Former Treasury secretary Henry Paulson said the U.S. government will be repaid in full for the money it invested in the country's lenders.

"We will get every penny we put into the banks back" and turn a profit, Paulson said at a meeting Tuesday of the Greater Omaha Chamber in Nebraska. "I think when you look at all the other programs, we may be surprised at what we get back."

More than 700 U.S. banks, insurers and credit card companies applied to the government for cash from the Treasury's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Borrowers including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. have returned more than $180 billion of the bailout funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A government watchdog monitoring the bailout said last month that Tarp would cost taxpayers less than previously predicted. An earlier report from Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky to Congress predicted the final cost could be "substantial."

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