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ANTITRUST Dutch publisher to pay $55M to settle 1996 case The Hague, Netherlands (AP)-Dutch publisher VNU N.V., best known for its Nielsen television ratings in the United States, will pay $55 million to settle an antitrust case dating back to 1996. VNU said it will take a net charge of $33.3 million to 2005 earnings to settle the case brought by Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources Inc. against business units Dun and Bradstreet Corp., ACNielsen Corp. and IMS Health Inc. Short Hills, N.J.-based Dun and Bradstreet Corp., a business-information provider, and IMS Health, a pharmaceutical research company, are no longer part of VNU. BANKRUPTCY Ephedra-related suits settle for $34.2 million Manasquan, N.J. (AP)-Two years after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, supplement maker Nutraquest Inc. and other companies have agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement of injury claims related to the use in diet pills of ephedra, an amphetaminelike herbal substance banned in 2004. Documents related to the bankruptcy reorganization plan of the Manasquan-based company, indicate a $34.2 million payment will settle 138 lawsuits filed by supplement users or their survivors. Nutraquest will pay at most $4.35 million of that money. Dozens of other businesses will contribute the rest of the settlement. BREACH OF CONTRACT Insurer told to pay $36M for not honoring policy Jackson, Miss. (AP)-A Mississippi state jury has awarded more than $36 million in damages to the family of a doctor who died in 1999 after purchasing a $1 million life insurance policy from Prudential Insurance Co. Dr. Edsel Stewart’s four children sued Prudential Insurance Co., Prudential Life Insurance Co., Pruco Life Insurance Co., agent James Bateman and others in 2002, claiming breach of contract for not honoring the policy. Prudential claimed that it had no knowledge of any agreement its insurance agent may have had with Stewart. The jury awarded $1.4 million in compensatory damages and $35 million in punitives against Prudential. CLASS ACTION Dishonest-advice suits settled by Merrill Lynch New York (AP)-Merrill Lynch & Co. will pay $164 million to settle 23 class actions alleging that investors suffered massive losses by following its dishonest stock recommendations, including those from its former star technology analyst Henry Blodget. The settlement represents a fraction of the money investors lost when the Internet bubble burst in 2000. FRAUD Class actions settled by HealthSouth for $445M Birmingham, Ala. (AP)-HealthSouth Corp. has reached a $445 million preliminary agreement to settle federal lawsuits arising from massive financial fraud. The Birmingham-based company will pay $215 million in common stock and warrants under the global settlement, and insurance companies will pay another $230 million in cash. Investors involved in class actions filed in federal court also will receive 25% of anything the company eventually gets in its lawsuit against Richard Scrushy, the company’s former CEO; former auditor Ernst & Young; and UBS, HealthSouth’s former investment bank. A federal jury last year acquitted Scrushy of all charges. NEGLIGENCE Nursing home must pay $160M over fatal beating San Antonio (AP)-A Texas state jury has awarded $160 million to the family of a now-dead elderly man severely beaten in 1997 by his mentally ill nursing home roommate. The jury found Burbank, Calif.-based Summit Care Corp., its Texas subsidiary and two nursing home employees responsible for the beating of Tranquilino Mendoza. Two days after they were assigned to live together, Mendoza’s roommate beat him with a water pitcher, a glass and his fists. Mendoza died less than three years later of causes unrelated to the attack at the Comanche Trail Nursing Center in Big Spring, Texas. He was 81. Mendoza’s family offered evidence that Mendoza’s roommate was involved in 30 assaults before he was paired up with the elderly man. PRICE-FIXING Energy trader fined $50M for manipulation San Francisco (AP)-The Williams Cos. Inc., a supplier and processor of natural gas, has agreed to pay a $50 million fine and accept responsibility for two employees who manipulated gas prices between 1998 and 2002. According to the agreement, prosecutors agreed not to file criminal charges against Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams in exchange for the payment, the company’s continued assistance to authorities investigating energy manipulation and its full compliance with commodities trading laws and the terms of the agreement for at least 15 months. Two former traders with the company’s subsidiary, Williams Power Co. Inc., pleaded guilty to conspiring to report fictitious trades to increase profits. PRODUCTS LIABILITY Lead-paint makers liable for poisoning children Providence, R.I. (AP)-A Rhode Island state jury has found three former makers of lead paint liable for a product that has poisoned Rhode Island children for years. The sale of lead paint was banned in 1978 in the United States, but in Rhode Island and other states with older houses, many homes still have lead paint. The three companies responsible are: Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc. and Millennium Holdings LLC.

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