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You Can't Have it Both Ways With GM

Shortly after GM announced on Tuesday that it would resume political contributions, a friend said to me, "These guys are unbelievable. They shouldn't be able to make contributions as long as the government owns a stake in them."

General Motors Headquarters
AP
General Motors Headquarters

It's a fair opinion.

After all, if the largest shareholder in GM is influencing what candidates and campaigns the company donates to, doesn't that smack of being out of line?

Sure GM will promise that the Treasury Department won't dictate its political contributions, but for many it won't matter. They won't be happy until the feds liquidate their stake in GM. But now it comes out that a Chinese auto maker is interested in taking a stake in GM when the IPO happens. This also rubs people the wrong way. They don't like the idea of a foreign company, especially one from China, owning part of GM.

And so we have the on-going problem with GM emerging as a publicly traded company. Critics say, "We shouldn't be in the car business and should not own any of GM." But as the company moves towards being publicly traded, they scream "no way" if the GM makes a move that worries them.

You can't have it both ways with GM.

As the company works towards going public, it will take steps that should strengthen the company. Not all of them will work. Many will not. But as a company, it should make those moves without being second guessed. When it's a publicly traded company again, if you like where it's headed and want a say in its direction, buy some shares and speak up. If you don't like where it's headed, steer clear.

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One thing is certain.

By the time GM goes public, many taxpayers will be ticked off about how the company is being run.

That's understandable given the nature of the federal bail out.

Now those people need to realize GM is a company working towards independence and towards making choices they may not like.


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