Tag Archives: auto bailout

The Missed Opportunity

For a snapshot of what’s wrong with our banking policy, look at the front page of the business section of today’s New York Times. On the left side: “U.S. in Standoff with Banks over Chrysler.” On the right side: “Banks Show Clout on Legislation to Help Consumers.”

On the left side, a consortium of banks holding Chrysler debt is refusing to agree to the current restructuring plan, which involves bondholders holding $6.9 billion in secured debt getting about 15 cents on the dollar – roughly where the bonds are currently trading, according to the Times.* The banks are playing the ongoing game of chicken with the government, betting that the government will cave and give them a better deal rather than take a risk on a bankruptcy.

On the right side, the banks are using their lobbying clout to block the administration’s proposals to help consumers and households, including the mortgage cram-down provision (which would allow bankruptcy courts to modify mortgages on first homes) and added consumer protections for credit card customers. They currently have all 41 Republican votes in the Senate tied up, which means nothing can pass.

The banks leading the charge over Chrysler: JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. The banks opposed to cram-downs: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The banks blocking credit card protections: American Express, Bank of America, Capital One Financial, Citigroup, Discover Financial Services, and JPMorgan Chase. All or almost all are bailout beneficiaries. But don’t blame them: they’re just doing what they can to maximize their profits at the expense of the taxpayer, which is perfectly legal (and even ethical, depending on your conception of shareholder rights). Instead, you should be wondering why they are in a position to be maximizing profits at the taxpayer’s expense.

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Kidnapping Chrysler

In this brief interval before the new housing plan is announced, I’ll try to sneak in a comment on the auto bailout, and the plans submitted by GM and Chrysler yesterday. This may be an obvious question that many people have thought about, and got some discussion in December, but: Why does Cerberus (the private equity firm that owns Chrysler) need money from the government?

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French Car Wreck

The latest economic data from France look bad.  The strategy of keeping official growth forecasts high (despite the evidence) is coming under increasing pressure and there may be substantial revisions to the outlook in the pipeline – once you break through to being more honest, there is some catching up to do.

Even more worrying are the plans apparently under preparation to support the French auto industry.  Officially, these plans are still under development (AP).  But from what we can see, including unofficially this week, the next phase of assistance could well be even more problematic than the support provided to the US auto industry which, so far, only got a bridge loan. Continue reading