April 23, 2020 / 6:49 PM / a month ago

Fed to disclose who borrows what under its emergency programs

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve will publish unredacted details on who is borrowing how much under several new Fed lending facilities funneling trillions of dollars of support to a U.S. economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The Fed is backstopping company and local government debt with an unprecedented array of lending programs, and on Thursday said it will publish at least monthly the names and details of participants in the coronavirus lending programs that were set up as part of the CARES Act in coordination with the U.S. Treasury.

It will also publish the amounts borrowed and interest rate charged, as well as overall costs, revenues and fees for each of those facilities.

The effort marks the Fed’s commitment to “transparency and accountability,” said Chair Jerome Powell.

The move is a reversal from the shroud of secrecy the Fed kept for years over recipients of emergency lending programs during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. It suggests a new sensitivity to concerns that some might take advantage of them. Previously, the Fed refused to name borrowers for fear of scaring shareholders, releasing details only after the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act required the central bank to release the data.

“This is more detail than we were expecting,” Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group, said in a note to clients.

Users of the Fed’s primary dealer, commercial paper and money market facilities can still expect their identities to be kept under wraps while the programs are active so as to avoid stigma and not deter firms from using them when needed, according to the Fed.

Borrowers under the Fed’s Main Street Lending facility may not be constrained by the same level of stigma, the Fed said. It was not clear whether the Fed would disclose identities of borrowers from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, whose lenders chose to offload the debt to the Fed’s PPP backstop.

Powell has said that unlike during the last crisis, firms are facing financial hardship through no fault of their own and are reducing or closing their businesses, often under government mandate, to help repair the public health.

But critics have raised the alarm that in the wash of trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, some undeserving actors could take advantage. Some large public companies already appear to have edged out smaller firms in the hunt for paycheck protection loans, for instance, and Republicans have balked at sending more money to states whose budgets have been crushed during the economic shutdowns, saying they worry the cash could be used for non-coronavirus-related issues.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Additional reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Dan Grebler

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