The Term Auction Facility is a program in which the Federal Reserve auctions term funds to depository institutions 1. The creation of this facility was announced by the Federal Reserve on December 12, 2007 and was done in conjunction with the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the Swiss National Bank to address elevated pressures in short-term funding markets 2. The reason it was created is because banks were not lending funds to one another and banks in need of funds were refusing to go to the discount window. Banks were not lending money to each other because there was a fear that the loans would not be paid back. Banks refused to go to the discount window because it is usually associated with the stigma of bank failure 3, 4, 5, 6. Under the Term Auction Facility, the identity of the banks in need of funds is protected in order to avoid the stigma of bank failure 7. Foreign exchange swap lines with the European Central Bank and Swiss National Bank were opened so the banks in Europe could have access to U.S. dollars 8. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke briefly described this facility to the U.S. House of Representatives on January 17, 2008:
the Federal Reserve recently unveiled a term auction facility, or TAF, through which prespecified amounts of discount window credit can be auctioned to eligible borrowers. The goal of the TAF is to reduce the incentive for banks to hoard cash and increase their willingness to provide credit to households and firms...TAF auctions will continue as long as necessary to address elevated pressures in short-term funding markets, and we will continue to work closely and cooperatively with other central banks to address market strains that could hamper the achievement of our broader economic objectives 9.
It is also described in the Term Auction Facility FAQ 10
The TAF is a credit facility that allows a depository institution to place a bid for an advance from its local Federal Reserve Bank at an interest rate that is determined as the result of an auction. By allowing the Federal Reserve to inject term funds through a broader range of counterparties and against a broader range of collateral than open market operations, this facility could help ensure that liquidity provisions can be disseminated efficiently even when the unsecured interbank markets are under stress.
In short, the TAF will auction term funds of approximately one-month maturity. All depository institutions that are judged to be in sound financial condition by their local Reserve Bank and that are eligible to borrow at the discount window are also eligible to participate in TAF auctions. All TAF credit must be fully collateralized. Depositories may pledge the broad range of collateral that is accepted for other Federal Reserve lending programs to secure TAF credit. The same collateral values and margins applicable for other Federal Reserve lending programs will also apply for the TAF.