Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warren and other members of TARP oversight protest tax breaks

This is outside my areas of expertise, but I an sufficiently annoyed to share this.

According to the Los Angeles Times:
American International Group Inc.'s recent $20 billion quarterly profit was almost entirely because of an inappropriate tax break the government-owned insurance company continues to receive, according to four former members of the watchdog panel that oversaw the financial crisis bailouts. 
The break allows AIG to count its past net operating losses against future taxes. That amounts to a "stealth bailout" of a company that received about $125 billion in taxpayer money, said the former appointees to the Congressional Oversight Panel for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program..... 
Warren, who is running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, was joined by former panel members Damon Silvers, Mark McWatters and Kenneth Troske in saying the tax break gives the illusion of significant profitability at the company. 
The profits benefit AIG's private stockholders and allow the company to pay higher executive compensation, the TARP panel members said.
A second report by Andrew Ross Sorkin states:
The tax benefit is notable for more than simply its size. It is the result of a rule that the Treasury unilaterally bent for A.I.G. and several other hobbled companies in 2008 that has largely been overlooked. This rule-twisting could deprive the government of tens of billions of dollars, assuming the firm remains profitable..... 
(A)ccording to longstanding tax laws, if a company files for bankruptcy or is taken over, it loses the ability to use its net operating losses. A.I.G. would fit that profile perfectly: on the verge of bankruptcy, the federal government took control of A.I.G., exchanging its bailout billions for shares in the company. The government — taxpayers — still own 77 percent of the company, down from 92 percent three years ago..... 
(T)he government — desperate to increase revenues — is missing an easy stream of guaranteed taxes from a company that taxpayers bailed out. Sure, the tax bill might hurt the price of A.I.G.’s stock price in the short term, but if Mr. Benmosche does his job right, the company won’t have to post fantasy profits.
Clearly AIG followed a high risk investment strategy in the past, and clearly the result was a massive crash. Apparently now the Obama administration is bending tax rules in ways that will result in larger bonuses for the managers of AIG and that will lead to higher prices for AIG stock, thus benefiting its private stockholders. Don't such increased financial returns tend to encourage the same excess risk taking that got us into this problem in the first place?

Apparently the tax benefits will also extend to General Motors and other companies that were bailed out after the 2008 crash.

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