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GE: Tax refund press release is a 'hoax'

By Aaron Smith, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- General Electric dismissed as a hoax a Wednesday press release that claimed the company has a multi-billion dollar tax refund that it will be giving back to the U.S. Treasury.

"It's a hoax," said GE spokeswoman Barbara Butler. "That's not our press release."

Butler was referring to a fake press release bearing the GE logo and font that said the company "will be gifting its entire 2010 tax refund, worth $3.2 billion, to the U.S. Treasury."

GE (GE, Fortune 500) did not actually receive a tax refund, though there has been confusion about that since the New York Times reported a story on GE's taxes on March 25.

The press release appeared on a website with a URL that was almost, but not quite, identical to the URL used by GE for its official press releases. It named "Samuel Winnacker" as a spokesman for the company, with an e-mail address and Nashville-area phone number. GE is based in Fairfield, Conn.

The release drew attention when the Associated Press ran a story based on it. It later killed the story, which was picked up by numerous websites, when GE called the release a hoax, according to the news service's own website.

"The AP did not follow its own standards," AP spokesman Paul Colford said in an e-mail statement.

CNNMoney's e-mail to the spokesman in the release bounced back as undeliverable. But someone calling himself Andrew Boyd picked up the phone when CNNMoney called.

Boyd said the press release was a prank done by U.S. Uncut in association with the Yes Lab and that it was "an effort founded by the Yes Men," a group that's critical of large corporations.

"For a short while today, a lot of Americans believed that corporate America did something good for a change," said Boyd.

He said the purpose of the prank was "to show that corporate American can do the right thing" and "to force GE to deny that they're doing the right thing."

This isn't the first prank tied to the Yes Men, who are also believed to have been behind press releases falsely attributed to Chevron Corp. (CVX, Fortune 500) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. To top of page

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