As corporate accounting began getting closer public scrutiny in late 2001, investors began prying into debt management and liquidity. Rating agencies also began tightening the guidelines, such as separating credit risk from liquidity risk, needed to keep existing ratings.

To take a leadership role, GE Capital Corp. decided to reduce its reliance on commercial paper. After its acquisition of Heller Financial when term funding was delayed, GECC's reliance on commercial paper had zoomed to 49% of its total debt; long-term debt was 46%. The solution: reduce commercial paper to a more manageable 25% to 35% ratio. In dollar terms that meant reducing commercial paper about $33 billion from a high of $117 billion.

Everyone from the CFO down was asked to sign off on the project. Rating agencies were also consulted. "We had recognized that investors in the marketplace wanted to see a company with a more conservative debt structure," says Kitty Yoh, assistant treasurer of long-term funding at GECC. "The decision was thoroughly vetted out in setting the target amount."

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