Tuesday, February 13, 2007
"On Behalf of Jeff Immelt and the Other Sane People at GE, I Say......[expletive deleted] you."
Why is GE so afraid of a little transparency?
The publicly-traded Free Enterprise Action Fund wants GE shareholders to vote on a proposal to require GE management to explain why GE is lobbying in favor of economically-restrictive global warming regulations.
The Free Enterprise Action Fund also wants shareholders to vote on asking GE management to consider whether the global warming policies GE is publicly advocating would be good for GE's bottom line.
Reasonable request, right? Just a little transparency, and a little thinking things through. The proposal doesn't even ask GE to change its policy -- just to explain it.
GE's management doesn't think it is reasonable at all.
According to the Wall Street Journal, GE was so opposed to letting its shareholders vote on this that it hired the mega law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to fight the Free Enterprise Action Fund's proposal. But GE's scheme failed. Shareholders will get to vote.
Why is GE afraid to explain its global warming position to its own shareholders?
GE management's sympathizers apparently are very frustrated that shareholders will vote on the transparency measure. The "expletive deleted" sentence cited at the start of this post was taken from the subject line of an e-mail apparently from a former Gibson Dunn partner, Larry Simms, to the Free Enterprise Action Fund Monday afternoon. The e-mail, a copy of which I have seen, is from the e-mail address listed on Gibson Dunn's website as belonging to Simms.
I e-mailed Tom Borelli of Action Fund Management, LLC, investment advisor to the Free Enterprise Action Fund (and a senior fellow here at the National Center for Public Policy Research), to confirm the facts in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog story "Law Blog Email of the Day, By Gibson Dunn's Larry Simms." He did, and added a comment of his own:
Just another example illustrating that CEO Jeff Immelt can't manage his businesses or his consultants. Under his management, NBC News hires William M. Arkin - a Greenpeace activist - as a military analyst and he partners with environmental activists to lobby for global warming regulations that will harm the economy and GE's future earnings. It's no wonder GE stock has underperformed the market. Conservatives should vote for the Free Enterprise Action Fund shareholder proposal on global warming and show up at GE's shareholder meeting - liberal CEOs need to feel the heat.Meanwhile, Gibson Dunn seems to be backpedaling away from the e-mail as fast as it can. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog says:
Said a spokesperson for GE to the Law Blog: If this email was sent, it was clearly without our knowledge or consent.By Monday evening, the Gibson Dunn appeared to have scrubbed most of Simms' bio off its website (though Google's cache still had its copy).
Larry Simms was not involved in representing GE on its proxy statement and is a retired former partner of the Firm, said a Gibson Dunn spokeswoman in an emailed statement. As such, Mr. Simms is not authorized to speak for the Firm, nor on behalf of any of its clients. Gibson Dunn did not authorize, nor does it condone, Mr. Simms comments.
I'm unaware of any public comments Simms has made on this matter, but its always possible that politics plays a role. Campaignmoney.com shows Simms to be a donor to Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
But if politics is Simms' motivation, what's GE's?
I guess we'll have to wait to see if GE shareholders vote to force GE management to explain.
Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:27 AM