U.S. to sell final Ally shares, end auto bailout

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — – The U.S. Treasury will end its historic six-year intervention into the U.S. auto industry as early as Friday, as it launched an offering to sell its remaining 11.4 percent stake in Ally Financial Inc. The Detroit-based auto lender had received $17.2 billion in bailouts.

The government plans to sell its remaining 54.9 million shares of the company. The Treasury confirmed the plan to sell the shares but didn’t comment.

The sale will end the government’s $85 billion bailout launched under President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama. The bailout saved hundreds of thousands of U.S. auto jobs, but came at a significant loss to taxpayers — roughly $10 billion, depending on how losses are calculated.

The Treasury’s offering hasn’t priced yet, but at current trading prices the government will raise around $1.25 billion. If the offering is completed on Friday it will come on exactly the sixth anniversary of Bush’s decision to rescue the auto industry.

Taxpayers will end up receiving more from Ally, a bank holding company, than they loaned — $18.3 billion in proceeds to date — though much of that was in the form of dividends.

The Bush administration initially agreed to rescue Ally, General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and Chrysler Financial in the final weeks of the administration with $25 billion in bailouts, while the Obama administration forced GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. The government initially held majority stakes in GM and Ally Financial, which it designated as the primary lender for GM and Chrysler.

The exit will also end the government’s oversight of pay by executives at firms that got large government bailouts. Initially, seven companies that received extraordinary assistance — GM, Ally, American International Group, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Chrysler Financial and Chrysler _ were required by Congress to get approval from Treasury for top executive pay. As companies repaid their bailouts — or the government sold their stakes — they exited. With the government’s sale of its final shares of GM last December, only Ally remained in the program.

Ally, previously known as GMAC and General Motors Corp.’s lending arm, sold off most of its international lending operations to GM.

Ally disclosed Thursday the company has voluntarily agreed to extend the statutes of limitations to allow the Justice Department to continue its investigation that Ally may have made false representations about its former troubled mortgage unit Residential Capital LLC in connection with bailouts that Ally that received from the U.S. Treasury starting in 2008. Ally received three separate bailouts totaling $17.2 billion.

At one point the government owned a 74 percent majority stake in Ally. In 2011, the Treasury put its planned Ally IPO on hold because of investor concern about ResCap.

The sale in Ally also means the Obama administration is close to a final exit in the $700 billion program passed by Congress in late 2008 to prevent a collapse of the U.S. financial system, with only some small bank investments remaining.

Ally closed up 2.7 percent to $22.75, up 59 cents a share in trading Thursday. It was up 11 cents per share in afterhours trading.

Taxpayers have recovered a total of $440.3 billion on TARP investments, including the sale of Treasury’s AIG shares, compared to $425.2 billion disbursed.