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General electric: an empire on the verge of falling

127 years of triumph for the American General Electric (GE) might be facing today a spectacular fall.

This giant was recently accused of engaging in accounting fraud worth $38bn, exposed by investigator Harry Markopolos, the whistleblower who uncovered Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Markopolos published a 175-page report titled ‘General Electric, a Bigger Fraud Than Enron’ where he went through a list of accounting irregularities that Markopolos says amount to a $38 billion fraud, equivalent to more than 40% of GE’s market capitalization. Much of the report focuses on GE’s business of reinsuring long-term care insurance providers.

The report sent GE’s stock down 11%.

Leslie Seidman, a GE board director and chair of its audit committee, pushed back on the Markopolos report, which she said contained “numerous novel interpretations and downright mistakes about the actual accounting requirements.”

“In his own words, he stands to personally financially benefit from today’s significant market reaction to his report, and he is selectively front-running widely reported regulatory processes and rigorous investigations without the benefit of any access to GE’s books and records,” Seidman said.

To help GE’s share regain some ground, company’s CEO, Larry Culp bought around $2 million worth of the company’s stock after the published report. Shares were up 2.5% in after-hours trading.

GE was an example for businesses across America. It was one of the original 12 members of the Dow Jones industrial average – and the longest-standing. GE scientists and engineers invented or perfected light bulbs, X-rays, refrigerators, television, commercial jet engines, nuclear power plants, and so much more. GE's legendary CEO, Jack Welch, defined corporate culture in the 1980s. His successors, Jeffrey Immelt, John Flannery, and Larry Culp saw the company fall from grace.