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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Securities and Exchange Commission began a formal investigation of Lumenis Ltd., according to the company's quarterly report.

The SEC requested Wednesday from the medical-device company in February on its relationships with distributors and further explanation of previous charges and write-downs for the period beginning January 1998.

Lumenis has been and continues to provide information to the agency and was told Wednesday the SEC issued a formal investigation order, the Wednesday filing with the SEC said.

Lumenis also said in the filing that after the SEC request for information in February, at least six lawsuits were filed against the company alleging violation of securities laws with several seeking class action status.

The company's balance sheets through March reflect an $18 million accrual related to Lumenis management's estimate of the company's potential exposure on some of the legal proceedings, the filing said.

Israel-based Lumenis makes medical devices using lasers and pulsed light for dermatology and vascular disorders.

Shares of the company were at $3.89 early Thursday afternoon on the Nasdaq Stock Market, down 69 cents, or 15.1 percent.