US government exits General Motors image

On Monday, the U.S. government sold its last shares of automaker General Motors Co, marking an end to a historic bailout of one of America’s most storied companies.

Washington came to the rescue of the U.S. auto sector during the darkest days of the country’s 2007-09 financial crisis, as the nation was sinking further into what would become its deepest recession since the Great Depression.

“This important chapter in our nation’s history is now closed,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.

The money pumped into the industry came from a $700 billion pool of funds Congress had assembled to shore up the banking system and fight a growing panic on Wall Street.
Taxpayers could still turn a profit from those rescue efforts, despite losses on programs to help housing and autos.

The government took a loss of more than $1 billion on its investments in Detroit automaker Chrysler, while taxpayers remain intertwined with GM’s former lending arm, Ally Financial Inc. In GM’s case, the sale leaves taxpayers short about $10 billion of the funds that the Treasury sank into the automaker in 2009.

“When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: the ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong,” President Barack Obama said.

America’s largest automaker, General Motors was seen for generations as a symbol of the country’s industrial prowess. The crisis, however, humbled the firm and it briefly entered bankruptcy in 2009.

“We will always be grateful for the second chance extended to us and we are doing our best to make the most of it,” GM Chairman and Chief Executive Dan Akerson said in a statement.

The bailout was hugely controversial. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called it “crony capitalism.”

Via Reuters