Troubled Asset Relief Program:

Status of Efforts to Address Transparency and Accountability Issues

GAO-09-484T: Published: Mar 19, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 2009.

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This testimony discusses our work on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), under which the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has the authority to purchase and insure up to $700 billion in troubled assets held by financial institutions through its Office of Financial Stability (OFS). As Congress may know, Treasury was granted this authority in response to the financial crisis that has threatened the stability of the U.S. banking system and the solvency of numerous financial institutions. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (the act) that authorized TARP on October 3, 2008, requires GAO to report at least every 60 days on findings resulting from our oversight of the actions taken under the program. We are also responsible for auditing OFS's annual financial statements and for producing special reports on any issues that emerge from our oversight. To carry out these oversight responsibilities, we have assembled interdisciplinary teams with a wide range of technical skills, including financial market and public policy analysts, accountants, lawyers, and economists who represent combined resources from across GAO. In addition, we are building on our in-house technical expertise with targeted new hires and experts. The act also created additional oversight entities--the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) and the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP)--that also have reporting responsibilities. We are coordinating our work with COP and SIGTARP and are meeting with officials from both entities to share information and coordinate our oversight efforts. These meetings help to ensure that we are collaborating as appropriate and not duplicating efforts.

This testimony is based primarily on our January 30, 2009 report, the second under the act's mandate, which covers the actions taken as part of TARP through January 23, 2009, and follows up on the nine recommendations we made in our December 2, 2008 report.3 This statement also provides additional information on some recent program developments, including Treasury's new financial stability plan and, as you requested, provides some insights on our ongoing work on the implications of actions related to the financial crisis on federal debt management. Our oversight work under the act is ongoing, and our next report is due to be issued by March 31, 2009, as required. Specifically, this statement focuses on (1) the nature and purpose of activities that have been initiated under TARP; (2) the status of OFS's hiring efforts, use of contractors, and development of a system of internal control; (3) implications of TARP and other events on federal debt management, and (4) preliminary indicators of TARP's performance. To do this work, we reviewed documents related to TARP, including contracts, agreements, guidance, and rules. We also met with OFS, contractors, federal agencies, and officials from all eight of the first large institutions to receive disbursements. We plan to continue to monitor the issues highlighted in our prior reports, as well as future and ongoing capital purchases, other more recent transactions undertaken as part of TARP (for example, guarantees on assets of Citigroup and Bank of America), and the status of other aspects of TARP.

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