"The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was created by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA; P.L. 110-343) in October 2008. EESA was enacted to address an ongoing financial crisis that reached near-panic proportions in September 2008. The act granted the Secretary of the Treasury authority to either purchase or insure up to $700 billion in troubled assets owned by financial institutions. This authority was granted for up to two years from the date of enactment and was very broad. In particular, the definitions of both 'troubled asset' and 'financial institution' allowed the Secretary wide leeway in deciding what assets might be purchased or guaranteed and what might qualify as a financial firm."
CRS Report for Congress, R41427