AOL Time Warner, the world's biggest media and Internet company, said the US Justice Department opened an investigation into its accounting, a week after securities regulators started a similar probe.
The investigations come after the Washington Post reported on July 18th that the company's America Online Internet unit boosted sales by about $270 million from July 2000 through March 2002 by counting revenue from advertisements sold on behalf of EBay and through other ”unconventional” transactions.
America Online's advertising was booming in the early 2000 when it agreed to buy Time Warner, and executives said the Web service would fuel profits at the combined company. America Online has since posted three quarters of declining advertising sales. Two weeks ago, Chief Operating Officer Robert Pittman quit, three months after being charged with reviving sales at the online unit.
“This is the end of a fiasco, and now the Time Warner guys need to get it back on track,” said Blaylock & Partners LP analyst John Tinker. “There will be a lot of people leaving America Online, and the faster that happens the better. They've got to clean house.”