Priceline.com Founder Jay Walker just can’t seem to buy a break.
Priceline’s advertising was called into question, it
bailed out of the grocery business, it stock is near an all-time low, and
now the Connecticut attorney general’s office is investigating its founder
for possible labor law violations following layoffs at a related company.
was trading at $2.37 this morning, down more than 7 percent
and near its 52-week low of $2.18. At one time it traded for more than $104.
Last week, Priceline.com, the name-your-own-price seller of airline tickets
and services, said it may take a fourth-quarter charge because of money
problems at Walker Digital Corp., a firm that developed the name-your-price
software and shares some of the same ownership.
In fact, Walker Digital laid off about 100 of its 135 workers at its
Stamford, CT, offices after failing to obtain more financing from investors.
Jay Walker, Walker Digital chairman and chief executive, also is the founder
and vice chairman of Norwalk, CT-based Priceline.com.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, already investigating
consumer complaints against Priceline.com, now has been quoted as saying
there may have been labor law violations regarding the lack of advance notice
given to Walker Digital workers about the layoffs.
Priceline.com itself contends that Walker Digital “has nothing to do with us.”
Blumenthal was quoted by Bloomberg News as saying that the company may be
liable for severance or back pay if proper notice was not given to the laid
Walker Digital had not been notified of the investigation, and the company
believes it gave proper notification, spokesman Kevin Goldman told Bloomberg.
The company paid severance to those who had worked for a year and had
considered hardship cases, he said.
Priceline.com’s filing with the SEC last week relating to the charge didn’t
indicate what the amount might be.
Priceline has never made any money and posted a third-quarter loss of $1.19
per share. For the first three quarters of this year, revenues totaled $1.01
billion, up from $313.2 million in the same period a year ago. Net loss
applicable to common stock rose 58 percent to $224.4 million.