Thursday, April 09, 2009
Elizabeth Warren talks about the Congressional Oversight Panel's report on the TARP Program, now six months old.
Recall that this was in the news recently, Bloomberg filing this report with headlines about firing some executives and liquidating a few of the problem banks.
Some key excerpts from the report about valuing assets:
One key assumption that underlies Treasury’s approach is its belief that the system-wide deleveraging resulting from the decline in asset values, leading to an accompanying drop in net wealth across the country, is in large part the product of temporary liquidity constraints resulting from nonfunctioning markets for troubled assets. The debate turns on whether current prices, particularly for mortgage-related assets, reflect fundamental values or whether prices are artificially depressed by a liquidity discount due to frozen markets – or some combination of the two.
If its assumptions are correct, Treasury’s current approach may prove a reasonable response to the current crisis. Current prices may, in fact, prove not to be explainable without the liquidity factor. Even in areas of the country where home prices have declined precipitously, the collateral behind mortgage-related assets still retains substantial value. In a liquid market, even under-collateralized assets should not be trading at pennies on the dollar. Prices are being partially subjected to a downward self-reinforcing cycle. It is this notion of a liquidity discount that supports the potential of future gain for taxpayers and makes transactions under the CAP and the PPIP viable mechanisms for recovery of asset values while recouping a gain for taxpayers.
On the other hand, it is possible that Treasury’s approach fails to acknowledge the depth of the current downturn and the degree to which the low valuation of troubled assets accurately reflects their worth. The actions undertaken by Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC are unprecedented. But if the economic crisis is deeper than anticipated, it is possible that Treasury will need to take very different actions in order to restore financial stability.
By offering this assessment of Treasury’s current approach and identifying alternative strategies taken in the past, the Panel hopes to assist Congress and Treasury officials in weighing the available options as the nation grapples with the worst financial crisis it has faced since the Great Depression.