| WASHINGTON, Sept 11
WASHINGTON, Sept 11 The former head of President
Barack Obama's auto task force acknowledged on Wednesday that he
instructed General Motors not to commit money to a pension fund
for some former employees during the automaker's 2009
"We concluded it was not commercially reasonable," Steven
Rattner, who directed the bailout of the auto sector during the
height of the nation's financial crisis, told a U.S. House of
Republican lawmakers have criticized the decision as an
example of overly deep meddling by the Obama administration in
"The administration picked winners and losers," Congressman
Michael Turner, a Republican from Ohio, said during the hearing.
The government plans to exit GM by early 2014. Taxpayers are
likely to lose billions of dollars on the bailout.
Rattner and other members of the task force defended their
decisions, telling lawmakers their job was to make sure GM
emerged from bankruptcy as a viable company. Had the automaker
disappeared, many other companies in the auto industry would
also have gone under, they said. That would have worsened what
was already a deep recession.
"It is not easy to make these kinds of decisions under any
circumstances; it was particularly challenging in the crisis
atmosphere GM was facing at the time," Rattner told lawmakers.
Under the bailout, which involved the company going bankrupt
and the U.S. government paying some $50 billion to take
ownership of it, the automaker agreed to fully fund pension
obligations of former employees who were members of the United
Auto Workers union and had worked at GM's Delphi unit before it
was spun off in 1999.
The auto task force told GM not to do the same for salaried
employees at Delphi who had also worked at GM before the
spinoff, Rattner said.
"There were any number of places and times where General
Motors would recommend or suggest doing something that we did
not feel was commercially reasonable and this was one of them,"
Washington has been winding down its stake in the automaker,
which has returned to profit and rejoined the S&P 500 stock
index in June.