Barnes & Noble shares fall as company reveals it is co-operating in SEC probe

Shares of Barnes & Noble fell on Friday after the bookseller said it was co-operating in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its accounting.

The struggling retailer has been trying to make a turnaround in the face of tough competition and book readers who are increasingly turning to digital media for content.

The SEC told the bookseller Oct. 16 that it was investigating the company’s restatement of earnings announced in July as well as an employee allegation that it improperly allocated some information-technology expenses between its Nook and retail segments. The news came in its quarterly report filed after the market closed Thursday.

Barnes & Noble Inc. began reporting its Nook business sales separately from its retail business in late 2012 as it evaluated ways to become more profitable. The company said in a filing on July 29 that it had restated results from the fiscal years ending in April 2011 and 2012 due to material errors in the financial reports for those periods. It also said at the time that it overstated some accruals for the periods before April 27, 2013.

Under Michael Huseby, who became president of the company and CEO of Barnes & Noble’s retail group in July, the company has been evaluating its strategy and trying to turn around results.

In its most recent fiscal second quarter, the company returned to a profit as cost cuts offset an 8 per cent revenue decline.

Shares fell $1.56, or 9.5 per cent, to $14.83 in afternoon trading, while the general market rose on a strong November jobs report. The stock had been up about 9 per cent since the beginning of the year.