According to the Associated Press, federal regulators are investigating whether two former top executives at Dow Chemical Co. secretly tried to make the company a takeover target and the unusual trading in its stock that may have been linked to such maneuvers, according to a newspaper report Friday. The Securities and Exchange Commission''s inquiry is in the preliminary stages, The New York Times said, quoting unnamed people briefed on the matter. It said the SEC may also examine a deal that Dow did pursue with The DuPont Co., bidding last fall to buy the rival chemical giant for more than $40 billion. Shares of the two companies traded fairly erratically at the time, though Dow''s overture wasn''t publicly disclosed, the newspaper noted. DuPont was said to have rejected Dow''s approaches. Last month Dow fired the two executives, Romeo Kreinberg and J. Pedro Reinhard, saying they had unauthorized talks about a buyout of Dow. Dow''s chief executive, Andrew Liveris, has denied recently that the company has held talks about a buyout. Kreinberg and Reinhard have denied being involved in a takeover maneuver and have sued Dow for defamation, The Times said. The SEC has requested information from them as well as the company, according to the newspaper.