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12/22/2008



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Congressmen seek leaseback agreement relief for transit agencies


Late last week, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a group of congressmen in urging the president to include funding relief for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and 31 other transit agencies as part of the auto industry rescue plan.

The agencies could collectively owe up to $14 billion to various banks for being in default of Sale-In/Lease-Out and Lease-In/Lease-Out agreements as a result of the credit crisis. During the past 20 years, the Federal Transit Administration has encouraged the agreements as a way for transit agencies to gain additional revenue. Agencies would sell assets to a bank, which then would lease them back to the agency. To secure the transactions, sale proceeds in the form of treasury securities were placed into an account that insurers, such as American Insurance Group (AIG), guaranteed. However, the deals required the insurer to maintain a AAA credit rating. Since AIG's credit was downgraded, the agencies are in technical default of their agreements.

Now, WMATA alone could face up to $400 million in direct payments to banks on 16 lease agreements, according to the agency.

Funding to help the agencies had been included in the domestic automobile relief act agreed to by the White House and House, but that measure failed in the Senate earlier this month.


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