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Friday, April 23, 2010

The GM Loan Payback is a Fraud

With great fanfare yesterday GM announced that it is paying back the loans it was given by the people of the United States (via the Federal Government) years prior to the scheduled date. Even when the announcement was made, it seemed a bit strange the company has not turned around anywhere near the point where it could make that kind of a payment.  It must have been a miracle, maybe they found a hundred billion or so behind the back seat of a 1980 Impala that was being destroyed in the cash for clunkers program...or something like that.

The real explanation was somewhat less complicated. Like much of what is being thrown back at the people of the United States by the Obama administration, the GM Loan paybacks are a fraud.  Yes they did pay the Government back, but they did it with moneys gotten from the TARP program.  In other words, they paid us back with OUR money.

Yesterday, the special watchdog on the Wall Street Bailout, Neil Barofsky, was testifying before the Senate and was asked several times about the GM repayment by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). Carper wanted to know if we made a profit o the loans. 
"It's good news in that they're reducing their debt," Barofsky said of the accelerated GM payments, "but they're doing it by taking other available TARP money."
"It sounds like it's kind of like taking money out of one pocket and putting in the other," said Carper, who got a nod of agreement from Barofsky.

"The way that payment is going to be made. is by drawing down on an equity facility of other TARP money." Barofsky said.
Which in plain English means,taking money out of one pocket and putting in the other. In other words, I can't be over-drawn, I still have checks left.
Carper asked "When do you think we'll have really good news from GM?"
"I don't have a crystal ball on that Senator," Barofsky replied.
Senator Chuck Grassy was angered by the testimony he sent Treasury Secretary, Turbo-Tax Tim Geithner to give a detailed explanation of just what the heck is going on, and reminded him:
"The taxpayers are still on the hook, and whether TARP funds are ultimately recovered depends entirely on the government's ability to sell GM stock in the future. Treasury has merely exchanged a legal right to repayment for an uncertain hope of sharing in the future growth of GM. A debt-for-equity swap is not a repayment," he wrote.
Not only is this an example of the funny accounting this administration does to make things look better than they are, it also show the low esteem the administration has for the American people, after all, they thought we would fall for this fraud.

The Text of Grassley's letter follows

April 22, 2010
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable Timothy F. Geithner
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220 
Dear Secretary Geithner:
General Motors (GM) yesterday announced that it repaid its TARP loans. I am concerned, however, that this announcement is not what it seems. In fact, it appears to be nothing more than an elaborate TARP money shuffle.
On Tuesday of this week, Mr. Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for TARP, testified before the Senate Finance Committee. During his testimony Mr. Barofsky addressed GM’s recent debt repayment activity, and stated that the funds GM is using to repay its TARP debt are not coming from GM earnings. 
Instead, GM seems to be using TARP funds from an escrow account at Treasury to make the debt repayments. The most recent quarterly report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP says “The source of funds for these quarterly [debt] payments will be other TARP funds currently held in an escrow account.” See, Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP, Quarterly Report to Congress dated April 20, 2010, page 115. 
Furthermore, Exhibit 99.1 of the Form 8K filed by GM with the SEC on November 16, 2009, seems to confirm that the source of funds for GM’s debt repayments was a multi-billion dollar escrow account at Treasury—not from earnings. In the 8K filing GM acknowledged: 
  • Of the $42.6 billion in cash and marketable securities available to GM as of September, 30, 2009, $17.4 billion came from an escrow account with Treasury,
  • $6.7 billion of the escrow account available to GM was allocable to the repayment of loans to Treasury,
  • $5.6 billion in cash would remain in the Treasury escrow account following the repayment by GM of their loans, and
  • Upon repaying Treasury, any balance of escrow funds would be released to GM.
Therefore, it is unclear how GM and the Administration could have accurately announced yesterday that GM repaid its TARP loans in any meaningful way. In reality, it looks like GM merely used one source of TARP funds to repay another. The taxpayers are still on the hook, and whether TARP funds are ultimately recovered depends entirely on the government’s ability to sell GM stock in the future. Treasury has merely exchanged a legal right to repayment for an uncertain hope of sharing in the future growth of GM. A debt-for-equity swap is not a repayment. 
I am also troubled by the timing of this latest maneuver. According to Mr. Barofsky, Treasury had supervisory authority over GM’s use of these TARP escrow funds. Since GM’s exit from bankruptcy court, Treasury had approved the use of the escrow funds for costs such as GM’s obligations to its parts supplier Delphi. See, Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP, Additional Insight on Use of Troubled Asset Relief Program Fund (SIGTARP-10-004), dated December 10, 2009, at page 6. According to the GM 8K, GM had planned to use the TARP funds in escrow to pay back the TARP loans on a quarterly basis beginning in the fourth quarter of 2009. But following the April 20, 2010, hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, where Treasury’s decision to exempt GM from the bank TARP excise tax was questioned and GM’s refusal to testify was noted, it is odd that GM suddenly drew down on the TARP escrow and accelerated the repayment of the remaining balance of GM’s outstanding TARP loans. 
The bottom line seems to be that the TARP loans were “repaid” with other TARP funds in a Treasury escrow account. The TARP loans were not repaid from money GM is earning selling cars, as GM and the Administration have claimed in their speeches, press releases and television commercials. When these criticisms were put to GM’s Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky in a television interview yesterday, he admitted that the criticisms were valid:
Question: Are you just paying the government back with government money? 
Mr. Girsky: Well listen, that is in effect true, but a year ago nobody thought we’d be able to pay this back. 
Mr. Girsky then said that GM originally planned to pay the loan over the next five years. So the question is why—other than a desire to justify excluding GM from the administration’s TARP tax proposal—would Treasury and GM reduce GM’s TARP debt with TARP equity and then mischaracterize it as a repayment from earnings? Accordingly, please explain:
1) Your department’s justification for allowing GM to use funds from the TARP escrow account to repay TARP loans,
2) The amount of funds remaining in the TARP escrow account at Treasury that may be released to GM, and
3) The date that you anticipate that the remaining funds in escrow will be released to GM.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Please provide the requested information by April 30, 2010. Should you have any questions regarding the contents of this letter please do not hesitate to contact Jason Foster ..... 
Charles E. Grassley
Ranking Member

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