General Motors announced today that its Chief Financial Officer, Chris Liddell, will be leaving the company on April 1st. GM shares hit a new low of $30.95 on the news. Mr. Liddell joined GM in January of 2010. Having served for over a year, Liddell has exceeded the average stay of top executives at GM. GM has gone through three CEOs since they emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009.
From the 1st quarter through the 4th quarter of 2010, GM's lobbying expenses more than doubled from $1.8 million to $3.89 million - a 113% increase. After all, when the government is your largest shareholder, your company execs will inevitably be spending an inordinate amount of time cozying up to Washington politicians.
Moreover, GM's lobbyist team reads like a who's who of the government bailout business. And why wouldn't it? When you're lobbying Washington to privatize gains for your clients and socialize their losses among taxpayers, you hire those firms with the most experience representing other notorious companies that received massive bailouts by U.S. taxpayers - Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, AIG and others.
News coverage of General Motors over the past few weeks has painted an increasingly glowing picture, but here's a dose of reality: GM still has not repaid taxpayers for the bailout and it's looking less and less like taxpayers will ever be made whole.
General Motors' stock hit an all-time low today of $31 and change. That's right, "all-time." Today's GM is a new company that did not exist two years ago. In an effort to shed liabilities and force sacrifices from creditors while protecting the UAW, GM emerged from bankruptcy as a totally new company. The media inaccurately reported that GM had its best earnings since 1999, but it has not given a clear picture of the situation at GM. Biased media coverage is a story in itself, but let's look at why GM has not done as well as the pundits predicted, and why it is likely to continue to struggle.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is supposed to be an objective finder of fact for the U.S. Congress. Last year it weighed in on the controversy over aid to students attending for-profit colleges with a critical study which appeared to cast aspersions on the practices of some 15 for-profit colleges. The study was ballyhooed by the Obama Department of Education that supported a double standard of regulations: one for taxpayer-supported community colleges and a much tougher one for the for-profit schools.
BP Plc, whose Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history last year, co-owns the well that was granted the first deepwater drilling permit since the disaster.
BP is Noble Energy Inc's partner in the well, holding a 46.5 percent interest, BP said.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appears today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He will hopefully answer questions about his refusal to allow deepwater drilling to resume in the Gulf of Mexico, despite a federal judge twice ruling that the moratorium is illegal.
The BP oil spill was a disaster, but not as big of a disaster as the moratorium that followed. The granting of exactly one drilling permit to Noble Energy this week underscores just how cynical and politicized Salazar's response has been. Last week, Salazar said that he would not bow to "political pressure" to restart drilling, standing reality on its head.
The media may want to take a break from its rooting for General Motors, not to mention its hype surrounding the Chevy Volt. USA Today recently summarized Consumer Reports' ranking of automakers based on performance and reliability. Of the 13 automakers receiving report cards, GM and Chrysler received the worst rankings.
The number one performer according to CR was Honda, followed by Subaru. Strong reliability contributed to the high overall scores. GM was number 12 on the list with only Chrysler receiving a lower score. It should not come as a surprise that the bottom two performers were the automakers that ended up bankrupt and receiving taxpayer funded bailouts.