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Amazon Annual Report Cites SEC Investigation

Amazon.com disclosed in its annual report that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the company's “accounting treatment and disclosures” involving some of its strategic alliances.

The focus seems to involve a dispute between Amazon and online luxury goods retailer Ashford.com. Amazon, which owns more than 16 percent of Ashford.com, did not specify what the dispute entailed and did not make anyone available to comment. In its annual report, Amazon said that the SEC was looking into whether the company played any part in the supposedly improper resolution of the dispute.

“The SEC staff recently notified us that it believes the other party to one such transaction, Ashford.com, improperly reported the resolution of a business dispute with us and that it is considering whether the company, or any of its officers or employees, may have facilitated Ashford.com's conduct,” Amazon said in its report.

The SEC also is investigating Ashford.com's accounting and disclosures for its marketing activities in 2000 and 2001. No one at Ashford.com was available to comment.

Amazon said its actions in the Ashford.com dispute were “at all times proper” and that its financial situation would not be harmed.

Amazon has alliances with other marketers, including Toys 'R' Us, Target and online credit card provider NextCard. Amazon did not say in its report what other alliances the SEC was investigating.

Amazon also said the SEC is looking into previously reported sales of the company's common stock by chairman Jeff Bezos on Feb. 2 and Feb. 5, 2001. Bezos owns more than 32 percent of Amazon.com's common stock. Neither Amazon nor the SEC would say why Bezos's stock trading is being investigated.

On Feb. 2, Bezos sold 375,000 shares at $14.70 each. On Feb. 5, he sold 425,000 shares at $14.56 per share. Amazon's shares closed at $14.37 on Feb. 2 and at $14.43 on Feb. 5, according to Nasdaq's records.

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