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The U.S. attorney's office will focus on the company's books in cooperation with the SEC's Miami office, which has conducted an informal inquiry, the company said.

MESSIER'S MESS

SEC Looking at Financial Disclosures Under Former CEO's Regime
The Securities and Exchange Commission has started an investigation into alleged financial improprieties by Vivendi Universal under former Chairman Jean-Marie Messier, according to numerous published reports.

In a brief statement, Vivendi said the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York had opened a preliminary criminal investigation into the company and was coordinating with the Securities and Exchange Commission's Miami, Florida office, which has been conducting an informal inquiry.

The U.S. attorney's office will focus on the company's books in cooperation with the SEC's Miami office, the company said.

"Vivendi Universal intends to cooperate fully with those preliminary investigations," the company said, declining further comment.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the SEC inquiry comes on top of similar probes in France and as Vivendi tries to secure $4 billion financing to keep control of its cash-generative stake in French telecommunications company Cegetel.

Last week, the Paris public prosecutor's office opened an investigation into whether the company, under Messier, misled investors and falsified financial reports to buttress its shares, the paper said. The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by French shareholders, who allege the company deliberately misled investors into buying or holding Vivendi's stock.

In July, France's stock-market watchdog, Commission des Operations de Bourse, launched an investigation into the accuracy of Vivendi's financial communications under Messier.

Vivendi's board ousted Mr. Messier in early July, shortly before the company disclosed a liquidity crisis.

Messier and his team also face several other lawsuits in the United States, where some individual shareholders are seeking class-action status.

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