| CASE CAPTION
|Sjunde AP-Fonden, et al., v. General Electric Company, et al.
|United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
| CASE NUMBER
|Honorable Jesse M. Furman
|Sjunde AP-Fonden and The Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension Fund
|General Electric Company and Jeffrey S. Bornstein
| CLASS PERIOD
|March 2, 2015 through January 23, 2018, inclusive
This securities fraud class action case arises out of alleged misrepresentations made by General Electric (“GE”) and its former Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey S. Bornstein (together, “Defendants”), regarding the use of factoring to conceal cash flow problems that existed within GE Power between March 2, 2015, and January 24, 2018 (the “Class Period”).
GE Power is the largest business in GE’s Industrials operating segment. The segment constructs and sells power plants, generators, and turbines, and also services such assets through long term service agreements (“LTSAs”). In the years leading up to the Class Period, as global demand for traditional power waned, so too did GE’s sales of gas turbines and its customer’s utilization of existing GE-serviced equipment. These declines drove down GE Power’s earnings under its LTSAs associated with that equipment. This was because GE could only collect cash from customers when certain utilization levels were achieved or upon some occurrence within the LTSA, such as significant service work.
Plaintiffs allege that in an attempt to make up for these lost earnings, GE modified existing LTSAs to increase its profit margin and then utilized an accounting technique known as a “cumulative catch-up adjustment” to book immediate profits based on that higher margin. In most instances, GE recorded those cumulative catch-up earnings on its income statement long before it could actually invoice customers and collect cash under those agreements. This contributed to a growing gap between GE’s recorded non-cash revenues (or “Contract Assets”) and its industrial cash flows from operating activities (“Industrial CFOA”).
In order to conceal this increasing disparity, Plaintiffs allege that GE increased its reliance on long-term receivables factoring (i.e., selling future receivables to GE Capital, GE’s financing arm, or third parties for immediate cash). Through long-term factoring, GE pulled forward future cash flows, which it then reported as cash from operating activities (“CFOA”). GE relied on long-term factoring to generate CFOA needed to reach publicly disclosed cash flow targets. Thus, in stark contrast to the true state of affairs within GE Power—and in violation of Item 303 of Regulation S-K—GE’s Class Period financial statements did not disclose material facts regarding GE’s factoring practices, the true extent of the cash flow problems that GE was attempting to conceal through receivables factoring, or the risks associated with GE’s reliance on factoring.
Eventually, however, GE could no longer rely on this unsustainable practice to conceal its weak Industrial cash flows. As the truth was gradually revealed to investors—in the form of, among other things, disclosures of poor Industrial cash flows and massive reductions in Industrial CFOA guidance—GE’s stock price plummeted, causing substantial harm to Plaintiffs and the Class.
In January 2021, the Court sustained Plaintiffs’ claims based on allegations that GE failed to disclose material facts relating its practice of and reliance on factoring, in violation of Item 303, and affirmatively misled investors about the purpose of GE’s factoring practices. In April 2022, following the completion of fact discovery, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, certifying a Class of investors who purchased or otherwise acquired GE common stock between February 29, 2016 and January 23, 2018. In that same order, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to amend their complaint to pursue claims based on an additional false statement made by Defendant Bornstein. The Court had previously dismissed these claims but, upon reviewing Plaintiffs’ motion—based on evidence obtained through discovery—permitted the claim to proceed.
On September 28, 2023, the Court entered an order denying Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, sending Plaintiffs’ claims to trial.
Read Fifth Amended Consolidated Class Action Complaint Here
Read Opinion and Order Granting and Denying in Part Motion to Dismiss Here
Read Order Granting Motion for Class Certification and for Leave to Amend Here
Click Here to Read the Class Notice