TARP Program Growing More Complex, Costly
In case you lost track, the $3 trillion Troubled Asset Relief Program has become a hydra-headed, public-private endeavor that is operating with no clear leadership.
That's the conclusion of a new report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP, which said the program is "12 separate, but often interrelated, programs" involving "unprecedented scope, scale, and complexity."
Using the report as a starting place, a foundation-funded operation called Real Time Investigations decided to find out who was managing it all. Their discovery, at least so far: It's hard as heck to pin down.
"We continue to find that even some of the most elementary details about the program -- like who is actually managing distribution of the bailout money to financial institutions -- is still shrouded in secrecy," said the group, part of the Sunlight Foundation.
Writers describe how they reached out to a variety of agencies with something to do with TARP, seeking names of people involved in with program. They received decidedly mixed responses.
"The FDIC was actually more forthcoming with information than other agencies that review bank applications for TARP funds. For example, the one person I was able to contact at OTS (by no means the only person I tried to contact) agreed to speak, strictly on background, about the process and detailed information that banks have to submit, but declined to name people involved and said that most of the decisions were made by 'senior management.'
"Meanwhile, the composition of the TARP Investment Committee -- the body at Treasury that makes final determinations on TARP funds -- is changing. The Obama administration appointed Herbert M. Allison Jr. -- who ran Fannie Mae for the Bush administration after the government seized the troubled institution in 2008 -- to replace Neel Kashkari as assistant secretary for financial stability. Kashkari has been in that position since November 2008.
"Several of our calls and e-mails to Treasury's press offices remain unanswered and according to their Web site several of the positions in the public affairs office are still vacant. During one of my myriad attempts to get someone with the Office of Financial Stability to speak to, one of the operators said, 'there's no office yet, it's only a Web site.' And surely enough six months after the office was set up the Web site doesn't list any contact phone number but directs calls to Treasury's press office."
By Robert O'Harrow |
April 30, 2009; 4:59 PM ET
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