An investigative report from Bloomberg News reveals a first-of-its-kind look at the true size of the big bank bailouts amid the financial crisis, the details of which have dropped the jaws of even congressmen who approved the bailouts and relied upon the Federal Reserve in drafting financial reform legislation.

A lengthy but successful court battle Bloomberg waged against the Fed and a group of the country’s largest banks has opened up the books of the taxpayer-funded bailouts. And the raw data, much of which was never disclosed to bank shareholders, taxpayers or even Congress, clearly explain why both the Federal Reserve and big banks fought so hard to hide the truth.

The same day bank execs sent out letters to shareholders assuring them of financial stability, big banks were taking in billions of dollars in emergency, secret loans from the Fed. In the end, the six biggest banks netted $13 billion in profits from the bailouts:

The amount of money the central bank parceled out [to troubled banks] was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.

Total assets held by the six biggest U.S. banks increased 39 percent to $9.5 trillion on Sept. 30, 2011, from $6.8 trillion on the same day in 2006, according to Fed data.

Employees at the six biggest banks made twice the average for all U.S. workers in 2010, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics hourly compensation cost data. The banks spent $146.3 billion on compensation in 2010, or an average of $126,342 per worker, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Read the full report here.

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