Who’s Buying TARP Assets?

March 8, 2013

Anyone who’s been reading the gripping coverage about TARP auctions may be wondering why it never mentions the buyers, only the sellers.

Today I found out why: It’s “policy.”

Yes, you remember TARP … the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which initially allocated $700 billion to bailout the financial industry.

At the time, TARP was the largest spending program in history at $700 billion, but President Obama blew it out of the water the following year with his $814 billion “stimulus” program.  Then the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act came along and reduced the amount authorized to $475 billion, marking the first time ever that Chris Dodd and Barney Frank ever authorized legislation to reduce spending on anything.

But we digress.  This government giveaway turned out to work pretty well.  It stabilized the financial industry and, as of Dec. 31, 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department had received back close to 97% of the funds disbursed under TARP.

Through the Capital Purchase Program established under TARP, Treasury purchased preferred stock from more than 700 U.S. bank holding companies.  For the past year, Treasury has been auctioning off the preferred stock.

You can find plenty of information online about the TARP auctions – except who’s buying them.

You’d think that Treasury would make this information readily available, given that taxpayers funded TARP and these are our assets being auctioned off.  You’d think that reporters writing about the auctions would insist on having that information, too.  A reporter wouldn’t write about an acquisition without mentioning the company doing the purchasing, so why would anyone write about a TARP auction without mentioning the purchaser?

Yet the information about who has been buying TARP auctions is unavailable.

After more than a dozen calls to the Treasury Department, plus many additional calls to the office of my Senator and Congressman, I finally received a call this afternoon from Treasury.

We had a lengthy conversation that can be summarized as follows: Treasury does not disclose who buys TARP assets at auction “because it’s policy” not to disclose that information.

Who makes that policy?  He couldn’t say.  Why is that information not disclosed?  He couldn’t say.

He noted that a great deal of information is disclosed about TARP and that’s certainly true.  But disclosing to a taxpayer who’s buying government assets?  It’s “policy” not to disclose it.

Hey dude, it’s my money.  Why can’t I find out who’s profiting from it?  Transparency is required of the private sector.  Shouldn’t it be expected of government as well?

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