A ‘Bad Bank' Plan Unveiled By Next Week?

The Obama administration is close to deciding on a plan to purchase bad --or non-performing and illiquid -- assets from banks, according to industy sources. The plan could be announced early next week.

The so-called "bad bank" plan, would address the key problem of how to price the assets by using a model-pricing mechanism. The model would take account of the government's ability to hold onto assets, even to maturity, and pay for the them with cheap funding. Result: the government might end up paying more than current market prices for the securities.

On the other hand, if the government paid less than the value at which the asset is carried on the bank's books, the bank would issue common equity to the government. In previous Troubled Asset Relief Program deals, banks issued preferred equity to the federal government. But the conclusion is growing within government circles, sources say, that preferred equity is not sufficient to make the banks healthy.

Clearly, the idea of a "bad bank" is gaining momentum. On Capitol Hill Wednesday, Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd said he was aware the idea is under discussion and "it makes some sense to me."

Unclear though is how the government would pay for assets. There has been discussion of a "certificate of net worth" in which the government gives the banks a piece of paper that essentially can be applied to capital levels. But sources could not confirm that funding mechanism for the plan or what role existing TARP money or the Fed would play in funding the so-called bad bank.

A Treasury official said nothing will be announced this week and would not comment "on specific policy decisions that have yet to be made."

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