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TARP’s Inspector General Initiated Almost 20 Criminal Investigations

“Watch this space,” could easily have been the not-so-subtle subtitle of TARP’s Special Inspector General’s (SIGTARP) 250-page report…

“Watch this space,” could easily have been the not-so-subtle subtitle of TARP’s Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky’s (SIGTARP) 250-page report to Congress released last week. Barofsky wrote that:

SIGTARP has initiated, to date, almost 20 preliminary and full criminal investigations. Although the details of those investigations generally will not be discussed unless and until public action is taken, the cases vary widely in subject matter and include large corporate and securities fraud matters affecting TARP investments, tax matters, insider trading, public corruption, and mortgage-modification fraud.

TARP’s billions are likely to prove too tempting for all sorts of fraud, waste and abuse. With the Treasury’s hands-off approach to taxpayer’s investments in troubled financial institutions, the SIGTARP is one of last lines of defense. Neil Barofsky, a Bush-appointed holdover, is leading the effort.

The SIGTARP warns that with nearly $3 trillion dollars flowing through 12 interrelated programs (which, incidentally, is the same size as last year’s total federal budget), there is the potential for all types of illegalities.

One of the on-going audits SIGTARP is implementing concerns what it calls “External Influences.” As the report explains, “[c]oncerns have arisen whether, or to what extent, external parties may have sought to influence decision making by Treasury or bank regulators in considering and deciding on applications for funding from individual banks.” This is clearly an investigation into the influence of lobbyists and sitting lawmakers.

The Brennan Center is eager to see what the SIGTARP finds in both the criminal investigations and external influences audit.