The US government has announced a plan to sell the remaining 300 million shares of preferred stock it bought to bail out General Motors.
The Obama administration today took the next step in its plan to exit ownership of General Motors, initiating a plan to sell its remaining 300.1 million shares in the automaker.
Last month, the U.S. Treasury sold 200 million shares of common stock back to GM and announced its plan to get rid of the remaining shares in the coming months. As of now, the govenrment owns a 19% stake in the company.
Treasury this week announced that it had brought on JPMorgan Securities and Citigroup Global Markets to sell its remaining shares. The plan is for the administration to divest itself of the remaining investment in the next 12 to 15 months.
The administration took a huge stake in GM when it provided $49.5 billion to the automaker as part of its rescue of both it and Chrysler.
It's still not known how much the investment will end up costing taxpayers in the end. Last month's sale of 200 million shares at $27.50 a share - a premium to the market price - brought in an additional $5.5 billion, but even if the remaining shares were sold at that price, it would still mean a $12.6-billion loss on the GM investment.
But it has been trading above that mark in recent weeks - it was around $29 a share at midday Friday - and any increase in the share price could result in additional money back for the Treasury.
Obama administration officials have been saying for months - especially through last year's presidential campaign - that even if the government lost money, it was worth it to save as many as a million jobs directly or indirectly linked to the auto industry.
The administration's case for the bail out was always predicated on the notion that GM, after bankruptcy, would be liquidated and simply disappear. All those jobs at GM and in the auto parts industry were saved thanks to government intervention.
The only way that would have been the case is if the government allowed it to happen. A managed bankruptcy, as envisioned by Mitt Romney, would have saved GM, strengthened its international competitiveness by loosening the death grip of unions, and brought the company back to profitability.
It doesn't matter if the taxpayer loses or makes money off the bail out. The action taken by government constituted a moral hazard and should never have been initiated. "Too big to fail" should never be an option -- not when other choices can be made.