Treasury: 10 Banks Can Repay TARP Billions

Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the Treasury Department

"Freedom!" yelled Mel Gibson, as William Wallace, in the famous scene from "Braveheart."

Such a cry might be echoing around the offices of some of the nation's biggest banks after they got the green light from the government to repay bailout money.

The Treasury Department announced today that 10 of the country's 19 stress-tested banks can now pay back $68 billion in federal funds received as part of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

In a written statement, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today voiced guarded optimism about the paybacks.

"These repayments are an encouraging sign of financial repair, but we still have work to do," he said.

The $68 billion Treasury will rake in from this first round of repayments is nearly three times the initial prediction of $25 billion made earlier this year.

JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley Among Banks to Pay Back TARP

While the Treasury Department did not name the banks that would be making the repayments, six banks confirmed to ABC News that they have received the government's approval to pay back the following TARP investments:

JP Morgan Chase: $25 billion
American Express: $3.4 billion
Capital One: $3.6 billion
Morgan Stanley: $10 billion
BB&T: $3.1 billion
US Bancorp: $6.6 billion Northern Trust: $1.6 billion State Street: $2 billion Bank of New York Mellon: $3 billion Goldman Sachs: $10 billion

"The financial services industry is well-capitalized," said Steve Bartlett, President and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, a leading group representing the banking industry. "This is a positive sign for the industry and the economy."

Removing 'Scarlet Letter'

For some banks, like JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, approval to pay back the money could not come soon enough. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently described participation in the program as "a scarlet letter."

Banks' frustrations with TARP were shared by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who wondered why the government would make banks obtain approval just to pay back American taxpayers.

In a letter sent last week to Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., blasted the repayment process as "completely unacceptable."

"It has been clear from the implantation of this program that there is no exit strategy," wrote Vitter, urging that, "Creating clear and reasonable rules for repaying TARP funds will begin that long overdue process that will save the American taxpayer from TARP."

And Republican outrage in Congress does not end there.

On Monday, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the lone sitting member of Congress on the Congressional Oversight Panel, a watchdog group overseeing the TARP, called for the program to be terminated within six months.

Hensarling's bill not only wind down the program by the new year, it would also require Treasury to accept repayments from "safe and sound institutions" that want to return the money.

That would mean more money returning to government coffers sooner rather than later.

'Unanswered Questions' From Bank Stress Tests

The Fed's approval of the bank repayments comes a month after the government announced the results of its stress tests, which determined which banks, according to federal officials, should raise more capital to cushion themselves against further economic shocks.

A watchdog group today called the tests "helpful," but cautioned that there are still "unanswered questions."

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