U.S. banks embroiled in the Asian financial crisis should expect Congress to impose painful terms on any bailout package, insiders here warned late last week.
The administration is seeking nearly $20 billion for the International Monetary Fund, but Sen. Rod Grams, chairman of Senate Banking's international finance subcommittee, said liberals as well as conservatives are expected to fight the plan as a taxpayer bailout of risky loans by big banks.
"It is always easy to go home and demagogue these issues," said the Minnesota Republican on Thursday in a speech at the annual conference of the Bankers' Association for Foreign Trade .
Some lawmakers are attempting to craft so-called "user fees" as a way to make banks pay for the IMF contributions, said Karen Shaw Petrou, president of the ISD/Shaw Inc. consulting firm here.
Exactly who would pay these fees or how they would be calculated is unclear, she said, but they could be taken as a percentage of bank loans rescued by the bailout.
"None of this is going to be easy," Ms. Petrou said in a speech at the conference Friday. "Unless internationally active banks quickly mount a persuasive defense of the international financial system and their role in it, they can expect to pick up a big piece of the IMF tab later this year."
Lawmakers could tie labor, environmental, and abortion issues to any funding, speakers added.
Bankers complained that their lousy public image is undeserved. They said the major banks are working with the Treasury Department and IMF to restructure debt and renew trade financing they would otherwise cancel.
"We are not getting a free ride," insisted Stanley Luboff, manager of Bank of America's structured trade finance group. "We are doing our share."
Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury's assistant secretary for international affairs, agreed and urged quick action by Congress to support vital U.S. interests in the region.
"Despite popular perception, these programs generally do not protect investors and creditors from losses," he said in a speech at the conference Friday. "All have experienced substantial losses, and there will be more to come."
He acknowledged some players may lose less than they would have without intervention but said "that is the incidental and unavoidable result of the steps necessary to restore financial stability."
Sen. Grams said Congress has to be assured that IMF-mandated reforms of Asian banking systems and financial disclosures are strictly enforced.
"The money does not flow if the commitments are not met," Mr. Geithner said.