The mortgage foreclosure crisis in this country may have been superseded by events in Japan, Libya and elsewhere for now, but in its own way it's taking a heavy toll. And it's likely to get worse, given the context of evidence that an Obama-initiated homeowner subsidy program to stem the tide isn't working and of a new federal agency poised to extract $20 billion from lenders on behalf of heavily delinquent borrowers.
Last week, ex-car czar Steven Rattner seemed to pre-emptively blame rising gas prices for problems at bailed-out General Motors. Now AP reports that GM says that it will cut unnecessary spending in the wake of the Japan disaster. Here's a novel thought for GM executives, you shouldn't be spending taxpayer money unnecessarily in the first place! Beyond that, I get the sense that the crisis in Japan will be the next excuse for the continued underperformance of GM stock since its IPO.
Two weeks ago, we asked whether Interior Secretary Ken Salazar considered himself above the law by ignoring court orders to resume the permitting process for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Now we learn that Salazar may have misled Congress and the public on the number of drilling permit applications he is ignoring.
Appearing today on CNBC, Steven Rattner, the former head of President Obama's auto task force, made some surprising observations that undermine his previously articulated optimism about the future of bailed-out General Motors. Although he cleverly tried to lump Ford in with GM, he acknowledged GM's recent reliance on incentives to sell autos:
Environmental pressure group Ceres, whose primary activity is to drive corporations to report their greenhouse gas emitting activities and disclose climate risk in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings, recently released a report that outlines exactly what companies should be disclosing.
Last week, the Volt, GM's signature hybrid vehicle, turned in a lackluster performance in its first series of road tests by Consumer Reports. CR told Reuters on Monday that "when you look at the finances, [the Volt] doesn't make any sense." The publication went on to note that the Volt was "not particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and not particularly good as a gas vehicle... This is going to be a tough sell to the average consumer."
General Motors announced today that its Chief Financial Officer, Chris Liddell, will be leaving the company on April 1st. GM shares hit a new low of $30.95 on the news. Mr. Liddell joined GM in January of 2010. Having served for over a year, Liddell has exceeded the average stay of top executives at GM. GM has gone through three CEOs since they emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009.
From the 1st quarter through the 4th quarter of 2010, GM's lobbying expenses more than doubled from $1.8 million to $3.89 million - a 113% increase. After all, when the government is your largest shareholder, your company execs will inevitably be spending an inordinate amount of time cozying up to Washington politicians.
Moreover, GM's lobbyist team reads like a who's who of the government bailout business. And why wouldn't it? When you're lobbying Washington to privatize gains for your clients and socialize their losses among taxpayers, you hire those firms with the most experience representing other notorious companies that received massive bailouts by U.S. taxpayers - Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, AIG and others.
News coverage of General Motors over the past few weeks has painted an increasingly glowing picture, but here's a dose of reality: GM still has not repaid taxpayers for the bailout and it's looking less and less like taxpayers will ever be made whole.