The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as SIGTARP, was set up to monitor how funds were used from multibillion financial firm bailout TARP.
The Washington Post reported Friday the watchdog has prosecuted 107 senior bank executives mostly for using TARP funds for personal use, covering up losses or making illegal loans.
Established regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission have been heavily criticized for failing to prosecute bank executives in the wake of the financial crisis, but SIGTARP has won prison sentences for most of the cases it has pursued, the Post reported.
SIGTARP has been praised by lawmakers hoping to have other regulators match its success but a key difference is that, as a special inspector general, SIGTARP has the power to issue search warrants, seize property and make arrests. That gives SIGTARP a more direct route to evidence, the Post said.
SIGTARP's success has mostly been against executives at community banks rather than Wall Street behemoths with platoons of lawyers at their disposal.
"Essentially, we're looking for lies and greed," said SIGTARP Director Christy Romero.
"Usually, people have gone to such great lengths to try to hide the schemes that we find that they end up violating several laws, which leads to long sentences," Romero said.