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Financial Plan To Focus on Consumer, Business Aid

Tuesday, 10 Feb 2009 | 10:20 AM ET

The Obama administration's financial-rescue plan will contain a number of measures meant to ease the credit crunch, including a public-private initiative to take bad assets off of banks' balance sheets, mortgage loan and foreclosure relief and a new consumer lending initiative, according to the government's summary of the plan.

Although the concept of creating a "bad bank" to house these assets was considered earlier in the plan's development, it now instead envisions creating a fund to facilitate the asset sales and purchases.

CNBC.com

CNBC.com has obtained a copy of the document.

"To get financial markets working again, we will create a new Public-Private Investment Fund, which provides government capital and financing to leverage private capital to buy up the 'toxic assets' that are dragging down lending," the summary states.

"This would allow financial institutions to cleanse their balance sheets while letting private sector buyers determine the price for previously illiquid assets."

The plan does not indicate what government agency or department would oversee the fund. It was previously though that the FDIC would run any bad bank operation..

Such a concept would also presumably lessen the amount of government capital involved as well as ease remaining concerns in some quarters about the potential nationalization of troubled banks.

The bad bank concept would have meant a free-standing government entity to buy the troubled assets at something of a discount from firms, hold them and sell them at a later time, hopefully at a profit.

The fund for toxic assets is one of for major components of the plan, called the Financial Stability Plan, according to the summary.

The package will be officially unveiled Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at 11 am EST. CNBC.com will carry the speech live.

More On The Components

Other components include the creation of a new consumer-oriented initiative "to kick start the secondary lending market," funds for loan modification and foreclosure prevention and a "capital buffer" for banks so they can continue lending to consumers and business."

Here's a break down on the costs:

The consumer lending facility will "leverage up to $1 trillion dollars" and is intended to "bring down borrowing costs for responsible borrowers and help get credit flowing again."

The housing measures will provide as much as $50 billion in funding, which follows through on an earlier pledge of the Obama administration.

For Investors

The summary does not provide a sum for the toxic asset fund or so-called buffer capital for banks.

The bank capital provision also calls for a "stress test" among "uniform standards to help clean up and strengthen banks."

When Geithner outlined key aspects of the plan to members of Congress and their staff Monday night in Washington, Geither said the plan would expand existing TARP programs, starting with $250-500 billion dollars, according to sources familiar with the presentation.

Thus far, the first $350 billion of the TARP has provided aid to firms through capital injections, for which the government received preferred stock and warrants in return. The government also recently started using insurance and guarantees to back certain toxic assets held by firms. Known as a ring fence concept, the model has been used on Citigroup and Bank of America . It is unclear where the ring fencefigures into the new plan.

According to the summary, the Treasury plan also includes measures to "increase transparency and accountability to protect taxpayers."

Chief among them are restrictions on stock dividends and repurchases as well as acquisitions "to provide assurance that all taxpayer money will go to promote lending until that money is paid back."

Also included are previously-announced restrictions on executive pay, and new tighter reporting requirements for banks receiving government aid.

House Democrats have been pushing for stronger lending conditions—as well a crackdown on executive pay—in the wake of criticism of former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's administration of the TARP. That was seen as both too lenient on and too generous to financial firms, which critics allege were hoarding capital instead of lending it.

The new Treasury plan will "require banks to show how government assistance will expand lending and how they intend to use taxpayer dollars, which is similar in the tone and design of the House Democrat's proposal.

At this point, it is unclear where the additional funding for TARP programs would come from and whether additional authorization or legislation from Congress would be necessary.

In his nationally televised speech Monday night, President Obama did not address that issue.

"We don't know yet whether we're going to need additional money or how much additional money we'll need until we see how successful we are at restoring a level of confidence in the marketplace," Obama said.

CNBC Slideshows:

Congressional Democrats, however, have made it clear that future funding depends on the success of the new initiatives.

"There has to be some sort of sales job to the people before we go out on the limb and appropriate new money,” said a senior Congressional staffer before the presentation Monday evening. “Any new money will be largely leveraged on how they do with this money.”

CNBC will also interview Geithner after the speech at 12 Noon EST. It will be his first television interview since becoming Treasury Secretary.

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