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Goldman Sachs looks to repay TARP money

Bloomberg News / March 25, 2009
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NEW YORK - Goldman Sachs Group, once the most profitable firm on Wall Street, is talking with US regulators about repaying the $10 billion it received from the government by mid-April, a person familiar with the matter said.

Goldman Sachs hasn't formally applied to give back the money, which it received as part of the first round of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the person said, declining to be identified because the talks are private.

Bank executives are chafing under increased scrutiny that accompanied the bailout money, as public outrage over bonuses and executive perks intensifies. The government may be reluctant to let any banks pay back the TARP money now, because it could pressure other companies that still need the cash to return it, according to Peter Sorrentino of Huntington Asset Advisors.

Goldman Sachs doesn't expect to be allowed to repay the TARP money until the Treasury finishes so-called stress tests of major banks' financial stability, the person said. Regulators expect to complete the review in April.

"We've indicated our desire to repay TARP capital sooner rather than later, but obviously won't do anything without the approval of our regulators," Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas Van Praag said.

Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., said Goldman Sachs should return the TARP funds if it's able, and regulators shouldn't discourage exit strategies for banks that want to end their participation in the program.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Goldman Sachs was negotiating to return the money. A Treasury spokesman declined to comment.

David Viniar, Goldman Sachs's finance chief, said Feb. 4 that running the company without government money "would be an easier thing to do." The firm, which set a Wall Street record for pay in 2007, said in November that chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and six deputies would forgo year-end bonuses.

Goldman Sachs is also considering a sale of part of its 4.9 percent stake in Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. to raise more than $1 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Investors would likely welcome the sale as a means to raise capital and create a more predictable earnings stream, said William Fitzpatrick, an analyst at Optique Capital Management.

As part of the stimulus package, firms can repay TARP money without replacing the funds at the discretion of regulators. JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said Feb. 23 the bank was planning to pay back TARP "as soon as it is prudent" in consultation with regulators.

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