Neil Barofsky’s Disappointment with Vikram Pandit and President Obama

October 23, 2012

As Special Inspector General for the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Neil Barofsky had unique insight into the complicated and corruption-prone intersection of government and banking. His mandate was to root out and prosecute waste, fraud and abuse, standing up to the most powerful people and institutions in Washington D.C. In this web-exclusive conversation with Bill Moyers, Barofsky shares his expert perspective on last week’s resignation of Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit.

“I think that you have to view [Pandit’s] career through that prism of being one of the worst-performing of a group of bad banks. To receive all that money and really to accomplish what he accomplished was mostly because of taxpayer generosity and the incredible political connections that Citigroup had in Washington. And basically cashing out those connections,” Barofsky tells Bill.

Barofsky also shares his deep disappointment in President Obama for protecting — instead of reigning in — the big banks.

“I thought that if there was ever going to be a political figure that would take on the interests of Wall Street, it was going to be President Obama. And that just didn’t happen,” Barofsky says. “It was the exact opposite of that… He had the same ideology as Secretary Geithner and, frankly, the same ideology as a lot of those people who came from Wall Street.””

Currently an adjunct professor at the New York University School of Law, Barofsky is the author of Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, a behind-the-scenes account of insider dealing and mishandling of financial bailouts by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Bill and Barofsky share a larger conversation about the financial sector’s seeming omnipotence on this weekend’s Moyers & Company. Check local listings.

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  • Frank Luke

    As long as the perpetrators of our economic meltdown go unpunished, We the Investors will continue being leery and sitting it out till justice is served. To have bailed out Wall St and Big Banks without severe punishment of the perps to keep repeat meltdowns from happening as part of the bailout deals was a huge failed opp to reassure investors and show greedy financial people consequences of that kind of behavior. The spike in Wall St is all well and good but seems just bait for money to return for the greedy guys to help themselves again.

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    $7 Billion of TARP funds to bail out our Banks
    and financial systems. That sum was enough to transform our Public
    Schools—hire from Industry our experts as Teachers. An OVERHAUL of Public
    School. To prepare our Youth for the World we have. Schools whose only focus
    would be LAW or Technology or Science or Space Exploration or Environment, Quantitative
    Analysis or Fashion or Classical Music, or Acting. Not as a magnate school but
    as a rule across the Country. How we
    educate is WHY we are 16th in the world in STEM! Our government had the funds to recreate
    Education across this country and did not.

    The Volker Rule resulting from the Bail Out calling for strict regulation
    was downplayed and by time it was signed into Law the powerful DC Lobby against it went to
    work. Our Government, Supreme Court (Citizens
    United) and State Legislature (ALEC) have been purchased through formed
    Super PACS whose members are that top 1% and 0.1% all of
    which undermines Democracy in each!

  • Are You Kidding Me?

    Also, I am disappointed with Obama too for every reason Neil Barofsky stated.

  • Thom Simmons

    so, basically, the system has been over run by the Byzantines.

  • Holm

    Capture. Interconnectedness.Not only on the “physical”level when personnel exchanges between politics and finance:
    the last one rotating out of the Administration to Citi was President Obamas OMB director Peter Orszag. But these very visible connections are not the worst. The reliance of every candidate running for Congress on contributions from the Finance Sector sets the foundation for indebtedness to the finance moguls and not the Restovus. Barofsky notes the “incredible political connections”of Citigroup in Washington. All TBTFs can rely on these channels. Today and after the Inauguration of a (new) president.


    We needed to keep the execs in their positions so that we could unravel the complex financial mess that had been created? That would be like Elliott Ness saying we needed to keep Al Capone in charge of his bootlegging, prostitution, gambling, loan sharking, public official corrupting and extortion businesses so that we could understand how his businesses fully worked so that we could dismantle them properly. Is our justice system that incompetent and bought off?

  • Carrie Willingham

    I second every comment made by Barofsky.

  • Carrie Willingham

    We need to take a hint from Iceland

  • Anonymous

    How many Billion? 7? Add a couple of zeros and you’ll be closer. But with what the Fed has done we have committed Trillions to bailing out the banks.

  • Mike Yinger

    Mr. Barofsky, thank you for not “toning it down” but instead writing Bailout. Obviously, once again the political duopoly is has taken the plutocrats gold. I’d hoped that once elected a president, senator, and congressman would remedy problems so blatantly damaging to the greater good. I’d always surmised that there must be something ‘damaging’ these good people’s intentions. As I watched you explain the echo chamber of the Wall Street framework of thought, I learned that the power of their meme conforms the minds that encounter it. In some industries, this is symptomatic of brittle organizations of people and assets. Perhaps there is an opportunity for disruption. I look forward to reading your book.
    — Mike Yinger

  • Gina Raye

    i certainly am glad someone has said the big guys have got to be broken up! what they have done amounts to what the soviets did with centralization and collectivism. bigger is not better.

  • Michael Quattro

    The most telling photograph of destructuctive continuity was the photo of Paulsen-Bernanke-Geitner as a continuation of insider governance by Goldman-Sachs from Bush through to Obama. Also telling is the “softsell” of telling this guy to consider how well he could do iuf he softened his position and became less critical. Obama could have done something to fix this mess.

  • L.T. Rhyme

    Fut Balls.

  • Zeus Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.

    With no champions, we will have to be the necessary champions in our organized choices and actions.