WASHINGTON — The panel set up to oversee the Treasury Department's $700 billion financial-rescue fund is expected to release a report Wednesday highly critical of the government's handling of the bailout, people familiar with the matter said.
It will also press the Bush administration to act more aggressively to prevent foreclosures, these people said.
The report isn't expected to contain any new findings but is expected to raise fresh questions about the program at a time when many lawmakers expect the Bush Administration to seek access to the second half of the funds.
The panel's top official, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, is scheduled to describe her findings to the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday. Among other things, a draft of the report posed 10 questions to Treasury, which pressed officials for a clearer strategy, asked whether there is sufficient accountability, and why more hasn't been done to help prevent foreclosures.
The roughly 30-page report is also expected to press Treasury to describe whether the money used to inject capital into the banking sector is a "giveaway" or a "fair deal," according to one person familiar with the report.
A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment on the report, noting that the department hasn't seen its final findings.
Republicans have privately complained that the panel has taken a partisan bent. It's not clear if one of its four members, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is going to sign the report. Hensarling is scheduled to testify alongside Warren at the hearing.
Warren, who is noted for her long-standing push for tougher rules protecting consumers, is holding a field hearing next week in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is considering making remarks, people familiar with the matter said.
The Treasury Department has faced a steady drumbeat of criticism about the way it has handled the first half of the $700 billion fund, which Congress authorized in October to stabilize the financial system. Government officials initially sold the program to lawmakers and the public as a way of purchasing troubled assets from financial institutions. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson quickly scrapped that plan and has instead decided to use most of the money to buy equity stakes in banks.
Congress could move to block Treasury's access to the second half of the $700 billion fund, a prospect that government officials fear could send financial markets reeling.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Monday that Treasury would have to commit to using a large amount of the money to help prevent foreclosures in order to satisfy him. He said it would still be a tough sell with other lawmakers.
"With most of my colleagues, they'll need police protection to even ask for the money," he said.