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CLASS ACTION Cigna pays $93M to state to settle stock-boost suit HARRISBURG, PA. (AP)-The Pennsylvania state workers’ retirement system said that it has settled for $93 million a class action against Cigna Corp. that accused the company and two of its senior executives of making misleading statements to drive up the stock price. The deal requires approval from a federal judge, which is not expected to occur before April. The case had been scheduled for trial in March. The lawsuit claimed that Cigna officials made a series of “materially false and misleading statements” to investors, leaving a false impression about problems with a five-year, $1 billion-plus technology overhaul the company embarked upon in 1999. The lead plaintiff was the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, and payments from the settlement will benefit those who purchased Cigna stock from Nov. 2, 2001, through Oct. 24, 2002. Illegal records purchases suit settles for $50M WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (AP)-Fidelity Federal Bank and Trust will compensate tens of thousands of motorists under a $50 million settlement to a class action that alleged that the bank had illegally purchased motor vehicle records from the state government. The bank 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. The affected motorists live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Broward counties in Florida. Between 2000 and 2003 the bank paid the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles a penny a name for the names and addresses of motorists who had recently bought cars, and used the information to send out send brochures advertising auto loans. Attorneys alleged that the bank violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act in obtaining the names. CONSUMER PROTECTION JPMorgan Chase settles false marketing claims NEW YORK (AP)-Chase Bank USA, a unit of New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Trilegiant Corp. will pay a combined $14.5 million to settle allegations that they tricked residents of California and 16 other states into paying for programs that claimed to offer discounts on automotive service and home repair, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett has said. The two companies allegedly offered free memberships to discount programs without alerting consumers that they would be charged fees of as much as $99 if they did not cancel within a specified time. Consumers enrolled in the programs by cashing checks worth as much as $10. The mailings were sent by Trilegiant, an operator of membership programs on behalf of corporate clients, which used Chase’s customer lists. NEGLIGENCE Barrier installed badly; survivors settle for $9M SEATTLE (AP)-A $9 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over the death of a young woman in a fiery crash that was blamed partly on incorrectly installed cable barriers on Interstate 5. Survivors of Marijke Holschen, 18, will receive $2 million from the state of Washington’s Transportation Department, and the driver who was blamed for the crash, Juliann Odom, 24, is responsible for the other $7 million. On Dec. 15, 2004, Odom’s southbound Ford Explorer went onto the shoulder, veered across three lanes of traffic, broke through a cable barrier in the median and slammed into the Holschen family’s Chevrolet Suburban and a Toyota Tundra pickup truck in the northbound lanes of the busy freeway. A state probe determined that the cable had been 95% effective elsewhere but, in the affected stretch, had been incorrectly installed at the bottom of a ditch and thus allowed small vehicles to slip under the barrier. Odom’s large sport utility vehicle, however, blasted through the barrier. PRICE-FIXING Insurer pays $122M to settle bid-rigging claims HARRISBURG, PA. (AP)-Zurich American Insurance Co. will pay $122 million to resolve claims of bid-rigging and price-fixing in the commercial insurance market under a nationwide settlement negotiated by Pennsylvania and 10 other states, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett announced. The states discovered that Zurich had failed to disclose that it paid “contingent commissions” to insurance brokers and conspired with brokers in a scheme to overcharge commercial policyholders, Corbett said. Preliminary settlement terms announced in March called for policyholders nationwide to receive $152 million in refunds, but the company was permitted to credit $30 million toward that amount in other nationwide settlements it is paying under a separate agreement with New York, Connecticut and Illinois. PRODUCTS LIABILITY Vioxx not to blame for heart attack, jury finds NEW ORLEANS (AP)-Merck & Co., the maker of the withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, is not to blame for a Tennessee man’s 2003 heart attack, a New Orleans federal jury has found. This is Merck’s fourth victory in five federal trials. The seven-member jury answered “no” on a verdict questionnaire when asked if evidence showed that Merck failed adequately to warn Anthony Dedrick’s doctors of any known risk posed by Vioxx, or that the lack of such a warning was a cause of Dedrick’s heart attack. Merck had attacked Dedrick’s credibility, noting five worthless-check convictions, admitted cocaine use and allegations that Dedrick had lied under oath at a disability hearing. Merck has won three previous federal cases and lost one. In state courts, the company has won three and lost three. REGULATORY ACTION Brokerages must pay $43.8M in remediation NEW YORK (AP)-The National Association of Securities Dealers has ordered four firms to pay a total of $43.8 million in remediation to clients who qualified for, but didn’t get, the benefit of available net asset value transfer programs. The agency said the firms didn’t have adequate supervisory systems and procedures to identify opportunities for investors to buy Class A mutual fund shares at net asset value, or without a front-end sales charge. Edward D. Jones & Co. will pay $25 million in remediation, plus interest; RBC Dain Rauscher Inc. will pay $6.8 million, plus interest; Royal Alliance Associates Inc. will pay $1.6 million, plus interest; and Morgan Stanley will pay $10.4 million, plus interest. Prudential pays $19M to settle kickbacks probe ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)-Prudential Insurance Co. will pay $19 million in restitution and penalties to settle an investigation of payments made to brokers to steer business its way, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office has announced. The settlement is the result of a multiyear investigation of bid-rigging and price-fixing in the insurance industry. Spitzer has argued that “contingent commissions” paid to brokers and agents to steer business to insurance companies are the equivalent of kickbacks that unfairly increase the prices paid by insurance clients. The company will pay $16.5 million in restitution to clients and penalties of $2.5 million. TORTS H-P settles California snooping suit for $14.5M SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP)-Hewlett-Packard Co. has agreed to pay $14.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the state attorney general accusing it of unfair business practices in its crusade to unmask the source of boardroom leaks. Most of the settlement, $13.5 million, will fund state and local investigations into privacy rights and intellectual property violations, according to the lawsuit and settlement filed simultaneously in a California state court. The lawsuit marks the first civil case brought by authorities against Palo Alto-based H-P for the scandal that erupted in September and led to criminal charges against former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and four others. Prosecutors said the company hired outside detectives who tricked phone companies into disclosing the private phone records of directors, journalists and others so the company could track the source of news leaks. Company fined $1.6M for filming underage girls PANAMA. CITY, FLA. (AP)-Steve Francis, the multimillionaire founder of the popular “Girls Gone Wild” video empire was sentenced to community service after the company pleaded guilty to federal charges of failing to monitor the ages of the women it films. Mantra Films Inc. also agreed to pay $1.6 million in fines for using drunken 17-year-olds in videos and failing to label properly its DVDs and videos as required by federal law. Steel firm pays $1M to end labor trafficking suit LOS ANGELES (AP)-A consent decree reached between the federal government and a Northern California steel company will ensure that a group of Thais brought to the United States by a suspected labor trafficker will be compensated $1 million. Most of the Thai nationals will receive up to $7,500 as part of the deal, according to Chancee Martorell, executive director of the Thai Community Development Center, which reported the alleged abuse. A total of 49 Thai nationals were hired by Yoo Taik Kim, who ran a recruiting company with offices in Los Angeles and Thailand. Trans Bay Steel Corp. of Napa, Calif., tapped Kim to find 10 welders to work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge retrofit. The Thai workers paid as much as $15,000 to the recruiting company. Kim brought them to the United States in December 2002, but he took away their passports, authorities said.

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