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The Willis Report

Big Banks, It's Time to Play Fair

The word "bailout" seems to spark outrage whenever it's spoken. I know many of you have been fired up about the bank bailout from day one... well prepare to up the anger ante.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service shows the big banks made big bucks borrowing cash from the Fed and then selling it back to ... the Fed.

During the height of the recession, the Fed handed out about $3 trillion, but predictably, attached no strings to that money. In 33 instances, nine firms borrowed around $5.5 billion for the one-time fee of 0.008%.

That is appalling enough, but the fact that these institutions being bailed out with our money, then had the gall to "loan" that money back to the Fed—at ridiculously high rates—has me more than fired up.

Bank of America is a perfect example of this - on two separate occasions. At the start of 2009, the largest U.S. lender borrowed more than $48 billion at a rate of about a quarter of a percent. That helped BoA triple its holdings of treasures to about $15 billion, yielding 3.5%.

Later that year, the bank borrowed $3 billion more from the Fed at that quarter of a percent rate and its holdings of taxpayer-backed federal debt increased to $12 billion—yielding more than 3%.

Not to be outdone, JP Morgan Chase took in nearly $30 billion from the Fed - at a third of a percent rate. This as its debt holdings closed in on $20 billion, yielding more than two percent!

Washington claimed the bailouts and the handouts were the only way to stave off a depression. The only way to keep credit flowing. But here's the thing, as these banks were lending money back to the Fed, they weren't lending to us at all.

That year, credit to U.S. households plummeted by more than $234 billion—this as mortgage rates were at record lows, credit lines became almost non-existent, new financing plunged. All in all, lending as a whole decreased.

For Bank of America, the spread between borrowing rates and lending rates was 3 %.

Hey banks—I'm not trying to tell you how to run your business. But remember you needed us, and now we need you to play fair.

Be sure to catch the Willis Report on the FOX Business Network every weekday from 5-6pm ET.

Gerri Willis joined Fox Business Network (FBN) in March of 2010. Willis is an anchor and personal finance reporter for the network.

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