Henry Blodget
The Business Insider
March 25, 2009

The big problem with Tim Geithner’s plan to fix the banks is the same as it ever was: The gap between what banks say their assets are worth and what the market says they are worth.

[efoods]When a bank says an asset is worth 60 cents and the market says it’s worth 30 cents, someone has to cover that spread. The genius of Geithner’s plan is that it pawns most of the cost (and most of the risk) off on the taxpayer without the taxpayer noticing.

But unless the taxpayer gets stuck with the entire spread, which is probably what Geithner is hoping, banks that sell assets will have to take massive writedowns. This will start the whole cycle of violence again.

This risk to the banks is particularly acute when dealing with whole loans that the banks currently say they have no plans to sell. These loans are often carried at 100 cents on the dollar, because loans classified as held to maturity don’t have to be marked to market. Even subsidized buyers won’t likely be willing to pay anywhere near 100 cents on the dollar for these loans. So, here, the writedowns could potentially be huge.

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