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Q&A: Making Sense Of The Chrysler Bankruptcy

4973210The announcement today that Chrysler is filing for bankruptcy came with something of a populist outburst from President Obama. The president sought to portray the move as an important step towards the Chrysler's eventual revival, and lauded the sacrifices made by the autoworkers' union and the majority debt holders. But he also took a swipe at hedge fund managers for what he described as their decision to hold out for a taxpayer bailout.

"I don't stand with them," Mr. Obama said. "I don't stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices."

There were strong words, but they left us wondering: What is really going on here?

To find out, we asked CBS News business Producer Guy Campanile to break down Chrysler's collapse and talk about how the fallout will impact investors. Do we know who these investment firms and hedge funds are that the president is criticizing?

Campanile: Oppenheimer Funds, Perella Weinberg Partners and Stairway Capital. They refused to accept $2 billion on the nearly $7 Billion Chrysler owes them. Is he being fair in going after them?

Campanile: The investment funds are acting in the best interests of their investors. It's clear the fund managers believe bankruptcy court provides them with a better chance of recovering the money they are owed by Chrysler. Did they gamble and lose, or might they still come out ahead in bankruptcy court?

Campanile: We'll have to see. Chrysler and President Obama hope to emerge from bankruptcy in just two months. Many wonder if that is realistic. All it takes is one lawsuit or one lender to raise an objection and the bankruptcy process could be gummed up for months. Auto parts maker Delphi has been in bankruptcy since 2005. LTV Steel needed 7 years. United Airlines took 3. What impact will bankruptcy have on Chrysler's short-term sales?

Campanile: The impact of bankruptcy on consumers considering the purchase of a Chrysler is a critical factor in all of this. If Chapter 11 turns them off, Chrysler will be pushed into even more dire trouble. A CNW Research survey last year of people intending to buy a new car within six months discovered that more than 80 percent of them would switch brands if the vehicle they wanted came from an automaker that went bankrupt. Chrysler fared the worst in the survey --- with 91% saying they would not buy a Chrysler if the company went bankrupt. The up to $8 billion in financing that the administration is promising - is Obama backtracking off an earlier pledge to not provide more government assistance?

Campanile: The Obama Administration always maintained it would provide the needed funding for a restructuring if it was presented with a plan that would make Chrysler viable long term. It appears Chrysler has met that criteria. It'll take at least two years until we really know if the investment paid off.

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