Taxpayers Unlikely To See Much Auto Bailout Money

A new report by the Congressional Oversight Panel — an independent, yet totally powerless, group appointed by the Senate to review the results of the recent government bailouts — states that we’ll get a few bucks back from the automakers, but shouldn’t count on it to cover our car payments:

Although taxpayers may recover some portion of their investment in Chrysler and GM, it is unlikely they will recover the entire amount. The estimates of loss vary. Treasury estimates that approximately $23 billion of the initial loans made will be subject to “much lower recoveries.” Approximately $5.4 billion of the loans extended to the old Chrysler company are highly unlikely to be recovered. … Because Treasury has not clearly articulated its objectives, it is impossible to know if this prospect, indeed, represents a failure of Treasury’s strategy.

The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the prospects of the automakers (and, you know, get them to pay us back), including the idea that the government should “use its role as a significant shareholder in Chrysler and GM to ensure that these companies fully disclose their financial status and that the compensation of their executives is aligned to clear measures of long-term success.”

The Congressional Oversight Panel has a lot of good ideas, and its head, Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren, has been an active critic of mishandling of taxpayer largess. Despite its impressive COP acronym, however, the panel can’t actually make the government — or the carmakers that we sort of own — do anything. But don’t worry. The agency is empowered to “hold hearings, review official data” and, of course, “write reports.” So, expect a lot more 200-page door-stoppers and C-SPAN bloviating before this whole thing runs its course.

The Use of TARP Funds in Support and Reorganization of the Domestic Automotive Industry [Congressional Oversight Panel]
Full Report (221-page PDF) [Congressional Oversight Panel]