Issa Questions White House Plan on Toxic Assets

Posted April 7, 2009 at 2:17pm

The top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he was “troubled— by the selection of an “elite circle— of hedge-fund managers to participate in the Obama administration’s initiative to encourage private investment in toxic bank assets.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the oversight panel, said the involvement of just a few powerful “industry titans— would undermine the effort to encourage a massive in-flow of private capital into the Public-Private Investment Program. Issa made his sentiments known in a letter Tuesday to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers.

“Treasury’s plan anoints a select group of fund managers to make significant profits,— Issa said in the letter. “Reports indicating that at least one of the potential beneficiaries of the plan consults directly with the White House on economic policy matters, raises serious questions about the Administration’s decision making process in developing the plan.—

Issa also questioned the lack of transparency in the selection process and asked that the Obama administration answer a series of questions about how some the firms were chosen to be a part of the program and any communication between administration staff and the several firms, including BlackRock, Pimco, Goldman Sachs, Legg Mason and Bridgewater.

He asked that the administration respond to the committee no later than April 20.

Under Geithner’s plan, the Treasury Department will use up to $100 billion of bailout funds as well as guarantees from the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to back real-estate-related loans and securities to encourage private investors to buy up the toxic assets.

Issa is not the only Member to complain about the lack of widespread access to the program.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, sent a letter to Geithner on April 2 asking that the general public also be able to participate in the program, rather than just the people who caused the problem.

“Rather than providing a transparent method for public-private cooperation, the plan seems opaque and geared toward rewarding some of the very institutions whose recklessness and greed precipitated and exacerbated the ongoing financial crisis,— Kanjorski wrote. “If the program succeeds — as we all hope it will — we should anticipate that the American people will rightly question the method by which Public-Private Investment Program participants were selected to have the opportunity to gain what we all hope will be substantial profits.—