Last night's stunning news that the U.S. government was forcing out GM CEO Richard Wagoner and had rejected GM and Chrysler's plans for future viability raises all sorts of interesting macro questions.
1. What did Wagoner do? An administration official, speaking to reporters last night, said that the government views its approach to GM as "starting with clean sheet of paper, we want to start at beginning, start fresh." Which isn't helpful. Did Wagoner resist reforms that the government insisted?
2. What precedent is the administration setting? Banks taking TARP money cannot help but wonder if the administration will exercise the same implied/actual power to remove their CEOs. Will this (further) chill the spines of bankers and hedge fund managers whose cooperation is needed to get those toxic assets off the books?
3. If GM is 30 days away from a mandated restructuring (the government would appoint a "chief restructuring officer" or a "surgical bankruptcy," why the need to fire Wagoner now?
4. What additional "savings" does the government want from GM? What if it's really not possible, given the competitive global environment, for GM to be a standalone, viable company? Is the U.S. postponing the inevitable?
5. Even though, contra Chrysler, GM's "global brand" is supposed to be healthier, is the U.S. trying to lure a buyer?
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