Where’d the Bailout Money Go? Shhhh, It’s a Secret
December 22, 2008, ABC News/Associated Press
It’s something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where’s the money going? But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it. “We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it,”‘ said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. “We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”
The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers. “We’re not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking,” said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars.
The answers highlight the secrecy surrounding the Troubled Assets Relief Program, which earmarked $700 billion—about the size of the Netherlands’ economy—to help rescue the financial industry. There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. “It is entirely appropriate for the American people to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent in private industry,” said Elizabeth Warren, the top congressional watchdog overseeing the financial bailout. But, at least for now, there’s no way for taxpayers to find that out.