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March 23, 2009 9:16 p.m.

According to the Post’s A1 story tomorrow, the administration is ‘considering asking Congress’ (i.e., this is a trial balloon) to give the Treasury Secretary powers to seize non-bank financial institutions: in other words, the Lehman Brotherses and AIGs of the financial world.

Also in the background is the emerging debate about what government agency is going to take on the new role as ‘systemic risk regulator’ — the Fed? or some new agency yet to be created. This is an issue that Elana Schor has been writing about at TPMDC. And it seems to be swirling in the background in the spat between the White House and Sen. Dodd.

Finally, there’s this …

Besides seizing a company outright, the document states, the Treasury Secretary could use a range of tools to prevent its collapse, such as guaranteeing losses, buying assets or taking a partial ownership stake. Such authority also would allow the government to break contracts, such as the agreements to pay $165 million in bonuses to employees of AIG’s most troubled unit.

Breaking contracts covers a lot of territory. So it would be very interesting to see some more detail on this front. But one of the fundamental problems that has hobbled the government’s response is that companies that by rights should go through bankruptcy can’t go through bankruptcy (or at least that’s what many believe) because of the shock to the rest of the financial sector. So perhaps this would give regulators more options.

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