"Many municipalities, student loan providers, and other debt issuers borrowed funds using auction-rate securities (ARSs), whose interest rates are set periodically by auctions. ARSs combine features of short- and long-term securities. ARSs are typically long-maturity bonds with interest rates linked to short-term money markets. ARS issuance volumes grew rapidly since they were introduced in the mid-1980s. By 2007, ARSs comprised a $330 billion market. The credit crunch of 2007-2008, however, exposed major vulnerabilities in the design of ARSs. Turmoil in global financial markets that erupted in summer 2007, combined with vulnerabilities in the structure of ARSs, put mounting pressure on the ARS market. In addition, downgrades of some bond insurers increased stress on segments of the ARS market. In early February 2008, major ARS dealers withdrew their support for ARS auctions, most of which then failed. Widespread auction failures in the ARS market left many investors with illiquid holdings and sharply increased interest costs for many issuers, such as student lending agencies, cities, and public authorities. […] In April 2008, Congress passed the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 (H.R. 5715, P.L. 110-227) to allow the Secretary of Education to provide capital to student lenders, whose ability to borrow in some cases had been constricted by ARS failures. One proposed Senate amendment (S.Amdt. 4261) to a supplemental appropriations measure (Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act, H.R. 4899) would let the government buy certain federally guaranteed loans, which could affect the SLARS market. This report will be updated as events warrant."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34672