Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

Investment banks give taxpayers a good soaking

October 6, 2010: 12:14 PM ET

Who's keeping Wall Street in business? You are.

The U.S. government has been the biggest fee payer to global investment banks in the first nine months of 2010, Thomson Reuters said Wednesday in its quarterly fee review.

Your tax dollars at work

The United States shelled out $1.15 billion in fees, mostly on bond offerings by the government-run mortgage companies Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC), Thomson Reuters said.

Your generosity is no doubt well appreciated, given the pressure building on Wall Street's profits at a time when regulators are clamping down on the games banks can play.

Still, the U.S. contribution is just a fraction of the nearly $58 billion investment banks around the world collected in fees in the first nine months of the year, by Thomson Reuters' count. It said JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) J.P. Morgan was the top fee taker with $3.7 billion worth, followed by Bank of America (BAC) Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs (GS), each of which was also above $3 billion.

The fee pool grew 9% from a year ago, Thomson Reuters said, led by a 26% gain in investment banking fees taken in the Asia-Pacific region.

The list of the top fee payers is dominated by governments. No. 2 on the list was the government of China, which paid $1.07 billion for a mix of stock and bond offerings and merger deals. Also ranking were Japan, at No. 7 with $275 million in fees, and Germany, at No. 9 with $274 million.

State-sponsored enterprises are well represented too, with U.S. mortgage insurer Ginnie Mae ranking fifth and the Federal Home Loan Banks eighth. All told, U.S. taxpayer-backed entities paid $1.7 billion in fees through September, the data show.

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About This Author
Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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