Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Naming the Fed's Customers

One of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed last summer was that it forced the Federal Reserve to reveal who was making use of its emergency loan provisions, which got a real workout during the banking meltdown of 2008. Some of these do not exactly come as news, such as the troubled insurer AIG, which borrowed some $60 billion. Goldman Sachs borrowed nearly $25 billion.

But the Fed also loaned money to the American subsidiaries of foreign-owned banks, such as UBS, based in Switzerland, and Dexia, based in Belgium. The loans continued well past the end of the banking crisis, too: Korea's Shinhan Financial Group borrowed $100 million from the Fed in February of this year.

Will the Fed continue making emergency loans to foreign entities now that it will have to reveal the names of all its customers? That's not really clear, but at the very least, they will have to justify their actions going forward. More transparency is generally a good thing.

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