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ANTITRUST Microsoft will open up Windows blueprints Brussels (AP)-Under threat of daily fines by European Union antitrust regulators, Microsoft Corp. has agreed to let competitors examine some of the blueprints to its Windows operating system. Microsoft said it would offer commercial rivals access to a significant portion of the source code governing communications between servers, the machines powering Web sites and other Internet services. The code is from its Windows workgroup server and its desktop operating systems. Responding to a 2004 E.U. antitrust ruling, in December 2005 Microsoft offered rivals thousands of pages of documentation and free technical support on the communications protocols for its server. But an independent monitor nominated by Microsoft called the documents “totally unfit for its intended purpose.” The European Commission then threatened to fine Microsoft up to $2.36 million a day, retroactive to Dec. 15, until it was more forthcoming. BREACH OF CONTRACT Electric utilities settle canceled contracts fight Reno, Nev. (AP)-Nevada Power Co. will pay El Paso Corp. $19 million as part of a settlement between its parent Sierra Pacific Resources Corp. and the Houston-based El Paso in a dispute over terminated power contracts. The agreement settles claims and counterclaims made between the two companies and their subsidiaries over power that was delivered to the southern Nevada electrical utility, as well as payments due for terminated contracts. Nevada Power owed $19.8 million to El Paso for purchased power, plus $11 million in interest on the debt, according to Michael Yackira, chief financial officer for Sierra Pacific Resources, which also is the parent of Sierra Pacific Power Co. of northern Nevada. El Paso was selling wholesale power in spring 2002 to Nevada Power when the state Public Utilities Commission disallowed all but $486 million of a $922 million rate increase Nevada Power was seeking to cover costs when wholesale electrical costs soared across the West in 2000 and 2001. CIVIL RIGHTS Judge OKs $12 million prison lawsuit settlement Washington (AP)-A District of Columbia federal judge has given final approval to an agreement for the D.C. government to pay $12 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates who alleged that they were held in jail too long. Some were allegedly subjected to unreasonable strip searches. Many had been returned to jail even after their cases had been dismissed in court. $3 million of the settlement will go to the D.C. Department of Corrections to be spent on improving the inmate release process and other changes to comply with the agreement. The agreement also designates $5 million for compensation of the plaintiffs. Several thousand people could be eligible for a share of the funds. CONSUMER PROTECTION Mortgage loan provider, states settle for $325M Los Angeles (AP)-State prosecutors have announced a $325 million settlement with mortgage loan provider Ameriquest Mortgage Co., saying the deal will give some 725,000 borrowers in 49 states a chance at recovering some money lost due to what they described as deceptive lending practices. The states began investigating the Orange, Calif.-based company, which lends to people with poor credit, more than two years ago after receiving complaints from tens of thousands of consumers who claimed that they were paying more for their loans than they bargained for. The states alleged that the company’s business practices were deceptive, leaving some borrowers saddled with extra fees or higher mortgage rates. The settlement covers ACC Capital Holdings Corp., Ameriquest Mortgage Co.’s holding company, and also applies to subsidiaries Town & Country Credit Corp. and AMC Mortgage Services Inc., formerly Bedford Home Loans. Bank must pay $9M over deceptive selling tactics Albany, N.Y. (AP)-A New York state court has ordered a nationwide bank to pay nearly $9 million in restitution and penalties for using fraudulent and deceptive selling tactics that put consumers in deep debt, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has announced. In a civil suit filed in 2003, Spitzer argued that Cross Country Bank, which markets high-interest credit cards to consumers with bad credit, deceived customers into applying for cards with credit lines up to $2,500. Most received credit of no more than $400, which was immediately applied to fees imposed by the Wilmington, Del.-based bank. The compounding fees and finance charges trapped unwary consumers in a mountain of debt. Cross Country’s debt collector, Applied Card Systems, then tormented delinquent customers with abusive collection practices. NEGLIGENCE Man left paraplegic in lift gate mishap gets $26M Bridgeport, Conn. (AP)-A Connecticut federal jury has awarded more than $26 million to an Ohio man who was left a paraplegic when a heavy piece of equipment fell on him in Waterbury, Conn. The jury awarded Shaun Pouliot, 34, of Tallmadge, Ohio, the $26.3 million, after finding Arpin Logistics Inc. and Paul Arpin Van Lines, which hired Pouliot and owned the truck, liable for negligence. Lawyers for Pouliot, an independent trucker, had argued that a faulty lift gate on the truck caused the accident. The accident occurred on Oct. 23, 2001, while Pouliot was delivering a workstation for engineering students at Naugatuck Community College in Waterbury. While it was being lowered from the truck on the lift gate the 800-pound workstation tipped and fell on top of Pouliot, crushing his back. PATENTS Heart valve maker settles graft lawsuit for $37.5M Irvine, Calif. (AP)-Edwards Lifesciences Corp., a maker of heart valves, has settled a patent dispute with Medtronic Inc. by granting certain nonexclusive licenses for $37.5 million in cash. The company sued Medtronic for infringing its patents with the AneuRx and Talent abdominal aortic aneurysm grafts, devices meant to treat the ballooning, and prevent the rupture, of the body’s largest artery. Along with the nonexclusive patent licenses, Medtronic also bought delivery system assets from Edwards to be used with the grafts. Tyco unit pays $265M to settle medical device suit Pleasanton, Calif. (AP)-Manufacturing conglomerate Tyco International Ltd. has said that its Nellcor subsidiary will pay $265 million to settle a patent lawsuit by privately held Masimo Corp. In addition, Nellcor, a unit of Tyco’s medical device manufacturing division, made an advance royalty payment of $65 million for sales of Nellcor’s new products through the rest of 2006. After Jan. 31, Nellcor will no longer ship its latest pulse oximetry platform but will continue to provide service and sensors for previously sold products. Under the settlement, Nellcor has agreed to pay royalties to Masimo on sales of its new line of pulse oximetry products. Pulse oximeters measure the amount of oxygen in hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. REGULATORY ACTION FTC, database settle privacy breach charges Atlanta (AP)-The Federal Trade Commission has said that data warehouser ChoicePoint Inc. will pay $15 million to settle charges that its security and record-handling procedures violated consumers’ privacy rights and federal laws. The FTC said that it had fined the Alpharetta, Ga.-based company $10 million and that Choicepoint would pay an additional $5 million that will be used to compensate consumers. Choicepoint had revealed last year that its massive database of consumer information was accessed by thieves. WRONGFUL DEATH Parents of girls killed in gas blast accept $17.2M Boston (AP)-The parents of two girls who died in a 2002 gas explosion at their Hopkinton, Mass., home have accepted a $17.2 million settlement from NStar Gas Co. and others. Heath and Tara Carey filed a wrongful death suit against NStar Gas, Inner-Tite Corp., and landlords Leonard and Anne-Marie Pearson after their daughters, 4-year-old Iris and 5-year-old Violet, were killed in the explosion. The girls and their parents were sleeping in their second-floor apartment early in the morning on July 24, 2002, and were buried in the rubble after the explosion. The source of the leak was never identified, but lawyers for the Careys blamed it on gas company equipment that rusted in the damp basement. NStar is paying $12.5 million of the settlement but continues to deny any wrongdoing. NStar said that Inner-Tite, the manufacturer of the equipment that rusted, will pay $4.5 million, and that the landlords will pay $175,000. $3.7M award for family of police shooting victim Upper Marlboro, MD. (AP)-A Maryland state jury awarded $3.7 million to the family of a Howard University student fatally shot by an undercover county officer in 2000. Prince Jones Jr., 25, was shot eight times in the back, shoulder and arm on a Fairfax County, Va., neighborhood street by Corporal Carlton Jones, during a confrontation Sept. 1, 2000. Corporal Jones had followed Prince Jones in the mistaken belief he was involved in a gun investigation. Corporal Jones said he feared for his life and fired after Prince Jones allegedly used his Jeep Cherokee to try to ram the officer’s vehicle.

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