GMAC Latest to Seek Bank Status, Access to Treasury Funds

GMAC Financial Services, the mammoth auto and mortgage financing arm tied to U.S. auto giant General Motors Corp. (GM), said early Thursday that it had submitted an application to the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company, in an attempt to access funds under the Treasury’s capital purchase program. The move is not unexpected, as officials at GMAC confirmed that they were considering the application in late October. The ailing lender also said it had begun an offer to exchange $38 billion in debt issued by the company and its struggling mortgage unit, Residential Capital LLC. The moves come as GMAC looks to calm speculation over its future, and as a bailout of the U.S. automakers looks — for the moment — to be stuck in the proverbial mud. “As a bank holding company, GMAC would obtain increased flexibility and stability to fulfill its core mission of providing automotive and mortgage financing to consumers and businesses,” the company said in a press statement. “GMAC also expects to have expanded opportunities for funding and for access to capital as a bank holding company.” The debt exchange offers are needed to boost capital levels to minimum regulatory requirements for a bank holding company, GMAC noted. Officials at the company said on Oct. 30 that a move to become a bank holding company would entail an effort to raise “significant” levels of new capital. The move to bank status may be the only way the GMAC can keep its ResCap unit afloat. The ailing mortgage lender posted a $1.9 billion third quarter loss, leading GMAC to warn on Nov. 5 that the future of ResCap was in doubt. ResCap later disclosed in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had run afoul of net worth covenants with Fannie Mae (FNM) that put the status of its seller and servicer contract with the GSE into question. See story. The line gets longer Bloomberg News reported Thursday morning that its data shows that more than 100 financial-related firms have thus far applied to the government for ARP funding, with 57 receiving preliminary or final approval. Total requests made under the capital purchase program have run $65.8 billion of the $250 billion earmarked by Treasury; $125 billion was allocated to the nine largest U.S. banks, and another $125 billion for regional and community lenders. Firms have scrambed in recent weeks to become banks, in order to access funding from the Treasury. HousingWire took a broad look at this trend in a feature last week. Cities including Altanta and Philadelphia have begun lobbying lawmakers and government officials for access to TARP funding, saying they have growing deficits and a need to retain critical services for citizens. Insurers have been quick to reach for bank status, as well, as losses mount from their own mortgage-related exposures. Key insurers — Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Genworth Financial Inc., Lincoln National Corp. and Aegon NV, a Dutch company that owns U.S. insurer Transamerica — have asked government officials to allow them to buy a thrift, so they’d be eligible for bailout funding via the TARP. Genworth earlier this week filed for savings and loan holding company status. Credit unions are also hatching a plan to borrow Treasury funds to offer a sort of hybrid bailout/loan modification program which would see participating CUs receive goverment funds and pass rate reductions on to struggling low- and moderate-income borrowers in the form of temporarily lowered monthly mortgage payments. Read the report. Write to Paul Jackson at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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