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CLASS ACTION Electric utility settles claims over failed merger Kansas City, Kan. (AP)-A federal judge has approved a $32.5 million settlement of a class action brought by shareholders of Westar Energy Inc. over a failed merger plan. Topeka-based Westar will pay $1.25 million, with insurers covering the rest. Shareholders had filed suit against the company in 2003, saying that they weren’t given details of the company’s proposed merger with a New Mexico utility and its plan to turn its unregulated affiliates into a separate company called Westar Industries. The Kansas Corporation Commission ruled against the deal and the stock subsequently fell. CLEAN AIR Firm will pay $130M to repair pollution controls Des Moines, Iowa (AP)-Minneapolis- based Cargill Inc. will spend about $130 million to upgrade pollution control devices at 27 corn and oilseed plants in the Midwest to settle a clean-air lawsuit. Under the settlement, the food and agricultural products company has also agreed to pay $1.6 million in civil penalties and spend another $3.5 million on other environmental projects around the country. The federal government’s lawsuit had alleged that Cargill had significantly underestimated emissions from its operations in 13 states, and that the company’s corn processing plants were significant sources of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. Ten states and four counties had joined in the action against the company. Civil penalties and environmental project money from the settlement will be shared by the states and counties involved in the lawsuit. FRAUD Caremark pays $137.5M to settle kickbacks suit Nashville, Tenn. (AP)-Pharmacy benefits manager Caremark Rx Inc. and the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed to a $137.5 million settlement of lawsuits originally filed by whistleblowers claiming that a predecessor company received kickbacks affecting several federal health care programs. The lawsuits were filed in 2002 under the whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act by three former executives of AdvancePCS Inc., a Texas-based pharmacy benefits manager that Caremark acquired in March 2004. The Justice Department joined the lawsuits after they were filed. The lawsuits contended that AdvancePCS took kickbacks from drug manufacturers to give their products favorable treatment under contracts with the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the Mailhandlers Health Benefit Program, Medicare+Choice and other government programs. NEGLIGENCE V.A. to pay $7.4M to dead children’s mothers Philadelphia-After finding that a man’s murder of his two children and two of their friends was the result of the U.S. Veterans Administration’s “gross negligence,” a federal judge has awarded more than $7.4 million to the mothers of the murdered children. U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond concluded that V.A. officials should have known that the decision to expel Alejandro DeJesus from a treatment center and fire him from his job there would trigger his “rage disorder” and put his family in danger. DeJesus had been treated at a V.A. medical center since 1997 for severe mental problems-including “intermittent explosive disorder,” drug addiction and domestic abuse. Medical records showed that DeJesus was “a severely disturbed, unstable individual who was likely to commit acts of domestic violence when frustrated or unemployed.” The day before the murders, the V.A. had expelled DeJesus from its transitional residence and fired him from his job there because he had attacked another resident with a knife. - ALM SHAREHOLDER SUIT Shell to pay $9.2M to settle oil reserves suit Amsterdam, Netherlands (AP)-Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it will pay $9.2 million and adopt some corporate governance changes to settle shareholder lawsuits related to the company’s oil reserves scandal. The agreement resolves four lawsuits pending in U.S. federal courts in New York and New Jersey and in a New York state court. Shell was forced to restate the size of its proven oil and gas reserves last year, after announcing that it had overstated them by around 20%. The scandal cost the company almost $150 million in fines imposed by U.S. and British regulators, led to the firing of three senior executives and prompted criminal probes. WHISTLEBLOWERS $4.7M award for nuclear reservation pipefitters Yakima, Wash. (AP)-A Washington state jury has awarded more than $4.7 million in damages to 11 pipefitters who sued a contractor at the Hanford nuclear reservation, claiming that they were fired for speaking up about safety concerns. The workers filed suit six years ago against Fluor Federal Services, a contractor at the south-central Washington nuclear site. In 1997, a crew of seven pipefitters objected when they were told to install a valve rated for 1,975 pounds per square inch for a test of radioactive waste pipes that would need to withstand 2,235 pounds per square inch. The crew was later laid off, but a settlement was reached that required Arlington, Va.-based Fluor Federal Services to rehire them. The plaintiffs contended that the foremen on the job were told they would have to lay off seven other pipefitters to bring the first seven back. The lawsuit was filed by five of the original seven, plus six of those who were subsequently laid off.

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