In yesterday’s post about GM’s touting of their TARP payback (with interest!), I asked the following question:
“Unless GM is engaging in financial shell games of a kind that would put Bernie Madoff to shame, how is it possible for a company which posted a $4.3-billion loss for the half year after “emerging” from bankruptcy last summer, lost $30.9 billion in 2008, and has laid off nearly 65,000 workers over the past year expect to a) build good cars that consumers want to buy, b) keep up payments to unions and union healthcare trust funds, and c) pay back their debt to American taxpayers?”
“So how did a recently bankrupt company which is still hemorrhaging money pay back a multi-billion dollar loan five years early? Could it be that the mountain of bailout cash was much more than turned out to be necessary?
“It’s hard to conclude that the repayment is anything other than a political and marketing ploy where the federal government receives “repayment” with the very same loan money handed out starting in 2008…
“Over-lending on a loan to achieve quick initial repayment (and thus inflate the loan’s perceived value), in the private economy, is called fraud. Where did GM come up with the money? It’s a question that merits asking.”
Ashby then links to FoxNews, which splashes cold water all over GM’s initial triumphant “pay-back” announcement in an article outlining Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) letter yesterday to tax-cheat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner:
“It appears to be nothing more than an elaborate TARP money shuffle…”
“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.” [emphasis mine]
TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky supports Sen. Grassley’s conclusion:
“I think the one thing that a lot of people overlook with this is where they got the money to pay back the loan. And it isn’t from earnings. … It’s actually from another pool of TARP money that they’ve already received,” [Barofsky] said Wednesday. “I don’t think we should exaggerate it too much. Remember that the source of this money is just other TARP money.”
Barofsky told the Senate Finance Committee the same thing Tuesday, and said the main way for the federal government to earn money out of GM would be through “a liquidation of its ownership interest.”
Grassley criticized this scenario in his letter.
“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.” [emphasis mine]
I’m torn, here. GM is, at best, deliberately misleading the public; at worst, the company is outright lying to us. I want to suggest a boycott of GM cars (for those who would actually consider buying a GM car in the first place), but if nobody buys their cars, they’ll never pay back the TARP money.
…Hell, they’ll never pay it back anyway. Go ahead and boycott ’em!