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A bailout is a colloquial term for giving financial support to a company or country which faces serious financial difficulty or bankruptcy. It may also be used to allow a failing entity to fail gracefully without spreading contagion. A bailout can, but does not necessarily, avoid an insolvency process.
The term is maritime in origin being the act of removing water from a sinking vessel using a smaller bucket. A bailout differs from the term bail-in (coined in the 2010s) under which the bondholders and/or depositors of global systemically important financial institutions (G-SIFIs) are forced to participate in the process, but taxpayers supposedly are not. Some governments have the power to participate in the insolvency process: for instance, the U.S. government intervened in the General Motors bailout of 2009-2013.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Bailout vs. bail-in
- 3 Themes
- 4 Reasons against bailouts
- 5 Costs
- 6 Cases
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
A bailout could be done for mere profit, as when a predatory investor resurrects a floundering company by buying its shares at fire-sale prices; for social improvement, as when, hypothetically speaking, a wealthy philanthropist reinvents an unprofitable fast food company into a non-profit food distribution network; or the bailout of a company might be seen as a necessity in order to prevent greater, socioeconomic failures: For example, the U.S. government assumes transportation to be the backbone of America's general economic fluency, which maintains the nation's geopolitical power. As such, it is the policy of the U.S. government to protect the biggest American companies responsible for transportation (airliners, petrol companies, etc.) from failure through subsidies and low-interest loans. These companies, among others, are deemed "too big to fail" because their goods and services are considered by the government to be constant universal necessities in maintaining the nation's welfare and often, indirectly, its security.
Emergency-type government bailouts can be controversial. Debates raged in 2008 over if and how to bail out the failing auto industry in the United States. Those against it, like pro-free market radio personality Hugh Hewitt, saw this bailout as an unacceptable buck passing to taxpayers. He denounced any bailout for the Big Three, arguing that mismanagement caused the companies to fail, and they now deserve to be dismantled organically by the free-market forces so that entrepreneurs may arise from the ashes; that the bailout signals lower business standards for giant companies by incentivizing risk, creating moral hazard through the assurance of safety nets (that others will pay for) that ought not be, but unfortunately are, considered in business equations; and that a bailout promotes centralized bureaucracy by allowing government powers to choose the terms of the bailout.
Others, such as economist Jeffrey Sachs have characterized this particular bailout as a necessary evil and have argued that the probable incompetence in management of the car companies is an insufficient reason to let them fail completely and risk disturbing the (current) delicate economic state of the United States, since up to three million jobs rest on the solvency of the Big Three and things are bleak enough as it is. In any case, the bones of contention here can be generalized to represent the issues at large, namely the virtues of private enterprise versus those of central planning, and the dangers of a free market's volatility versus the dangers of socialist bureaucracy.
Governments around the world have bailed out their nations' businesses with some frequency since the early 20th century. In general, the needs of the entity/entities bailed out are subordinate to the needs of the state.
Bailout vs. bail-in
This bail-in tool was first brought to global attention in Cyprus, as discussed below, but had been discussed theoretically since at least 2010. The resolution of globally significant banking institutions (GSIFIs) was a topic of a joint paper by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England in 2012.
The Financial Stability Board (FSB) published in October 2011 a guideline document entitled "Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions" which deals with the current bailout regime. The scope of this planned bail-in regime for participating countries is not just limited to large domestic banks. In addition to these “systemically significant or critical” financial institutions, the scope also applies to two further categories of institutions, a) Global SIFIs, in other words, cross-border banks which happen to be incorporated domestically in a country that is implementing the bail-in regime, and b) ”Financial Market Infrastructures (FMIs)”, such as clearing houses. The inclusion of FMIs in potential bail-ins is in itself a major departure. The FSB defines these market infrastructures to include multilateral securities and derivatives clearing and settlement systems, and a whole host of exchange and transaction systems, such as payment systems, central securities depositories, and trade depositories. This would mean that an unsecured creditor claim to, for example, a clearing house institution, or to a stock exchange, could in theory be affected if such an institution needed to be bailed-in. The inclusion of FMIs means that large parts of the global financial system is susceptible to bail-in and could potentially be bailed-in.
Outgoing Deputy Director of the Bank of England Paul Tucker chose to open his academic career at Harvard with an October 2013 address in Washington to the Institute of International Finance in which he suggested that U.S. banks and other institutions were now no longer to be deemed too big to fail and henceforward would be bailed-in. The EU financial community symposium on the "Future of Banking in Europe" (December 2013) was attended by Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who proposed a bail-in scheme in light of the banking union that was under discussion at the event. Deputy BoE Director Jon Cunliffe suggested in a March 2014 speech at Chatham House that the domestic banks were too big to fail (TBTF), and instead of the nationalisation process used in the case of HBOS, RBS and threatened for Barclays (all in late 2008), could henceforth be bailed-in.
Economist Graeme Archer noticed in March 2014 that no personal punishment (such as dismissal or incarceration) is required under the latest regulations, and that therefore corrective action is unlikely.
Legislative and executive efforts
The Dodd-Frank Act Title II now legislates bailout procedures for the United States. A January 2012 FDIC Office of Complex Financial Institutions slide presentation covers the resolution strategy. The FDIC has drawn attention to the problem of post-bailout governance, and did suggest that a new CEO and Board of Directors were to be installed under FDIC receivership guidance, but as of January 2012 had yet to resolve the issues. In any case, U.S. legislation only applies to domestic organisations. Title II is aimed at protecting the financial stability of the American economy, forcing shareholders and creditors to bear the losses of the failed financial company, removing management that was responsible for the financial condition of the company, and ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under a bankruptcy liquidation. Claims are paid in the following order:
- Administrative costs;
- The government;
- Wages, salaries, or commissions of employees;
- Contributions to employee benefit plans;
- Any other general or senior liability of the company;
- Any junior obligation;
- Salaries of executives and directors of the company; and
- Obligations to shareholders, members, general partners, and other equity holders.
The Eurogroup proposed on 27 June 2013 that after 2018 bank shareholders will be first in line for assuming the losses of a failed bank before bondholders and certain large depositors. Insured deposits under £85,000 (€100,000) are exempt and, with specific exemptions, uninsured deposits of individuals and small companies are given preferred status in the bail-in pecking order for taking losses. This agreement formalised the practice seen earlier in Cyprus. Under this proposal, all unsecured bondholders must be hit for losses before a bank can eligible to receive capital injections directly from the European Stability Mechanism. A tool known as the Single Resolution Mechanism, which was agreed amongst Eurogroup members on 20 March 2014, is part of an EU effort to prevent future financial crises by pooling responsibility for euro-area banks, a project known as banking union. In a first step, the ECB will fully assume supervision of the 18-nation currency bloc’s lenders in November 2014. The deal needed formal approval by the European Parliament and by national governments. The resolution fund was to be paid for by the banks themselves, and will gradually merge national resolution funds into a common European one until it hits its €55 billion target funding level. See the EC FAQ on the SRM. The legislative item was split into three initiatives by Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier: BRRD, DGS and SRM.
The difference between a bailout and a bail-in was first realised by the events of the 2012-2013 Cypriot financial crisis. Two Cypriot banks were exposed to a haircut of upwards of 50% in 2011 during the Greek government-debt crisis, leading to fears of a collapse of the Cypriot banks. Rumours circulated for a time, then in early 2013 matters came to a head. On 25 March 2013, a €10 billion bailout was announced by the Troika (finance)—a loose coalition of the EU, ECB and IMF—in return for Cyprus agreeing to close its second largest bank, the Cyprus Popular Bank (also known as Laiki Bank). The Cypriots had to agree to levy all uninsured deposits there, and possibly around 40% of uninsured deposits in the Bank of Cyprus (the island's largest commercial bank). No insured deposit of €100k or less was to be affected. The levy of deposits that exceeded €100k was termed a "bail-in", to differentiate it from a bailout because of the depositor fund levy. The Bank of Cyprus executed the depositor bail-in on 28 April 2013.
- Central banks provide loans to help the system cope with liquidity concerns, where banks are unable or unwilling to provide loans to businesses or individuals. Lending into illiquidity, but not insolvency, was articulated at least as early as 1873, in Lombard Street, A Description of the Money Market, by Walter Bagehot.
- Let insolvent institutions (those with insufficient funds to pay their short-term obligations or those with more debt than assets) fail in an orderly way.
- Understand the true financial position of key financial institutions, through audits or other means. Ensure the extent of losses and quality of assets are known and reported by the institutions.
- Banks that are deemed healthy enough (or important enough) to survive require recapitalization, which involves the government providing funds to the bank in exchange for preferred stock, which receives a cash dividend over time.
- If taking over an institution due to insolvency, take effective control through the board or new management, cancel the common stock equity (existing shareholders lose their investment) but protect the debt holders and suppliers.
- Government should take an ownership (equity or stock) interest to the extent taxpayer assistance is provided, so that taxpayers can benefit later. In other words, the government becomes the owner and can later obtain funds by issuing new common stock shares to the public when the nationalized institution is later privatized.
- A special government entity is created to administer the program, such as the Resolution Trust Corporation.
- Prohibit dividend payments to ensure taxpayer money are used for loans and strengthening the bank, rather than payments to investors.
- Interest rate cuts to lower lending rates and stimulate the economy.
Reasons against bailouts
- Signals lower business standards for giant companies by incentivizing risk
- Creates moral hazard through the assurance of safety nets
- Promotes centralized bureaucracy by allowing government powers to choose the terms of the bailout
Paul Volcker, chairman of Barack Obama's White House Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said that bailouts create moral hazard: they signal to the firms that they can take reckless risks, and if the risks are realized, taxpayers pay the losses, also in the future. "The danger is the spread of moral hazard could make the next crisis much bigger".
On November 24, 2008, American Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R–TX) wrote, "In bailing out failing companies, they are confiscating money from productive members of the economy and giving it to failing ones. By sustaining companies with obsolete or unsustainable business models, the government prevents their resources from being liquidated and made available to other companies that can put them to better, more productive use. An essential element of a healthy free market, is that both success and failure must be permitted to happen when they are earned. But instead with a bailout, the rewards are reversed – the proceeds from successful entities are given to failing ones. How this is supposed to be good for our economy is beyond me...It won’t work. It can’t work... It is obvious to most Americans that we need to reject corporate cronyism, and allow the natural regulations and incentives of the free market to pick the winners and losers in our economy, not the whims of bureaucrats and politicians."
Governments and, thus ultimately taxpayers, have largely shouldered the direct costs of banking system collapses. These costs have been large: in our sample of 40 countries governments spent on average 12.8 percent of national GDP to clean up their financial systems.
- 1970 - Penn Central Railroad
- 1971 - Lockheed Corporation
- 1980 - Chrysler Corporation
- 1984 - Continental Illinois
- 1991 - Executive Life Insurance Company, by states assessing other insurers
- 1998 - Long-Term Capital Management, by banks and investment houses, not government (see LTCM page).
- 2003 - Parmalat
- 2008 - The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc.
- 2008 - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
- 2008 - The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. bailed out by the federal government and Berkshire Hathaway
- 2008 - Morgan Stanley bailed out by The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
- 2008-2009 - American International Group, Inc. multiple times
- 2008 - Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
- 2008 - 2008 United Kingdom bank rescue package
- 2008 - Citigroup Inc.
- 2008 - Royal Bank of Scotland
- 2008 - Halifax Bank of Scotland
- 2008 - General Motors Corporation and Chrysler LLC- though not technically a bailout, a bridge loan was given to the auto manufacturers by the U.S. government, this is referred to by most as a bailout
- 2008 - Canadian banks received 'assistance' (called a loan or bailout depending on different perspectives) to assist in a liquidity crises (http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/banks-got-114b-from-governments-during-recession-1.1145997, http://www.macleans.ca/economy/business/the-real-canadian-bank-bailout/, http://behindthenumbers.ca/2012/04/30/canadas-secret-bank-bailout/, http://business.financialpost.com/news/fp-street/did-canadian-banks-receive-a-secret-bailout, https://mises.ca/posts/blog/the-canadian-bank-bailout/).
- 2009 - Bank of America to help it absorb known losses that were much greater than revealed to shareholders incurred by its buyout of Merrill Lynch
- 2009 - CIT Group $3 billion by its bondholders in a failed attempt to avoid a bankruptcy. This bailout only delayed the bankruptcy.
- 2009 - Dubai and Dubai World bailed out by Abu Dhabi
Irish banking rescue
Irish banks suffered substantial share price falls due to a lack of liquidity in finance available to them on the international financial markets. Currently[when?], solvency is being revealed as the most serious concern as doubtful loans to property developers, still undeclared in bad debt provisions, come into focus.
Swedish banking rescue
During 1991–1992, a housing bubble in Sweden deflated, resulting in a severe credit crunch and widespread bank insolvency. The causes were similar to those of the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–2008. In response, the government took the following actions:
- Sweden's government assumed bad bank debts, but banks had to write down losses and issue an ownership interest (common stock) to the government. Shareholders were typically wiped out, but bondholders were protected.
- When distressed assets were later sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies in public offerings.
- The government announced the state would guarantee all bank deposits and creditors of the nation’s 114 banks.
- Sweden formed a new agency to supervise institutions that needed recapitalization, and another that sold off the assets, mainly real estate, that the banks held as collateral.
This bailout initially cost about 4% of Sweden's GDP, later lowered to between 0–2% of GDP depending on various assumptions due to the value of stock later sold when the nationalized banks were privatized.
U.S. savings and loan crisis
In 2008–09 the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve System bailed out numerous very large banks and insurance companies, as well as General Motors and Chrysler. Congress at the urgent request of President George W. Bush passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), funded at $700 billion. The banks have largely repaid the money and the net cost of TARP may eventually be in the range of $30 billion. The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which insure mortgages, totals $135 billion by October 2010, and could be much higher, depending on the future of the housing and mortgage markets.
- Automotive industry crisis of 2008–2009
- Brown Bailout
- Crédit Lyonnais
- Debtor-in-possession financing
- Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008
- Financial crisis of 2007–2012
- Late 2000s recession
- Subprime mortgage crisis
- Lemon socialism
- Bubble (economics)
- Cash flow
- Lender of last resort
- Financial crisis
- Stock market crash
- "Definition of a bailout".
- "Online Etymology Dictionary".
- bloomberg.com: "GM Bailout Ends as U.S. Sells Last of ‘Government Motors’" 10 Dec 2013
- Chomsky, Noam (2006). Failed States.
- Surowiecki, James (2008-02-31). "Too Dumb To Fail". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-09-21. Check date values in:
- Goodman, Peter S. (July 2008). "Too Big to Fail?". nytimes.com.
- Sachs (Nov 2008). "A Bridge for the Carmakers". washingtonpost.com.
- "Definition of bail-in" FT lexicon
- Bank of Canada 'Financial System Review magazine' - "Contingent Capital and Bail-In Debt: Tools for Bank Resolution"
- bankofengland.co.uk: News Release - Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England Release Joint Paper on "Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important Financial Institutions" 10 Dec 2012
- financialstabilityboard.org: "Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions" Oct 2011
- telegraph.co.uk: "US banks no longer 'too big to fail', says Tucker" (Aldrick) 12 Oct 2013
- Irish Examiner, 3 Dec 2013: "Noonan: Credit line can break doom cycle"
- telegraph.co.uk: "BoE has 'no confidence' a failing big bank could be saved" (Wilson) 17 Mar 2014
- telegraph.co.uk: "The crisis of capitalism isn't inequality. It's that the failures of the rich go unpunished" (Archer) 17 Mar 2014
- aba.com: "Title II Overview: Orderly Liquidation Authority"
- cornell.edu: "Dodd-Frank: Title II - Orderly Liquidation Authority"
- fdic.gov Office of Complex Financial Institutions: "Dodd-Frank Act Title II Resolution Strategy Overview" 25 Jan 2012
- see slide 20/21 in FDIC Dodd-Frank presentation
- see pages 144 and 145 of Government of Canada “Economic Action Plan 2013″ budget document
- telegraph.co.uk: "EU makes bank creditors bear losses as Cyprus bail-in becomes blue-print for rescues" 27 Jun 2013
- bloomberg.com: "EU Reaches Deal on Bank-Failure Bill After Marathon Talks" 20 Mar 2014
- ft.com: "European Parliament challenges plan for €55bn bank rescue fund" 16 Jan 2014
- europa.eu: "A Single Resolution Mechanism for the Banking Union – frequently asked questions; European Commission - MEMO/14/295" 15 Apr2014
- europa.eu: "Finalising the Banking Union: European Parliament backs Commission’s proposals (Single Resolution Mechanism, Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, and Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive) European Commission - STATEMENT/14/119" 15 Apr 2014
- forbes.com: "There's Something Very Strange About The Cyprus Bank Haircut. Very Strange Indeed" (Worstall) 31 Mar 2013
- reuters.com: "Insight: Inside Laiki - Countdown to catastrophe" 2 Apr 2013
- "Greek bond investors take big 'haircut' in bailout deal Marketplace.org".
- "Greek debt 'haircut' takes off New Europe".
- Ehrenfreund, Max (March 27, 2013). "Cypriot banks to reopen amid criticism of bailout". The Washington Post.
- "Cyprus disaster shines light on global tax haven industry no". MSNBC. March 26, 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Jan Strupczewski; Annika Breidthardt (25 March 2013). "Last-minute Cyprus deal to close bank, force losses". Reuters. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- "Eurogroup signs off on bailout agreement reached by Cyprus and troika". Ekathimerini (Greece). 25 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- telegraph.co.uk: "Bank of Cyprus executes depositor bail-in" 28 Apr 2013
- economist.com: "Unfair, short-sighted and self-defeating" 16 Mar 2013
- telegraph.co.uk: "Bank of Cyprus executes depositor bail-in" 28 Apr 2013
- "Mason-Lessons from Bailouts Part 2".
- Lessons from Japan Bailout
- IMF Paper
- "Time Magazine - Lessons from Japan & Asia". 10 October 2008.
- Tabuchi, Hiroko (13 February 2009). "NYT-Lessons from Japan". The New York Times.
- "Blodgett History of Bailouts".
- "Volcker Criticizes Obama Plan on ‘Systemically Important’ Firms". Bloomberg. 24 September 2009. Bloomberg, 2009-09-24
- The Bailout Surge, by Ron Paul, 11-24-2008
- "The World Bank "Patrick Honohan and Daniela Klingebiel, Development Research Group, Finance and Sector Strategy and Policy Department, "Controlling the Fiscal Costs of Banking Crises"" (PDF). September 2000
- ""Behind the Bailout" — NOW on PBS".
- Dougherty, Carter (2008-09-22). "Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-24.
- "Daniel Gross, "Treasury's TARP, AIG bailout Costs Fall to $30 Billion," Yahoo! Finance Oct. 5, 2010".
- NPR Oct. 21, 2010 "Tamara Keith, "Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Bailout Costs Could Soar"".
- USNews September 9, 2010 "Brad Bannon, "Bank Bailout Spawned Obama and Dems’ Tea Party Problem"".; Bannon is a liberal pollster
- "Financial crisis : Carping about the TARP: Congress wrangles over how best to avoid financial Armageddon", The Economist, September 23, 2008
- "Behind the Bailout" — NOW on PBS 09/26/2008
- Muolo, Paul. $700 Billion Bailout. New York: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-46256-0.
- IMF Study Laevan and Valencia September 2008
- Wright, Robert E. ed. Bailouts: Public Money, Private Profit (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009).
- Wright, Robert E. Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Serious Look at America's Economic Ills (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2010).
- Estimating government support for Canadian banks during the financial crisis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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- The Bailout Reader - A resource against bailouts from a libertarian perspective
- Bailout Bandwagon on YouTube - Video satire about bailouts and the economic impact on everyday citizens