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Bank of America offering to repay some aid, report says

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

NEW YORK -- Bank of America Corp. is looking to pay back some of the billions in federal bailout aid it has received in an effort to get out from underneath the government's thumb, according to a published report.

Meanwhile, the government wants the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank to pay about $500 million to terminate a tentative pact in which the U.S. agreed to share losses on certain Bank of America assets, The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Several banks, including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, have already repaid aid they received under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Doing so removed those firms from having their executive compensation packages approved by Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration's pay czar. Bankers worried that the pay rules put them at a competitive disadvantage in retaining talented employees.

Bank of America is awaiting Feinberg's approval of its 2009 executive pay packages.

Bank of America isn't looking to pay back all of the $45 billion it received in TARP aid at once, according to the paper, but may give back the $20 billion it received in January to help it absorb teetering investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co.

The government helped orchestrate the bank's acquisition of Merrill over the same weekend in September that another investment bank, Lehman Brothers, went under, setting off the most intense period of the financial crisis. As CEO Ken Lewis showed trepidation about completing the deal, the goverment in January doled out the additional funds and promised to cover losses on more than $100 billion in risky assets.

In return, the bank gave the Treasury Department billions in preferred stock which paid annual dividends worth hundreds of millions. The government maintains that if Bank of America wants out of that loss-sharing deal, it is on the hook for a break-up fee of between $300 million and $500 million, according to the Journal. A person close to the situation says the bank, which once balked at paying an exit fee, is now seeking "middle ground," the paper said.


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