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“US Watchdog Calls for Bank Executives to Be Sacked”

Such was the headline in Sunday’s London Observer.

The Observer’s correspondent went on to note that a call would be made this week by the U.S. watchdog “for the removal of top executives from Citigroup, AIG and other institutions that have received government funds in a damning report that will question the administration’s approach to saving the financial system from collapse.”

You might suppose that the U.S. watchdog in question was Timothy Geithner, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury. Geithner did, after all, make noises on Face the Nation Sunday about how the administration “would consider” removing top management and boards at troubled banks that are “beyond repair,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal.

But, no, what Geithner was doing was little more than an end-run in advance of yesterday’s report from the real U.S. watchdog.

Meet Elizabeth Warren.

The Harvard Law professor—she’s an expert on consumer lending laws (which is to say she’s the bane of the credit card industry)—is the chair of the five-member Congressional oversight committee monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

The committee’s 151-page “April Oversight Report,” issued Tuesday, comes on the heels of the six-month anniversary of the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,” and gives plenty to pause over, beginning with the simple, obvious question: “What is Treasury’s strategy?”

The report lays out—as best it can given Treasury’s deliberate, dogged opacity—what that strategy is. As Paul Krugman has long pointed out, the current bank-subsidization plan is little more than the Japanese “Zombie Bank” strategy, repackaged. But the report also makes the case for alternative plans—like liquidization and conservatorship.

No wonder the two right-wing members of the Oversight Committee—the know-nothing former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu and the egregious East Texas yahoo Congressman Jeb Hensarling—voted against the April report.

But what did anyone ever expect of politicians such as Sununu and, especially, Hensarling?

Since the oversight report makes it abundantly clear that almost nothing that Treasury has done has been in the least bit transparent and since the true “total value of all direct spending, loans and guarantees provided to date in conjunction with the government’s financial stability efforts” amounts to more than $4 trillion, you might think that the administration, Congress and, especially, the establishment media would be listening to what the People’s watchdog has to say.

So far, apparently not.

Well, if the establishment media won’t give it to you, we will.

Read the entire report, if you can. Read the short (3-page) executive summary, if you can’t. But, in any case, listen to what Liz Warren has to say in this extraordinarily honest, fair-minded, and straightforward eight-minute video introduction. The oversight report itself repeatedly calls for clarity. Here it is (PDF).

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John Anderson

John Anderson