Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the shark invested waters of big time finance comes word that America's car company - literally - GM, lost $4.3 billion 2009 covering the period from its emergence from bankruptcy in July through the end of the year.
So, GM accomplished that in only about six months.
Remember that its old corporate leadership said it would never need government money, then flew into Washington to beg for government money on a private jet, then got sent home to ponder their own stupidity, then drove from Michigan to Washington in the equivalent of the Joad family pick-up, then telling its bond-holders that it was too bad they were going to get approximately nothing for their paper, then selling a 60 percent stake to the U.S. government … after all that, and with a new leadership team, they still lost $4.3 billion.
How's that investment working out for us so far?
And that's the good news.
According to the "Pensions & Investments" website, GM and Chrysler will have "to make required contributions totaling $14.92 billion to their pension plans by 2014 to comply with federal funding requirements, according to a Government Accountability Office report."
Of that, $12.3 billion is GM's problem.
Let's see. This is 2010. GM lost north of $4 billion last year. In addition to making that up, they will have to find an additional $4 billion per year in profits just to make their pension plan contributions.
But, wait! The two largest stockholders in GM are you and me (61 percent). That means we're responsible for that money. As luck would have it there is an insurance fund for pension plans - similar to the FDIC for banks. It's called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
The best thing about the PBGC is … it's fun to say. Go ahead. Try it. P…B…G…C. Now faster PBGC. See?
Where was I? Oh, if a company defaults on its pension plan contributions then the PBGC makes up some portion of that shortfall. As an example, according to the General Accountability Office (GAO) because former GM subsidiary Delphi Corporation "terminated its pension plans, the PBGC estimates it will have to finance about $6.2 billion of Delphi's pension funding shortfall."