http://seekingalpha.com/article/128261-are-the-big-banks-gaming-the-taxpayer?source=yahoo Multiple sources for this story - this is not a tin oil hat sort of story. Anyone who thinks this is "innocent" should ask why Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) were not buying these securities 3 months ago? or 6 months ago? Welcome to corporate socialism 101 and the unintended consequences - aggressively buy securities that the taxpayer is going to subsidize hedge funds and private investors to buy in a few weeks/months - you never lose in reverse Robin Hood America. Watch for the new HGTV show: Flip that MBS (Mortgage Backed Security)! Via Clusterstock * The huge subsidy to banks hidden inside of Tim Geithner's public-private partnership program may already be leading banks to load up on securities they plan to sell at inflated prices. * According to the New York Post, Citi and Bank of America have been aggressively buying up Alt-A and ARM mortgage backed securities, sometimes paying more than the going rate of around 30 cents on the dollar. * This raises serious questions about how the banks are using TARP funds. Instead of stimulating the economy by making new loans, B of A and Citi seem to be spending money to buy up old loans. That's probably a bet that the Geithner plan will create renewed demand for MBS. The source story is here at The New York Post * As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner orchestrated a plan to help the nation's largest banks purge themselves of toxic mortgage assets, Citigroup and Bank of America have been aggressively scooping up those same securities in the secondary market, sources told The Post. * But the banks' purchase of so-called AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities, including some that use alt-A and option ARM as collateral, is raising eyebrows among even the most seasoned traders. Alt-A and option ARM loans have widely been seen as the next mortgage type to see increases in defaults. * One Wall Street trader told The Post that what's been most puzzling about the purchases is how aggressive both banks have been in their buying, sometimes paying higher prices than competing bidders are willing to pay. * Recently, securities rated AAA have changed hands for roughly 30 cents on the dollar, and most of the buyers have been hedge funds acting opportunistically on a bet that prices will rise over time. However, sources said Citi and BofA have trumped those bids. The video explanation courtesty of Yahoo Tech Ticker A "funny" thing is happening just as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner seems to have finally found a scheme to deal with banks' toxic debt: Some big banks are aggressively bidding for toxic debt in the open market. Specifically "Citigroup and Bank of America have been aggressively scooping up those same securities in the secondary market," Mark DeCambre of The NY Post reported earlier this week. Friday, DeCambre joined Henry and me to discuss the story in the accompanying video. The banks contend they are helping to bring liquidity to the "frozen" mortgage-backed-securities market, as per their "marching orders" under the TARP program, DeCambre notes. Furthermore, the banks' buying of toxic assets may be on behalf of clients rather than for their internal accounts. A less generous interpretation is that Citi and BofA (among others, no doubt) are attempting to "front run" Geithner's program, which presumably will result in banks being able to unload these assets at prices above the current "depressed" market levels - leaving taxpayers on the hook for future losses. Furthermore, having put their franchises - if not the entire global economy - in jeopardy by gorging on MBS securities the first time around, do Citi, BofA and other TARP recipients have any business jumping back into that (still) toxic pool? ****************** More Reverse Robin Hood here on a related but different subject... seriously folks, what is going on in this country? Everything appears to be a Ponzi scheme at this point. So sad. Again, have your kids grow up to be financiers - the world is their oyster. Via Clusterstock: Sheila Blair Open to Allowing Banks to Launder Trash Assets Let's see if we've got this right. Yesterday FDIC boss lady Sheila Bair said that she was open to banks taking equity stakes in those the public-private partnership funds as partial payment that will buy up illiquid loans from banks. The banks would be allowed to pay for their stakes with the very loans they are selling into the partnerships. It's mind boggling. Let's try this once again. * Let's say Citigroup has a bunch of commercial backed securities that have become toxic assets because Citi insists they are worth 87 cents on the dollar but the market thinks they are worth 30 cents. * Along comes Bair, offering loans to buyers willing to pay much higher amounts for the assets because most of the purchase price will be paid with government subsidies. * The bank then sells the assets to a special vehicle set up to pay for the assets, and it gets an ownership stake in that vehicle in exchange for the assets. * So the bank will trade the assets themselves for ownership in a special purpose vehicle that owns those assets. You might be wondering why any bank would want equity in a fund that is buying assets it is desperately trying to get off their balance sheet. That's because you haven't realized that this program involves a huge subsidy for the buyers, allowing them to make money even if half the assets they buy are worth nothing at all. Essentially, the deals allow banks to move their risk off-balance sheet, with much of it taken by the government. It's hard to believe that after all of this, the Obama administration is convinced that off-balance entities are the key to prosperous and healthy banks. What could go wrong?