Sen. Lloyd Bensten, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, raised questions Saturday about huge leveraged buyouts and said the Senate is likely to begin hearings on the multibillion-dollar deals in early February.
In an interview with ABC's "Business World," Bentsen, D-Texas, noted there is substantial concern over the buyouts and the loss of government revenue as a result of them.Bentsen's comments followed this week's record $24.8 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco Inc. by the New York firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
"We are going to have a very difficult time meeting our targets on Gramm-Rudman," Bentsen said, referring to the law requiring Congress to reign in the deficit. "As we lose these tax revenues, that compounds the problem."
Because tax laws allow corporate tax deductions for interest paid on a loan, RJR Nabisco will likely pay no income tax for many years to come - a huge revenue loss for the U.S. government.
Bentsen said that, as a result of that tax loophole, taxpayers help finance leveraged buyouts in which a group of investors buy a company and use the company's assets as collateral.
"Some have proposed that we do away with the deductibility of interest on these acquisitions but it is not as simple as that," Bentsen said. "This is one of those subjects where you have a lot more questions than you do answers."
Bentsen said Congress would likely give "immediate support and overwhelming support until they started studying (eliminating the deductibility for interest) and seeing some of the problems that are incurred in the process" - including possibly giving an advantage to foreign investors.
But the Texas senator said he expected the Senate to hold hearings on the subject of leveraged buyouts "early in February."