Banks Planning Repayment of Some TARP Capital

[Update 1 reflects statements from Northern Trust to Congress.] Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told reporters Thursday that two major financial institutions were planning to return a combined $8.2 billion in TARP capital to the Treasury Department. Northern Trust Corp. (NTRS) and U.S. Bancorp (USB) are reported to be planning a return of some TARP capital, the former in the face of criticism over corporate spending behaviors. “The public has the right for us to be very tough on how recipients of TARP money spend it,” Frank said Thursday, according to a Reuters article. In late February, Frank and other House Democrats issued a letter demanding repayment of $1.6 billion after learning of Northern Trust’s sponsorship of a luxury golf tournament. Officials from Northern Trust did not return messages seeking comment on repayment plans before this article was published, but the company on Feb. 27 sent a letter to Congress defending the golf tournament expenditures as a long-planned event not dependent any of the TARP capital. Northern Trust “has engaged [its] regulators with the goal of repaying Capital Purchase Program funds as quickly as prudently possible” under repayment guidelines released by the Treasury in late February, officials said in the letter. U.S. Bancorp on Wednesday cut its common stock dividend 88 percent in a move that was estimated to help save $2.6 billion annually. The reduction “accelerates our ability to repay the $6.6 billion of TARP capital, which we hope to do as soon as possible” with the approval of U.S. Bancorp’s regulators, spokesperson Steve Dale told HousingWire. However, “we have not filed a notice of redemption with the Treasury” and there is no time line for repayment in place at the company, he said. A variety of banks and other financial institutions have issued media statements in recent months touting their refusal of TARP funds based on sufficient existing capital. After recent crack-downs on executive compensation and corporate expenditure for all institutions that participate in the TARP, what firms that remain willing and eligible to receive TARP capital may find themselves under strict regulation. It appears what began as a race to Treasury funds on the hopes of rekindling investor confidence and beefing up liquidity has become a flight from the negative stigma associated with the program thanks to teetering giants like Citigroup Inc. (C), which after $50 billion in infusions from the government ($25 billion through the Capital Purchase Program, $20 billion through the Targeted Investment Program and the promise of $5 billion more through the Asset Guarantee Program) still saw its shares end up in the dollar store briefly on Thursday. Write to Diana Golobay at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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