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A Public Test For GE’s Compliance Program

The Corporate Crime Reporter (CCR) has a story here about a Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower complaint filed against General Electric by former in-house counsel, Adriana Koeck. She says she was fired from GE for reporting fraud in Brazil to her superiors, including alleged tax cheating and potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. CCR posted her complaint here.

Koeck was hired in January 2006 as the lead attorney for Latin America for GE’s Consumer and Industrial Division (GE C & I) in Louisville, Kentucky. She was fired a year later. Her SOX complaint names as defendants GE, GE C & I, Raymond Burse, GE C & I’s general counsel, and Earl Jones, GE C & I’s compliance counsel.

GE is suing Koeck in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia for disclosing the company’s confidential and privileged information. She claims the documents that prove her retaliation case against GE are not covered by the attorney-client privilege because of the crime-fraud exception.

With respect to the FCPA, Koeck says she was sent an article in March 2006 from a Brazilian newspaper alleging that GE and GEVISA (a GE / Brazilian joint venture) were among a number of major corporations involved in a Brazilian “bribing club.” The corporate participants allegedly met regularly to agree on which of them would be awarded which orders from the public sector throughout Brazil as well as the amounts that the corporations would pay as bribes. Brazilian news reports indicated that more than $20 million in bribes had been paid to more than 150 Brazilian politicians.

CCR says Koeck’s information was also given to the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, which is conducting an initial review of the case. The DOJ hasn’t commented.

GE says Koeck’s claims are without merit.

General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) has 327,000 employees. It operates world wide as a technology, media, and financial services company, with total revenues in 2007 of $173 billion. The company was founded in 1892 — with roots back to Thomas Edison — and is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut.


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