Berman: Give the gift that gives to the Big 3

Laura Berman
Detroit News

Looking to save Detroit and give the perfect, yet inexpensive, holiday gift to your friends and relatives?

Me, too. Look no further than this column for my solution: The Save GM or Rescue Ford gift card.

While nobody has thus far tried to sell company stock by gift card, this moment of financial fear and trembling presents an opportunity.

The Ford or GM stock gift card could be a populist, immediate way for Americans -- and especially the millions in Michigan and other Great Lakes region states who really care -- to directly help the auto companies, while giving an unusual gift.

Consider this
For $25 or $30 a pop, you could, theoretically, give 10 shares of stock to everyone on your holiday list.

On Wednesday, as Congress waffled in its game of deal/no-deal, Ford stock closed at $3.25 a share, GM at $4.60. In this melt-down climate, anyone can be an auto financier.

Right now, the gift card idea is hypothetical, and everyone has objections, from the Securities and Exchange Commission to Ford to securities lawyers. "It's a great idea to help these American companies but people need to be aware that stock prices can go down ... they could be worthless," says David Foster, a Farmington Hills lawyer.

Well, all new ideas face opposition. GM didn't like the idea of hybrid technology five years ago, either.

So my suggestion is: Breathe deeply and consider it.

The gift card would act as a voucher, entitling its owner to redeem it for stock, in a stream-lined process arranged by Ford or GM and a broker. "Once you create a platform, and enough shares are involved, it would definitely be doable," says Gary Bice, a broker at Morgan Stanley in Birmingham.

Voila. Cleverly-devised, this plan could cut through the many hurdles to stock gift-giving: the commissions, transfer fees, and need for upfront personal information (Social Security number, address, date of birth) to register the stock.

One share at a time
A few companies sell Ford and GM stock, one share at a time, framed at hefty premiums. On Wednesday, the site was selling a single share of Ford stock, unframed, for $29.

Bice suggests the companies could create a separate, nonvoting stock whose owners could share in company growth without getting a lot of brokerage mail.

Many of us are looking for ways to show their loyalty and faith in the future of automotive America. This is one.

Have a better idea to help save the Big 3? Let me hear it.


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