Sen. Levin: Transparency for me, not for thee

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Sen. Carl Levin, angered by the lack of transparency in the Troubled Assets Relief Program, vowed to subpoena the Treasury Department last Sunday if they refused to release contracts that Citigroup and other banks signed to receive funds under TARP.

Treasury assured Levin yesterday that there was no need for a subpoena — they would provide him with copies of the contracts as early as today. Lisa Chiu, one of our intrepid researchers on the SubsidyScope project, wanted to know if that meant the public would have the same opportunity as Levin to see how what banks are agreeing to do with TARP funds.

Dave Pollock, Levin’s spokesperson, told Chiu that the Michigan senator has no plans to release the contracts once he gets them, saying that the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations – which Levin chairs – typically does not release such documents to the public.

Treasury is giving Levin the contracts that financial titans and totterers like American International Group, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, State Street Corporation, and Wells Fargo signed to get billions of bailout money — taxpayer money — last year. Did these firms, as Levin wanted to know, agree to aid borrowers who are trying to keep up with their mortgage payments? Did they offer debt relief to cash-strapped customers? Levin will know, the public won’t. (Update: Levin now says his instinct would be to release the documents. Ours too. So let’s have them.)

Pollack suggested that we contact Treasury if we want the information. We’ve asked; if Treasury says no, we’ll file a Freedom of Information Act request. With any luck, and assuming that the FOIA request will be handled with the usual speed, they should have the documents, oh, a year or two from now.

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  • Michelle —

    Thanks for letting us know — didn’t realize these are filed with 8-Ks. Looks like there’s also info on some deals that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is involved in as well (though you can’t find those by searching for “Neel Kashkari”!). Great resource, and a reminder that reporters who spend their time actually reading documents and disclosures are several steps ahead of everyone else.

    I wonder why Sen. Levin’s staff didn’t know about these — I’m trying to find out.

    Best,
    Bill

  • All of these contracts are available on the SEC’s Edgar database. All you need to do is look for them. An easy way to find them is to search for “Neel Kashkari” in the SEC full text Edgar database, since he signs each contract.

  • All of these contracts are available on the SEC’s Edgar database. All you need to do is look for them. An easy way to find them is to search for “Neel Kashkari” in the SEC Edgar database, since he signs each contract.

  • Jeannie Brooks

    It’s all well and good to get hold of whatever contracts Treasury issued to financial institutions receiving TARP funds, but if we discover that Treasury made appropriate contingencies on the dispensation of funds, which is doubtful according to answers provided by them to E. Warren per her latest TARP Oversight Report,if we find either Treasury or the institutions failed in meeting the provisions in the EESA bill, what then? As far as I can tell, the problem is lack of enforcement authority. Can anyone shed light on how Congress is to enforce the conditions laid out in the bill? Or who is the party responsible to oversee that conditions are met? And if not, what is the recourse? Congress seems to be all bark and no bite.