Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) — The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.
The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required emergency loans of a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market interest rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.
Saved by the 2007-2010 bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.
While Fed officials say that almost all the loans were repaid without losses, details that emerge from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.
“When you see the dollars the banks got, it’s hard to make the case these were successful institutions,” said Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. “This is an issue that can unite the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.”