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Federal Agents Search Caterpillar's Illinois Facilities

FILE - Earth-moving tractors and equipment made by Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar Inc. are seen in Clinton, Illinois, June 20, 2012.

Federal law enforcement agents have searched three facilities of the American heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. 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 gave no further details about the searches Thursday.

Later in the day, Caterpillar said in a statement, “We believe the execution of this search warrant is regarding, among other things, export filings that relate to the CSARL matter,’’ referring to its Swiss subsidiary.

Two years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched an “informal investigation’’ relating to CSARL and asked the company to preserve relevant documents.

The SEC spokesman in Washington declined to comment on the raids 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, 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 SEC.

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 $2 billion in unpaid taxes and penalties in that case, but the corporation said it is “vigorously contesting” the tax demand.