Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not Quite Crony Capitalism?

. Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I haven't read this yet, but Lucas Puente -- a PhD student at Stanford -- has an interesting-looking article in the new PS (I don't see an ungated version). Abstract:

I investigate one mechanism through which financial institutions could have used political influence to receive preferential treatment in the US Department of the Treasury-administered “bailout.” I find that neither proxies of political influence nor other political variables, such as public interest in specific deals, can explain variance in the sale price of warrants (a type of financial asset) Treasury acquired through TARP's Capital Purchase Program. Moreover, I find that the more politically active the firm is, the more likely Treasury is to auction its warrants (thereby receiving fair market value). This conclusion is not consistent with recent studies investigating the role of such variables in the initial administration of TARP and can be interpreted as good news for American taxpayers.
PS summary (bold added):
In the wake of the recent global financial crisis, many have suggested that the US government's administration of the taxpayer-funded rescue of the financial industry offered disproportionate benefits to politically active firms. However, quite the opposite occurred. Puente's research into Treasury's handling of the disposition of warrants (assets similar to stock call options) acquired through the Capital Purchase Program (CPP) shows that, at least in this phase of the "bailout," political variables did not matter. That is, lobbying expenditures, campaign contributions, and connections with Secretary of the Treasury Geithner, among other independent variables, cannot explain variance in the percentage of market value Treasury received for these warrants. Moreover, according to Puente, the more politically active a firm is, the more likely Treasury is to auction its warrants (thereby receiving fair market value). This suggests that Treasury is attempting to counter-act allegations of preferential treatment. Taxpayers should be pleased. By insulating itself from politics and making efforts to maximize the taxpayer return on the warrants, Treasury may have prevented billions of dollars in taxpayer losses.
I personally don't find this very surprising. Nor would I find it surprising if preferential treatment came mainly through less transparent channels, e.g. the Fed. It looks like Puente might be investigating that question in his ongoing research.


Not Quite Crony Capitalism?
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