NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday he expects a wave of banks to soon return government bailout money to taxpayers.
"It will depend on the institution, but for major banks in the country I think that money will come back relatively quickly," he said.
Speaking before the annual meeting of Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in New York, Geithner offered few details on when those repayments could happen and from which companies.
Lenders that received taxpayer aid under the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, have already returned nearly $71 billion to taxpayers, helped by renewed interest by private investors in the banking industry.
Still, some $134 billion remains invested in hundreds of community and regional banks as well big bailout recipients like Citigroup and Bank of America.
Both companies have been anxious to get out from under the government's thumb, given the level of scrutiny on such issues as how they compensate their employees.
As two firms that were recipients of "exceptional" government assistance, they were required to submit compensation packages for their top 100 most-highly compensated employees to the White House "pay czar."
Geithner's comments Tuesday were tempered, however, by his expectations for automakers General Motors and Chrysler, both of whom double dipped on bailout money.
Even as both firms are putting massive restructuring plans into actions, the Treasury chief warned that it could take some time before either company returns taxpayers funds, especially if nationwide auto sales continue to remain weak.
"It will take time to get out of those companies," he said.