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GE ordered to defend lawsuit tied to 2008 crisis

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13/01/2012 - 1:13
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(Reuters) - A federal judge refused on Thursday to throw out a lawsuit accusing General Electric Co of misleading investors about its financial health and exposure to risky debt during the 2008 financial crisis.

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell in Manhattan said the investors adequately alleged GE made material misrepresentations about its access to commercial paper and ability to maintain its dividend.

He let the investors pursue some claims alleging misstatements by company officers, including Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt and Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin.

Holwell also let stand some claims accusing some bank underwriters of omitting important statements from offering documents for a $12.2 billion GE stock offering in October 2008. Several other claims were dismissed.

A GE spokesman and lawyers for the investors did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Antonio Yanez, a lawyer for the banks, declined to comment.

The case covered investors who owned GE stock from September 25, 2008 to March 19, 2009.

During that period, the Fairfield, Connecticut-based conglomerate cut its dividend 70 percent, lost its "triple-A" credit rating and saw its share price fall more than 60 percent.

Investors led by the State Universities Retirement System of Illinois claimed GE had withheld information regarding its health and the health of its GE Capital unit, including exposures to subprime and other non-investment grade loans.

They also said GE misleadingly touted itself as being safe relative to rivals, even as it was feeling the effects of the financial crisis.

The case is In re: General Electric Co Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-01951.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)

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