One of America’s iconic companies may be on its way to bankruptcy, according to the man who blew the whistle on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Forensic accountant Harry Markopolos released a detailed 168- page report claiming that General Electric has committed financial fraud on a scale larger than that of the Enron scandal.
If true, that is a big deal for a company that was once associated with American industrial greatness. For years, GE was a stock market behemoth. Ronald Reagan was the company spokesman, and a GE savings bond was a common investment made by parents for their newborn children.
Those days are long over. After the departure of former CEO Jack Welch in 2001, the company has struggled to recreate the glory days of the past. Welch—who left GE in great shape—was replaced as CEO by Jeffrey Immelt.
It got so bad for the company that, following the 2008 recession, it looked like they might not be able to pay their debts.
Bloomberg reported that, in October of 2008, GE had to raise $15 billion through an emergency stock sale—$3 billion of it from Warren Buffett—and the company only survived thanks to a $139 billion loan guarantee from the federal government.
Now, things may have just gotten even worse for General Electric.
Fraud Bigger Than Madoff And Enron
Harry Markopolos—the forensic accountant who uncovered the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme—claims he has uncovered another nefarious plot being carried out by General Electric. He claims it is a bigger financial fraud than the Enron scheme in the late 90s.
Fortune reported, “In his flame-throwing report released August 16, titled ‘General Electric, A Bigger Fraud Than Enron,’ Harry Markopolos—the forensic accountant who nailed Madoff—accuses GE of engaging in $38 billion in accounting fraud. He’s charging that the one-time industrial and financial colossus willfully failed to take adequate reserves to cover gigantic current and future losses in its long-term care insurance business, and violated U.S. accounting rules by failing to book a big write-down on its Baker Hughes GE energy unit. For Markopolos, GE is a dead enterprise walking. He cites that legendary frauds Enron and Worldcom collapsed just four months after their misdeeds were exposed, and says that GE could implode just as fast. ‘GE is a bankruptcy waiting to happen,’ he declared on CNBC.”
The Truth Behind The Claims
However, there is some controversy over the accuracy of his findings.
GE, unsurprisingly, denies his report.
The vice president of investor communications for GE said: “we operate with absolute integrity and stand behind our financial reporting.”
Shares of General Electric have rebounded since the report; the Current CEO of GE has personally bought $2 million of stock, which helped to alleviate market fears.
There seems to be widespread skepticism about Markopolos’ report. He has been accused of fabricating the numbers to make look GE look bad in order to profit by shorting GE stock. It has been reported that he is working for an undisclosed hedge fund who may have a financial interest in bringing the manufacturing giant down.
Time will tell if the accusations are true.
If they are, we may see the downfall of an iconic American company in the near future. Until then, the debate will rage on.