Do you want a piece of the General Motors IPO? Get in line.

Or perhaps "get out of the line" might be a more accurate description of how the U.S. Treasury is handling this IPO. For all the talk of how "we the people" own "Government Motors," and how we'll soon "get our money back," with interest, the facts of Thursday's IPO prove one thing certain: This IPO is being run by the bankers and for the bankers.

Sorry, small investor. No pie for you
Why do I say that? Well, consider: Say you're an individual investor, hoping to cash in on cheap IPO shares at their undervalued offering price. How are you going to do that?

Probably, you plan to log on to your online brokerage account at Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW), TD AMERITRADE, or E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC) Thursday morning, and place an order to buy the shares at their advertised $26-$29 offering price. There's just one problem with that plan.

It won't work. They ain't got the shares to give you. With 365 million shares on offer, and 35 banks brought in to underwrite the offering and distribute the shares to interested buyers, the major discount brokers catering to small investors like you and me have not been allotted shares. (Caveat: Fidelity apparently managed to acquire a small allotment from its relationship with Deutsche Bank -- but Fidelity won't give you a piece of this pie unless you have $500,000 invested with it.)

Instead, the bulk of the shares going up for auction Thursday will be issued via the U.S. government's favored financial institutions -- giants such as Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), the co-lead underwriters. Or Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), and Citigroup (NYSE: C), who also have the inside track on this IPO.

What's a Fool to do?
Sure, some investors have relationships with these megabankers and so will be able to acquire GM shares at the offering price. These lucky fools will likely make out like bandits as GM shares rise from their understated offering price, to something approaching a fair value. As for the rest of us, we'll have to "buy after the pop" (if we dare). We can still own GM -- but only by purchasing shares second- or third-hand from those who've made the initial profit.

The only sure thing in this IPO: Before you get a chance at your piece of the GM IPO pie, the megabankers will get theirs. Back of the line, Fool.

Charles Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, but Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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