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Wall Street Considers Legal Action Against Obama’s Bank Tax

The banking industry may go as far as a court battle to challenge the constitutionality of President Obama's ""bailout fee"":http://dsnews.comarticles/obama-proposes-bank-bailout-tax-to-recoup-90-billion-2010-01-14 announced last week.


According to a report from the _New York Times_, banks' top lobbying group, the ""Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association"":http://www.sifma.org (SIFMA), has already hired a well-known Supreme Court litigator to study whether a tax on one industry to recoup government rescue dollars could be considered arbitrary and punitive.

Under the president's proposal, a levy would be imposed on all financial institutions with more than $50 billion in assets, for at least 10 years, until the full cost of the government's bailout efforts â€" now estimated to be about $117 billion â€" is recovered in its entirety. Obama stressed that only the Wall Street giants â€" not smaller, community banks â€" would be affected, with some 60 percent of the revenue coming solely from the nation's 10 largest financial firms.

Most of the large institutions that participated in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and are targeted for the administration's proposed financial crisis responsibility fee have repaid their capital injections in full, plus interest, dividends, and warrants. Indeed, the Treasury said in December that investments it made in the banking system are expected to turn a $19 billion profit for taxpayers.


SIFMA said in a statement following the president's announcement last week, ""While we are still learning details of the administration's new proposed tax, we are concerned to learn that the government would consider this approach rather than first collecting all outstanding TARP loans plus interest in accordance with the law, and then determine a strategy to recoup any remaining monies.""

According to an email obtained by the _Times_, which was sent from SIFMA to the legal departments at a number of Wall Street banks, the tax ""would unfairly single out and penalize big banks.""

The details of the tax calculation have not yet been finalized, but _Bloomberg_ estimates that ""Bank of America"":http://www.bankofamerica.com, the largest U.S. lender, would owe $1.53 billion a year over the next 10 years. ""JPMorgan Chase"":http://www.jpmorganchase.com, the No. 2 U.S. bank, would owe $1.52 billion each year, and ""Citigroup"":http://www.citigroup.com would have to pay in $1.37 billion per year.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's chief executive, expressed his opposition to the bank tax in his company's fourth quarter earnings call Friday, speaking out directly against having banks pay for the bailouts of recipients from other industries.

""It might surprise you we generally agree with the concept that the industry should pay for its own clean up. But TARP got extended to a lot of things other than banks, like insurance companies and car companies,"" Dimon told his shareholders.

Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address, ""Like clockwork, the banks and politicians who curry their favor are already trying to stop this fee from going into effect. The very same firms reaping billions of dollars in profits, and reportedly handing out more money in bonuses and compensation than ever before in history, are now pleading poverty. It's a sight to see.""

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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