Paulson brought up only last week.

Major stock markets around the world surged higher — after plunging ever lower last week — as traders began to hear of Europe's actions and the possibility of further steps in the United States.

On Wall Street, a record 936-point increase in the Dow Jones industrials far surpassed the previous one-day mark of 499 points, set in the waning days of the dot-com boom in 2000. But the surge came after the staggering losses of the worst week ever, and economists said more rough days can be expected.

From the Associated Press