Sunday, November 1, 2009

U.S. regulators let CIT Group go under despite $2 billion investment

Why would the government allow a 100-year-old lender that provided funds to hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses fail while bailing out large sectors of the financial system? That was the obvious question Sunday when CIT Group Inc. of New York filed for bankruptcy under the weight of nearly $65 billion in debt, according to the Reuters international news service. The bankruptcy is the fifth largest in U.S. corporate history, and sidelines, at least temporarily, a major source of financing for a sector of the economy responsible for nearly half of the nation's jobs. CIT said in a statement that it hoped to eliminate $10 billion of debt in bankruptcy and emerge quickly. The company has $71 billion in assets. “The decision to proceed with our plan of reorganization will allow CIT to continue to provide funding to our small business and middle market customers, two sectors that remain vitally important to the U.S. economy,” CIT's chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Peek, said in a prepared statement. “This market-based solution allows CIT to enter into the reorganization process well-prepared and positioned for a swift emergence. We also acknowledge our constructive working relationship with our regulators and look forward to their continued guidance as we move through this process.” Analysts said the 101-year-old company was a victim of the global credit crisis, Reuters said, as its loan porfolio suffered heavy losses and it ultimately was unable to raise enough money by selling bonds. In a letter to customers on Nov. 1, CIT said none of its subsidiary businesses, such as CIT Bank of Utah, would be affected by the bankruptcy filing. But the U.S. taxpayer is affected, since CIT received $2.33 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program in December. The government will only be repaid now if any money is left after banks and bond investors are paid because it is considered a preferred stockholder. Holders of CIT's common stock will not be repaid, Reuters said.

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