If they could have printed money the way the government does, they probably would have. Instead Bank of America and PNC Financial Services Group plugged some of their government-identified capital shortfalls with one of the things they can print – stock.
The two banks are among 10 ordered by Uncle Sam to raise $74.6 billion of capital after failing stress tests of their ability to handle a deep recession. Top U.S. bank Bank of America was told to raise $33.9 billion, and number-seven PNC $600 million.
Bank of America said it has raised about $5.9 billion of capital by swapping 436 million common shares for preferred stock, and has raised close to $26 billion of capital since the stress test. PNC said it sold 15 million common shares in an “at-the-market” offering and said it plans “as soon as appropriate” to pay back the $7.6 billion it took from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. Bank of America took $45 billion from TARP.
When governments print money they risk devaluing their currency. For banks, these sales could well do the same for their shares, and the drop in value could be vertiginous.