Capitalism has no loyalties.
Everybody is replaceable.
Products. Employees. Employers. Services. Alliances. Joint Ventures. Financiers. Even the executives of multinational firms along with their board of directors are only as good as whatever quarterly numbers can be cooked up by their ‘independent’ auditing firm.
Capitalism is the ultimate “Let’s go!”, “Do it!” and “Screw you!” of economic systems. You name the angle or need in capitalism, and chances are that there is a market substitute that can immediately fill the gap. Even government regulations can be routinely challenged by trade organizations, international courts, and the all too common political handshake.
All this reality happens… on paper.
In spite of General Motors losing $3 billion in shareholder value over four weeks since the recall crisis began, Bloomberg reports investors are holding onto their shares in the belief the automaker will recover from the debacle. Though questions about the delay persist, most shareholders are pleased with how CEO Mary Barra is guiding her company through the maelstrom.
Other factors in the massive stock decline include overseas challenges and weaknesses in product lines, including bringing European profits into the black, while Chevrolet’s Silverado fights Ram’s offerings in order to regain its traditional place in the monthly sales charts.
In 1999, a group of shareholders launched a court action against DaimlerChrysler management. They shareholders felt that their shares in Daimler AG (before the DaimlerChrysler “merger of equals”) were undervalued because management used an unfair exchange ratio (1.005 shares of DCX to every share of old Daimler AG). In 2006, a Stuttgart court ruled in favor of the shareholders and ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay them €230m (about $321m in today’s exchange rates). As far as everyone was concerned, that was the end of that. But not to Daimler. (Read More…)
After four straight profitable quarters, Alan Mulally’s forecast today of a “solidly profitable” 2010 shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. But, as Executive Chairman Bill Ford put it to Ford shareholders at the company’s annual meeting [via AP],
It is the very early days in our recovery. We still have a lot of debt
And he’s not kidding. As of the end of Q1 2010, Ford was carrying $34b in debt. And though Ford faces a higher cost of borrowing because of its staggering debts, Bill Ford was clear that he wouldn’t trade places with Ford’s Detroit competitors, which cleaned out their balance books, at the expense of government bailouts and accompanying PR problems. After all, while GM and Chrysler were rebuilding, Ford managed to outperform both of them last year by gaining sales and market share. And Ford’s leadership sees that momentum carrying forward into next year.
For years, TTAC has argued that General Motors suffers from a profound lack of accountability. Specific instances include the $2b “Fiatsco,” most of Roger Smith’s tenure, and cars like the Pontiac Aztek and Cadillac Cimmaron. Incidents like these helped GM along its decades-long plunge into bankruptcy, unchecked by the lax corporate governance of what came to be called its Board of Bystanders. Hyundai’s CEO may have received similarly lax treatment from South Korea’s criminal justice system, but at least the shareholders are standing up for their investment.