- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner could announce as soon as Monday his much-anticipated plan to get toxic assets off the books of the country’s struggling banks, administration and industry officials said.

The plan will use the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to make the resources of the government’s $700 billion financial rescue fund go further, the officials said Friday.

Mr. Geithner is being forced to tap the Fed and the FDIC for support because the prospects for getting additional support from Congress for the bailout effort have dimmed significantly, given the recent uproar over millions of dollars in bonuses provided to troubled insurance giant American International Group Inc., the largest recipient of government support.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about Mr. Geithner’s plan, said it will have three major parts.

One program will use the bailout fund to create a public-private partnership to back purchases of bad assets by private investors.

A second portion of the plan will expand a recently launched program being run by the Federal Reserve called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. That program is providing loans for investors to buy assets backed by consumer debt in an effort to make it easier for consumers to get auto, student and credit card loans. Under Mr. Geithner’s proposal, this program would be expanded to support investors’ purchases of banks’ toxic assets.

The third part of the Geithner plan would utilize the resources of the FDIC, the agency that guarantees bank deposits, to purchase toxic assets.

When Mr. Geithner announced the administration’s overhaul of the financial rescue program on Feb. 10, he only mentioned using the bailout funds to support the private-public partnership, and he was vague on the details of how that program would work.

The initial proposal was widely panned by investors, who were disappointed in a lack of specifics. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 380 points on the day the original program was announced.

Mr. Geithner’s new plan would tap the resources of the Fed and the FDIC to attack what many analysts see as the major failing of the bank rescue effort so far, the failure to rid banks of more than $1 trillion in bad loans and other toxic assets weighing down their books. As a result, banks have been unable to shake off the effects of the worst financial crisis to seize the country in seven decades.

While the administration included a placeholder in its budget request last month for as much as an additional $750 billion in rescue funds, the uproar over the AIG bonuses has underscored the dim prospects that Congress would vote to bolster the size of the current fund.

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