"No matter what kind of assistance is offered to banks, five principles must be adhered to, which have been absent in the implementation of the first round of TARP.
First, if a bank is deeply insolvent, the government should not waste taxpayer resources trying to prop it up with capital injections or enhanced insurance of its toxic assets.
There is no point in insuring the downside of a bank that would be unable to raise private capital and achieve capital adequacy even after receiving significant downside protection from the government. How can the government tell when a bank is not worth assisting with enhanced downside protection?
As in the case of preferred stock injections, market participants can help the government make that call. A bank that cannot raise adequate private funds conditional on receiving substantial downside insurance from the government should have to sell itself or wind down its operations.
Regulators should not make the determination that a bank is too distressed to be worth helping by mechanically applying current market values (which are temporarily depressed due to the liquidity crisis) to bank assets. Mortgage-backed security prices in today's market, in particular, should not be taken as estimates of the expected values of those instruments once the liquidity crisis passes; in many cases, reasonable expected recovery values are substantially higher than observed market prices.
A better test would be the ability of the bank to raise new capital in the market conditional on the potential to participate in the insurance program.
Second, banks receiving assistance should not be permitted to pay common stock dividends during the period in which they receive assistance. Dividends deplete equity capital and thus are inimical to the recapitalization objective. Furthermore, the primary economic cost that normally accompanies a dividend cut (adverse signaling of bank prospects to the market) should be absent when the dividend cut results from a government mandate.
Third, attaching warrants to preferred stock or other upside options for taxpayers is counterproductive to banks' abilities to raise private capital and should not be included in assistance agreements for banks.
Congress insisted on adding warrants to preferred stock purchases in the TARP legislation in an attempt to imitate private agreements (like Warren Buffett's with Goldman Sachs
Fourth, government should not insist on treating banks in different circumstances the same way in an attempt to disguise their differences. That Japanese-style "convoy" approach (which Secretary Paulson has favored in the past) never fools the market and fails to reward better-performing banks with more effective and lower-cost forms of assistance.
Fifth, banks that receive additional downside protection for toxic assets (beyond the proposed economy-wide 30 cent floor on mortgages) should pay a fair (i.e. sufficiently high) premium for that assistance. Although it is not possible to gauge with precision this fair premium, rough calculations using option pricing are possible and can be applied in a way that limits taxpayers' losses and rewards banks holding relatively better performing toxic assets."