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AIR POLLUTION Acrylics factory, DOJ settle $19 million case Washington (AP)-A Memphis acrylics factory has settled in a Tennessee federal court its $19 million case with the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, which alleged that the company had violated the Clean Air Act. Southampton, U.K.-based Lucite International Inc. makes acrylic-based products. Materials produced at its Memphis plant go into products such as bathtubs and acrylic sheeting. The settlement covers the pollutants sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid mist, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. Lucite will install some $16 million worth of new pollution controls at the Memphis plant and perform a supplemental environmental project worth $1.3 million, and pay a civil penalty of $1.8 million. CLASS ACTION French insurer pays $17M to heirs of Armenians Los Angeles (AP)-A French life insurance company has agreed to pay $17 million to settle a class action filed by descendants of Armenians killed 90 years ago in the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It was the second case settled in the past 15 months claiming relatives of people who died were not paid benefits after the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923. The latest agreement was reached between AXA S.A. and heirs of policyholders. Under terms of the deal, $11 million will be split by as many as 5,000 descendants; $3 million will go toward French-Armenian charities; and the remainder will go to attorney fees and costs. The lawsuit against AXA was filed because the company had purchased L’Union Des Assurances de Paris, which sold life insurance policies to Armenians. FRAUD AIDS drug maker to pay $704M in settlement Washington (AP)-Geneva-based Serono S.A. has agreed to pay $704 million and to plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges that it increased the market for the AIDS drug Serostim by offering kickbacks to doctors. According to prosecutors, 85% of prescriptions written for Serostim, accounting for roughly $615 million in sales, were unnecessary. The cost of many of those prescriptions, $21,000 for 12 weeks of treatment, was paid by Medicaid. Serostim is used to treat AIDS “wasting,” an often-fatal condition involving severe weight loss. The demand for the drug diminished in the late 1990s with the advent of “cocktails” of AIDS drugs that made patients less susceptible to wasting. When the demand for Serostim also was greatly diminished, Serono’s U.S. operations sought to find new ways to get the costly drug into patients’ hands. Serono offered doctors free trips to the south of France in return for agreeing to write up to 30 new prescriptions for Serostim. MANAGED CARE Latest doctors’ deal with HMO yields $40 million Miami (AP)-Humana Inc. will pay $40 million to settle a class action brought by more than 700,000 doctors who claimed that they were systematically cheated by many of the nation’s major managed care companies. Humana also said that it will pay as much as $18 million in legal fees if the settlement is approved in a Florida federal court. The court has approved several other settlements in the long-running case, most recently those with Health Net Inc. and Prudential Financial Services. The doctors’ suit contends that managed care companies programmed computers to pay for less intensive services than were actually provided. REGULATORY ACTION Environmental violations cost Shell firm $10.75M San Diego (AP)-Shell Oil Co. subsidiary Equilon Enterprises LLC will pay $10.75 million to settle environmental violations at its gas stations in San Diego County. Equilon, which operates about 6,600 stations, has agreed to install tamper-resistant underground sensors at all San Diego County Shell stations and create new management systems to help prevent future problems. The county Department of Environmental Health said it issued about 2,200 notices of environmental violations at Shell gas stations from 1999 to mid-2004. The notices involved alleged violations of underground storage tank requirements and hazardous waste laws. WHISTLEBLOWER SUIT Staples settles false claims suit for $7.4M Washington (AP)-A unit of Staples Inc., the office products retailer, has paid $7.4 million to settle a false claims lawsuit over the sale of foreign-made goods to the federal government. Staples Contract and Commercial sold the government products that were made in such countries as China and Taiwan that do not have reciprocal trade agreements with the United States. Companies are required by their contracts with the General Services Administration to refrain from selling those goods to the government. The settlement brings to nearly $22 million the sum collected by the government from office products retailers to resolve claims raised by whistleblowers under the federal False Claims Act.

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