The mad rush for federal handouts is officially on, and the latest twist involves mega-lender GMAC LLC, co-owned by General Motors Corp. (GM) and Cerberus Capital Management LP — media reports Wednesday morning suggested the financial giant is mulling a commercial bank charter in order to access some of the $700 billion funds approved by Congress under the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Resolution Program, or TARP. Of course, GMAC is far from the only firm clamoring for access to capital via TARP — that’s a list that now includes insurers, to municipal funds, to community banks — but the idea that GMAC might twist and turn its way into a commercial bank shows just how far companies are willing to go to get funding, now that the government has made capital available to certain financial firms. The Wall Street Journal broke the story of GMAC’s plans, citing sources close to the firm. The plan involves a complex GM-Chrysler merger discussion that would give Cerberus a much larger stake than its current 51 percent in GMAC, allowing the lender to convert to a commercial banking charter, the Journal reported. While much of the discussion around GMAC has thus far centered on the financial company’s auto financing arm and lobbying by Detroit around the importance of saving the U.S. auto industry, the firm also owns troubled residential mortgage lender Residential Capital, LLC — so a conversion to a bank holding company would allow ResCap to tap into TARP funding as well. On Sept. 3, ResCap cut 60 percent of its workforce and exit wholesale mortgage banking amid continuing struggles, leaving it with only a small correspondent and direct lending channels for future originations. ResCap reported a net loss of $1.86 billion for the second quarter at the end of July; the loss came after a massive $60 billion refinancing package earlier in the quarter had saved it from likely bankruptcy. The mortgage lender has also been very aggressive on litigating repurchases claims for both its residential and commercial mortgage business, according to a review of active case dockets by HousingWire. See complete story. The Treasury has already marked $250 billion in TARP funds as capital injections for approved commercial banks; the capital needs at GMAC alone would use up a good chunk of the remaining funds, HW’s source said. In other words, as we’ve heard from sources since the TARP was first announced, $700 billion isn’t nearly enough. Write to Paul Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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