Sunday, May 2, 2010

The NYT Finally Addresses The Obama Administration - GM Fraud

I posted here on the fraud being jointly perpetrated by GM and the White House as regards GM early repayment of its government loan. Touted by both GM and the White House as proof of GM's profitability and responsibility, they failed to note that the repayment was accomplished using TARP funds. The Bush administration would have been roasted to a smoking husk over this in the MSM had his administration engaged in such a blatant fraud. Nonetheless, as with most things involving the left, it has been virtually ignored by the left. Today, weeks after the story broke, the NYT has posted an article addressing the fraud:

. . . Truth seekers the nation over . . . are indebted to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who in recent days uncovered what he called a government-enabled “TARP money shuffle.” It relates to General Motors, which on April 21 paid the balance of its $6.7 billion loan under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

G.M. trumpeted its escape from the program as evidence that it had turned the corner in its operations. “G.M. is able to repay the taxpayers in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse,” boasted Edward E. Whitacre Jr., its chief executive.

G.M. also crowed about its loan repayment in a national television ad and the United States Treasury also marked the moment with a press release: “We are encouraged that G.M. has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability,” said Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary.

Taxpayers are naturally eager for news about bailout repayments. But what neither G.M. nor the Treasury disclosed was that the company simply used other funds held by the Treasury to pay off its original loan.

Neil M. Barofsky, the inspector general overseeing the troubled asset program, revealed this detail when he spoke before the Senate Finance Committee on April 20.

“So it’s good news in that they’re reducing their debt,” Mr. Barofsky said of G.M. But he went on to note that G.M. was using other taxpayer money to make the loan repayment, according to the transcript of his testimony.

Armed with this information, Mr. Grassley fired off a letter to Mr. Geithner on April 22, asking for details of the transaction. “I am concerned ... that this announcement is not what it seems,” he wrote. “In fact, it appears to be nothing more than an elaborate TARP money shuffle.”

Mr. Grassley heard back from the Treasury last Tuesday. Herbert M. Allison Jr., assistant secretary for financial stability, confirmed that the money G.M. used to repay its bailout loan had come from a taxpayer-financed escrow account held for the automaker at the Treasury.

Emphasizing that the cash in the account was “the property of G.M.,” Mr. Allison said that the department had approved the company’s use of the money to retire the original debt because it was “consistent with Treasury’s goal of recovering funds for the taxpayer and exiting TARP investments as soon as practicable.”

It’s certainly understandable that G.M. would want to spin its repayment as proof of improving operations. But Mr. Grassley said he was troubled that the Treasury went along with the public relations campaign and didn’t spell out how the loan was retired.

“The public would know nothing about the TARP escrow money being the source of the supposed repayment from simply watching G.M.’s TV commercials or reading Treasury’s press release,” Mr. Grassley said in a speech on the Senate floor last Wednesday, saying that “many billions” of federal dollars remained invested in G.M.

“Much of it will never be repaid,” Mr. Grassley added. “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that taxpayers will lose around $30 billion on G.M.”

(Taxpayers still own $2.1 billion in preferred stock of G.M. and almost 61 percent of its common equity.) . . .

Of course, there is much joy in Mudville when a recipient of government aid repays its obligations. And it is also natural that the administration is keenly interested in reassuring taxpayers that losses on their bailout billions will be smaller than expected. Still, employing spin and selective disclosure is no way to raise taxpayers’ trust in our nation’s leadership. . . .

I pointed out in my initial post that this fraud and collusion likely fell afoul of securities regulations. And today, Hot Air and Powerline conclude similarly. This is more than a bad act - it is a potentialy criminal scandal. It is certainly a scandal deserving of far more than a buried article in the business section of the NYT, though that is at least a small start.

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