The Huffington Post
March 17, 2009
U.S. Injecting Billions Into Foreign Central Banks
For more than a year, the U.S. Federal Reserve System has been increasingly acting as the world’s central bank, injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into foreign government treasuries in an effort to increase liquidity in those countries.
[efoods]The foreign central banks have used the U.S. currency to bail out financial institutions within their borders. The Fed program links its balance sheet directly to the fates of foreign central banks at a time when they’re on the ropes.
The program has so far gone unreported in the mainstream media and is a major expansion of Federal Reserve involvement in the global economy. It represents a stark break from the prior role of the Fed, moving it into territory more traditionally occupied by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The program puts both the Fed and the foreign central banks at increased risk. If the bailed-out banks can’t repay the loans, the foreign central bank is still on the hook to the Fed. It would have to raise the money by selling debt — which most Europeans are finding difficult today — or raise taxes or cut spending, actions that further exacerbate the economic crisis. Or, the foreign central bank could default, leaving the U.S. holding a bag of foreign currency of plummeting value.
The U.S. taxpayer has also bailed out foreign banks indirectly by pumping billions into American Insurance Group, which announced Sunday that it had forwarded that cash to counterparties that include foreign banks such as Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank, Calyon, Credit Suisse, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays.