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ANTITRUST Chip makers pay $161M to settle price-fixing case San Francisco (AP)-Three makers of computer memory chips have agreed to pay a total of $161 million to settle a class action accusing them of conspiring to fix prices. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. will pay $73 million to settle the action, which was filed on behalf of companies and individuals who bought dynamic random access memory chips. Samsung Electronics Co. agreed to pay $67 million and Infineon Technologies A.G. will pay $20.8 million. The three companies have also pleaded guilty to felony price-fixing charges brought by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. They have paid a total of $731 million in fines. Government attorneys have said victims of the price-fixing included Dell Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Computer Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Gateway Inc. CLASS ACTION Employees settle coerced stock ownership claims New York (AP)-BellSouth Corp. has agreed to settle with employees who alleged that the phone company improperly required them to hold a significant portion of their savings and retirement plans in BellSouth stock. Under the proposed settlement, BellSouth agreed to pay matching contributions in cash instead of company stock, add investment options to its plans and pay the plaintiffs’ lawyers $3.68 million. Employees first filed suit against the company nearly four years ago, complaining that the company breached its fiduciary duty by imprudently investing a significant amount in BellSouth stock. Firm, workers settle stock-deception suit Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP)-Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. has reached a proposed $4.7 million settlement with workers who claimed that they lost millions of dollars in retirement savings because company executives hid evidence of declining sales and profits. The class action was filed in a North Carolina federal court last year on behalf of workers who owned stock in the company’s retirement or stock ownership plans after Jan. 1, 2003-around the time the company’s sales began to decline. Because the executives said nothing about the company’s troubles, workers who bought Krispy Kreme stock for their 401(k) accounts, or were paid stock in bonus plans, had no way of knowing that the stock was a risky investment. CONTRACTS Nike owes $52.5M in dispute with distributor Beaverton, Ore. (AP)-An arbitrator has ruled that Nike Inc. must pay $52.5 million in damages to settle a contract dispute between its Converse Inc. subsidiary and Alon International S.A. Alon International, a footwear distributor, previously held the license for Converse in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The award of $52.5 million represents damages plus legal fees, minus some amounts already paid to Alon. INTENTIONAL TORTS Hospital operator settles kickback suit for $21M Dallas (AP)-Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corp. has settled a three-year legal battle that included two trials by agreeing to pay a $21 million fine and close or sell a San Diego hospital accused of making kickbacks to doctors for referring patients. The settlement with federal prosecutors will let Tenet avoid a third criminal trial and civil liability over allegations surrounding 311-bed Alvarado Hospital Medical Center. Two previous trials had ended in hung juries. Federal prosecutors in San Diego had accused Alvarado and its former chief executive of making excessive relocation payments to doctors who based their practices at the hospital from 1992 to 2003. Prosecutors said that the hospitals disguised the payments to doctors as office improvements and overhead. Under the deal, Tenet must sell or close Alvarado to prevent the hospital from being excluded from federal health care programs. Tyco ex-CEO pays $21M to settle N.Y. tax case New York (AP)-Former Tyco International Ltd. CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski has agreed to pay $21.2 million to settle a state tax case related to his grand larceny conviction for looting the company. The amount covers New York state sales taxes that Kozlowski owed on the purchase of artworks, and money he owed for state income taxes. Kozlowski still owes about $70 million in fines and $97 million in restitution from his conviction for looting Tyco of $600 million. PRODUCTS LIABILITY Costa Rica fern growers win suit against DuPont Dover, Del. (AP)-A group of Costa Rican fern growers will receive up to $60 million after a Florida state jury agreed with them that their crops were damaged by the DuPont fungicide Benlate. The jury awarded $114 million, but the total was adjusted downward because of contributory negligence by the plaintiffs. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. officials said that the adjusted award is between $50 million and $60 million. The jury agreed with the plaintiffs that Benlate had damaged the ferns’ underground stem systems, resulting in annual crop losses that continued for years. The plaintiffs relied on new scientific evidence to suggest that Benlate promotes excessive bacterial growth in plants it is used on, resulting in recurring losses in perennial crops such as leatherleaf ferns. PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY Arbitration panel awards $22M to firm retirees Washington (AP)-An arbitration panel of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) has awarded $22 million to a group of Exxon Mobil Corp. retirees who accused brokerage firm Securities America Inc. of improperly steering them into high-risk investments between 1996 and mid-2003. The three-member NASD panel made the award against Securities America, a subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial Inc. The $22 million award includes $11.6 million in compensatory damages, $3.5 million in punitive damages and $4.7 million in attorney fees. At issue were Securities America’s sales to Exxon Mobil employees of variable annuities and Class B mutual fund shares. A Securities America broker had promised the 32 employees huge returns on their investments and put their retirement savings mostly into variable annuities and Class B fund shares. The broker allegedly failed to disclose the high fees that he and Securities America would reap. Typically, investors in Class B fund shares don’t pay an upfront sales commission when they make a purchase, but often pay higher fees when they sell the shares. SHAREHOLDER SUIT Sears settles credit card false claim suit for $215M Hoffman Estates, Ill. (ap)-Sears Holding Corp. has said that it has reached a $215 million settlement in a shareholder lawsuit alleging that the company had hidden from shareholders weakness in the company’s credit card business. The settlement is subject to court approval. The company expects to pay $85 million after insurance proceeds. Shareholders who purchased stock between Oct. 24, 2001, and Oct. 14, 2002, had filed a number of lawsuits against the company, alleging that it had overstated the value of its credit card business and understated risks and delinquency rates. When the company revealed the true state of the credit card business in October 2002, the stock fell almost 32%. TRADE SECRETS Boeing settles unethical conduct probe for $615M Chicago (AP)-Boeing Co. has announced a tentative agreement with the government that calls for it to pay $615 million to end a three-year Justice Department investigation into reported defense contracting scandals. The two sides said the company agreed to pay $565 million to resolve potential civil claims and what was described as a “monetary penalty” of $50 million. Chicago-based Boeing has been under investigation for allegedly improperly obtaining thousands of pages of secret documents from Lockheed in the late 1990s, using some of them to help win a competition for government rocket-launching business, and for recruiting former Air Force official Darleen Druyun while she was still overseeing contracts involving prospective Boeing deals. WRONGFUL DEATH Death in nursing home results in $18M award St. Maries, Idaho (AP)-An Idaho state jury has awarded $18 million in punitive damages to relatives of an 86-year-old man who sued the nursing home where he died in 1995, claiming he had been abused and overly medicated. The case arose from the death of Delbert Hayward in February 1995, nearly a year after he was placed at Valley Vista Care Center in St. Maries. The staff committed more than 700 violations of federal nursing home regulations and eventually caused Hayward’s death with repeated dosages of Haldol, a powerful anti-psychotic medication they used to control him after he tried to leave Valley Vista. Bus owner, fire victims reach $11M settlement Dallas (AP)-Victims of a bus explosion that killed 23 nursing home patients fleeing Hurricane Rita have reached an $11 million settlement with the bus owner and a travel broker. The bus caught fire in traffic near Dallas last September after leaving Houston. Some passengers and the driver escaped, but the flames, fed by medical oxygen tanks that exploded, trapped many inside. The settlement was reached with bus company Global Limo Inc. and BusBank, which hired Global Limo on the behalf of the nursing home.

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