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CONSUMER PROTECTION Bank settles high interest rate claims for $16.1M BALTIMORE (AP)-Chevy Chase Bank has agreed to pay $16.1 million to settle a class action alleging that the bank charged higher interest rates on credit cards than it had promised. Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm, filed the suit in February 1999, alleging that Chevy Chase increased interest rates above 24%, the maximum allowed under Maryland law, even though it had promised not to. Motor vehicle records case settles for $50M WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (AP)-More than 500,000 Florida motorists could get compensation under a $50 million class action settlement over the alleged illegal purchase of their motor vehicle records by a bank from the state government. Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust of West Palm Beach allegedly violated federal anti-stalking legislation, which prohibits companies from buying driver records from state governments, when it purchased the records of 565,000 motorists. Between 2000 and 2003, the bank paid the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for the names and addresses of motorists who had recently bought cars and used the information to send out brochures touting auto loans. HAZARDOUS ACTIVITY Jury awards widow $10M in asbestos suit NEWPORT NEWS, VA. (AP)-A Virginia state jury has awarded $10.4 million to the widow of a former shipyard worker who died of lung cancer after four years of working with materials that contained asbestos. Sixty-year-old Buddy Jones spent four years sealing pumps and making gaskets at Newport News Shipbuilding-now Northrop Grumman Newport News-in the 1960s. In 2004, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. The judgment is against John Crane Inc., a unit of British manufacturer Smiths Group PLC; Johns Manville Corp., a unit of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.; and Garlock Sealing Technologies, a unit of EnPro Industries Inc. PRODUCTS LIABILITY Jury says Vioxx didn’t cause man’s health woes LOS ANGELES (AP)-A California state jury has cleared pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. of liability in the case of an elderly man who claimed that his heart ailments were caused by the once-popular painkiller Vioxx. Jurors determined that Merck was not negligent, did not conceal information and that Vioxx did not cause Stewart Grossberg’s health problems. Grossberg, 71, began taking Vioxx in 1999 to manage joint pain in his knees and hands caused by osteoarthritis. He blamed the drug for his 2001 heart attack and a 2004 onset of angina. Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004 after a study found that it more than doubled the risk of heart attacks after 18 months of use. REGULATORY ACTION Insurer pays $77M to settle bid-rigging probe ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)-The St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc. has agreed to settle a bid-rigging investigation for $77 million, said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The deal settles probes by Spitzer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. According to Spitzer, the investigation found that the company made undisclosed payments to insurance brokers and agents in exchange for business referrals and “participated in a scheme to fix insurance prices.” SHAREHOLDER SUIT Cincinnati Bell settles stock-hike case for $36M CINCINNATI (AP)-Cincinnati Bell Inc. has agreed to pay $36 million to settle a class action by investors who claimed that the company had misrepresented its financial results to raise the price of its stock. In the suit, investors alleged that the firm, then known as Broadwing Inc., improperly accelerated revenues and inflated the demand for its services between Jan. 17, 2001, and May 21, 2002. Gas distributor to pay $273M to settle suits HOUSTON (AP)-Natural gas distributor El Paso Corp. said that it has settled two shareholder lawsuits for about $273 million. Under the first agreement, El Paso settled a class action claim by shareholders who purchased securities between Feb. 22, 2000 and Feb. 17, 2004. El Paso agreed to pay $273 million, of which the company will pay $48 million and its insurers will contribute about $225 million. VICARIOUS LIABILITY $105M verdict against stadium vendor tossed TRENTON, N.J. (AP)-A New Jersey intermediate appellate court has overturned a $105 million verdict against a stadium vendor that sold beer to a drunken fan who later paralyzed a 2-year-old girl in an auto wreck. The three-judge panel said that the trial court had improperly allowed testimony about the “drinking environment” at a 1999 football game at Giants Stadium.

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