The problems continue to grow for AOL Time Warner's (NYSE:AOL) America Online unit. Already under SEC investigation for its accounting of various advertising deals, the probe has now been extended to include the manner in which it reported subscriber growth during 2000 and 2001.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the SEC has asked for documents relating to AOL's bulk-subscription sales. Under that program, the company sold America Online subscriptions by the hundreds of thousands to partners such as Sears (NYSE:S), J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), Target (NYSE:TGT), United Airlines, and CompUSA. The subscriptions cost the partners very little, and they would offer them to their employees for less than $10 per month.

The program generated at least 830,000 subscriptions, or roughly 17% of subscriber growth, during the two years in question. There are two problems here. First, it's unclear how many of these bulk accounts were actually resold and activated by employees. Second, those that were activated were not, in the words of the Journal, "as lucrative... or as active" as AOL's regular $20-per-month subscribers.

In light of the new investigation, we are left once again questioning AOL's honesty and the quality information it disseminated.