"We don't have the luxury. We don't have an investment banker that can raise $10 million for us tomorrow," he said. "That's why smaller banks are still in the program."

Harbor Bankshares Corp. of Baltimore received $6.8 million in TARP investment, and has missed 9 payments totaling $765,000. The Treasury can nominate up to two members to a bank's board once it misses six payments, but that hasn't happened in Harbor's case, said Joseph Haskins Jr., its chairman, president and CEO.

A 2010 consent order with bank regulators has precluded Harbor from making dividend payments so the banking company can use that money instead to raise its capital levels, Haskins said. Harbor exceeds capital requirements, he said, adding that he expects dividend payments will be reinstated early next year after a bank examination.

Only Annapolis Bancorp, which is being acquired by Pennsylvania-based F.N.B. Corp., is up-to-date on its TARP dividend payments, according to the Treasury. The parent of BankAnnapolis is expected to repay its $4 million in TARP funds before the acquisition is completed.

Some banks say it's unfair that TARP has come to be synonymous with problem institutions.

After all, small banks wouldn't have been allowed into TARP if they were unhealthy, Haskins said. Those that signed up did so to get money to expand, he said.

"If you look at it holistically … it's been a positive for the industry at large," he said.

Bankers also are quick to point out that it's been good for taxpayers, too.

The overall program — which includes support for the auto industry and insurance giant AIG — is expected to cost taxpayers a total of $24 billion by the time TARP wraps up, according to a Congressional Budget Office report last month. But TARP's capital purchase program for banks is projected to generate an $18 billion net gain, the CBO concluded.

Howard Bancorp Inc. in Ellicott City last year repaid its $5.98 million in TARP money with about half of the $12.5 million it received by switching to another government program, the Small Business Lending Fund. The government takes preferred shares in this program, too, but the dividend drops as bank lending grows.

Howard currently pays a 3 percent annual dividend, said Mary Ann Scully, the banking company's CEO, president and chairman. She expects the dividend will drop early next year to the lowest level possible — 1 percent.

Scully said it's unfortunate that TARP developed a stigma.

"I look at this as something that allowed us to safely lend," she said. "There are some people that misunderstand it and now think it is tainted. ... They forget how truly scary the financial situation was."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

  • Text BUSINESS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Business text alerts