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• BREACH OF CONTRACT German chemical maker wins overpricing suit FRANKFURT, GERMANY (AP) � BASF A.G. said that a New Jersey federal court awarded it $170 million in damages in a lawsuit it filed against Lyondell Chemical Co., one of its American suppliers. The German chemical maker claimed Lyondell was under contract to deliver propylene oxide for no more than the lowest price. But Lyondell sold the compound to other customers at lower prices. • CLASS ACTION Ky., high-speed Internet consumers settle tax suit LOUISVILLE, KY. (AP) � A Kentucky federal judge has approved an $8.2 million class action settlement among BellSouth Corp., its high-speed Internet customers and the state of Kentucky over taxes paid for the online service. Under terms of the settlement, customers will receive the amount they were billed as sales taxes from 1999 through 2006. BellSouth started collecting a 6% Kentucky sales tax from customers after it introduced the service in 1999, then turned the money over to the Kentucky Department of Revenue. In April 2002, BellSouth questioned whether the Internet service was subject to the sales tax. The department instructed BellSouth to continue collecting the taxes. • CONSUMER PROTECTION Bank refunds consumers over deceptive marketing ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) � New York consumers will get as much as $4.5 million in refunds from First Premier Bank of Sioux Falls, S.D., under a settlement of allegations that it used deceptive and illegal tactics to market credit cards to people with poor credit ratings. The investigation was prompted by complaints from consumers who responded to offers of a $2,000 credit limit, a 9.9% fixed interest rate and no processing fee. The processing fee was followed by a variety of other hidden costs that drove up consumers’ balances anywhere from $20 to $400 in a matter of months. • NEGLIGENCE Accounting firm told to pay $521M for bad audits MIAMI (AP) � A Florida state jury has ordered accounting firm BDO Seidman LLP to pay more than $351 million in punitive damages in a negligence case, bringing BDO’s potential liability in the case to roughly $521 million. The jury had found BDO negligent for failing to find massive fraud in its audits of a financial services company backed by a Portuguese bank. The amount will be added to the same jury’s award of $170 million in compensation to the bank, Banco Espirito Santo. The jury said BDO Seidman must compensate the bank and provide punitive damages for failing to reveal massive fraud at the bank’s former partner, E.S. Bankest LLC. Banco Espirito Santo claimed that it partnered with Bankest Capital to form E.S. Bankest in the late 1990s in part because of faulty audits showing that Bankest Capital’s income had nearly tripled from 1995 to 1996. The bank also relied on later audits from BDO Seidman, which certified audits for E.S. Bankest accounts totaling some $225 million, of which only $5 million represented legitimate income. • SHAREHOLDER SUIT Hospital operator pays $20M for stock inflation NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) � Hospital operator HCA Inc. has agreed to pay $20 million to shareholders who sued the company over claims that executives made false statements about the company’s growth, which had the effect of inflating HCA’s stock price. The suits claimed that company leaders misstated HCA’s financial status between January and July 2005, causing the stock to be inflated. When HCA later reported poorer than expected financial results, the stock price dipped. Several executives sold large amounts of stock before the price dropped � including then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. • WHITLEBLOWER LAW Oil giant pays $97.5M for royalties owed to U.S. WASHINGTON (AP) � Burlington Resources Inc., a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, has agreed to pay $97.5 million to settle a whistleblower’s claims that it underpaid royalties owed for natural gas produced on federal and Indian lands during a 17-year period. Burlington agreed to the settlement to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it “systematically underreported the value of natural gas that it produced from onshore federal and Indian leases . . . [and] paid less royalties than it owed to the United States and various Indian tribes,” according to the Justice Department. Companies are required to report monthly the value of the natural gas produced from their federal and Indian leases and to pay a percentage of the reported value as royalties. IBM, accounting firm settle kickback probe WASHINGTON (AP) � International Business Machines Corp. and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP have agreed to pay nearly $5.3 million to settle allegations that they made improper payments on government technology contracts. IBM agreed to pay nearly $3 million, while PricewaterhouseCoopers will pay $2.3 million. The Department of Justice said both companies solicited, paid money or provided other benefits to several companies, in violation of federal regulations. The settlement is part of a larger, ongoing federal investigation of three technology companies � Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Accenture Ltd. � that also have been accused of providing kickbacks to federal consultants to get government tech contracts. The lawsuits were originally filed in a federal court in Little Rock, Ark., by Norman Rille and Neal Roberts under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

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