Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), an independent agency of the United States government, created during the economic depression by the congressional enactment in 1932, and abolished by Congress in June 1957. The stated purpose of the RFC was “to provide emergency financing facilities for financial institutions; to aid in financing agriculture, commerce, and industry; to purchase preferred stock, capital notes, or debentures of banks and trust companies; and to make loans and allocations of its funds as prescribed by law”. These purposes were subsequently enlarged by legislative amendment to include participation in the maintenance of the economic stability of the country through the promotion of maximum production and employment and the encouragement of small business enterprises. The basic activities of the RFC were to make and collect loans and to buy and sell securities. Originally, the capital stock of the corporation was fixed at $500 million.
For seven years following its creation, the RFC was classified as an emergency agency. In 1939 it was grouped with other agencies to constitute the Federal Loan Agency. It was transferred to the Department of Commerce in 1942 and reverted to the Federal Loan Agency three years later. When that agency was abolished in 1947, its functions were assumed by the RFC.
Approximately two-thirds of the disbursements of the RFC were made in connection with the national defence of the United States, especially during World War II. Loans were also made by the RFC to federal agencies and to state and local governments in connection with the relief of the unemployed and the relief of victims of disasters such as floods and earthquakes. Disbursements to private enterprises included loans to banks and trust companies to aid in their establishment, reorganization, or liquidation, and to mortgage loan companies, building and loan associations, and insurance companies. Loans were also made to agricultural financing institutions, to enterprises engaged in financing the export of agricultural surpluses, and to railways, mines, mills, and other industrial enterprises. Hundreds of millions of dollars were disbursed by the RFC for the purchase of securities offered by the Public Works Administration, other government agencies, and private corporations.
In 1948, after the financial crisis of the Depression and World War II had passed, Congress reduced the capital stock of the RFC to $100 million and provided for the retirement of the outstanding capital stock in excess of that amount. It also authorized the RFC to issue to the Treasury its own notes, debentures, bonds, or other similar obligations, in a number of its outstanding loans, in order to borrow money with which to carry on its functions.
During 1951 and 1952 congressional investigators found considerable evidence of fraud and corruption among RFC officials. In July 1953, Congress enacted the RFC Liquidation Act, providing for the gradual transfer of the functions of the RFC to other government agencies. The RFC loan powers were transferred in 1954 to the Small Business Administration. The RFC was abolished in June 1957, and its remaining functions were transferred to the Housing and Home Finance Agency, the General Services Administration, and the Department of the Treasury. During its existence from 1932 to 1957, the RFC disbursed more than $50 billion in loans.