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TARP Transparency Is a Joke as Uncle Sam’s $81 Billion Investment in Automakers Unlikely to be Recovered

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 9, 2009 7:52 AM |

Do the ends justify the means? Is the American taxpayer better off not knowing how his money is being spent when rescuing private corporations? Is the Obama administration’s claim of transparency a mere facade? I believe a strong case could be made that all of these assertions are true in reviewing the likelihood of the American taxpayer recouping taxpayer funds injected into GM and Chrysler.

While government pundits and market analysts will crow about positive returns on TARP funds injected into banks that never truly wanted the money in the first place (Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan amongst others), they have little to say about the TARP money which will not likely be coming back from the automotive industry.

I highlighted this point on June 30th in writing “The TARP Has a $159 Billion Loss”:

Of the $699 billion in total capital, $142 billion has yet to be committed. Of the funds already allocated, Uncle Sam has incurred a total cost of $159 billion. What does that mean?

Recall the number of times that government officials told taxpayers that we would make money on investments in AIG and the like. Well, so far we’ve lost $159 billion dollars across all our TARP investments. The loss is calculated as the difference in funds committed and allocated to securities and the market value of those securities. That loss represents 36% of the funds committed and actually allocated.

Where do a large percentage of the funds unlikely to be recovered reside? Detroit, as in GM and Chrysler.

Bloomberg sheds further light on losses embedded in the TARP in writing U.S. Taxpayers Unlikely to Recover Auto Investment, Panel Says:

U.S. taxpayers are unlikely to recover their $81 billion investment in General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC and were “left in the dark” on specifics of a decision to aid automakers, a congressional panel said.

The report didn’t estimate how much of taxpayers’ aid to the auto industry will be recovered. The panel said GM stock would need “highly optimistic” returns in order for the full investment to be repaid.

The report of the panel, which oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program, raises questions about the Obama administration’s transparency in aiding automakers and challenges the Treasury Department to make more disclosures about company decisions and the government’s future role.

“Congress and ultimately the American taxpayer have been left in the dark concerning details of Treasury’s review process and its methodology and metrics at a time when Treasury committed additional TARP funds to these companies,” the panel said.

“The Treasury auto team failed to disclose to the public both the factors and criteria it used in its viability assessments, the scope of outside involvement in its evaluations, and its basis and reasoning for selecting particular benchmarks,” according to the report. “Simply, its disclosures did not go far enough.”

As these companies try to recover, taxpayers should not expect a return of any of these $81 billion. Taxpayers should also not expect transparency from Washington. Being truthful and transparent are not exactly consistent with the ‘Washington way.’


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