It’s a staggering amount. The bankers were fined roughly $110 billion for their misdeeds in the mortgage market during the run up to the financial crisis. It would cover all of the bills of two million American households for an entire year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Also surprising is where the money has gone. New York used the money for horse stables for its annual state fair. Even banks got allocated a portion of the fines they were ordered to pay in order to fund loans to low-income borrowers.
But it’s unclear how the federal government is using its portion of the $110 billion in mortgage-related fines from big banks for their role in accelerating the housing bubble during financial crisis of 2008.
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According to an in-depth report from the Wall Street Journal, about $50 billion of those $110 billion in fines from 30 settlements ended up with the entity that levied it: the U.S. government.
About $49 billion of fines ended up at the Treasury Department. Treasury, which manages the country’s budget and taxes, usually puts fines in its general fund (where federal taxes usually land as well), which can be used for any item in the budget, including employee salaries, medicare and military expenditures.
It’s not exactly clear, though, what Treasury is doing with its portion of the bank’s mortgage fines. A spokesman for the Treasury told the Wall Street Journal it is being spent “as Congress authorizes.”
That worries some groups. “When settlement funds just go into the black box of the general fund of the government, who is accountable?” said Aaron Klein, at the Bipartisan Policy Center to the Journal.
Here’s the full break down of the Wall Street Journal analyzed:
- A huge chunk, $49 billion of the funds are with the Treasury Department. The agency initially received $14.5 billion from settlements, though other government agencies, including $34 billion from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other government-charted housing associations, later funneled money to the department.
- $45 billion was put aside for consumer relief.
- $10 billion was set aside to be used for housing-related federal agencies and to whistleblowers who called banks out. Some of the funds were also go back to the Treasury.
- $5.3 billion went to states, which appeared to use the money as they saw fit, including directing the money to pension plans which were hit hard by the fallout from mortgage-back securities.
- $447 million was given to the Justice Department, which had a role negotiating with banks.
- Some $1.2 billion could not be tracked down or is unaccounted for.