Troubled Asset Relief Program:
Status of Efforts to Address Transparency and Accountability Issues
GAO-09-1048T, Sep 24, 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), through the Office of Financial Stability (OFS), has the authority to purchase or insure almost $700 billion in troubled assets held by financial institutions. It focuses on (1) the nature and purpose of activities that have been initiated under TARP over the past year and ongoing challenges; (2) Treasury's efforts to establish a management infrastructure for TARP; and (3) outcomes measured by indicators of TARP's performance.
TARP is one of many programs and activities the federal government has put in place over the past year to respond to the financial crisis. It represents a significant government commitment to stabilizing the financial system. For example, as of September 11, 2009, it had disbursed $363 billion to participating institutions. At the same time, TARP's Capital Purchase Program (CPP) has shown evidence of some success in returning funds to the federal government. Treasury has received almost $7 billion in dividend payments, about $2.9 billion in warrant liquidations, and over $70 billion in repurchases from institutions participating in CPP, as of August 31, 2009. But TARP still faces a variety of challenges. For example, CPP, the largest of the TARP programs, has hundreds of participating institutions. Because of its size, this program requires ongoing strong oversight to ensure that participants comply with the program's requirements as we have recommended in prior reports. In addition, most of the other investment-based TARP programs that have provided assistance to a few large individual institutions present Treasury with the challenge of determining when assistance is no longer needed. Further, amid concerns about the strategic direction of the program and lack of transparency, the new administration has attempted to provide a more strategic plan for using the remaining funds and has created a number of programs aimed at stabilizing the securitization markets and preserving homeownership. While some programs, such as the Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), are fully operational, others including the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP), are still new and face ongoing implementation and operational challenges. Finally, even though substantial investments have been made to avert the collapse of American International Group, Inc. (AIG), General Motors Corporation (GM), and Chrysler LLC (Chrysler), the ultimate outcomes of these investments are unclear and will be influenced by the long-term viability of these entities. Certain of these TARP investments were made with Treasury's expectation that the disbursements would be returned to the federal government. HAMP funds, however, are direct expenditures which are not expected to be repaid. But given the many challenges and uncertainties facing TARP programs, the total cost to the government of these programs remains unclear at this time.