Libya-Owned Arab Banking Corp. Drew at Least $5 Billion From Fed in Crisis
Arab Banking Corp., the lender part- owned by the Central Bank of Libya, used a New York branch to get 73 loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve in the 18 months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed.
The bank, then 29 percent-owned by the Libyan state, had aggregate borrowings in that period of $35 billion — while the largest single loan amount outstanding was $1.2 billion in July 2009, according to Fed data released yesterday. In October 2008, when lending to financial institutions by the central bank’s so- called discount window peaked at $111 billion, Arab Banking took repeated loans totaling more than $2 billion.
Fed officials say all the discount window loans made during the worst financial crisis since the 1930s have been repaid with interest.
The U.S. government has since frozen assets linked to the regime of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi and engaged in air strikes against his military forces, which are battling a rebel uprising in the North African country. Arab Banking got an exemption that allows the firm to continue operating while barring it from engaging in any transactions with the Libyan government, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
“It is incomprehensible to me that while creditworthy small businesses in Vermont and throughout the country could not receive affordable loans, the Federal Reserve was providing tens of billions of dollars in credit to a bank that is substantially owned by the Central Bank of Libya,” Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, wrote in a letter to Fed and U.S. officials.