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SEC Is Investigating Amerco's Records

May 13, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Amerco Inc., owner of the U-Haul truck-rental service, said Monday the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company's accounting as Amerco re-audits its financial statements for the last two years.

The Reno-based company said the inquiry may stem from off-the-books units created on the advice of former auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers. The company said it is cooperating with the investigation.

Spokesmen for the accounting firm and for the SEC declined to comment on the company's statement.

Amerco sued PricewaterhouseCoopers for $2.5 billion last month, accusing it of bad advice that almost led to bankruptcy. The firm structured special-purpose entities to help the company legally avoid putting real estate-related losses on its books, Amerco has said. The auditor later said the entities weren't independent enough to justify such accounting, Amerco said.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman last month said the lawsuit "appears to be an attempt by company management to shift blame away from themselves."

Enron Corp., which in December 2001 filed the second-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, used similar entities to disguise loans and hide debt.

Amerco said it used the entities to buy real estate for its self-storage business because lenders and credit agencies preferred a separate entity for property that depreciates over much longer periods than Amerco's primary assets such as trucks and vans do.

Amerco fired New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting firm, as its auditor in July 2002. The company hired BDO Seidman the following month.

Amerco shares fell 2 cents to $6.96 on Nasdaq. They have slid 56% in the last year.

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