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GE, SEC Reach Deal in Flap Over Welch Perks

September 24, 2004|From Bloomberg News

General Electric Co. violated the law by failing to fully disclose to investors the many retirement perks lavished on former Chief Executive Jack Welch, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Thursday.

The millions of dollars in benefits included unlimited personal use of GE's planes, exclusive use of an $11-million apartment in New York City, a chauffeured limousine, a leased Mercedes, office space, financial services, bodyguard security and security systems for his homes.

In a settlement, the SEC did not fine GE, and the company did not admit to or deny wrongdoing. But the agency won a promise from GE to fully disclose such benefits from now on.

"Shareholders have a clear interest in knowing how public companies compensate their top executives," said Paul R. Berger, associate director of the SEC's enforcement division.

Welch, who retired in 2001, said his benefits were disclosed, but not to the extent the SEC believed was necessary.

"I'm pleased that this is settled with no financial ramifications to GE," Welch said.

Details of Welch's perks emerged during his divorce case. Welch paid back many of the perks and now pays for use of aircraft and other services -- "everything except an office and an assistant," GE spokesman Gary Sheffer said.

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