Los Angeles Times

Crimes suspected in 20 bailout cases… for starters
Los Angeles Times

The special inspector general says TARP is ‘inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse.’ The risk grows as the plan becomes more complex, he says.

In the first major disclosure of corruption in the $750-billion financial bailout program, federal investigators said Monday they have opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax violations, insider trading and other crimes.

The cases represent only the first wave of investigations, and the total fraud could ultimately reach into the tens of billions of dollars, according to Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the bailout program.

The disclosures reinforce fears that the hastily designed and rapidly changing bailout program run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve is going to carry a heavy price of fraud against taxpayers — even as questions grow about its ability to stabilize the nation’s financial system.

The report underscores just how complicated the bailout program has become. What started out in October as a $750-billion effort only to buy toxic securities has morphed into 12 separate programs that cover up to $3 trillion in direct spending, loans and loan guarantees — an amount roughly equal to the annual federal budget.