The TARP bailout of GM finance partner GMAC is being criticized by a congressional oversight panel [full report in PDF format here], reports the Detroit Free Press. The panel alleges that the Treasury
has not yet articulated a specific and convincing reason to support the company… It has never stated that a GMAC failure would result in substantial negative consequences for the national economy. If Treasury has made such a determination, then it should say so publicly.
There are plenty of possible explanations for why GMAC was bailed out. The most obvious is that it was part and parcel of the auto bailout. GM’s dependence on leasing and finance deals as well as the inability of GM dealers to get floorplan financing on the public markets made GMAC a crucial component of any rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. As the report notes
Treasury has stated that if it refused to support GMAC after providing assistance to GM and Chrysler, it would undermine its own investments in the automotive companies.
The tin foil hat crowd might point to Cerberus’s “voluntary” decision to walk away from Chrysler, and say that Cerberus-owned GMAC was bailed out as a quid-pro-quo for that “sacrifice.”
Either way, the report’s section on GMAC concludes:
It does not appear that the support has been made on the merits of the investment, particularly given GMAC’s recent statements that it anticipates reporting fourth quarter 2009 losses of approximately $5 billion…
Moreover, GMAC has received different treatment from all other financial institutions that were subject to the stress tests. Unlike other institutions, it was subjected to additional stress tests after the initial stress test results were released in May, and unlike other institutions, its capital buffer requirements were revised in light of this second round of tests. GMAC was the only institution that was allowed to benefit from post-May improvements in its financial position and in related sectors of the economy. In the face of criticism about the merits of saving GMAC, Treasury owes the public a more detailed and convincing explanation not only of its rationale for providing substantial assistance to GMAC, but also of its rationale for treating GMAC differently than other stress-tested institutions.