“By any objective standards, the Trouble Asset Relief Program [TARP] has worked,” the Treasury Department wrote in a July progress report (PDF) on the $700 billion program that Congress authorized in 2008. “It helped stop widespread financial panic, it helped prevent what could have been a devastating collapse of our financial system, and it did so at a cost that is far less than what most people expected at the time the law was passed.”
Neil Barofsky sees it much differently. From December 2008 to March 2011, Barofsky, a formal federal prosecutor and lifelong Democrat, served as special inspector general of TARP, charged with protecting against abuse and fraud in the program. In his new book about that experience, Bailout, he writes that the American people “should be enraged by the broken promises to Main Street and the unending protection of Wall Street.”
FRONTLINE spoke with Barofsky, now a senior fellow at New York University School of Law, about his time policing TARP. Click here for an edited transcript of that conversation.