Financial Assistance:

Ongoing Challenges and Guiding Principles Related to Government Assistance For Private Sector Companies

GAO-10-719: Published: Aug 3, 2010. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 2010.

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The recent financial crisis resulted in a wide-ranging federal response that included providing extraordinary assistance to several major corporations. As a result of actions under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and others, the government was a shareholder in the American International Group Inc. (AIG); Bank of America; Citigroup, Inc. (Citigroup); Chrysler Group LLC (Chrysler); General Motors Company (GM); Ally Financial/GMAC, Inc. (GMAC); and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (Enterprises). The government ownership interest in these companies resulted from financial assistance that was aimed at stabilizing the financial markets, housing finance, or specific market segments. This report (1) describes the government's ownership interest and evaluates the extent of government involvement in these companies, (2) discusses the government's management and monitoring of its investments and exit strategies, and (3) identifies lessons learned from the federal actions. This work was done in part with the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) and involved reviewing relevant documentation related to these companies and the federal assistance provided. GAO interviewed officials at Treasury, Federal Reserve, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the banking regulators, as well as the senior executives and relevant officials at the companies that received exceptional assistance.

The extent of government equity interest in companies receiving exceptional assistance varied and ranged from owning preferred shares with no voting rights except in limited circumstances (Bank of America until it repurchased its shares in 2009) to owning common shares with voting rights (Chrysler, Citigroup, GM, and GMAC) to acting as a conservator (the Enterprises). In each case, the government required changes to the companies' corporate governance structures and executive compensation. For example, of the 92 directors currently serving on boards of these companies, 73 were elected since November 2008. Many of these new directors were nominated by their respective boards, while others were designated by the government and other significant shareholders as a result of their common share ownership. The level of involvement in the companies varied depending on whether the government served as an investor, creditor, or conservator. For example, as an investor in Bank of America, Citigroup, and GMAC, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) had minimal or no involvement in their activities. As both an investor in and a creditor of AIG, Chrysler, and GM--as a condition of receiving assistance--the government has required some combination of the restructuring of their companies, the submission of periodic financial reports, and greater interaction with company personnel. FHFA--using its broad authority as a conservator--has instituted a number of requirements and practices that involve them in the Enterprises.