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SEC's tech investigations may suffer

The destruction of a major Securities and Exchange Commission field office could create serious problems for ongoing investigations of technology companies.

A major field office of the Securities and Exchange Commission was destroyed in Tuesday's attack on the World Trade Center, possibly creating serious problems for ongoing investigations of technology companies.

The Northeast Regional Office was located at 7 World Trade Center, which collapsed Tuesday after hijacked airplanes destroyed the center's two skyscrapers. The first priority was, of course, to confirm the health and safety of the workers, and the SEC said it believes all of its employees had been evacuated safely.

An SEC representative said it was too early to tell what the impact would be on ongoing investigations. She did say that the SEC has back-ups of electronic data, however.

Many tech companies have come under scrutiny by the SEC since the high-tech bubble burst. During the past few years, companies including Ashford.com, Amazon.com, Computer Associates International, Lucent Technologies, Motorola and Xerox have all disclosed investigations.

A Lucent representative said the company did not have any new information on the status of its investigation but said the company has been "openly and freely sharing information" with the SEC since the investigation began in November.

Experts said the destruction could have a lasting impact on all the investigations.

"There, of course, will be substantial loss in paperwork and computer records, assuming that there's been a total physical loss in that office," said former SEC Chairman David Ruder, now a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago. "But the New York office, as a regular matter, communicates with the SEC office in Washington...So I would expect that a fair amount of paperwork has been saved in the Washington office," Ruder said. "Certainly the loss of interview notes and details of ongoing investigations are extremely serious."

Reuters contributed to this report.