The U.S. government may soon become a substantial shareholder in General Motors if a new plan to convert all of GM's debt to equity goes forward. On Friday, President Obama's task force on the industry ordered GM to prepare a plan to convert all of its debt - about $48 billion in total - to equity.

That would give the federal government about $13.4 billion in equity thanks to the taxpayer-funded loans disbursed over the last several months.

GM will likely make the debt-for-equity swap announcement sometime in the next two weeks, according to inside sources speaking with Reuters. The process itself remains highly secretive, but with two weeks of negotiations already behind the task force and GM, it is likely the only way forward short of bankruptcy.

If GM does move ahead with the swap, it will mimic GMAC's similar decision late last year. The automotive financing company swapped $21.2 billion in debt for equity last December. Ford also swapped $9.9 billion of its debt for equity just a few weeks ago.

GM itself has already considered doing a debt-for-equity swap, though not so drastic a measure as that contemplated by the President's task force. At the root of the task force's plan is the need to get GM's balance sheet set right for reaching profitability, not just sustainability.