This is beyond the fox guarding the chicken coop. This is simply a system designed for massive theft.
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department, seeking to jump-start its $700 billion rescue, is giving financial institutions two days to submit proposals to work as asset managers for the program.
Treasury's request for proposals makes clear that it wants large, established firms with significant assets to work for the government's program to buy mortgage-backed securities and other distressed assets.
To qualify, institutions must already manage at least $100 billion. Firms that want to manage whole loans, such as residential and commercial mortgages, must already oversee at least $25 billion in such loans or prove that they have capacity to handle that much.
Since plans for the bailout plan were announced, a range of firms -- from large investment banks to boutique real-estate companies -- have been angling to grab some of the advisory business. Many are hungry for this work because their sales, financing and other traditional forms of real-estate business have dried up with the credit crisis.
Allianz SE's Pacific Investment Management Co., better known as Pimco, has said it wants to serve as a manager, and other firms, such as Blackrock Inc. and Legg Mason Inc., are considered likely contenders. Two big banks -- J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley -- have been considering making bids for asset-management assignments, people familiar with the matter say.
The asset managers will have significant power. Firms will have to adhere to investment guidelines established by Treasury, but the institutions are expected to assist Treasury in determining which assets to buy, when to buy them and whether to sell or hold them. Treasury will choose the managers based on factors including the ability to work quickly and minimize conflicts of interest, as well as performance of assets under management.
Treasury says the size of the portfolios may reach "several hundred billion dollars" and will, at times, require active management. The portfolio "is expected to hold assets until market conditions improve and stabilize, but the specific holding period of particular assets will vary from months to years."
The government also is looking for institutions to provide the program's infrastructure, such as providing custody and cash accounts, and confirming trades. Those firms must have at least $500 billion under management.
One of Treasury's biggest hurdles will be handling conflicts of interest that are likely to arise. Companies that qualify for Treasury's program are likely to have a financial stake in the very assets they will be charged with buying and selling.
Treasury doesn't expect to eliminate all conflicts of interest, but is hoping to minimize them, according to a person familiar with the matter.