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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I would like to discuss with the chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Durbin, as manager of the Financial Services Subcommittee section of the bill before the Senate, language included in the bill that creates a binding arbitration process for auto dealers associated with General Motors and Chrysler whose contracts were terminated as part of the manufacturers' restructuring efforts this year.
The difficult decisions made during the last year have highlighted the interconnectedness of the industry and have shown the impact that these companies have in every State in the country. I particularly understand how difficult this situation has been for Michigan auto dealers. My father and grandfather ran the Oldsmobile dealership in Clare, MI, where I grew up. My very first job was washing cars on that lot.
Thousands of employees, either directly employed by the companies or through the thousands of dealerships and suppliers, depend on the viability of the auto manufacturers. Without the manufacturers, there is no dealer network, and small businesses across the country would close, adding more devastating job losses as our economy is trying to recover. What we do here must continue to ensure a healthy future for the auto companies as they work towards a profitable future. When negotiating an agreement for arbitration was it the Chairman's intent that the dealers entitled to this arbitration process would only be the dealers that were terminated as a result of the bankruptcy?
Mr. DURBIN. Yes, it is my understanding that the only dealerships entitled to arbitration are those dealerships that were terminated as a result of the manufacturers' bankruptcy, rather than those that may have closed for other business reasons.
Ms. STABENOW. The statutory language for the arbitration process provides criteria that will be used to review each case. Is it the Chairman's goal that by considering the economic interest of the public at large the arbitrator should focus on maximizing the return of taxpayer dollars that have been invested in the company?
Mr. DURBIN. Yes, the economic interest of the public at large must be considered to ensure that the investments will be recovered as quickly as possible.
Ms. STABENOW. Additionally, when reviewing the cases, does the statutory language ensure arbitrators take into consideration the stability and protection of the existing dealer network?
Mr. DURBIN. Yes, the statutory language will allow arbitrators to review the potential impact of reinstating a dealership on the existing dealer network for the covered manufacturer, as well as on any dealer retained by the covered manufacturer in a given market territory.
Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Chairman for these clarifications and for his ongoing efforts to ensure a fair process for all stakeholders as the auto industry continues to restructure.
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