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Government subpoenas Butterfield & Butterfield

The Department of Justice issues a subpoena to the auction house, which eBay acquired last year, asking that the company turn over documents relating to recent changes in its operations.

The Department of Justice has issued a subpoena to auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, which eBay acquired last year, asking that the company turn over documents relating to recent changes in its operations.

In statements made in eBay's quarterly financial report released today, company executives speculate that last week's subpoena is part of an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's antitrust division into allegations of price fixing by several major auction houses.

The government has requested documents that pertain to changes in sellers' commissions and buyers' premiums, as well as any records regarding "discussions, agreements or understandings with other auction houses" since 1992.

Levi Morgan, a representative for the San Francisco-based auction house, said the company is complying with the government's request for records and other information.

eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove confirmed that Butterfield & Butterfield received the subpoena and that the company intends to cooperate fully with investigators. eBay last April paid $260 million for the auction house, which deals in fine art and collectibles.

Several reports have stated that federal authorities also are looking into an alleged price-fixing scheme involving auction houses Christie's International and Sotheby's.