Will Puerto Rican Bonds Trigger a Mainland Bailout?

Financial bailouts have become a fact of American life. Yet the biggest bailout of all may be in Puerto Rico, home of photogenic beaches, lush forests, chic nightclubs, and less happily, at least $70 billion in public debt, more than double the sum from 2004. The U.S. mainland is yoked to this debt. Well over 50 domestic municipal bond funds have at least 10 percent of their assets invested in Puerto Rico. Worse, the island economy is in a prolonged recession. Unemployment has been running at around 15 percent. A third of residents are on food stamps. And migration to our shores is accelerating. Puerto Ricans for nearly a century have been U.S. citizens. But full-fledged statehood – increasingly supported by island residents and both major political parties – could enable a bailout more than anything else.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, with a land area of about 3,500 … Read More ➡

Sorry Dan Akerson, GM Bailout is Failure

I made these remarks today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC before the luncheon speech of outgoing General Motors CEO Dan Akerson:

President Obama justified the auto bailout by predicting it would make money for the taxpayer. With Treasury now selling its remaining shares, the direct loss is about $10 billion. So on its most fundamental level, the auto bailout is a failure.

But that $10 billion figure dramatically understates the true cost. There were separate multibillion dollar bailouts of Ally Financial, formerly know as GMAC, and Delphi and other suppliers. There was cash for clunkers, the government guarantee of warrantees, accelerated fleet purchases, etc., etc.

Treasury also allowed a novel application of the tax-loss carryforward provisions of the tax code during the GM bankruptcy, shielding $30-$40 billion in GM profits from taxation.

In addition to all these costs, the bailout probably ensures future bailout costs when GM … Read More ➡

GM Asked to Pay Back $10 Billion Bailout Costs

pile of cashPeter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), today posed key questions to the General Motors leadership at a National Press Club press conference, including whether the company will repay to taxpayers the $10 billion direct cost of the GM bailout.

News that the U.S. Treasury Department has sold its remaining stake and that Mary Barra will take over as GM’s new CEO have put the spotlight on the company and its future. GM executives have pointed to GM’s $26.8 billion in cash as evidence of its improved financial position. Analysts have raised the possibility that the company will buy back shares or institute a dividend.

Questions for GM:

1) Will GM compensate taxpayers for the $10 billion loss they have taken on their involuntary “investment” in the company?

2) If not, why should taxpayers take a loss now on their GM “investment” when the company allegedly … Read More ➡

Fisker Execs Kept Salaries While Employees, Taxpayers Got Taken

Fisker hearingThirteen of Fisker Automotive executives made more than six figures in the past year, despite manufacturing zero cars.

The news was first reported Wednesday afternoon on the automotive Web site Jalopnik.com, and later in the evening by the Delaware Journal. Jalopnik often gets the scoops when electric cars catch fire. For those unaware of the ugly saga, Fisker declared bankruptcy at the end of last month after squandering more than $1.4 billion in private investment and losing $139 million of taxpayers’ money.

According to news reports, including one from the Journal a year ago, not a single Fisker Karma – the $102,000 (base price) luxury electric plug-in embraced by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore – has been produced since July 2012. Hopeful workers in Wilmington, Del. –where company officials and local politicians loudly announced the revival of a former General Motors plant for the … Read More ➡

Cadillac ELR: Mary Barra’s First Embarrassment?

Mary BarraGeneral Motors has announced that Mary Barra will be replacing Dan Akerson as CEO as of mid-January. Ms. Barra was previously the head of global product development. As such, she already has to take partial responsibility for the over-hyped and low-selling Chevy Volt along with the upcoming Cadillac version of the car. With Consumer Reports now stating that the new Cadillac ELR (a glorified Chevy Volt) gave them “sticker shock,” will the ELR be the first major embarrassment for Ms. Barra?

Anyone who has followed the Chevy Volt story could have guessed at what the prospects for a gussied up and rebadged Cadillac version of the car, for over twice the price, would be. The vehicle may well be GM’s worst idea in history. I can not imagine what the motivation for GM to manufacture such a car might be. The decision to produce the car should scare the bejeezus … Read More ➡

CFOs: Obamacare Will Curtail Hiring, Benefits Offered

Obama doctor coatA survey of 400 chief financial officers at U.S. firms released yesterday said that if the country is moving toward a jobs recovery, then Obamacare will stunt it.

The findings, which received little media attention, were part of a quarterly review of corporate leaders whose fingers are on the pulse of the plans of their companies. Conducted jointly by Duke University’s highly regarded Fuqua School of Business and CFO Magazine, many of the questions have to do with how the officers feel about the outlook of the economy, but also give indications about what they will do in the future. In the final survey of 2013 (they have conducted it for 71 consecutive quarters), 48 percent of U.S. CFOs said they will consider reducing employment because of the Affordable Care Act. More than forty percent said they might move some workers to part-time status to avoid employer mandates within the … Read More ➡

When Will General Motors Repay Taxpayers $10 Billion?; Bailed-Out Automaker Sits on Cash Hoard

pile of cashI will hold a press conference on Monday, December 16 at 11:00am to pose key questions to General Motors leadership, including whether and when the company will repay to taxpayers the $10 billion direct cost of the auto bailout.

News that the U.S. Treasury Department has sold its remaining financial stake and that Mary Barra will take over as GM’s new CEO have put the spotlight on the company and its future. GM executives have pointed to the company’s gigantic cash position as evidence of its improved finances. Analysts have raised the possibility that the company will buy back shares or institute a dividend.

The NLPC press event will precede current Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson’s scheduled luncheon to present an update on the company’s progress before a National Press Club audience in Washington, DC.

NLPC has been a persistent critic of the auto bailout. NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica, … Read More ➡

Obama Administration OKs Bird Killing— As Long As Its by Windmill

Duke Energy turbineFriday’s announcement by the Obama administration that it will allow wind energy companies to kill certain bird species for 30 years without legal ramifications shows that its $1 million paltry fine of Duke Energy for avian slayings a week earlier was just for show.

Slamming the president for the application of double standards, not enforcing laws it doesn’t like, and acting unilaterally without Congressional authority is nothing new. It’s not often, though, you see such an obvious policy contradiction appear within such a short period of time. And now, without need to worry about re-election, he can pit his environmental constituencies against each other (wildlife protection vs. green energy promotion).

The latest decision, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, extends the maximum possible term for permits to “take” (“molest or disturb”… “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import…”) from … Read More ➡

GM’s Balance Sheet Not as Healthy as it Looks

GM UAW logosOne of the major architects of the General Motors bankruptcy process, Harry Wilson, recently gave a very optimistic outlook for GM future share price. Mr. Wilson was a member of President Obama’s Auto Task Force, and was an instrumental player in seeing that UAW interests were put ahead of other creditors, like old GM bondholders.

Automotive News now reports that Mr. Wilson feels that GM may be a target for activists because of their “huge” cash hoard. According to the piece:

“Any company that isn’t efficient about capital allocation is a target for activists,” said Wilson, who is now a restructuring adviser at Maeva Group LLC in Westchester, N.Y. “GM has a huge cash hoard and they are generating lots more cash each year, so they need to be thoughtful about that.”

The problem with Mr. Wilson’s statement regarding GM’s balance sheet improving is that it just isn’t true. The … Read More ➡

Meeks Crony Dorothy Ogundu Arrested For Stealing $370K; Where is IRS?

Ogundu perp walkOn the basis of information brought to light by NLPC, Nigerian-born physician Dorothy Ogundu was arrested yesterday. She is charged with multiple counts of grand larceny, forgery and falsifying business records by the New York State Attorney General.

Ogundu ran a Queens, New York health clinic for which Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) secured $380,500 in federal funds. She is a prominent Meeks supporter, and until yesterday, a fixture of the Queens political scene.

After reviewing Meeks’ earmarks in 2011, NLPC decided to take a closer look at Angeldocs, Inc., which operates the Aki Life Health Center. The New York Post published a major exposé of the Center in April 2012, based on information provided on an exclusive basis by NLPC. Subsequently, NLPC filed a Complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Angeldocs, alleging self-dealing and inurement by Ogundu. 

A visit to the clinic by Post reporters found it “dusty, … Read More ➡

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