Neil Barofsky, former Special Inspector General in charge of oversight of TARP, has written a juicy new book about the bailout and how it was handled–mishandled, rather, which is where the juicy parts come in.
We got an advance copy of Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, hitting shelves July 24. So what have we learned about the little (not little) bailout that could (or couldn't)?
Neil Barofsky is kind of a dick. Barofsky's former boss, U.S. Attorney Mike Garcia, had this to say about his employee's appointment as SIGTARP: "You can be kind of a dick sometimes, and they needed someone who could be kind of a dick."
Tim Geithner is a dick. Here is a partial list of words and phrases Barofsky uses to describe Tim Geithner and/or Tim Geithner's actions: "brusque," "bizarre," "sweaty," "twitchy," "utterly dismissive." Alas, the world may never know how Neil Barofsky really feels about Tim Geithner.
Neil Barofsky is sentimental. For his first day of work as SIGTARP, Barofsky wore his lucky suit and tie–the same outfit he wore on his first date with his wife, Karen. Awww!
We were not entirely incorrect when we wrote about "Neil Barofsky's lair" in 2009. We joked that SIGTARP worked in a cable-news-free cave, adding, "Nobody knows what he eats to stay alive, or if he eats at all." Turns out we weren't so far off. When they arrived in Washington, Barofsky and his deputy Kevin Puvalowski found themselves assigned to an underground office that featured "a musty socklike odor" from a broken sewage pipe, bare walls and no garbage cans. They also learned they couldn't order food delivery to the Treasury building, so they subsisted on vending machine snacks and Trader Joe's noodles.
1-800-TARP-SEX. When people in Barofsky's SIGTARP office set up a toll-free information line, they almost chose a number that was in use as an active sex line. They picked another set of digits, but in retrospect, having a porn number might have increased the number of big-bank whistleblowers: just think of all those horny analysts with no time to date.
Politics is politics. Barofsky, a Democrat, was appointed by George W. Bush in late 2008. He hoped the incoming Obama Administration would be a strong supporter of his quest to track TARP dollars and provide transparency as those dollars were shuffled around the financial system. It wasn't, mostly, and the Treasury Department maintained a "dismissive attitude toward [SIGTARP's] concerns" about oversight. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Elizabeth Warren (D-Native America) chaired a Congressional oversight panel and proved to be an ally for Barofsky, as was Chuck Grassley (R-Twitter):
Fox News reportin CEO abuse CorpJets Very good. Fox needs get on Prez Adm not cooporting w treasury IG to get misuse of TARP money. Coverup?
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) June 20, 2009
Tags: Banks, Books, Chuck Grassley, Economy, Elizabeth Warren, Indecision Book Club, Neil Barofsky, Obama Administration, TARP, Timothy Geithner