SEC says Tidewater failed to disclose vessel withdrawals

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 2 -- Tidewater Inc. and its Chief Financial Officer, James Keith Lousteau, failed to disclose to shareholders for more than 2 years that as many as 83 of its vessels had been withdrawn from service, the US Securities and Exchange Commission said on Sept. 28.

The New Orleans offshore workboat operator also allegedly did not perform proper impairment analyses of its vessels, failed to review its depreciation estimates, filed inaccurate reports with the SEC, and had inadequate financial controls from September 2001 to March 2004, SEC said.

Tidewater and Lousteau settled the allegations without admitting or denying them. The SEC issued cease-and-desist orders covering possible violations of federal securities laws part of the settlement but did not levy fines or other penalties.

SEC said Tidewater allegedly did not report to shareholders or to SEC that vessels had been withdrawn from service from April 2002 until March 2004. At that time, the company took a $26.5 million before-tax writeoff ($17.3 million after taxes) in its Fiscal 2004 Form 10-K filing related to 83 vessels unlikely to return to service because of age, equipment which was no longer competitive, and unacceptably high potential repair costs.

SEC said it considered remedial efforts that Tidewater instituted before and during the commission staff's investigation in deciding to accept the company and Lousteau's settlement offers.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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