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GE hoax about its taxes won't hurt business

GE hoax, devised by a group of imposters who sent out a fake press release, tricked the Associated Press and Dow Jones news wires into publishing an incorrect story about how GE would give a $3.2 billion tax refund to Washington. Can the scammers behind the GE hoax hurt business?

General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeff Immelt poses for a picture after a meeting with a group of news editors in New Delhi on March 14, 2011. Immelt was quoted in a fake press release picked up by the AP, saying that GE would give its 2010 tax refund back to the government. Can the GE hoax damage business?

B Mathur / Reuters / File

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General Electric is the latest big corporation to have its reputation attacked by the Yes Men, a group of activists intends to humiliate corporations by posing as their leaders. GE is big and strong enough to deflect the hit, and the extent of its damage may depend on whether the giant company decides to fight back.

The Yes Men helped the group US Uncut, which goes after corporate tax evaders, send a phony press release to media outlets on Wednesday that said GE was giving a $3.2 billion tax refund back to the US Treasury. At least two news outlets, the Associated Press and Dow Jones, fell for the prank and briefly posted stories on the matter. GE’s stock, which dropped 14 cents a share after those stories, but began to recover after the AP retracted the story. At the end of trading Wednesday, it was down just 7 cents. But the GE hoax isn’t likely to have any lasting effect on business, says one expert.

“A company and a brand that is as big and powerful and diversified as GE is not going to be damaged by something like this,” says Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications in Washington.

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