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Treasury close to profit on TARP bank loans

By Charles Riley, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Just $2 billion more.

That's all the Treasury Department needs before it can say it's turning a profit on the Troubled Asset Relief Fund loans paid out to banks.

On Wednesday, Treasury announced that Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati had fully repaid its outstanding $3.4 billion loan. That means banks have paid the government $243 billion of the original $245 billion in TARP loans.

Not every bank has repaid the government, but Treasury is making a mint off the interest. The department currently estimates that TARP bank loans will ultimately provide a lifetime profit of nearly $20 billion to taxpayers.

"As the economy heals, we're continuing to see private capital step up and replace public support in the financial sector, which has dramatically lowered the cost of TARP for taxpayers," Tim Massad, acting assistant secretary for financial stability, said in a statement.

But that's just the loans made to banks. Taxpayers are still holding the bag on bailouts for the auto industry and AIG through TARP.

When you factor those loans in, along with the cost of a foreclosure prevention program, taxpayers have only recouped $274 billion out of a total $410 billion. Treasury isn't expecting to make all that money back. It recently estimated a final cost to taxpayers of $48 billion for the entire program.

If you count the millions of common AIG shares still owed to Treasury, which technically exist outside the TARP program, the program cost drops to $28 billion.

Most of the overall loss will come from Treasury's foreclosure prevention programs. And not everyone is happy with that part of TARP's effectiveness.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said last week that the program has been a success financially, but that programs "designed to help Main Street rather than Wall Street" have been failures.

Barofsky focused part of his criticism on the Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP, which is intended to help eligible homeowners avoid foreclosure by facilitating mortgage modifications with loan servicers.

As of Dec. 31, there have been just over 500,000 ongoing permanent modifications under HAMP, with about 238,000 of those funded by and attributable to TARP -- figures Barofsky called "anemic." To top of page

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