Sun Bancorp Inc. in Vineland, N.J., this week joined the handful of banks around the country that have ended their involvement in the federal rescue program for banks.

Sun paid $2.1 million to buy back a warrant that gave the government a 10-year window to buy Sun shares at a preset price.

Critics have pounced on the Treasury's repurchase deals with several relatively small banks, such as Sun, as short-changing taxpayers, who have trillions at stake in the nation's many-pronged economic-rescue effort.

Sun's payment for the warrant was 66 percent less than its estimated value of $6.1 million, Linus Wilson, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said yesterday.

The warrant was part of Sun's deal with the Treasury under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which Congress adopted in October to try to alleviate the spreading meltdown at the nation's banks resulting from mortgage defaults.

Thomas X. Geisel, president and chief executive of Sun Bancorp, had a different take on the warrant deal: "Any dollar that we had to pay is a dollar too much."

In the main part of the deal with the Treasury, Sun Bancorp, with $3.6 billion in assets, sold $89.3 million in preferred stock to the government in January but two months later decided to give the money back because management did not like where Congress was taking the program.

"We went into the program basically to do the right thing as a corporate citizen to help the stimulus," even though the bank did not need the money to keep lending, Geisel said.

"We did our job. But to pay a penalty, it doesn't make sense," he said.

The government paid nothing for the warrants, which were included in the deal because the interest rate on the preferred stock was below market rates. Getting in and out of the program cost the bank $5 million, he said.

Wilson did not buy Geisel's argument.

"U.S. taxpayers took large risks investing in the nation's banks, and taxpayers deserve to get the fair-market value for their investments," Wilson said.

"The warrants should be sold to third-party investors, not back to the banks whenever possible" because that will ensure the best price for taxpayers, Wilson said.

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.