In all my years of running non-profits and a financial institution, I was expected to account for every penny my organization received. Whether it was for a general operating grant or a cash flow loan, detailed reporting -- including financial statements, budget narratives, and a description of what the money was used for -- was demanded in return.
And that was for private money. If my organization received government funds, the financial reporting requirements were nothing short of punishing.
So it seems nothing less than scandalous that the banks receiving public Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds should be allowed to casually "decline" requests to account for that money. 21 of these banks were contacted by the Associated Press and were asked to report on how much TARP money was spent and on what. None provided specific answers. Some shrugged their shoulders and said they didn't know. You would think they were sitting in their living room and someone asked where they put the TV remote.
In fact, their responses amounted to a giant middle finger to the American taxpayer. "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."
I want everyone reading this to stick their head out their window, or cubicle, and yell at the top of their lungs: "Where's the frickin' money? I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Some simple accounting on how the money was used should have been the first condition placed on banks, even if it had to be the only condition. As a friend of mine commented, there should have been a GPS tracking device, blue dye, a little red blinking light -- something -- attached to this money before it was just given away.
If change is to truly come to this country, let Wall Street and bank accountability be the first order of business.
This entry is cross-posted on the DMI blog.