It has come to this. Cerberus–the private equity firm full of well-connected Republicans like John Snow and Dan Quayle–has decided it can no longer continue to invest in Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook.
In its statement announcing the decision, it attempts to absolve itself of responsibility for killing 20 children.
In 2006 affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. made a financial investment in Freedom Group. Freedom Group does not sell weapons or ammunition directly to consumers, through gun shows or otherwise. Sales are made only to federally licensed firearms dealers and distributors in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. We do not believe that Freedom Group or any single company or individual can prevent senseless violence or the illegal use or procurement of firearms and ammunition.
It then couches its decision to sell Freedom in fiscal responsibility, not moral complicity.
It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level. The debate essentially focuses on the balance between public safety and the scope of the Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment. As a Firm, we are investors, not statesmen or policy makers. Our role is to make investments on behalf of our clients who are comprised of the pension plans of firemen, teachers, policemen and other municipal workers and unions, endowments, and other institutions and individuals. It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate. That is the job of our federal and state legislators.
There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take. Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group. [my emphasis]
But that mention of its clients, including teachers pension plans, is the real tell. As CNN suggests, it was likely pressure from the California Teacher’s pension fund that prompted this decision.
Yesterday we reported that one of the largest investors in Cerberus private equity funds was the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which subsequently said it would review its indirect investment in Freedom Group (it made no such pledge following the Aurora shooting, where a Bushmaster rifle also was used).
In any case, having made the decision to sell Freedom, things will now get interesting for Cerberus, as the sharp decline in gun stocks will force Cerberus to sell Freedom at a big loss.
Often when something like that happens–most spectacularly when Cerberus decided to sell Chrysler–it asks for a bailout. Will John Snow and Dan Quayle orchestrate a federal bailout for themselves again, as they did with the auto bailout?
I’ve been a bit tardy in responding to Mitt’s latest cynical ploy, to pretend that rather than expanding production and jobs in both OH and MI, Chrysler is outsourcing production to China.
But there’s an angle on Mitt’s claims that has been missed. His ad says,
Obama … sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps, in China.
As Shepardson notes, Chrysler used to build Jeeps in China for the Chinese market. Ford builds cars in China for the Chinese market. GM builds cars in China for the Chinese market (GM also exports Chinese-built subcompacts to Latin America). Chrysler’s return to the world’s largest car market is smart business, something any viable global brand needs to do.
If it’s a moral failing for Presidents to preside over private car companies trying to compete in China, then Mitt has a problem with St. Reagan, during whose Administration Jeep first made groundbreaking entries into the Chinese market.
And if Mitt has a problem with Chrysler (or Ford or GM) building cars in China to sell in China, then he had better prepare to get far tougher with China than he has threatened to do so far. China still slaps huge tariffs on cars made outside of the country, so to be viable in the world’s largest automotive market, you have to build in China. That is the crux of the argument American car companies (and Midwestern politicians) have been making for decades: while the US allows imports from all countries, Japan and Korea and now China make it very difficult to export to those countries. This is not fair trade.
But I’m most offended by Mitt’s insinuation that selling Chrysler to an Italian company–he doesn’t mention Fiat by name–was disloyal.
Recall Chrysler’s recent history. Chrysler’s most recent strong point was the early 2000s, when it succeeded in developing nifty (albeit gimmicky) cars with shortened development cycles (think PT Cruiser). But as Daimler took more control over Chrysler, it invested less in the brand. GOP Private Equity firm Cerberus bought its first 80% of the company in 2007 and picked up the rest in 2009.
Cerberus had no intention of bringing Chrysler back to its former strength. Rather, it wanted to strip out the finance side of the company (it was investing in GMAC at the same time) and sell off the rest. But with the impending financial crisis, it never managed to pull off the trick (though it did get a bank bailout in the very last days of the Bush Administration). Meanwhile, it virtually put the Chrysler model development on autopilot while it tried to find a way to cut its losses.
Thus, when it came time for bailouts, there didn’t seem much to bail out at Chrysler. Unlike GM, which really had started making a turnaround, Chrysler had no product in the pipeline to suggest it would be worth bailing out (though it did have a few super efficient factories in the US).
Choosing to bailout Chrysler was the most difficult decision Obama made during the auto bailout. I’m not even sure I would have chosen to bail it out. And it was difficult precisely because a bunch of Republican vulture capitalist types–people like former VP Dan Quayle and former Treasury Secretary John Snow–had stripped the company.
In came Fiat and its Steve Jobs-like CEO Sergio Marchionne. Continue reading
So Mitt is still trying to dig himself out of the hole he created when he declared, “Let Detroit go bankrupt”?
I suspect most of the commentary on this ad will focus on the irony that, had Mitt had his way, all of GM’s dealers would have gone under, and without the buyout deals they ultimately got.
Me, I’m a bit surprised that Mitt didn’t choose an IN Chrysler dealer. Not only did Chrysler offer its dealers a much stingier package, but some dealers from IN fought losing their franchises all the way to SCOTUS, and some are still suing over “takings.”
But I’m most surprised by the sparse language used here to portray a dealer closure: “I received a letter from General Motors: they were suspending my credit line.”
Credit lines?!?!? Mitt wants to tug at heart strings and hit Obama with an attack akin to the Bain attacks that are working so well in swing states by invoking credit lines?!?!? Really?
Yes, it is true that at the heart of any car dealer is a credit line. But by including that in this ad, it seems to me, Mitt does several things. It reminds everyone who knows what role a credit line plays in a car dealer that the precipitating cause of the auto crash was the credit crash. It reminds viewers that the banksters, in killing their own industry, also killed the car industry. And not just any banksters, either. In GM’s case, the bankster in question was 51% owned by Cerberus Capital, a bunch of high profile Republicans (Dan Quayle and John Snow, among others) who were trying to do what Mitt got rich off: looting companies (in Cerberus’ case, including Chrysler) while profiting from the financialization that such looting offered. Only they were so bad at it, they effectively had to be bailed out by the taxpayers along with GM and Chrysler.
Thus, the villain in this ad–at least as described by the dealer–is someone just like Mitt, only stupider. The villain in the ad is not Obama–not to people who know how the auto industry works. It’s Mitt’s stupid Republican friends.
Investors in hedge funds run by Cerberus Capital Management LP, whose audacious multi-billion dollar bet on the U.S. auto industry went bust, are bolting for the door, clinching one of the highest-profile falls from grace of a superstar in the investment world.
Clients are withdrawing more than $5.5 billion, or nearly 71% of the hedge fund assets, in response to big investment losses and their own need for cash, according to people familiar with the matter.
"We have been surprised by this response," Cerberus chief Stephen Feinberg and co-founder William Richter wrote in a letter delivered to clients late Thursday.
And while I suggested I would keep my schadenfreude in check until such time as I got to see Cerberus’ Senate defender, Bob Corker, weep, I just couldn’t resist two points.
First, who the hell thought a financial institution in which John Snow, 43’s failed Treasury secretary, and Dan Quayle, 41’s laughable Vice President, had significant management roles would succeed? Sure, having Snow and Quayle on board promised that people like Corker would subvert the national interest in favor of his buddies at Cerberus. But even an institution wired into the best crony network must exhibit some basic competence.
And, too, I take some joy that this model of financialized predation has failed. Yeah, Cerberus is not singlehandedly responsible for Chrysler’s failure. But it is nice to see Cerberus pay for its efforts to suck some value out of a company by extracting its financial wing at the expense of its productive core.
It’s just a damned pity that so many real human beings have suffered in the interim.
Now for an update from the most loathsome intersection of the financial and the auto crisis…
You’ll recall that last we heard, Chrysler was hoping to stay alive long enough to have Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne swoop in and save it. Even if that happens, though, Chrysler will need to get some customers to buy its cars until such a time as Marchionne can do his magic.
And to get customers, they’re going to need to get credit to offer those customers. As a reminder, to get credit, they’re sort of reliant on Chrysler Financial, a separate company from Chrysler, the part Cerberus wants to keep.
Only, the flunkies that John Snow and Dan Quayle have running Chrysler Financial are refusing to take government money to get that credit because–you guessed it–they don’t want executive pay limits.
Top officials at Chrysler Financial turned away a $750 million government loan because executives didn’t want to abide by new federal limits on pay, sources familiar with the matter say.
The government had been offering the loan earlier this month as part of its efforts to prop up the ailing auto industry, including Chrysler, which is racing to avoid bankruptcy. Chrysler Financial is a vital lender to Chrysler dealerships and customers.
In forgoing the loan, Chrysler Financial opted to use more expensive financing from private banks, adding to the burdens of the already fragile automaker and its financing company.
Oh. And don’t wory. Jamie Dimon and Vikram Pandit are in on the act, too:
But by forgoing the government loan, the company must borrow money from a group of private banks, including JP Morgan and Citigroup, sources said. That line of financing had been arranged in August, when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy, according to an industry official. The financing from the private banks comes at a higher borrowing cost for Chrysler Financial, a source said.
Because that’s what Michigan needs, to owe JP Morgan Chase more money.
Read the whole story. It’ll get you saying "loathsome" too.
So nice to see the guy who used to be Vice President and the guy who used to be Treasury Secretary showing such an interest in the future of our country.