Some Bailout Transparency Promises Remain Unkept
In June, we reported that the Treasury Department had failed to keep a key transparency promise. Falling well short of Secretary Timothy Geithner's pledge in January "to place all of our TARP investment agreements on the Internet," we found that less than half had been posted on the department's Web site.
Since then, Treasury has posted 153 contracts. But there's still a ways to go. Our review Monday showed that contracts had been posted for only 420 of the 646 banks that received money through the main bailout program, or about 65 percent. For the remaining 226 institutions, taxpayers wanting to see "how their money is being spent and the terms these institutions must agree to before we invest taxpayer money" (as Geithner put it) are out of luck.
So our promise clock will keep on ticking.
That's not the only transparency promise Treasury hasn't kept. When Geithner announced his new bailout plan in February, he made a slew of other promises:
The American people will be able to see where their tax dollars are going and the return on their government's investment, they will be able to see whether the conditions placed on banks and institutions are being met and enforced, they will be able to see whether boards of directors are being responsible with taxpayer dollars and how they're compensating their executives, and they will be able to see how these actions are impacting the overall flow of lending and the cost of borrowing.
These new requirements, which will be available on a new Web site FinancialStability.gov, will give the American people the transparency they deserve.
You can find a few of these things on Treasury's Web site, such as reports showing Treasury's investments and a page devoted to broader economic data. But if the American people go looking to see "whether the conditions placed on banks and institutions are being met and enforced" or "whether boards of directors are being responsible with taxpayer dollars and how they're compensating their executives," they'll get nowhere, because there's nothing fitting that description on the Web site or anywhere else.
The best bet for discovering how execs at bailed-out banks are being paid is an upcoming audit by the special inspector general for the TARP, which conducted a survey (PDF) of all TARP recipients toward the beginning of this year. You could also check out our June report on execs who received golden parachutes. But you won't get that information from the Treasury Department's Web site.
Treasury did not respond to our questions about these promises.
As big banks return their TARP money, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to be a drain.