Fallout: The Financial Crisis

GMAC gets $3.8 billion to cover losses

Jeremy Hobson Dec 30, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

GMAC gets $3.8 billion to cover losses

Jeremy Hobson Dec 30, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: The thing a lot of people forget is that the big Wall Street banks weren’t the only ones that got bailout money. There’s AIG, the insurance company. Various government lending and guarantee programs got $155 billion. Also, Detroit. GM and Chrysler got north of $50 billion all told. This afternoon, the Treasury Department decided to give the auto-financing company GMAC another $3.8 billion, on top of the $12 billion it’s already gotten. Thing is, the reason GMAC’s in so much trouble doesn’t have much to do with weak car sales.

From New York Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports.


Jeremy Hobson: Sure, GMAC’s most important mission is to lend money to auto dealers and car buyers. But the firm’s been dipping its tentacles into the housing market for years, through its real estate arm, ResCap. And ResCap got heavily involved in the good old subprime market.

Kirk Ludtke is a GMAC analyst at CRT Capital Group.

Kirk Ludtke: It’s hard to imagine now, but at one point, ResCap was considered the stronger of the two businesses. You know, investors were more worried about the auto finance side of the business than the mortgage side. Obviously, that turned out to be the opposite.

ResCap lost almost $750 million last quarter. Meanwhile, the auto lending side — which now handles GM and Chrysler loans — made almost $400 million. Still, Ludtke says GMAC isn’t strong enough to stand on its own and letting it fail would be devastating for GM and Chrysler.

Ludtke: Some of the dealers wouldn’t be able to find financing elsewhere, and others, it would be disruptive so they’d have to, you know, it would probably take them some time.

But surely GMAC didn’t have more exposure to the subprime market than some of the big banks. And they’re paying back their bailout money, not asking for more.

Well, Morningstar analyst Dave Whiston says GMAC just doesn’t have the same cash raising ability.

Dave Whiston: GMAC’s problem in a nutshell is that they can’t access private capital the way that a Bank of America or a Chase or Wells Fargo and all those other banks can.

That’s because GMAC can’t sell stock — it’s not a public company. Plus, its only consumer deposits come from an online bank, called Ally, that started up less than a year ago. In fact, starting a bank was the only way GMAC qualified for TARP money in the first place.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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