Home / Finance / Reconstruction Finance Company
reconstruction finance corporation

Reconstruction Finance Company


Let’s take a look at the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. When it was established by the Hoover administration, the RFC aimed to increase bank liquidity and restore public confidence during the Great Depression. The financial system faced intense pressure, leading to numerous suspensions and bank failures. Depositors who feared bank closures often withdrew their funds because deposit insurance was not yet mandatory, risking a complete loss of account value.

RFC initially borrowed money from various financial institutions. President Roosevelt’s authorization expanded her authority. It acquired convertible preferred shares from banks, expanded its role in financial services, promoted exports, and ensured food security. This strategy continued and indirectly aided the war effort. After the war, 65% of its capital was dispersed to private companies as loans. The RFC ceased operations in 1957 and its equipment was donated to other agencies due to poor condition.

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation’s Origins

The financial sector of the United States encountered problems during the Great Contraction, illustrating one of its aspects. Accumulating by that banks in the American finance sector were enormous. The total numbered 24,633 of those at the end of December 1929, which were in the US. The great masses of such banks were retail-oriented and served rural and small-town dwellers. These savings banks, though were significantly prone to economic fluctuations that might even close the bank within months.

The Small Banks And The Federal Reserve

In 1913, supporters established the Federal Reserve System to address the recurring financial crises. In a crisis, the Fed may act as a lender of last resort, and avail banks the scarce cash. The state-chartered banks could join the Fed if they wished but they were not compelled to choose this option. The nationally chartered banks, however, had no choice they had to join the Fed system. State-chartered banks in the majority either decided to refuse or stayed out of the Federal Reserve System. The point is that a lot of small banks in rural areas do not count in the Federal Reserve. Consequently, member banks could not expect the Fed’s assistance or the Fed to resort to its responsibility of extending credit to two of its kinds in general.

The Development of Banking Panics

When banks lack deposit safety programs, depositors risk losing all or most of their funds if the bank fails. This risk leads to panic withdrawals, as people rush to deposit their money elsewhere. Banks typically lend out deposited funds or invest them, often leaving limited cash reserves. If a bank fails to sell assets quickly to cover withdrawals, it may be forced to halt operations, leading to bankruptcies and widespread distrust in the banking sector. This crisis reduces available money and credit, worsening the situation.

Bank collapses were frequent in the 1920s, with hundreds failing annually. The number rose sharply in 1930, leading to widespread panics. President Hoover believed in private sector aid for the financial system over government intervention, akin to charity.

The Corporation for National Credit

To address bank panic problems, Hoover advocated for the creation of the NCC, a federally approved private institution formed by leading banks. The NCC would provide loans to struggling banks. It was initially started in the country on October 13, 1931. While the inaugural airline services began on November 11, 1931. Unlike previous creditors, NCC’s banks were hesitant to approve loans and required applicants to pledge their best assets as security. Despite the impending collapse of the banking market, Hoover believed the NCC had something to offer that others did not.

Approved by RFC in January 1932

President Woodrow Wilson and Eugene Meyer, the Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, both believed that only a government agency could provide loans to struggling banks. This view led to the suggestion, on December 7, 1932, by the Committee on Banking and Currency, of a variety of bills to create the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). The legislation became law on January 22, 1932, and the RFC began operations on February 2, 1932.

Initially, the RFC had 10 years of operation mandated by the original statute. Starting January 1, 1933, the President required approval, and Congress’s approval was necessary for exercising the borrowing authority granted by the legislation after January 1, 1934. Thus, the RFC’s initial charter was to be extended later, and its powers and duties also were broadened by further legislation.

To ease Reconstruction Finance Corporation RFC’s operations, the U.S. Treasury has granted the corporation a $500 million capital infusion and a $1.5 billion credit line through which it can smooth its operations. To fund RFC, the Treasury issued bonds, increasing borrowing and home inflation. The Federal Reserve Board sold the first USTCP at $117.5, and RFC borrowed $3.1 billion from the Treasury and $51.3 billion overall.

RFC Permitted To Make Loans To Banks And Other Parties

The Reconstruction Finance Company RFC initially targeted railroads, banks, financial institutions, and farm purposes for loans. Originally aimed at supporting railroads, it also benefited banks holding railroad bonds. This dual focus not only assisted railroads but also reassured banks, as the economic downturn had devalued railroad bonds. The subsequent recovery in bond prices improved the financial standing of both railroads and creditor banks.

On July 2, 1932, the RFC empowered itself to grant loans for self-sustaining projects like public works and to assist states in meeting the financial needs of the impoverished and unemployed. It also mandated the RFC to regularly update Congress on the identities of all RFC fund borrowers.

RFC Undercut By Mandating It To Publicize Bank Names Getting Loans

The Reconstruction Finance Company RFC ROE project, launched during Grover Cleveland’s presidency and lasting until Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, aimed to stabilize banks through discounted rate lending. This initiative initially succeeded, lowering bank failures and non-bank cash fund withdrawals. However, some RFC loans led to political and social repercussions, leading to a 1932 mandate for banks to report RFC borrowing to Congress.

Speaker of the House John Nance Garner disclosed member banks’ names, leading to decreased RFC effectiveness from August 1932. Bankers avoided RFC loans fearing depositors’ panic if their bank’s financial aid became public. A law enacted in January 1933 mandated RFC to publish a list of loans issued up to July 21, 1932, further impacting RFC’s efficacy.

Bank Failure, Politics, and RFC in February and March 1933

Between February 1933 and Detroit’s financial crisis, barely three days elapsed. Disaster avoidance became crucial when the RFC had to lend to the insolvent Union Guardian Trust bank in Michigan. This bank, one of two where Henry Ford had $7 million in deposits, needed him to cover the losses with his own deposits to secure the loan. Michigan Senator James Couzens insisted that Ford surrender his deposits in the struggling bank.

Ford and Couzens, former collaborators, now became rivals. Ford was determined to prevent Detroit from failing, fearing that the city might descend into anarchy without the bank’s rescue. When negotiations failed, the governor of Michigan declared a statewide bank holiday. Despite the RFC’s willingness to assist the Union Guardian Trust, the outcome was inevitable.

The danger escalated in Michigan and quickly spread to neighboring states and eventually the entire country, causing widespread panic and fear. By March 4, all states had received orders regarding bank holidays or cash withdrawals from banks. One of President Roosevelt’s initial actions was declaring a bank holiday on March 5, plunging the nation into a week of financial turmoil with banks shuttered nationwide. The RFC lending program emerged as the primary emergency funding source for the nation during this severe financial crisis.

Remarks about the RFC

The RFC’s lending approach, requiring banks to pledge their best assets as security, proved ineffective. This high-cost requirement, coupled with negative publicity surrounding RFC loans and the listing of loan recipients, led to a decrease in loans to banks and investment firms by September and November 1932.

In the New Deal, the RFC

FDR Sees Advantages in Using the RFC

By the Reconstruction Finance Company RFC inheritance, Franklin Roosevelt obtained a tool that Congress, and he and his fellow politicians, according to their opinion, was very helpful due to its independence and flexibility, which was also very important. The RFC has the bull’s-eye as an executive institution to borrow money from the U.S. Treasury without approval of any legislative process. The future became the ability of the RFC to take the initiative to fund various programs and initiatives without having to obtain parliamentary permission. This allowed the government to expand the role and powers that were not taken into account in the federal budget.

The Go-Ahead for RFC to Purchase Bank Stock

The Emergency Banking Act of March 9, 1933, allowed the Reconstruction Finance Company RFC to purchase bank-preferred stocks, capital notes, and debentures, unlocking frozen funds. Despite initial bank reluctance, the RFC’s pressure led banks to buy state-owned preferred shares, significantly improving their capital positions. This, along with subsequent revisions, enhanced the RFC’s powers and helped stabilize banks during the Great Depression. The RFC’s actions, including purchasing $343 million in capital stock and bonds, aided 2,910 banks and trust firms, as well as $782 in bank preferred shares from 4,202 banks, between 1933 and 1935.

The type of preferred stock share issue met a certain degree of opposition, sometimes taking the form of RFC management’s interference in bank management or an enforced decrease in senior executives’ payments. On the one hand, the plan brought equilibrium to the financial system by pumping new capital and setting up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, whose function is to protect the public from any financial losses that may result from placing savings in the banks. The improved situation with bank failures was underlined by the strong tendency after 1933.

RFC’s Support for Farmers

The RFC during the New Deal stepped up help for farmers, remaining on par with bankers only when it came to extending support to this sector. Credits from the Reconstruction Finance Company RFC programs were designated for agricultural finance firms especially the Commodity Credit Corporation ($2.5 billion), in which the latter received half of the loans. The beginning was Delaware in 1933 when RFC conducted an oversight for CC to the end of six years. Transfer management to the Department of Agriculture in 1939; the Department of Agriculture has controlled it since.

Corporation for Commodity Credit

The Great Depression, drought, and the introduction of tractors led to a decline in agriculture and drove farmers away. The Agricultural Adjustment Act, part of the New Deal in 1933, aimed to address these challenges, as farm conditions had worsened since 1920 with falling prices and low farmer incomes. The Commodity Credit Corporation played a vital role by buying agricultural products at slightly higher prices than the market, providing a financial safety net, and establishing a minimum floor for commodity prices.

The RFC not only supported the Electric Home and Farm Authority, which was established to help families with low and medium incomes buy gas and electric equipment but also helped on a much larger scale to prevent hundreds of thousands of industrial employees from becoming unemployed. The Tennessee Valley Authorities (TVA) are examples of communities that would see power demands increasing from this plan. The provision of electricity to rural communities was the first-line goal of the Rural Electrification Program.

Concerns About Reduction in Bank Lending by RFC and New Deal Officials

The Depository bank’s assets and deposits grew post-1933, but banks with high bad loan ratios saw asset changes after the recession. Pre-Depression, banks mainly issued loans and bought limited securities, like USA bonds. During the crisis, banks favored high-yield assets, shifting to lower-risk assets in stable times. Table 1 shows lending didn’t fully recover post-recession, possibly because not all borrowers faced financial difficulties or due to safety concerns.

Reconstruction Finance Corporation RFC executives and New Dealers were too worried about the decline in bank lending rates and they felt this drop in the bank activities was nohow fitting for an economic recovery. In Roosevelt’s view, the main problem was inadequate money supply, as banks were willing but not able to lend it. They witnessed for themselves the constituent file of the Congress, the Commodity Credit Corporation, and the Electric Home and Farm Authority Lending describing that the gap was being filled.

Table 1st

Year Bank Loans and Million-Dollar Investments Bank Credit Amounts in the Millions Million-dollar bank net deposits Loans as a Share of Investments and Loans The percentage of loans to net deposits
1921 39895 28927 30129 73% 96%
1922 39837 27627 31803 69% 87%
1923 43613 30272 34359 69% 88%
1924 45067 31409 36660 70% 86%
1925 48709 33729 40349 69% 84%
1926 51474 36035 42114 70% 86%
1927 53645 37208 43489 69% 86%
1928 57683 39507 44911 68% 88%
1929 58899 41581 45058 71% 92%
1930 40497 40497 45586 69% 89%
1931 55267 27627 31803 69% 87%
1922 55267 35285 41841 64% 84%
1932 46310 27888 32166 60% 87%
1933 40305 22243 28468 55% 78%
1934 42552 21306 32184 50% 66%
1935 44347 20213 35662 46% 57%
1936 48412 20636 41027 43% 50%
1937 49565 22410 42765 45% 52%
1938 47212 20982 41752 44% 50%
1939 49616 21320 45557 43% 47%
1940 51336 22340 49951 44% 45%

Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1914–1941 is the source.
Total deposits less interbank deposits equals net deposits.
Every year, all statistics pertain to the final working day of June.

RFC Gives Businesses Credit

The RFC became a crucial source of credit for businesses, particularly during the Great Depression when bank lending was limited. Its support was vital for the National Recovery Administration, strengthening the New Deal. In 1934, new rules allowed the RFC to support bank financing regulated by the NRA. During the 1937–1938 recession, President Roosevelt shifted focus to providing direct loans to organizations, making this the RFC’s primary function by 1938.

Mortgage Company RFC

One of how the Great Depression affected many families was through loss of housing properties owing to failures to service home loans, culminating in foreclosures. To overcome this, the New Deal struggled to develop additional mortgage financing. The National Housing Act signed in June 1934 is the parent of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). An FHA mortgage is a type of mortgage that generally needs a small down payment compared to other mortgages, making homeownership easier. In 1935 The RFC Mortgage Co., which was formed to give financing support to the market for the FHA-backed mortgage loans, was formed.

Fannie Mae and RFC

In 1938, the President tasked the reconstruction finance corporation RFC with establishing Fannie Mae to stimulate the FHA and VA mortgage markets. By 1947, Fannie Mae had absorbed the RFC Mortgage Company and inherited its mortgage assets. Over the years, Fannie Mae transitioned into a private entity, having received $1.8 billion from the RFC in capital and loans.

Export-Import Bank and RFC

Roosevelt’s focus on visa policy shifted towards boosting trade with the Soviet Union, leading to the founding of the Export-Import Bank in 1934. The bank facilitated loans and capital from the RFC, and within two months, a complementary Ex-Im bank was established to meet the increasing demand for trade-stimulating loans with other nations. In 1936, these banks, operating under the RFC, were a formidable force in export credit, receiving $201 million in capital from RFC deposits.

During this time, RFC also provided loans to state and local governments, the Public Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration, among other federal government agencies that helped alleviate the effects of the depression.

RFC Devalues the Dollar and Pushes Up Gold Prices

Mr. Roosevelt strategically used the Reconstruction Finance Corporation RFC to set the gold price, aiming to reduce the actual value of money from $20.67 to an ounce. This led to a decrease in the dollar exchange rate, benefiting smaller gold currencies. However, a depreciating dollar caused exported goods to become cheaper while imports became more expensive, impacting trade and leading to increased activity in export-oriented sectors in high-unemployment countries.

The RFC sought to raise the market price of gold in the last stimulation, back to $31.36 in October 1933, and then buying honestly until the price was more than $34. This strategy effectively made the gold price floor and in January 1934, the price had devaluated to 59 % when the official gold standard was set at $35 per ounce.

In the years 1937 and 1940, President Roosevelt ordered RFC not to lend anymore as he envisioned to terminate it. On the other hand, the RFC was again funded at the start of 1938 by the will of Roosevelt because of the 37/38 downturn and recession. It was the subsequent German invasion of France and the Low Countries, that saw the purposes of RFC restored.

During World War II, the RFC

During the year 1940, the reconstruction finance corporation RFC underwent a radical transition, enlarging its area of work as the country was on the path to help the allies and would soon embark on a full-fledged war. The RFC working with other government entities aiding the war efforts bought an existing company and got another seven new and used the RFC for the purchase contracts. As in Table 2, the RFC had eight different war-related subsidiaries that served throughout the conflicts.

Table 2nd

Wartime Subsidiaries of RFC

Metals Reserve Corporation
Rubber Reserve Corporation
Defense Plant Company
Defense Supply Company
Corporation for War Damage
American Commercial Company
Rubber Development Company
War Assets Corporation, subsequently known as Petroleum Reserve Corporation

Creation of Materials Impeded by the Conflict

While the war was on, similar business firms of RFC, supported the war by sponsoring the invention of synthetic rubber, actually running and constructing a tin smelter as well as farms of abaca (Manilla hemp) plants in Central America. This strategy is aimed at finding a replacement for the Japanese-sourced mainstays, such as abaca and natural rubber, which were primarily produced in India and Burma, under Japanese dominion. Following the war, the synthetic rubber industry in the US kicked in and soon reigned supreme with the newly launched rubber products.

Other Activities Related to War

In the course of the war, the government subsidized and constructed military plants, converted civilian facilities, traded commodities, created strategic reserves, bought goods to interrupt the supply to the enemy, managed war damage insurance, and financed war fuel oil pipeline projects from Texas to New Jersey to release tankers for other purposes.

During Reconstruction Finance Corporation RFC’s lifetime, $38.5 billion in loans and investments was distributed among the borrowers out of the $38.5 billion initially allotted at the onset. Subsidiaries were granted $20.9 billion during the war. The RFC approved more than $2 billion per annum between 1941 and 1945, and they reached a record sum of over $6 billion in 1943 when the Stabilization Fund of the United States was managing the massive expenses of the government and servicing the public debt. Nevertheless, a loan to subsidiaries was done only till 1948 which ended with the war.

The RFC’s Final Years, 1946–1953

Shortly after the war, the size of the debt was reduced tremendously. Only in 1949, which was after the war, was the first time when more than $1 billion was allowed which was the biggest amount in the postwar era. Over 80% of this credit, above the period of 1950, was intended for mortgages and enterprises. The date of June four, 1939, changed into one for Fannie Mae because it turned into moved to the Housing and Home Finance Agency. The vast majority of the DFA classifications for more than three years went to small business firms.

Eisenhower terminates the RFC

In 1953, shortly after President Eisenhower took office, the RFC was legally eliminated, ending its extended service beyond the originally intended 10 years. The RFC had continued operations for much longer than justified, claiming credit for World War II and the New Deal. This long-standing agency was finally closed down.

Administration for Small Businesses

Besides, no concern was untouched that small companies will be good if commercial reconstruction finance corporation (RFC) loans to the business end. One way to do this SBA was established in 1953 to provide financing to small firms and education training for entrepreneurs. SBA was conferred the responsibility of managing the disaster loan schemes.

By the 28th of September of 1953 laws directed to the RFC lending ability came into force, as a result of regulations passed on July 30, 1953. Initially, the RFC, or Reconstruction Finance Corporation, borrowed to expand its financial stability and allocations. By June 30, 1957, it had returned all of the money it had ever received by various investments and lending. The RFC was still producing tin, abaca, and synthetic rubber in the period of July up to August 18, 1945, which was when the liquidation action came into effect. The private businessmen, either by buyout or by leasing, conducted the synthetic rubber manufacturing processes. Lastly, the General Services Administration intervened through tin and abaca investments.

Recipients of the RFC

These four institutions, still operational today, were part of the original funds allocation framework. The Small Business Administration provides capital to small firms to prevent concentration in large businesses. The Commodity Credit Corporation serves farmers, and the Export-Import Bank injects loans to promote exports.  Fannie Mae’s way towards growth did not take a straight path. Firstly, in 1968 Fannie Mae was treated as a private company and today ta is given as a Ticker symbol “FNM” on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) largest mortgage provider globally and also a global mortgage provider.

An Economic Evaluation of the RFC

A lender of last resort’s role

The Federal Reserve System, the Central Bank of the United States, was initially set up to make emergency assistance, the last kind of help in circulation. Banks can obtain some money from lenders (as a last resort) during times of crisis. In a rush, the issuers of the privileged position as banks’ depository (which can be a single bank or many) would lend to anybody bringing solvent securities without any fees, with replies or delays. They quell that skyrocketing panic by offering that scheme.

The matter was that the Fed acted as a bad lender of last resort during the Great Depression period. As a result, the Federal Reserve System requested banks carrying tensions to be inaccessible to borrow money from the Federal Reserve. Recalcitrant the Fed was to any of the banks’ assistance, concerned about creating the dreaded effect of distrust among all depositors.

President Hoover dragged the connection between the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the resuscitation of the public trust in the banking sector. In addition, banks received RFC-guaranteed loans which were in permit lockers. Among the theorists who claim that RCF funding was beneficial are the people who claim that in the beginning, RFC help was useful. Furthermore, the downward trend in the number of bank suspensions and the public currency holdings observed in the fresh months of 1932 is an indication that some results were made by the RFC in February 1932. Therefore, Table Three summarizes the data in the chart.

Table 3rd

1932 Currency in Millions of Dollars Bank Suspensions Number
January 4896 342
February 4824 119
March 4743 45
April 4751 74
May 4746 82
June 4959 151
July 5048 132
August 4988 85
September 4941 67
October 4863 102
November 4842 93
December 4830 161

Data sources: Friedman and Schwartz (1963) on currency
Board of Governors’ suspensions of banks (1937)

When financial barriers impede banks from regular commercial activities, their suspensions might bear the loss. The biggest bank suspensions lead to the failure of their institutions later on. The scale of deposits may reveal to the banks how many people believe in their safety and security. This outlines the importance of saving money. From Learn English with News: Amazon’s Efforts to Reduce Plastics The populace plays the role of converting the money that they are depositing with the banks into the currency of their country and vice versa whenever the confidence in the banks fails.

When this crisis evolved in and around Chicago in June 1932, the condition of banks got worse. However, it does not matter that the vital bank finally failed, Friedman and Schatt (1963) and Jones(1951) both point out the fact that during a financial crisis, an RFC loan to the bank helped to repair the situation.

The Argument Concerning the Effects of the RFC

Two studies on Reconstruction finance corporation RFC lending offer differing conclusions. Butkiewicz (1995) suggests that gradual disclosure of loan recipients led to a decrease in bank suspensions, as banks were discouraged from borrowing once their loan status was made public. This resulted in a decline in RFC loan applications within two months of publication. However, Mason (2001) found that Illinois banks receiving RFC loans were more likely to fail, indicating conflicting results in scholarly research on the impact of RFC lending.

The top-quality assets of banks were used as collateral by the RFC, as proposed by those who oppose RFC lending to banks, which resulted in less liquidity for the banks. Moreover, the tight standards of RFC in the early days were applied. The RFC was entrusted with unlimited capacity for the purchase of bonds and preferred shares up to as much money as banks needed after the financial collapse in March 1933. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the invite modification did the trick and the banking system recovered from the shaky situation.

Reasons, Both Economic and Noneconomic, for an Organization Such as the RFC

In 1933, the RFC became more involved in the economy due to technical failures, externalities, and noneconomic incentives. Market failure, evidenced by gaps in small business loans, became a political issue prompting government intervention. Externalities, such as job creation, were used to justify government actions to prevent crises. Government support for mortgage financing aimed to promote stable homeownership, aligning with societal stability goals.

The interplay between macroeconomics and conflict is evident, but political factors often override economic considerations in decisions such as joining a war. The RFC, initially a radio company that published credit scores, evolved into a key government credit agency after its establishment in 1917. The RFC expanded government credit programs for selected industries, a source of ongoing contention. Today, three government agencies that originated from the RFC, one still active, significantly influence borrowing in the economy.

Governmental Credit Programs: Objections

The argument highlights that government institutions like the RFC offer credits, leading to increased production and misallocation of resources. For example, small businesses receive SBA funds at lower rates than banks, potentially leading to overproduction. These activities, considered debt, bypass the regular budgetary process and rely on government or Treasury guarantees. This “outside the budget” approach increases government risk, necessitating preparation for potential loan defaults and the issuance of public funds for this purpose.

Federal initiatives should always be evaluated by considering cost and benefits at all times, along with market failures and externalities. However, savvy business owners are oftentimes confronted with the conundrum of having to analyze the costs and benefits precisely in these situations. The commodity is considered by most opponents as the most expensive, while others translate the benefits first and foremost.

Sources of Data

  • The Federal Reserve System Board of Governors, 1943, Banking and Monetary Statistics, 1914–1941 brokers the monetary data used for the study of banking statistics.
  • The Reconstruction Finance Corporation Final Report, Secretary of the Treasury’59 includes RFC among the statistics.
  • The Statistical Source of the Exchange Rates of the United States from 1867 to 1960 in the Monetary History of the US, 1867-1960, by Friedman and Schwartz, 1963, was used to acquire the facts.
  • The Federal Reserve Bulleting Volume 13, Number 9, Board of Governors, September 1937, reports on the suspension data.


As the key problem of the Great Depression was the low liquidity in the financial market, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation RFC was created. The reason behind, to some extent or certainly, this process was at least partially successful. The president and his group were, however, somewhat taken by the RFC’s financial action independent of the regular budgetary process. The RFC became the cushion behind which stood a variety of preferred activities under the New Deal.

Financing of RFC to its joint companies as one of the main ways of war effort during World War II has been emphasized. Then, it was the stand-out credit program that took the most government funds. The RFC has lived on through some of its operations such as lending, via institutions and businesses which generally first started as subsidiaries or spinoffs of the RFC. These sons and daughters of Fannie Mae—with Fannie Mae in particular at the reigns of the distribution of credit in the US economy—are valuable to the smooth operation of the financial markets. After the end of RFC, the history of this matter still has a role in people’s memories.

Here are some recent articles:-

Read: What is the Walmart Pharmacy

Read: How to Choose the Best Business Credit Card for an LLC