In a “slobber alert,” a blog known as the “NYTPicker” called Sunday’s Times puff-piece story about GE a “wet kiss” that was designed to get the reporter, Steve Lohr, an exclusive interview with chairman Jeffrey Immelt.
But the Times is not alone. While excoriating Capitol Hill Republicans for insisting on an extension of current tax rates, which they call “tax cuts for the rich,” MSNBC commentators such as Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are giving plenty of “wet kisses” to GE by failing to cover the unfolding scandal involving how Immelt used his high-level Obama Administration connections to collect billions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
GE owns media properties NBC, CNBC and MSNBC.
The blogger wrote that New York Times reporter Steve Lohr had “fallen prey to that classic corporate gambit—access to the CEO for an ‘exclusive’ interview, and a guided tour of exactly what the company wants the public to see, and nothing else. Beyond that, Lohr excluded from his epic piece the most recent—and damaging—public-relations blow to the company’s reputation: Thursday’s revelation that GE borrowed $16 billion from the Federal Reserve in the fall of 2008, well before anyone realized the depth of troubles with the company’s credit.”
Charles Ortel, managing director of Newport Value Partners, was also amazed. He told AIM, “How does Steve Lohr write a five-page article on GE without addressing its soaring debt level and dwindling domestic revenues, profits and free cash flows from continuing non-finance operations?”
Ortel told AIM in a column last week that GE’s intrinsic net worth is about $2 a share, compared to its high of $60 and current price of $16.
However, the Lohr piece was decidedly upbeat and ran under the headline, “G.E. Goes With What It Knows: Making Stuff.”
Playing catch-up with former Times reporter Jeff Gerth at ProPublica, who had the story on December 2, the Times on December 5 reported, “Newly disclosed records show that during the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve essentially lent $16.1 billion to General Electric by buying short-term corporate i.o.u.’s from the company at a time when the public market for such debt had nearly frozen.” The story noted that Immelt sat on the nine-member board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an obvious conflict of interest.
The paper added that “The New York Fed is the most powerful of the Federal Reserve’s 12 branches and was charged with carrying out various emergency programs that supported financial markets during the crisis.” How convenient.
Interestingly and ironically, Immelt is a member of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which was supposed to help dig America out of the economic and financial crisis.
Even bigger issues, Ortel says, are (a) GE’s drawdown of some $60 billion under the FDIC- backed loan program starting in November 2008 and the way GE wangled itself into this program even though its financial operations are not truly regulated, and (b) GE’s sale of $12 billion of common stock during the depth of the crisis.
We are waiting for MSNBC commentators Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow to demonstrate their intellectual independence of thought and action by subjecting their corporate bosses to scrutiny over their financial dealings involving taxpayer money.