U.S. bailouts benefited foreign firms, report says

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By Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 12, 2010

The federal government's effort to stabilize the financial system in 2008 by flooding money into as many banks as possible resulted in a boon to many foreign firms and left the United States shouldering far more risk than governments that took a narrower approach, according to a new report by a panel overseeing the Treasury's $700 billion bailout fund.

Members of the Congressional Oversight Panel, in a report due out Thursday, note that America's broad financial rescues had more impact internationally than the narrower bailout programs of other countries had on U.S. firms.

They cite as a case study the bailout of insurance giant American International Group. While the Treasury committed up to $70 billion to AIG through its Troubled Assets Relief Program, the report states, much of that money ended up in the coffers of foreign trading partners in France, Germany and other countries. The cash that the United States poured into AIG alone equaled twice what France spent on its total capital injection program, and half what Germany spent.

"The point we make forcefully in this report is that there were no data about where this money was going, no information about where this money was going," said panel chair Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor. "Without that information, no one could make a deliberate policy choice" about whether to ask foreign governments to contribute to the financial rescues.

The report urges regulators to gather more information about the international flow of funds in normal times and to document the flow of rescue funds. It also cites the need for the international community to collaborate in responses to future global financial collapses, and it urges U.S. officials to undertake regular crisis planning and "war gaming" for the international financial system.


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