Thursday, August 27, 2009

More on GE Accounting Fraud Allegations--Smooth Flying on Jet Engines

The SEC recently settled allegations of fraudulent accounting with GE. More details:

GE was worried that volatility in its revenues would wreck its plans to meet earnings expectations. The SEC alleged that GE engaged in complex hedge accounting manipulations to smooth earnings, and in a scheme to further smooth profits in its aircraft engine business.

The earnings smoothing was done by hiding losses from interest-rate derivatives, improper accounting for hedging transactions, and a messy scheme to smooth profits in its aircraft engine business.

The SEC did not charge GE with deliberately breaking rules on the hedging and aircraft engine transactions.

The SEC’s lawsuit referred to internal e-mails in which a GE accountant said "we've got to fix this" about the "extraordinarily big deal" of possibly losing the right to use legitimate accounting to allows companies to ignore losses in the fair value of derivative assets.

GE had bet on interest rates by writing more derivatives contracts than it needed to hedge its floating rate debt exposure. The SEC claims that GE retroactively changed how it accounted for derivatives, but the plan was rejected by KPMG, its external auditors. The Sec claims that GE then altered the plan and then went ahead with the retroactive change anyway. This allowed GE to avoid reporting a $200 million loss.

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