GE annual meeting interrupted by 99 Percent protesters

Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:54pm EDT
 
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By Scott Malone

DETROIT (Reuters) - Nearly 100 protesters affiliated with the "99 Percent" populist movement disrupted General Electric Co's annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday in an attack on the largest U.S. conglomerate's low tax rate.

The demonstrators, who began chanting "Pay Your Fair Share" when the meeting began, were quickly ushered out of the meeting -- held in the Detroit building that houses General Motors Co's headquarters -- but could still be heard chanting protests as the meeting got underway.

After their exit, Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin stepped up to defend GE's tax practices, and noted that the company's low tax rates in 2008 and 2009 were the result of heavy losses at GE Capital.

"Over the 2008 through 2010 time period we lost over $30 billion in credit losses at GE Capital and that reduced our pre-tax income and also our rate," Sherin said. "Our U.S. tax expense last year was $2.6 billion. We are a large taxpayer, we pay our taxes and we very much support tax reform."

As they were ushered outside, protesters rejoined a large crowd of hundreds of other demonstrators with signs that read "Tax Dodgers at Work" and "This is What Democracy Looks Like." Police herded them away from the riverfront building.

The protesters were part of the "99 Percent" movement, an offshoot of last year's Occupy Wall Street protests. Both are loosely organized around the idea that the U.S. economy no longer serves the needs of most Americans. The "99 Percent" moniker contrasts the average citizen to the nation's wealthiest.

None of the demonstrators were arrested, unlike the scene at Wells Fargo & Co's shareholder meeting in San Francisco a day earlier, where about a dozen were arrested.

FAIR SHARE   Continued...

 
A group of Detroit pastors, including Homer Jamison (2nd R) and William Rideout (L), are escorted out of the Renaissance Center after disrupting General Electric Co's annual shareholders meeting being held in Detroit, Michigan April 25, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook