In late 2009 after receiving a massive bailout from TARP funds as well as federal loan guarantees, the CEO of General Electric (GE), Jeffrey Immelt declared, "We are all democrats now." He visited the White House no less than five times during that year according to reports. And now, just two weeks ago, Immelt was appointed to President Obama's Jobs Advisory Panel. Something is terribly wrong with capitalism in this country and GE is a prime example.
Let's start with the moral outrage we should all have when a private company goes hat-in-hand to the federal government asking it for hard-earned taxpayer money to help make up for its terrible business decisions. That was bad enough. But now the CEO, who did not step down after being appointed to this position on the president's advisory panel, will have the president's ear constantly and you can bet he will be pushing for more so-called alternative energy projects for his company. The conflict of interest is as obvious as the moral hazard of Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC). In fact, GE should be considered a Government Sponsored Enterprise at this point. The CEO has basically declared his strategy to be one of taking money from taxpayers in order to increase profits for his company.
As a principled investor and consumer, I will never invest in GE nor will I ever buy its products again. As a financial advisor, it is my fiduciary duty to keep my clients away from this stock. GE used to make most of its money by making things. The company made jet engines, gas turbines, consumer appliances, and more items people actually wanted and needed. But this changed dramatically over the last 15 years. This company decided to make GE Capital its profit center, generating over half of the company's profits at its peak. The irresponsible growth of GE Capital was a business decision and it proves that management has serious problems.
Instead of replacing executives and bringing in people with fresh ideas, CEO Immelt has decided to double-down on bringing in government largesse. To me this proves that management is out of ideas. Their only way to increase profits is to go begging for more handouts and subsidies. We all know how the political winds can change. If Congress and a new president decide that the money being lavished upon alternative energy projects is money down a hole, then GE will go down that hole with it.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.