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U.S. federal officials seek Nortel accounting records

The networking company is served with a subpoena for materials related to its accounting practices, which are already the subject of an SEC inquiry.

Nortel Networks said Friday that it has received a federal subpoena for materials related to its accounting practices, which are already the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company said the federal grand-jury subpoena, issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas, requests several documents, including personnel records, accounting records and public financial statements. The materials sought include documents that date back to January 2000 and others as recent as the company's last quarterly financial reports.

Nortel's internal auditors have been looking at the company's finances since it was discovered that roughly $900 million in liabilities either had been recorded incorrectly in prior periods or had not been properly released in the appropriate periods. The company has restated earnings from 2000, 2001 and 2002, along with figures for the first two quarters of 2003. The restatements became the subject of an SEC investigation in April, and last month, the company dismissed its CEO, citing results from an internal investigation into the accounting problems.

A Nortel representative said the company will continue to cooperate with all reviews of its accounting practices. The representative declined to comment further on the documents requested Friday, until the company completes its own investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Texas could not be reached for comment on the subpoena, but a statement issued by the company describes the request as being related to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Nortel announced on April 28 that it had fired Chief Executive Officer Frank Dunn and two other top officials. While the equipment maker did not blame the fired executives for the accounting controversy, it said the move was necessary to restore confidence in Nortel's leadership. People at the company have attempted to spin the accounting scandal as a result of changes in the telecommunications market rather than as fraudulent behavior.

Nortel did not provide a time frame for the completion of its internal review but said the company is making every effort to build a transparent view of its accounting.

The company has said that unaudited results for 2003 will need to be revised. The company estimates that net earnings will likely drop by 50 percent and that the company will likely report a net loss for the first half of the year.