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Environmentalists Seek SEC Probe of Viacom

March 04, 1997|From Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Viacom Inc. isn't disclosing to shareholders the full extent of its potential environmental liabilities, said three environmental groups, who asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to look into the issue.

Viacom's cleanup costs at more than 30 Superfund sites around the country could total $300 million, said Friends of the Earth, Citizen Action and the Sierra Club. The groups said they asked the SEC to investigate whether the company misled shareholders when it listed environmental liabilities as "not material" in its 1995 annual report.

According to the groups, Viacom is the principal or only responsible party for cleaning up six sites, which could cost at least $270 million.

Viacom called the groups' allegations "misleading and inaccurate," and said the $270 million estimate "bears no relationship to reality."

The SEC, as a matter of policy, wouldn't say whether it's looking into the group's request.

Viacom, the owner of MTV and Blockbuster Entertainment, inherited a number of Superfund sites when it acquired Paramount Communications Inc. Paramount, the former Gulf & Western, had interests in mining and other industries.

EPA officials familiar with the sites couldn't immediately be reached to comment.

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