A government watchdog said the $700 billion bailout for the financial industry played a major role in rescuing the economy over the last year but also engendered anger and distrust among Americans because of secrecy and confusion about the way the program was handled.
The mixed and blunt assessment by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general in charge of oversight for the bailout fund, comes just as the administration is taking steps to wind down and refocus the Wall Street rescue effort.
Barofsky's conclusions are in a quarterly report scheduled for release Wednesday.
An administration official said Tuesday that the bailout effort's signature initiative — a capital purchase program that aimed to inject $218 billion into banks — would effectively wrap up at the end of the year.
But even as the administration aimed to refocus the massive Troubled Asset Relief Program on small businesses and homeowners, Barofsky said the effort to save the nation's financial sector cam at great cost to taxpayers, to the integrity of the financial system and to the public's perception of the federal government.
"Despite the aspects of TARP that could reasonably be viewed as a substantial success," he wrote, "Treasury's actions in this regard have contributed to damage the credibility of the program and of the government itself, and the anger, cynicism and distrust created must be chalked up as one of the substantial, albeit unnecessary, costs of TARP."