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CONSUMER PROTECTION Home loan lender settles alleged fraud class action Los Angeles (AP)-Home loan lender Ameriquest Mortgage Co. has agreed to pay as much as $50 million to settle a class action alleging that it cheated thousands of borrowers in four states-Alabama, Alaska, California and Texas. Ameriquest, which lends to people with spotty credit and modest incomes, has been dogged by consumer complaints and lawsuits in about 20 states accusing the company of fraud and falsification of documents. The tentative settlement stems from a lawsuit accusing Ameriquest of surprising borrowers with fees and interest rates that often were significantly higher than quotes in good- faith estimates of loan costs. HEALTH CARE Tenet settles uninsured patients class actions Dallas (AP)-Tenet Healthcare Corp. has agreed to settle some class actions over prices that uninsured and underinsured patients were charged at hospitals owned by the chain’s subsidiaries. The operator of acute-care hospitals said that it has established a $30 million reserve to cover costs of the settlement. Under the agreement, covering four years, Tenet would provide financial counseling to uninsured patients, and disclose estimated charges for anticipated treatments. Tenet said it would follow a uniform credit and collection policy: It wouldn’t pursue legal action against unemployed patients for nonpayment of bills or place liens on patients’ homes. MEDICAL MALPRACTICE Oncology clinic, nurse hit with $606M verdict Dallas-A Texas state jury has assessed an oncology clinic and a nurse with $606 million in damages-$600 million of which are punitives-for overdosing a cancer patient with a chemotherapy drug. The case involved the death of an 82-year-old prostate cancer patient named William Jameson. In 2003, Jameson received two doses of Taxol, a highly toxic drug, on consecutive days even though the drug is supposed to be administered once every three weeks. Jameson died within days. Dr. Volker H. Gressler, who owned the clinic, settled with the plaintiffs a month before trial for $1 million. -alm PATENTS $450 million payout to settle BlackBerry suit New York (AP)-Canadian company Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, has announced that it will pay $450 million to settle a patent infringement suit. The payout to NTP Inc., a Virginia company, ends a long legal battle in which the Canadian government had interceded. The settlement should make it easier for Research in Motion to license its technology for use in other mobile devices. Under the agreement, NTP grants Research in Motion the right to continue its BlackBerry-related business without further interference from NTP or its patents. The dispute began in 2002 when NTP claimed that Research in Motion infringed on 16 of its patents, including its radio communications technology. In August 2003, a Virginia federal court agreed that 11 of those 16 patents were violated and awarded NTP $54 million in damages, as well as an 8.6% royalty on all the revenue from U.S. BlackBerry sales. SHAREHOLDER SUIT JPMorgan Chase OKs $2B WorldCom payment New York (AP)-JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s second-largest financial institution, has agreed to pay $2 billion to settle claims from investors who lost money in the collapse of WorldCom Inc. It was the last major bank to reach a settlement in the class action, though other defendants remain. The JPMorgan Chase settlement came a day after WorldCom’s former chief executive, Bernard Ebbers, was found guilty of fraud, conspiracy and false regulatory filings in the $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom. The company collapsed in 2002, but has since emerged from bankruptcy to operate under the name MCI Inc. Settlements involving more than a dozen banks and investment banks now exceed more than $6 billion. The banks were involved in the underwriting or sale of billions of dollars worth of bonds that WorldCom issued in 2000 and 2001. Investors who purchased the securities argued that the banks should have been aware of ongoing fraud at the company. TRADE SECRETS Microsoft to pay $60M to settle theft allegations Baltimore (AP)-Microsoft Corp. will pay $60 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a California software company alleging that Microsoft had stolen its multimedia streaming software. Microsoft and Burst.com Inc. said in a joint statement that they had reached “an agreement in principle” to resolve all claims against Microsoft. Under the settlement, Microsoft also will receive a nonexclusive license to Burst’s patent portfolio. Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Burst sued Microsoft in June 2002, alleging that it developed its software for streaming audio and video more quickly over the Internet after discussing the technology for months with Burst.

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