NEW YORK (Fortune) -- One of the things they teach in Successful Investing 101 is to cut your losses short and let your winnings run. But when it comes to the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the government is stuck doing the opposite. Its gains are being cut short, because its most profitable investments are being closed out, yet its losses will continue running.
The big gains come from stock-purchase warrants that Congress insisted the Treasury get as part of the $244 billion of TARP loans it made to 662 banks and bank holding companies. Warrants, which give holders the right (but not the obligation) to purchase stock at a fixed price for a fixed period, are designed to offer taxpayers a chance to make some serious money if the stock prices of the bailed-out banks rise.