The Securities and Exchange Commission has warned General Electric that it faces legal action in connection with its troubled insurance business, according to a regulatory filing published Tuesday.
The SEC issued what’s known as a “Wells notice” on Sept. 30 to alert the conglomerate that it considering civil action for possible securities law violations.
Boston-based GE first disclosed the government investigation into its accounting practices in 2018, after a multibillion-dollar underestimate of its insurance business created a shortfall in its reserves. Then-Chief Financial Officer Jamie Miller said on a conference call with analysts, “There’s nothing here I’m overly concerned about.” The SEC also delved into how GE recognized revenue from long-term service agreements for the maintenance of industrial equipment, including power plants and jet engines.
In a statement Tuesday to The Washington Post, GE said it has “fully cooperated with the SEC’s investigation,” adding, “We strongly disagree with the recommendation of the SEC staff and will provide a response through the Wells notice process.” GE said it is providing documents and other information requested by the SEC.
The SEC declined to comment.
GE will be given an opportunity to make a case against enforcement. But if the government proceeds, it could seek an injunction against future violations of securities law and impose fines. GE acknowledged a level of uncertainty in the filing on what the investigation means for its business: “The results of the Wells notice and any enforcement action are unknown at this time.”
Like other companies in the aviation business, GE has been battered by the coronavirus. In May, the company said it would cut 13,000 jobs from its jet-engine operation. Industry executives have said it will take years for the aviation business to return to pre-pandemic levels. From its recent peak in February, the value of GE shares has been cut in half.
News of the Wells notice shook investors further, and the stock slumped 3.7% to close at $6.17. But the broader market fell after President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he was withdrawing from stimulus negotiations until after the Nov. 3 election.