Moral Low Ground

Economy

Associated Press Falls for GE Tax Hoax Linked to ‘Yes Men’ Activists

The Asscociated Press has withdrawn a story about General Electric (GE) returning a $3.2 billion tax refund to the US Treasury after it was revealed that the story was a hoax, CBS News reports. The hoax was based on a fake press release put out by US Uncut, an activist group targeting corporate tax dodgers. US Uncut collaborated on the hoax with The Yes Men, a culture jamming activist duo that punks corporate ne’er-do-wells.

GE was in all likelihood targeted because of the recent buzz surrounding the company’s $14.2 billion profit– on which it paid exactly zero federal corporate income tax. A New York Times story, also reported here, said that GE actually received a $3.2 billion tax benefit from the US Treasury, although the company denies this.

The hoax press release claimed that Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s factory-closing, employee outsourcing CEO and President Obama’s pick for chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, had informed the White House that he was returning the $3.2 billion and “will furthermore adopt a host of new policies that secure its position as a leader in corporate social responsibility.”

More:

“All seven of our foreign tax havens are entirely legal. But Americans have made it clear that they deplore laws that enable tax avoidance. While we owe it to our shareholders to use every legal loophole to maximize returns – we also owe something to the American people. We didn’t write the laws that let us legally avoid paying taxes. Congress did. But we benefit from those laws, and now we’d like to share those benefits.”

The hoax bears the fingerprints of The Yes Men, who do just this sort of thing in their award-winning documentaries. Mike Bonnano, who along with Andy Bichlbaum formed the activist duo, told CBS News that they were not directly responsible for the GE stunt. Bonnano said The Yes Men advised an “ad-hoc group” that “did most of the heavy lifting.” The group received training via their “Yes Lab” workshop.

It has now emerged that US Uncut, described by USA Today as “a burgeoning grassroots movement pressuring corporate tax cheats to pay their fair share,” carried out the hoax in collaboration with The Yes Men.

“This action showed us how the world could work,”  US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson told USA Today. “For a brief moment people believed that the biggest corporate tax dodger had a change of heart and actually did the right thing. But the only way anything like this is really going to happen is if we change the laws that allow corporate tax avoidance in the first place.”

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