3 replies (most recent on top)
GE likes to talk about integrity, not practice it!
GE and the 301 good ol boyz club is on the up and up. Get ready for the pink slips
Nothing to see here, more GE trying to steal and cheat just they do in Schenectady NY.
share on twitter
PUBLISHED MAY 29, 2022
It is an industrial fiasco that never ends. Seven years after the sale of Alstom's energy branch to General Electric, the results of the American multinational in France are disastrous: 5,000 jobs lost, including 1,400 at the Belfort plant; neglected technological know-how; a preliminary investigation for “illegal taking of interests” against Hugh Bailey, the general manager of GE France… And now, a scandal of tax evasion.
According to our investigation, which is based on independent audit reports and several internal group accounting documents, the American multinational has set up an opaque financial arrangement between its French branch, General Electric Energy Products France (GEEPF), and subsidiaries domiciled in Switzerland and in the US state of Delaware. Objective: to escape the French tax authorities by concealing the profits linked to the sale of gas turbines produced in Belfort, in Burgundy-Franche-Comté. According to our estimates, more than 800 million euros have disappeared from the coffers of GEEPF between 2015 and 2020. That is a shortfall for the public accounts of 150 to 300 million euros.
The great escape began at the end of 2015 with a trick that was both simple and discreet: the transfer of commercial responsibilities from GEEPF to a company created for the occasion in Baden, Switzerland. Its name: General Electric Switzerland GmbH (GES).
From then on, the Belfort plant, announced at the time of the takeover as the future world headquarters of the group's turbine activities, ceased to be a "manufacturer" to become a "manufacturing unit" placed under the orders of a Swiss company. This “restructuring”, specifies a financial audit, would correspond to the “last profitable year” of the Franche-Comté site. For good reason: with this assembly, GE has just launched its business of capturing profits from the sale of turbines and spare parts made in France.
Illustration in 2019. That year, a contract was signed between GEEPF and the Swiss company GES for the sale of gas turbines. Value of the contract: more than 350 million euros. While this equipment was produced in France, GES appropriates the status of “manufacturer”, presenting the Belfort site as a banal “distributor”. The interest of this sleight of hand: allow the Swiss branch to resell the turbines to the end customer in order to collect the profits. As part of this contract, no less than 97% of the profits flew to Switzerland, where the tax rate on profits is between 17% and 22%, compared to 33% in France. Contacted, General Electric did not answer our questions
A similar arrangement involves the sale of spare parts for the turbines – the bulk of Belfort's revenue. According to an estimate based on General Electric's annual report, the scheme would have brought nearly 1.5 billion euros to GES, its Swiss subsidiary, between 2016 and 2019. All with the blessing of the Ministry of economy.
According to our information, General Electric, following the takeover of the energy branch of Alstom, would have benefited from a so-called "relationship of trust" protocol with the French tax authorities. This mechanism provides that "the company provides all the elements necessary to understand its tax situation", according to a document from the General Directorate of Public Finance dated 2013. Clearly, the multinational has had its tax scheme, therefore the links between its subsidiaries, by Bercy. In return, she obtained that the services of the ministry do not carry out checks. Asked by Disclose about its precise knowledge of the optimization mechanism put in place by General Electric, the Ministry of Economy and Finance did not respond.
In Baden, at 8 Brown Boveri Strasse, General Electric has domiciled three other subsidiaries doing business with the French “provider”. The first two, General Electric Global Services Gmbh and GE Global Parts and Products Gmbh, are responsible for selling spare parts manufactured in Belfort. The third, called General Electric Technology Gmbh, collects patent rights related to gas turbines. For a simple reason, according to one of the audit reports consulted by Disclose: “Foreign income from patents is taxed very little in Switzerland”. Since 2015, 177 million euros in technological royalties have left France for Baden.
To complete its tax optimization strategy, General Electric relies on another subsidiary of the group, based, this time, in the United States. Monogram Licensing International LLC, as it is called, is domiciled in Delaware, a state known for not levying any corporate taxes.
Between 2014 and 2019, the American company would have received nearly 80.9 million euros from GE France for the use of the General Electric brand, logo and advertising slogans. According to the contract in force between the two companies, France must normally pay 1% of its annual turnover to Delaware. However, this threshold has been crossed several times. Without any explanation, underlines one of the audits of the group.
The massive capture of the wealth produced by the workers of Belfort could prove illegal, as indicated by an international tax convention called BEPS – “Erosion de la base d’imposition et transfert de profits” in French. Entering into force in France in 2019, this text intended to strengthen the fight against tax evasion stipulates that company profits must be “taxed where economic activities are actually carried out […] and where value is created”. Logically, in the case of equipment produced in Belfort, the tax should therefore be levied in France; not in Switzerland.
By removing 800 million euros from the accounts of General Electric Energy Products France, the multinational therefore escaped taxation. But it also deprived French employees of part of their stake in the company. A tax expert to whom we submitted the balance sheets of GE in Belfort confirms it: by artificially reducing its profits since 2015, the industrialist has deprived the employees of Belfort of several thousand euros each in respect of their participation in the profits of GEEPF . In response, the Sud Industrie union and the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) of the Belfort plant filed a complaint against their employer in December 2021 for “fraud on the right to employee participation”.
The system put in place by the group has also strained local finances. “From the moment GE relocates its profits, it inevitably pays less tax”, explains Mathilde Regnaud, opposition adviser in Belfort. Last February, estimating at 10 million euros "the cumulative loss of revenue" from the contribution on the added value of companies (CVAE) from 2017 to 2022, the elected representatives of the community council called for a detailed analysis of "tax losses suffered by the agglomeration. A request that points above all to “the legality […] of the tax optimization maneuvers” operated by General Electric in the territory. In 2021, these maneuvers would have partly caused the increase in property taxes in Belfort.