By Mike Allen
9/21/08 7:24 AM EDT
In a change from the original proposal sent to Capitol Hill, foreign-based banks with big U.S. operations could qualify for the Treasury Department’s mortgage bailout, according to the fine print of an administration statement Saturday night.
The theory, according to a participant in the negotiations, is that if the goal is to solve a liquidity crisis, it makes no sense to exclude banks that do a lot of lending in the United States.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson confirmed the change on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos that coverage of foreign-based banks is “a distinction without a difference to the American people.”
“If a financial institution has business operations in the United States, hires people in the United States, if they are clogged with illiquid assets, they have the same impact on the American people as any other institution,” Paulson said.
“That’s a distinction without a difference to the American people. The key here is protecting the system. … We have a global financial system, and we are talking very aggressively with other countries around the world and encouraging them to do similar things, and I believe a number of them will. But, remember, this is about protecting the American people and protecting the taxpayers. and the American people don’t care who owns the financial institution. If the financial institution in this country has problems, it’ll have the same impact whether it’s the U.S. or foreign.”
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