AP Images / Richard Drew
- General Electric‘s vice president of investor relations, Steve Winoker, issued a statement Monday responding to Harry Markopolos’ recent report accusing the company of fraud.
- Winoker addressed two key targets of the report: GE’s long-term care insurance and its Baker Hughes oil and gas company.
- GE remains "committed to providing accurate, complete and timely financial information" to its investors, Winoker said.
- Watch GE trade live here.
The company’s stock tumbled about 14% on August 15 after Markopolos’ study, which alleged that GE committed multi-billion-dollar fraud. He deemed the conglomerate "on the verge of insolvency" and called the company’s accounting practices "an Enronesque business approach."
GE CEO Lawrence Culp responded later the same day, calling the document "market manipulation — pure and simple." He claimed Markopolos cared more about profiting from the report than "accurate financial analysis," and that the accounting expert never reached out to GE for a statement or to confirm facts.
Steve Winoker, GE’s vice president of investor relations, addressed the company’s long-term care insurance and Baker Hughes subsidiary — two of the businesses highlighted in Markopolos’ report — in a statement on Monday. He also noted that the company remains confident in its finances, and cited stock purchases made by executives after the report’s publication.
"We operate with absolute integrity and stand behind our financial reporting. We are focused on delivering on our strategic priorities and we remain committed to providing accurate, complete and timely financial information to you," Winoker said.
Here how Winoker answered investors’ most pressing questions after the report’s release:
Long-term care reserves are ‘well-supported’
Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
Winoker began the email by assuring investors the company’s LTC insurance business has "well-supported" reserves. He added that, as a reinsurer, GE is "not responsible for 100% of every risk," and even though GE’s policies contain some inherent risk, the liabilities match those seen by competitors in the sector.
The Markopolos report also alleged GE needs to pay off a $29 billion loss related to its LTC insurance business. Winoker denied the claim, and said its LTC risks aren’t so immediate.
"Our future liabilities depend on variables that will play out over decades, not years, and are dictated by rigorous testing processes, sound actuarial analysis, and the application of regulatory and accounting rules," Winoker wrote.
When asked if GE has "an inappropriate mismatch" between GAAP and insurance industry-specific figures, the statement said the latter reports are "intended to be more conservative" than GAAP and don’t reflect a significant loss in capital.
Changes to GAAP rules will also allow GE to eliminate certain balances from its filings, including $4.8 billion in unrealized gains, according to Winoker.
Selling Baker Hughes ‘will not impact GE’s cash needs’
Winoker also answered questions about Baker Hughes’ impact on GE’s bottom line. Though GE owns BHGE LLC, a separate entity named BHGE Inc. is a publicly-traded company that GE leads with board control and voting rights.
The setup requires GE and BHGE Inc. to include the latter company’s financial results in regulatory filings.
When asked if the consolidation could "skew investor perception of GE’s cash flows," Winoker mentioned the inclusion of non-GAAP figures that shows cash flow that excludes BHGE. He added that GE couldn’t deconsolidate the oil and gas company sooner because of GAAP rules.
The statement also addressed how GE could sell its controlling stake in BHGE. The sale would trigger an estimated $7.4 billion non-cash charge and wouldn’t impact GE’s cash needs, according to the vice president.
Selling the remaining ownership in Baker Hughes would also give GE additional cash for its plan to reduce debt, Winoker said.
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