Steven Rattner, the former head of the United States auto task force and dubbed President Barack Obama's car czar, called the auto industry's 2009 bailout an unambiguous success Thursday. But he acknowledged that taxpayers, footing the $82 billion bill to bail out Chrysler, General Motors and Ally Financial, will lose about $14 billion of their investment.
Rattner spoke to the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday, and he told reporters afterward that he would have stressed more concessions from workers or creditors.
If we had more time, we might have asked all the stakeholders to sacrifice a little bit more, Rattner told reporters, according to MLive.com. We didn't ask any active worker to cut his or her pay. We didn't ask them to sacrifice any of their pension and we maybe could have asked them to do a little bit more.
Some of the stakeholders are the members of the United Auto Workers union, none of whom were forced to take a pay cut or asked to reduce their pensions. Other stakeholders -- creditors -- received more than they would have in a liquidation setting, according to Reuters.
But despite the eventual loss for the taxpaying stakeholders, Rattner said that at the time of the bailout, action was essential. He admitted his bias in calling the investment a success, but he said that at least 500,000 jobs were on the line. According to a 2010 study performed by The Center for Automotive Research, the government intervention saved 1.14 million jobs.
Rattner, who now is a commentator on cable television and manages New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's finances, said the work he did in the government bailout was the most meaningful thing he's done in his professional career.
Rattner said action was necessary because it was not even a near-death experience -- a death experience for GM. That's when the U.S. government took a majority stake in GM. Italian automaker Fiat SpA took over Chrylser.
Rattner said he has been impressed with how GM has fared since the U.S. government took over its operations, despite the company's shares nearly losing one-third of their value since its initial offering in November 2010.
The world is very pessimistic right now, and I think these companies are doing great, Rattner said, according to MLive.com. I think the stocks are very attractive, so I would not be a seller of these stocks at this price.