Federal Agents Search Caterpillar’s Illinois Facilities

Federal law enforcement agents have searched three facilities of the American heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Incorporated in the U.S. Midwest.

Caterpillar spokeswoman Corrie Heck Scott said in an email that the company, the world’s largest manufacturer of mining and construction equipment, was cooperating with law enforcement, but she gave no further details about the searches Thursday. Federal agents with search warrants entered three Caterpillar offices in Peoria, Illinois, and the surrounding area.

News of the searches sent Caterpillar shares tumbling more than 4 percent on U.S. stock exchanges within hours. Caterpillar reported $38.5 billion in sales last year, but that was an 18 percent decline from 2015.  

Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Illinois’ Central District, said the searchers were agents from the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s office of export enforcement and inspectors from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which investigates banks.

The Commerce Department said its office of export enforcement focuses on “sensitive exports to hostile entities” and “prohibited foreign boycotts,” among other things.

Caterpillar has faced a number of investigations in recent years focusing on its business practices, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Most recently, in 2015, a federal court in Illinois subpoenaed the company for documents and information relating to the distribution of profits and movement of cash among its subsidiaries. The IRS has charged Caterpillar with $2 billion for unpaid taxes and penalties in that case, but the corporation said it is “vigorously contesting” the tax demand.

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