When you threaten Harry Markopolos, Larry Culp, expect a disproportionate response.

Neither you nor the Securities and Exchange Commission has probably thought much about Harry Markopolos since Bernie Madoff was sent to a minimum-security federal resort a decade ago. But the man who warned the SEC about Madoff years before Madoff himself told the regulator and everyone else once the jig was up has been quietly doing what Harry Markopolos does, which is to sniff out fraud. For instance, did you know he played a part in Forexgate? Neither did we. But he did, and he’s likely a good deal richer for it now.

So, imagine Markopolos’ delight when, whilst plodding through some sort of insurance thing, he stumbled onto General Electric’s insurance thing. And while he was there, maybe he’d take a bit of a look at the rest of GE, given, you know, everything. And wouldn’t you know that in doing so he managed to find a Madoff-sized fraud at the one-time totem of American capitalism, an accounting fraud to put the combined Enron-WorldCom shenanigans in the shade?

The famously verbose Markopolos couldn’t lay out the misdeeds in fewer than 170 pages, but it amounts to this: Sometime in the next year-and-a-half, GE’s gonna have to boost its insurance reserves by $18.5 billion and take a $10.5 billion charge thanks to impending accounting changes, and also a $9.6 billion write-down on its disastrous investment in Baker Hughes, all of which adds up to about 40% of GE’s market value before Markopolos’ report sent its shares down 13%.

We don’t have any intention of reading those 170-plus pages, and neither do you. So let CNBC give us the highlights, including one apparently designed to make Ken Langone’s head explode.

“My team has spent the past 7 months analyzing GE’s accounting and we believe the $38 Billion in fraud we’ve come across is merely the tip of the iceberg,” Markopolos said in the 175-page report. Markopolos alleges that GE has a “long history” of accounting fraud, dating to as early as 1995, when it was run by Jack Welch.

“It’s going to make this company probably file for bankruptcy,” Markopolos told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street. ” “WorldCom and Enron lasted about four months. ... We’ll see how GE does….”

“GE utilizes many of the same accounting tricks as Enron did, so much so that we’ve taken to calling this the GEnron case….”

“These impending losses will destroy GE’s balance sheet, debt ratios and likely also violate debt covenants….”

“GE would change its reporting formats every 2-4 years to prevent analysts from being able to make comparisons across time horizons! In other words, GE went out of its way to make it impossible to analyze the performance of their business units.”

Now, GE CEO Larry Culp, who’s been in the job less than a year, just had the best quarter a GE CEO has enjoyed in years, isn’t going to take this lying down.

“GE will always take any allegation of financial misconduct seriously. But this is market manipulation – pure and simple,” Lawrence Culp, chairman and CEO of GE said in a statement. “Mr. Markopolos’s report contains false statements of fact and these claims could have been corrected if he had checked them with GE before publishing the report. 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.”

Better watch your back, Larry. Harry Markopolos isn’t afraid to kill, and he won’t even have to get on the Acela to off you.

General Electric, A Bigger Fraud Than Enron [gefraud.com]
GE Is New Target of Madoff Whistleblower [WSJ]
GE shares tank more than 13% after Madoff whistleblower calls it a ‘bigger fraud than Enron’ [CNBC]

Related

Bernie Madoff Was Just Trying To "Change The Way Money Was Managed," Not That Anyone Cares

For about a year now, Bernie Madoff has been holding court with various members of the press about something that's been plaguing him: the fact that few people if any are willing to give credit where credit is due. Yes, he may have pleaded guilty to a $50 billion crime that ruined countless people's lives, including those of his wife and children, one of whom committed suicide as a result, but he did a lot of other stuff too, like run a "successful business" for which he won lots of "industry awards" during his "legitimate years." And, yet, everyone seems to forget all that when his name comes up, much like they conveniently forgot about how Mussolini made the trains run or time, or how Hitler built those wonderful autobahns, or how Ted Bundy made women feel special. And since he's serving a 150 year sentence, Berns has had lots of time to ponder why his years of legitimate achievements go unmentioned and the one thing he keeps coming back to? Irving Picard, who's pulled a fast one on you all, by suggesting that Bernie's crime started wayyyyy before it did, when, in fact, Madoff Securities was only running a Ponzi scheme for barely even 20 years. Examine the evidence Madoff shared with Forbes contributor Diana B. Henriques via email: Jan. 17, 2011 11:05 A.M. … Also remember that the U.S. Attorney admitted that they had no evidence that the crime started in the 80’s and could establish that Montauk and the N.Y. homes in Ruth’s name were not purchased with tainted funds … Mar. 10, 2011 7:35 A.M. … I would love to know what evidence [Picard] has to date my crime back to 1983 … THE FACT IS THAT THERE IS NONE. 8:05 A.M. … I say once again the fraud started in the 90’s … Mar. 18, 2011 9:26 A.M. … I guess I’m obsessed with this START OF CRIME ISSUE. Don't you see, idiots of the media?! That's the real issue here. Not the crime itself but the start of the crime. Do the math. Oct. 11, 2011 7:20 A.M. ... You can do a back of the envelope calculation as follows. From 1963 I made substantial arbitrage profits for the Picower, Shapiro and Chais families joined by the Levy family in 1970. [M]ost of these profits were re­invested and the amounts compounded. In 1970 Saul Alpern formed his partnerships later [run] by Avellino and Bienes. In 1980 I started trading for [French banker] Albert Igoin and his French and Swiss banking associates. All of these accounts averaged about 20% annually and were involved in various forms of convertible arb using bonds, pfds [preferreds], Rts. [rights] and units. [A]nd ALL WERE LEGITIMATE TRADING. THIS CONTINUED THRU THE EARLY 90’S. Nov. 24, 2011 6:51 P.M. … When you look at my RIDDLE [in the Nov. 23 letter], consider the fact that there was in fact no crime until I did not have enough capital in the firm to cover the losses. There is your real STORY The interesting thing here is not that there was an 11-figure fraud, okay? The interesting thing is how long the 11-figure fraud went on. And it stinks to high hell that that slippery fuck Picard and Co. are claiming it dates back to 1983 and that you're all buying it, hook, line and sinker. Come on, people. They're lawyers. Who are you gonna trust, them or a Ponzi schemer? But don't feel sorry for Bernie. Feel sorry for yourselves, for what could have been and what never was. Near the end of that e-mail the clouds of self-deception close in again, and Madoff turns himself into a pitiful martyr: “I made the tragic mistake of trying to change the way money was managed and was successful at the start, but lost my way after a while and refused to admit that I failed at one point.” HE WAS TRYING TO THE WAY MONEY WAS MANAGED! A legitimate way to make Ponzi scheme payments, before it was tragically snuffed out. Oct. 11, 2011 7:36 A.M. … I will never get over the distortions being presented by everyone as to the poor and now homeless when in fact they all signed documents when opening their accounts that they were sophisticated and had enough wealth to withstand the possible losses of short term trading. I wish I had saved the hundreds of letters I received thanking me for how I was responsible for their happiness over the years and their pleading with me to keep their accounts open when I tried to close them … when I worried about the wreckage I might cause if I couldn’t recover. Is the REAL STORY that the investor agreements specifically authorized BLMIS to make Ponzi scheme payments (a totally legitimate type of securities transaction, a short term trade if you will)? Unless someone pulls their head out of their ass, the world will never know. Exclusive: The Secret Madoff Prison Letters [Forbes]