A whistleblower has accused General Electric (GE) of hiding massive losses by engaging in a $38 billion accounting fraud, which is "bigger than Enron".
In his report this week, investigator Harry Markopolos accused GE of utilising many of the same accounting tricks as Enron did to mislead the investors.
"In fact, GE's $38 billion in accounting fraud amounts to over 40 percent of GE's market capitalisation, making it far more serious than either the Enron or WorldCom accounting frauds," said the report.
GE denied the charge saying the 175-page report contained false statements. "GE will always take any allegation of financial misconduct seriously. But this is market manipulation - pure and simple," Lawrence Culp, chairman and chief executive officer of GE said in a statement.
"Markopolos' report contains false statements of fact and these claims could have been corrected if he had checked them with GE before publishing the report," said the statement.
To investigate GE's fraud, Markopolos team went out and located the eight largest Long-Term Care (LTC) insurance deals that GE is a counterparty to, accounting for approximately 95 percent or more of GE's exposure.
Either these eight insurance companies filed false statutory financial statements with their regulators or GE's financial statements are false, alleged the report.
The investigator said he got access to these eight insurers' statutory financial statements filed with the relevant state insurance commissions. "What they revealed was that GE was hiding massive loss ratios, the highest-ever seen in the LTC insurance industry, along with exponentially increasing dollar losses being absorbed by GE," said the report.
"What's even more doubtful is GE becoming cash flow positive in 2021 as management would have you believe." "After we accounted for the $38 billion in accounting fraud, GE's debt to equity ratio goes from the 3:1 ratio that is reported at the end of the 2nd quarter 2019 to a woefully deficient 17:1," the report alleged.
Leslie Seidman, GE director and chair of the audit committee, also accused Markopolos of inaccuracies. "The report contains numerous novel interpretations and downright mistakes about the actual accounting requirements, making his conclusions about GE's reporting questionable at best," Seidman said in a statement.
"The fact that he wrote a 170-page paper but never talked to company officials goes to show that he is not interested in accurate financial analysis, but solely in generating downward volatility in GE stock so that he and his undisclosed hedge fund partner can personally profit," Culp said.
The Enron scandal, revealed in 2001, led to the prosecution of several of its executives. Enron's CEO, Jeff Skilling resigned on August 14, 2001. The company was downgraded to junk status on November 28, 2001, and filed for bankruptcy protection on December 2 that year.Markopolos is best known for his role as the whistleblower, who warned the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the US's top financial watchdog, about Madoff's Ponzi scheme, the
Guardian reported. After Madoff pleaded guilty to swindling investors out of $65 billion in savings, he was jailed for 150 years in 2009.