The sale leaves taxpayers short about $10 billion of the funds that
the Treasury sank into the automaker in 2009.
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 <ALLY_pb.N>.
But the auto bailout helped Detroit's carmakers return to
profitability, and a study released on Monday by the Center for
Automotive Research said it saved 1.5 million U.S. jobs and
preserved $105.3 billion in personal and social insurance tax
"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
[to top of second column]
The company is currently benefiting from rising consumer demand in
the United States. Across the U.S. auto market last month, Americans
bought vehicles at their fastest pace in more than six years.
GM recorded a profit of $4.3 billion for the first nine months of
this year. Shareholders have also profited, although gains in the
company's shares since its 2010 public offering have trailed far
behind a broader stock market rally.
With the government's exit, GM will now be allowed to pay
dividends for the first time since the IPO. GM also may be able to
offer a more generous and competitive compensation package if its
board elects to search for outside candidates to succeed Akerson.
And over the coming years, the closing of the bailout chapter might
help the company lose some of the stigma from taking $49.5 billion
in government money.
"They can finally put ‘Government Motors' in the rear view mirror,"
said Matthew Stover, an auto analyst at Guggenheim Securities.
"That's an important step for consumers and for the company."
(Reporting by Jason Lange; additional
reporting by Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by
Diane Craft, Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)
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