Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Taxpayers Face Heavy Losses on Auto Bailout

A new report coming from a congressional oversight panel suggests that a majority of the $81 billion given in the auto bailouts last year may never get paid back. This means that U.S. taxpayers will have taken a decent loss in order to keep the American auto industry from collapsing.

The Congressional Oversight Panel did not provide an estimate of the projected loss in its latest monthly report on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. But it said most of the $23 billion initially provided to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC late last year is unlikely to be repaid.

"I think they drove a very hard bargain," said Elizabeth Warren, the panel's chairwoman and a law professor at Harvard University, referring to the Obama administration's Treasury Department. "But it may not be enough."

The prospect of recovering the government's assistance to GM and Chrysler is heavily dependent on shares of the two companies rising to unprecedented levels, the report said. The government owns 10 percent of Chrysler and 61 percent of GM. The two companies are currently private but are expected to issue stock, in GM's case by next year.

The shares "will have to appreciate sharply" for taxpayers to get their money back, the report said.

For example, GM's market value would have to reach $67.6 billion, the report said, a "highly optimistic" estimate and more than the $57.2 billion GM was worth at the height of its share value in April 2008. And in the case of Chrysler, about $5.4 billion of the $14.3 billion provided to the company is "highly unlikely" to ever be repaid, the panel said.

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