Interest Rate Roundup

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How TALF sausage is made

No one likes to see how sausage is made; they just want to eat the end product. Turns out the TALF program is somewhat similar. The end product -- a public-private program to buy distressed assets from banks using cheap, federally subsidized money -- may or may not work. But hammering out the details of how it will work is apparently a somewhat ugly process, judging by this Wall Street Journal story. More below:

"The government's $1 trillion program to spark consumer lending hit another roadblock when investors balked at signing an agreement required to participate in the program, arguing that it gave Wall Street dealers and the Federal Reserve too much power to look at their books and reject them from the program.

"Through the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility, or TALF, program, an investor can put down $5 to $14 for every $100 it will put up, borrowing the remaining $95 to $86 cheaply from the Fed. They agree to buy eligible, highly rated securities issued by lenders making loans to businesses and consumers to buy cars, pay for their educations or use credit cards. The amount of money an investor must initially fork over varies depending upon the types of loans backing the security.

"The Fed-and-Treasury-backed program is set to begin next week, but it faces the tough task of getting potentially hundreds of financial firms to agree on the wording of the contracts.

"Some of the issues bogging down the lawyers involved include how the dealers will protect themselves if an investor accidentally or purposefully misrepresents something about themselves as a solid borrower.

"Investors, particularly hedge funds, are bristling over language about how the Fed or dealers may decline their application, and that the Fed or any agency it deems appropriate may decide to comb through an investors' books or query any documents if and when it chooses.

"The 40-page document would uniformly govern terms of deals despite the different circumstances of every investor and each bank involved. The document was developed by financial industry trade group Sifma, or the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the American Securitization Forum, whose members include participants in the structured-finance markets."


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