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Securities and Exchange Commission

is looking into possible improper trading of

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Report

shares prior to a setback earlier this year for Vanlev, a promising hypertension drug, the company said.

The agency is looking into whether people with inside knowledge may have illegally traded shares before the company announced in April that it had held back the drug for more study, according to Charlie Borgognoni, a Bristol-Myers spokesman.

Shares in No. 3 U.S. drug maker fell a whopping 22% to $50.70 on April 19 when the delay was disclosed. Vanlev was viewed as having multibillion-dollar sales potential and a key part of Bristol-Myers near-term growth strategy. The drug was sent back to the clinic for more study just before it was slated for review by the

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"Whenever you have a significant drop in someone's stock, the SEC will routinely ask for this information," said Borgognoni. "Any inquiry will look at persons who have inside information. Their request should not be construed as saying that any laws have been broken."

Borgognoni said the New York-based company is cooperating with the SEC and wouldn't release further details.

Bristol-Myers shares closed up 31 cents to $58.31.

The SEC said word of the probe had inadvertently leaked due to a "clerical error." It was first reported by



"Due to a clerical error, nonpublic information was inadvertently made public," said John Heine, an SEC spokesman. "Steps have been taken to insure that this doesn't happen again. Generally, the public should not draw any conclusions from reports of investigations."