Oops, just kidding! Just think, if they'd actually admitted the banks were in deep trouble, and that their assets weren't worth a dime, the crisis might have bottomed out a lot sooner - and the banks wouldn't have been able to use TARP funds to buy up their competitors!
Senior U.S. officials deliberately misled the American people about the health of banks receiving huge government cash infusions last year, according to a report released today from the Treasury Department TARP watchdog.
The officials believed they were telling noble lies. The idea was that confidence needed to be restored and panic stemmed, even if this meant misleading the public about the actual health of our financial institutions.
Of course, this backfired. The government and the bailout lost public credibility when the financial crisis deepened, according to TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky's report.
Worse, the lies may have made the crisis worse by creating false expectations that the bailed out banks would be able to increase lending. Businesses and individuals planning to borrow would have discovered that their projects were impossible and their savings inadequate as banking lending continued to fall.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the $125 billion injection into nine banks in October 2008 was a program for "healthy" institutions. But privately senior officials believed several of those firms were less than healthy. Hank Paulson himself believed one of those institutions might fail.
"By stating that healthy' institutions would be able to increase overall lending, Treasury may have created unrealistic expectations about the institutions' condition and their ability to increase lending," the report said.