When a company gets bailed out with taxpayer money, why is it not owned by the public now?


I get why a bailout can be important for the economy but I don’t get why the company just gets the money. Seems like tax payer money essentially is “buying” the company to me but they get nothing out of it.

Edit: whoa i woke up to a lot of messages! Some context to my question is that I am not from the US myself but I see bailout stuff in the news and as I understand it, the idea of capitalism is understood that “if you succeed then you make money and if you fail you go bankrupt and fold or get bought out” hence me wondering why bailouts are essentially free money to a company to survive which in my head sounds like its not really fair because not all companies are offered that luxury.

In: 12103

They could be, and I believe it has happened in the past. But in general, the federal government doesn’t want to run private companies. They aren’t structured for it and don’t necessarily have people with the right expertise. Even worse, they’d be competing against private companies and reducing the private employment figures.

A better outcome would be for the company bailed out to pay back the money required to save it, with interest. Then to put federally mandated controls in place to prevent it from happening again. As opposed to stupidly de-regulating the industry and virtually assuring that it will happen again.

It depends on the country, but in the US, we generally frown on the government owning companies because a lot of people think they’re incredibly bad at running them.

Instead, we force the companies to pay back all the money we lent them, with interest. For example, the government made money off both the auto industry and 2008 financial bailouts, once it was all repaid. It just took awhile.

(Example: TARP cost $426.4 billion in bailouts to banks, but they ended up repaying $441.7 billion in the end.)

The issue is that a lot of people (and they have a point) are upset that the bank’s executives and employees continued to get bonuses and make money while they paid us back.

The same reason that when you go bankrupt, you’re not owned by your creditors. Bailouts aren’t done for the benefit of the officers of the company, in fact the officers of the company are usually the first ones to be relieved of their jobs.

When the Federal Reserve and the Department of the Treasury stepped in to “bail out” insolvent banks in 2008, they actually became matchmakers for those insolvent companies to pair them up with other, not-broke banks. The not-broke bank took over the loan portfolio of the insolvent bank, and then the new, combined bank was provided liquidity to survive the merger intact.

So, for example, Countrywide was taken over by Bank of America, and Washington Mutual was taken over by JPMorgan Chase. The objective of the bailout wasn’t to rescue the defunct bank’s officers, or even their shareholders, but rather their depositors and customers. I was one of the Washington Mutual customers whose funds were rescued by the bailout, and now I’m banking with JPMorgan Chase because of it.

What does the taxpayer get out of it? A whole bunch of Americans who aren’t homeless and destitute because their life savings were wiped away by a giant financial catastrope that’s not of their own making.


They sometimes can, usually with a stock buyout. In the example of Royal Bank of Scotland in 2008, the UK government became 82% shareholder by purchasing £42 billion of shares at 50p a share at the time (technically £5.00 per share based on share splits and consolidations to date).

Sadly, their price has never truly recovered.

Today the UK Gov’t holds a 43% stake in what is now the NatWest group.