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TOP STORIES CONVERGING INTO THE - Week of
RULES IN FAVOR OF WOMAN IN A $6M LANDMARK TOXIC
Fraud Ring Taps Into Consumer Credit
A fraud ring infiltrated one of the nation's
largest collectors of consumer information and
obtained credit reports, Social Security numbers
and other information about tens of thousands of
people in a massive case of identity theft.
ChoicePoint Inc. said it had begun sending
letters to about 35,000 Californians to tell them
that their personal information might have been
compromised. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based company
urged them to check their credit reports for new
accounts or suspicious activity.
ChoicePoint also said it would warn 110,000
people outside California.
Hollywood man was arrested and pleaded no contest
to felony identity theft. Olatunji Oluwatosin, 41,
was sentenced to 16 months in state prison
Mutual Fund Firm Accused of Fraud
Los Angeles-based American Funds, one of the
nation's biggest seller of mutual funds, violated
securities rules by steering stock trading business
to brokerages that pushed its funds to their
clients, regulators said.
alleged that American Funds paid $100 million in
commissions to about 50 brokerages in 2001 to 2003
for executing stock trades, both "to reward past
sales and to encourage future sales."
Funds broke rules aimed at eliminating incentives
for brokers to pitch funds in exchange for fees
from the mutual fund company, the NASD said. The
NASD seeks to force American Funds to return "any
and all ill-gotten gains."
company Capital Group Cos. denied any wrongdoing
and said it would seek to block action by the
Verizon to Buy MCI in $6.7-Billion Deal
Directors of MCI Inc. agreed to sell the
long-distance carrier to Verizon Communications
Inc. for about $6.7 billion in cash and stock.
decision to hitch up with the nation's largest
telephone company further transforms the U.S.
telecommunications industry into one dominated by a
few national behemoths that serve international
corporations as well as households.
voting for Verizon, MCI spurned a richer bid by
Qwest Communications International Inc., which had
sweetened its original offer over the weekend by
about $1 billion to $7.3 billion.
action may draw complaints from MCI shareholders,
most of whom bought into the company after it
emerged from bankruptcy. It was called WorldCom
Inc. when an $11-billion accounting fraud crippled
the company in 2002.
Qwest's offer was higher, the company is weaker
financially than Verizon.
CalPERS Retirment System Elects Feckner as
The board of the California Public
Employees' Retirement System unanimously elected
Rob Feckner as president.
minutes of the vote, 47-year-old Feckner presided
over the selection of his vice president, read a
statement of his beliefs and launched a discussion
of the No. 1 item on the day's agenda: voting to
oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign to
overhaul the state's pension system for state and
in his first remarks as president said he would
employ "a quieter, less flashy style" than his
predecessor, Sean Harrigan, whose ouster in
December sparked a debate over the future of the
nation's largest public pension fund.
vowed to continue initiatives to limit excessive
executive pay, control soaring healthcare costs
and, above all, oppose efforts by Schwarzenegger
and his Republican allies in the Legislature and
business to dramatically change how public pensions
Stock Trading Probed at Wachovia
Brokerage giant Wachovia Securities said it
was investigating stock trading, including possible
use of fictitious accounts to reap short-term
gains, at one of its Westlake Village offices.
NASD, the brokerage industry's self-regulatory
agency, also has opened a probe into the office,
according to people familiar with the matter. The
NASD declined to comment.
people said an anonymous letter sent to Wachovia
alleged that brokers used fabricated accounts to
take advantage of company stock-purchase plans in
which shares are sold to investors at discounts of
as much as 5% off the market price.
brokers allegedly sought to play the so-called
arbitrage opportunity in such transactions: By
buying the shares at a discount, then quickly
selling the stock in the open market, they could
profit from the "spread" between the two
is an internal investigation into these issues,"
said a Wachovia spokesman.
WorldCom's Finance Chief Says He Lied
The government's star witness against former
WorldCom Inc. chief Bernard J. Ebbers acknowledged
under cross-examination that he repeatedly lied to
the board about the company's financial plight and
its fraudulent accounting maneuvers.
Sullivan, former chief financial officer, said he
misled directors shortly after Ebbers was forced
out of the company in April 2002. That concession
could potentially undercut Sullivan's claim that he
wanted to disclose WorldCom's troubles to investors
but was held back by Ebbers.
WorldCom's former chief executive, is charged with
fraud and other crimes stemming from the telecom
company's bankruptcy, the biggest in U.S. history.
He faces at least 30 years in prison if
Tenet Healthcare Case Declared a Mistrial
The trial of Tenet Healthcare Corp. on
charges that doctors were bribed to refer patients
to its Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San
Diego ended in a hung jury. U.S. District Judge
James Lorenz declared a mistrial after jurors
reported they were deadlocked following five days
Atty. Carol C. Lam said that she remained confident
in the government's case and that a retrial was
likely in light of a poll that showed the jury was
leaning toward conviction. She declined to comment
general counsel, E. Peter Urbanowicz, said that he
was sorry the jury failed to reach a verdict and
that he hoped prosecutors would drop the
FDA Panel Urges Painkiller Warnings
A Food and Drug Administration advisory
panel voted to let doctors prescribe COX-2
painkillers but recommended stronger warnings about
the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
scientists and other experts on the 32-member panel
proposed that Celebrex, Vioxx and Bextra carry
"black box" warnings &emdash; the strongest
admonishment the FDA can give to doctors.
warnings are likely to discourage use of the
case of Vioxx, which was taken off the market
voluntarily last fall by Merck & Co., panel
members voted to approve its use by a margin of two
and Bextra, which have remained on the market
during the safety controversy, are produced by
French Government Settles Exec Life Suits
Credit Lyonnais and the French government
agreed to pay $600 million to settle their part of
a long-running legal battle over the 1991 collapse
of Executive Life Insurance Co.
settlement of two consolidated lawsuits brought by
California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi
and a Bay Area company, Sierra National Insurance
Holdings Inc., wasexpected to be endorsed by a U.S.
District Court judge in Los Angeles.
Lyonnais, a major French bank, and two French
government-controlled companies have agreed to pay
$525 million to the state and $75 million to
Sierra, according to attorneys familiar with the
payments would settle fraud claims arising from the
purchase of failed Executive Life and its portfolio
of devaluing junk bonds by the bank and MAAF, a
Paris-based insurance company. Sierra was a losing
bidder to buy the insurance business and the
Hewlett-Packard Results Top Expectations
A week after ousting Chief Executive Carly
Fiorina, Hewlett-Packard Co. said that its fiscal
first-quarter revenue rose 10% but that profit was
little changed from a year earlier.
an improvement from last year, the company's PC
business managed an operating margin of 2%,
compared with 15% for its printing and imaging
holiday-season sales of personal computers and
computer services for the quarter ended Jan. 31 led
HP to a profit of $943 million, or 32 cents a
share, up 0.7% from $936 million, or 30 cents, a
year earlier. Revenue was $21.5 billion, up from
Alto-based HP's operating earnings of 37 cents a
share beat the consensus estimate of 34 cents by
Wall Street analysts.
Microsoft Outlines Software Security Plan
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates outlined
for the first time how the software giant plans to
use recent purchases to beef up security of its
Windows operating system.
at a security trade conference in San Francisco,
Gates said Microsoft would give away a program to
combat computer spyware, release a safer Internet
browser this summer and sell anti-virus tools by
said Microsoft was making significant progress in
helping consumers and companies reduce the risk of
industry rivals and some customers expressed doubts
about Microsoft's efforts, noting that shortcomings
in the company's other products were a major reason
that attacks by spyware and electronic viruses
continued to increase.
Pace of Home Sales Slows in U.S.A
The pace of Southern California home sales
slowed last month as the rate of price appreciation
eased slightly in much of the region, according to
DataQuick Information Systems.
of 21,680 new and resale homes were sold in Los
Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San
Diego and Ventura counties in January. That was a
28.5% decline from December's 30,317 and a 4.9%
drop from 22,652 in January 2004.
median price &emdash; the point at which half of
all properties sold for more, half for less
&emdash; for a home in the six-county region rose
21% last month to $415,000.
January's median price was down 2.1% from
December's median of $424,000.
Page / Feature
TIMELINE: Top Stories To
Start The Week With:
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.'s Net Income Soars on
Rupert Murdoch, during a
conference call with investors, News Corp. Chairman
Rupert Murdoch said he expected to reach an
agreement within nine months that would reduce
Liberty Media Corp.'s 18% voting stake to a level
less threatening to his family's control. Murdoch
and his family own about 30% of News
"We haven't had any
substantial talks yet," Murdoch
The company's cable
channels also boost profit despite wider operating
losses at its Fox television
Despite the poor
performance of its Fox television network last
fall, News Corp.'s quarterly profit rose 80% on
strong DVD sales and continuing strength of cable
channels such as Fox News Channel.
The company reported
Wednesday that its net income rose to $386 million
during its fiscal second quarter, which ended Dec.
31, or 13 cents a share -- up from $215 million, or
8 cents, in the same period a year ago. Revenue was
up 18% to $6.56 billion.
The company projected
that operating profit for fiscal 2005 would
increase by as much as 20%, up from a previous
growth forecast that was in the mid- to high
News Corp.'s biggest
weaknesses during the quarter were the Fox
television network and Sky Italia, its Italian
satellite TV service. Operating losses at Sky
Italia rose to $105 million, from $104 million a
At the Fox TV network,
operating losses widened by $26 million to $153
million for the quarter, as programming costs
increased, prime-time ratings fell and local
advertising sales at its TV stations were weak.
News Corp. executives blamed the network's
continuing problem on disruption of its fall
prime-time launch caused by its airing of
Yet News Corp. President
Peter Chernin predicted that Fox would end the
season in a battle with CBS for first place in the
ratings for young adults because of the continued
dominance of returning shows such as "American
Idol" and "24," and the promise of new programs
such as "House."
On a brighter note, News
Corp.'s film division was the quarter's star
performer. Home video sales doubled in the period
to $1.2 billion from a year earlier, giving News
Corp. the highest profit margins in the film
business, at 20%, analysts said.
Twentieth Century Fox
Television posted strong DVD sales for "The
Simpsons," "24" and "Family Guy," along with
various library titles.
A strong roster of
summer releases, such as "The Day After Tomorrow,"
as well as the DVD sales of catalog and TV titles
and the "Star Wars" trilogy, led to a year-end
payday in home video, Chernin
He said the margins
could be sustained because of the studio's "focus
on profitability over market share," and its
success with lower-budget titles such as
"Sideways," which was recently nominated for five
Academy Awards, including best picture.
Cable programming also
contributed to News Corp.'s strong quarter.
Operating profit at the unit, which includes the
FX, Fox News and National Geographic channels, rose
46% to $227 million.
News Corp. shares rose 5
cents to $17.67 on the New York Stock Exchange.
to Resign as FCC
Relies OnWireless For
Google Going Into theWeb Browser Business, ala
Soval of VRA TelePlay Pictures says the Yahoo Move
to Hollywood is a
Protection / The U.S. is a party to
international treaties that prohibit copyright
YES90 / "Let a
Thousand Googles Bloom," LATimes Commentary, Jan 12
2005: Lawrence Lessig may be right that requiring
periodic copyright renewal would make it easier to
determine what works are protected, but he ignores
one major reason we eliminated copyright renewals
in the first
The U.S. is a
party to international treaties that prohibit
copyright renewal requirements. We agreed to these
treaties and eliminated our copyright renewal
requirement after suffering many years of uncertain
protection of American works in foreign
At a time when
the export of intellectual property is a
significant portion of our economy, the U.S. needs
to exercise caution before abrogating treaties that
protect the works of its authors.
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