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GE Capital under scrutiny over Thomas Petters’ Ponzi scheme

Lawsuit could reveal the truth about General Electric Capitol Corp.’s knowledge of one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history

Thomas Petters is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence for perpetrating one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history, but the ramifications of the scheme are still being felt today, according to a recent Wall Street Journal Law Blog post. The latest potential casualty of the scheme could be the General Electric Capital Corp. (GECC), which may have had knowledge of the scam more than eight years before it was uncovered.

In 2008, Petters’ house of cards finally collapsed, when hedge funds Palm Beach Finance Partners and Palm Beach Finance II lost approximately $1 billion. But, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday, GE Capital may have discovered the scheme as early as 2000 and paid a substantial sum to keep the situation hush hush.

The suit, filed in Florida, claims that GECC learned of Petters’ malfeasance after contacting Costco Wholesale Corp., a company that was supposedly doing business with Petters. Upon learning that this was not the case, GECC allegedly elected to accept a payoff of a $50 million loan. The lawsuit also says that GECC opted to “join, encourage, aid, abet, facilitate and substantially assist Petters’ conspiracy.”

The tacit endorsement of Petters’ led the two Palm Beach hedge funds to lend money to Petters, resulting in the billion dollar losses.

This lawsuit represents yet another stumbling block for GE Capital. In June, GE Capital Retail Bank reached a settlement over a probe into its health care credit card. Cardholders alleged that they were tricked into signing up for the high-interest card, and GE agreed to pay upwards of $2 million to approximately 1,000 cardholders.

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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