GAO: Board should direct automakers

Dec. 4, 2008 at 12:07 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- A special board directing U.S. automakers would help safeguard the government's interests in a bailout, the federal legislative auditor testified Thursday.

The board's aggressiveness would be established by lawmakers, Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, testified during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on business restructuring plans for the major U.S. automakers, and whether the federal government should provide financial assistance.

Dodaro said lawmakers could address both the short-term financial needs for the auto industry as well as the long-term restructuring plans. Analysts and automakers have indicated that Detroit's Big Three are financially strapped now and into the first quarter of 2009, and one or more could collapse.

"(My) clear message here today is the fact that this board has to be established in order to succeed in this particular endeavor if the decision is made to move forward," Dodaro said.

Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, suggested money be given to financial institutions instead of auto executives to "create marketplace pressures" on the industry as another option to consider in auto bailout discussions.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the federal government cannot allow the auto industry to fail and bankruptcy "is not a viable option" because it would "seal the death" of the industry.

A quickly devised, enforceable plan is needed, Schumer said, suggesting that the president appoint one person in the short term to pull in "all the players" to force concessions and offer incentives.

Given the sense of urgency, Dodaro said, "All options should be on the table."

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