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GMAC's Hail Mary Pass

by Laura Conaway
Oct 28, 2009

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Laura Conaway

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On today's Planet Money:

GMAC is on the way to achieving the special distinction of three federal bailouts. The financial institution (and parent company of Planet Money sponsor Ally Bank) has already received $12.5 billion in assistance, for which the government has taken a stake of nearly 35 percent in the company.

Columbia economist Charles Calomiris says the GMAC case is textbook example of the dangers that come with taxpayer bailouts.

Calomiris says the government ends up giving money to keep a foundering bank afloat. The bank takes what's known as "resurrection risk," the economic equivalent of football's Hail Mary pass.

There's more. Paul Merski, senior vice president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, says that with government backing in place, GMAC is getting an unfair competitive advantage.

Bonus: After the jump, the Ally Bank ads that made them mad.

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Ally Bank spokesperson Gina Proia says depositors get higher rates there because of its online model. Ally carries less overhead than a traditional brick-and-mortar bank, she says.

In its recent ad campaign, the GMAC subsidiary has poked fun at traditional banks, which has not made the traditional banks any too happy. A couple of samples:

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