Madoff whistleblower claims General Electric is committing fraud ‘bigger than Enron and Worldcom combined’

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

The accountant who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff’s scheme is blowing the whistle again with a new report attacking GE’s (GE) accounting practices.

In a 175-page report posted online, forensic accountant Harry Markopolos and his fraud team allege that GE is committing $38 billion in accounting fraud.

“[I]t’s the biggest, bigger than Enron and WorldCom combined,” he wrote. “In fact, GE’s $38 Billion in accounting fraud amounts to over 40% of GE’s market capitalization, making it far more serious than either the Enron or WorldCom accounting frauds.”

Markopolos is calling GE “GEnron,” because the company appears to be “using many of the same accounting tricks that Enron did.”

At the center of his investigation are eight long-term care insurance deals that GE executed. The report alleges that the GE has been hiding “massive loss ratios” and “exponentially increasing dollar losses.”

A traffic light is seen in front of a logo of General Electric at the company's plant in Birr, Switzerland June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Markopolos warns that GE losses are about to spike. The report says that GE needs $18.5 billion in cash immediately to deal with a wave of impending claims in the insurance unit. Further, it will need another $10.5 billion to address a non-cash charge that will come due by 2021.

However, Markopolos doubts GE will be able to fulfill that cash need in a timely manner.

“These impending losses will destroy GE’s balance sheet, debt ratios and likely also violate debt covenants,” Markopolos wrote. “After we accounted for the $38 Billion in accounting fraud GE’s debt to equity ratio goes from the 3:1 ratio it reported at the end of the 2nd quarter 2019 to a woefully deficient 17:1.”

All of this, the report says, makes it very unlikely that GE can become cash-flow positive by 2021. Markopolos told the WSJ that he is working with an undisclosed hedge fund, which has a short position, betting the stock will fall.

“We have never met, spoken to or had contact with this person,” a GE spokesperson said of Markopolos. “While we can’t comment on the detailed content of a report that we haven’t seen, the allegations we have heard are entirely false and misleading.”

“GE stands behind its financials,” the spokesperson added. “We operate to the highest-level of integrity in our financial reporting and we have clearly laid out our financial obligations in great detail.”

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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