Remember the Chrysler “hedge fund investors” that President Obama berated on national TV? Among these people labeled as “no goodniks” by the President were organizations such as the the Indiana State Teachers’ Retirement Fund, and the Police retirement fund. The President of the United States was trying to intimidate retired teaches from exercising their rights as primary investors. That’s the politics of change, screw a bunch of retired teachers to reward the UAW for helping you get elected.
Now that GM is nearing its bankruptcy a new group of investors are about to get the Presidential screw. Unlike the Chrysler investors, these are individuals, who put their retirement funds into General Motors’ bonds. Under the President’s plan the rights of these individual investors rights will be trampled upon for Obama to reward his UAW buddies. Below is the story of one of those individual investors, a retired trade worker from Warren, Mich:
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I am an American retiree. Like many small investors, I am relying on “safe” investments such as bonds backed by America’s largest companies to fund my retirement. One of these companies is General Motors.
First, let’s set the record straight about who owns GM’s bonds. We are hardworking families, individual investors and retirees who purchased billions of these bonds in $25, $50 and $100 increments. Many bonds were bought directly and others are held in our pension funds, 401(k) plans and other retirement programs.
I purchased GM bonds in 2005 and own $91,000 worth. These bonds account for a very sizeable portion of my retirement income, and so it is absolutely devastating to watch GM’s problems bring the once venerable company to the brink of failure. My standard of living is truly in jeopardy.
Despite the terrible position my fellow bondholders and I are in, we are being portrayed as the cause of GM’s problems and inability to restructure.
Who is perpetrating this myth? The American government, which is at once encouraging investment in U.S. companies and vilifying those who have already invested. Billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been used to stabilize companies to restore investor confidence. But how can investors be confident when they’re at risk of ending up on the wrong end of the government’s stick?
Even more disturbing: The government’s proposed restructuring plans benefit one class of retirees at the expense of another. I understand that we each have equal claims in bankruptcy. However, under the current plan GM’s union retirees will receive 39% of the restructured company and $10 billion in cash in exchange for $20 billion in claims. Bondholders, however, receive a mere 10% for $27 billion in claims in the form of stock (and no cash).
I am a retired dye-making trade worker and even worked in the auto industry during my career. I don’t understand why the government is penalizing people like me just for having funded my retirement with GM bonds. Bondholders, especially small bondholders, are being ignored in negotiations and singled out to bear the greatest share of the cost of restructuring GM.
We are not an unreasonable group. We understand that to save GM everyone will need to endure economic pain. But we are very troubled by the government’s decision to give UAW retirees — equal members, with the bondholders, of the unsecured creditor class — preferential treatment. The government cannot be permitted to rewrite bankruptcy rules on a whim to selectively benefit equal groups.
Small bondholders use the interest from GM bonds for everyday living expenses and cannot afford to see GM go bankrupt. And though we’ve been branded as an obstacle, small investors like me are in fact the solution. Our continued investment in U.S. companies and markets is critical to an economic recovery.
By treating investors fairly, GM could take the lead in making the market attractive once again.
Mr. Buchholtz is a retired trade worker from Warren, Mich.