The Erin Burnett Plan: Make General Motors IPO Shares Available to Taxpayers

We’ve heard the complaints from all parts of the ideological spectrum about how the 2008 TARP bailout saved the financial system, but also allowed some Wall Street banks to profit while many Americans still suffered – at least in the way some have portrayed it.

However, in the midst of this bailout culture ushered in by the federal government, is there way to ensure that everyone at least is presented with the opportunity to reap the rewards of General Motors future success? CNBC’s Erin Burnett, host of “Street Signs” has devised one. One her Aug. 3 program, she explained how to handle the initial public offering (IPO) – through a modified Dutch auction, similar to how Google’s IPO was handled.

“Now power to the people - should the GM IPO be available to all American taxpayers?” Burnett said. “Not just big investors or even pension funds that supposedly count as representing teachers and firemen. After taxpayers bailed GM out and allowed it to survive, aren't we all entitled to a piece of the action? I proposed this yesterday – here is an idea and we want to find out if it could be done. Every taxpayer could buy the IPO, access would be on a simple website. Shares would be granted to taxpayers or via a modified Dutch auction. You would you have to have a long lockup, so every American couldn’t run out and sell their shares, but it would be an extraordinary IPO, and therefore GM would be allowed to run TV ads saying ‘GM: Driving America’s Future’ – that would be the slogan.”

Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida and one of the original advisers for the Google IPO, explained to “Street Signs” viewers how it would be done without an immediate massive selloff.

“Well, in Eastern Europe, in the 1990s, a lot of the post-communist governments just distributed shares in many companies to the individuals in the country,” Ritter said. “What most people there did is they quickly sold the shares, and so by a year later relatively few people were still owning shares. But in Hong Kong, for the initial public offerings, the companies advertise and you can go to a website there, and subscribe to buy shares in the offer.”

The example Burnett offered – the IPO to be handled differently than through the large institutions and pension funds.

“OK, so you're saying this should be done and I know you gave an example,” Burnett said. “If GM did a $10-billion offering, 100 million households in the U.S. that pay taxes – there you go – $100 worth of stock each.”

Treasury Department officials have recently said they are hopeful a GM IPO can occur by year’s end.