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Vivendi Reveals U.S. Investigations

Nov 4, 2002 | AP

French media giant Vivendi Universal, whose financial reports under former chairman Jean-Marie Messier are being examined by French prosecutors, confirmed Monday it is being investigated by officials in New York and Florida.

The U.S. Attorney's office for the southern district of New York had opened a preliminary criminal investigation, while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Miami office has been carrying out an informal inquiry, Vivendi said in a statement. The company said the SEC's Miami office will coordinate its activities with the U.S. attorney's investigation.

It was not clear what the examinations concerned, and the company provided no further details in its statement. Vivendi said it would cooperate fully in the inquiries.

A Vivendi spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking more information. U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Marvin Smilon declined to comment.

Vivendi faces complaints in France and the United States from shareholders who allege that the company, under former chairman Jean-Marie Messier, deliberately misled investors into buying or holding Vivendi's stock.

Following the French complaint, prosecutors in Paris opened an investigation last week into whether the company misled investors and falsified financial reports to buttress shares.

American stockholders also filed a complaint.

It was the latest troubling development for the French media giant, which was already being scrutinized by France's market watchdog. This summer, the Commission of Stock Market Operations said it was studying financial information that Vivendi has released since January 2001.

Messier was replaced in July by Jean-Rene Fourtou, who is working to chip away at the debt Vivendi racked up as Messier expanded the company.

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