Though the corporate logo never appeared on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, the U.S. government long viewed General Motors as one of the country’s biggest public enemies.
Back in the 1960s, when the automaker controlled more than half the American auto market, the government began a long-running, but ultimately futile, anti-trust effort to break GM up. It hauled the maker into court to try to force the recall of millions of midsize cars equipped with allegedly faulty brakes. And time and time again, the government and GM lawyers battled over issues ranging from the environment to consumer rights.
After today, such protracted legal battles might no longer be necessary. If General Motors emerges from the bankruptcy it will file for today, the federal government is expected to hold a 60% stake in the “new” GM. The White House, the steward for the multi-billion dollar taxpayer investment, has already shown the power it can wield, when it ousted former CEO Rick Wagoner, in March, replacing him with the company’s current chief executive, Fritz Henderson.
But just how much control does the government actually intend to take? Not much, insisted several senior White House officials, speaking on background, Sunday night. The Obama Administration “does not intend to exert day-to-day control,” asserted one top member, despite holding a dominant share, and getting to not only name one of the reformed GM’s board members but influence the choice of others. “The government,” said the official, “intends to be extremely disciplined in how it uses even these extremely limited rights.” (more…)