Geoff Colvin’s survey of Jeff Immelt’s tenure as CEO of General Electric gives me a chance to climb back on one of my favorite hobby horses. Of course GE’s stock under Immelt hasn’t generated the same sort of returns it did under Jack Welch. It couldn’t possibly have. Reason: Welch put up his big numbers by cooking the books. In particular, he generated phantom earnings growth at GE for years by systematically under-reserving at the company’s reinsurance unit. When GE sold the business to Swiss Re in 2006, Immelt had the unhappy task of un-cooking the books-by adding in an extra $10 billion of reserves back into the business. Without reinsurance as a source of potential earnings creativity (which was used up, in any event), Immelt was left with a hulking industrial monolith that will never again show the kind of earnings growth Jack Welch conjured up for it out of thin air. It’s amazing to think the stock ever traded at 30 times earnings. Why Colvin neglects to mention any of this is a weird sort of tribute to the Cult of Jack that still persists. . . .