What would you do if federal agents stormed your garage sale, looking for answers and scaring away your potential customers? That's probably the way Vivendi Universal
Earlier this month, the cash-strapped media giant was slapped with an informal inquiry into past accounting irregularities. Now it's facing an official Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.
Being investigated both here and back home, the Parisian conglomerate is accused of fibbing its financials. The practice may seem laughable now (everybody knows the debt-heavy entertainment and environmental services specialist is in trouble), but between the ramifications of a class-action lawsuit and the investigation's implications, what else could go wrong for Vivendi?
The company was already running thin on willing participants in its $12 billion asset sale. Many of the logical suitors that would normally hold their bidding cards up high, such as AOL Time Warner
Cleaning up the mess that former chief Jean-Marie Messier left behind hasn't been easy. Trying to hold off creditors while deciding which assets are worth keeping has been even harder. The problem here is obvious: Potential buyers want the company's choice assets, while Vivendi would rather sell its duds. It knows what it wants, but if Vivendi's recent streak of bad luck holds up, it has to know that it's not going to get it.