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Is Treasury avoiding the TARP watchdogs?

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Elizabeth Warren, the chair of the congressional TARP oversight panel, thinks so. She told the Senate Finance committee this morning that Treasury refuses to articulate even its most basic goals for the TARP program:

We do not seem to be a priority for the Treasury Department… What we’re asking for is not rocket science here. We’re not asking for something extraordinary… we’re asking for the much broader articulation of what the plan is, transparency in the goals and the execution and strategy… we need Treasury’s commitment.

I’m doing some reporting on financial regulation this week, and Warren’s complaint is becoming a common refrain. The TARP program is probably helping banks. Some are using TARP money to increase their lending; others are using it to boost their capital reserves; still others are repaying debts. All of those are good outcomes for banks.

But does Treasury consider that a success for the TARP program? Warren says the department hasn’t defined its goals; so do some of my sources, and some members of Congress, like Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine:

My [constituents] don’t see the program working as-is. The credit markets are still tight… and what I hear is that there are no specific standards for oversight… no clearly-articulated goal.

On a related note, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, here’s the GAO’s latest report on the TARP program. (It’s 100 pages — a little light bedtime reading?)

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