Friday, October 9, 2009

34 banks don't pay their quarterly TARP dividends

The U.S. taxpayers' investments in smaller banks are increasingly at risk.

In a sign that more banks are under great pressure from the recession, 34 financial institutions did not pay their quarterly dividends in August to the Treasury on funds obtained under the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP). The number almost doubled from 19 in May when payments were last made, and also raised questions about Treasury's judgment in approving these banks as "healthy," a necessary step for them to get TARP funding.

"The banks are not paying their dividends because they are worried about preserving capital," says Eric Fitzwater, associate director of research at SNL Financial.

The Treasury Department says it cannot force an institution to pay dividends. "For some banks, it may be prudent to exercise their right not to pay dividends in a particular month, and we respect their right to do so," says Meg Reilly, a Treasury spokeswoman. "To draw any broader conclusions about the state of the banking sector from one month is highly premature and speculative."

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