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• ANTITRUST Visa pays AmEx $2.25B to settle competition suit SAN FRANCISCO (AP) � Visa Inc. will pay American Express Co. up to $2.25 billion to settle a lawsuit alleging that Visa had illegally stifled competition to protect its position as the largest U.S. credit card network. The settlement also covers the owners of five major banks that issue Visa credit cards: U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo & Co., Washington Mutual Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Capital One Financial Corp. American Express had alleged that the network operator conspired with some of its largest card issuers to thwart American Express’ growth. Visa and rival MasterCard Inc. for years imposed rules preventing U.S. banks from issuing American Express and Discover cards, triggering an antitrust complaint by the U.S. Justice Department. After the government’s case culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed banks to work with Visa’s and MasterCard’s competitors, both American Express and Discover Financial Services LLC sued, seeking damages for all the years they were locked out. Casino software maker settles suit for $24.7M LAS VEGAS (AP)Progressive Gaming International Corp., a supplier of casino management systems software, said it has agreed to settle its litigation with Derek Webb and Prime Table Games LLC. Under the terms of the settlement, Progressive will pay $20 million in cash within one day of the settlement agreement and $4.7 million for Webb’s attorney fees within 30 business days. Derek Webb sued Progressive in 2002, arguing that the company had illegally restrained trade and attempted to monopolize the U.S. proprietary table-game market. In February, a Mississippi federal jury awarded Webb and related plaintiffs $39 million, plus attorney fees. • CONSUMER PROTECTION Debt-collection firm fined $1.4M for illegal threats WASHINGTON (AP) � A Houston-based debt-collection company has agreed to pay a $1.4 million penalty to settle charges that it illegally threatened and harassed consumers, the Federal Trade Commission said. The FTC alleged that LTD Financial Services L.P. falsely implied that it could garnish individuals’ wages, seize their property or file lawsuits against them. The company collects on 1.25 million accounts per year. LTD Financial also allegedly called consumers at their workplaces, the FTC said, and “sometimes used racial slurs and profanity.” Supervisors and managers were aware of, and sometimes participated in, the practices. HAZARDOUS ACTIVITY Fruit company’s pesticide rendered workers sterile LOS ANGELES (AP) � A California state jury has ruled that Dole Fresh Fruit Co. acted maliciously in harming five of six workers who claimed they were left sterile by a pesticide used on a Nicaraguan banana plantation in the 1970s. The ruling sets the stage for Dole to pay punitive damages on top of $3.3 million in actual damages that the jury awarded the six workers. The jury is set to return to court to determine the amount of punitive damages. The workers’ lawsuit accused Dole and Standard Fruit Co., now part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s. The chemical was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants. During the trial, Dole was accused of improperly applying the pesticide in amounts far exceeding guidelines. Dole chose to spray DBCP rather than inject it into the soil or mix it with groundwater as its manufacturer recommended. • PERSONAL INJURY $60M rollover verdict against Ford is set aside MIAMI � An intermediate Florida state appellate court has reversed a $60 million jury verdict against Ford Motor Co. involving a fatal rollover crash of an Explorer sport utility vehicle. Ford appealed the verdict in June 2006 on the ground that Judge Roberto Pineiro erred by allowing testimony alluding to hundreds of Ford Explorer accidents without requiring the plaintiffs to establish similarities between those accidents and the fatal one that caused the 1997 death of 17-year-old Lance Crossman Hall. Hall died after being thrown from the passenger-side front seat of a somersaulting 1996 Ford Explorer after the driver fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the vehicle. Hall’s parents sued Ford, alleging defects in the Explorer’s handling and stability characteristics caused the SUV to flip instead of skid. During the trial, witnesses testified that rollover accidents involving Ford Explorers caused hundreds of injuries and deaths, and that Ford could have prevented Hall’s death by quickening design changes it made to the Explorer after the accident. The appellate court set aside the jury’s verdict, finding that Pineiro “never inquired into the general characteristics of the other accidents.” The court said further, “Here, throughout the trial, numerous references were made to other cases without laying a foundation for substantial similarity.” – ALM • REAL ESTATE Developer to pay $171M for fiduciary duty breach TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) � An Arizona state jury has ordered a Phoenix-area real estate developer and a business his sons control to pay $171 million for a contested land deal. Jurors found Conley Wolfswinkel and WVSV Holdings guilty of aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty, and set compensation at $21 million and punitive damages at $150 million. The case involved the 2003 sale of 13,500 acres near Phoenix to WVSV Holdings, controlled by Wolfswinkel’s sons Brandon and Ashton. WVSV paid $74 million for two parcels, including 10,000 acres owned by 10K LLC. The investors sued, claiming breach of responsibility to get them the best deal. • REGULATORY ACTION Utilities ordered to pay for low service standards ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) � The state Public Service Commission has ordered Consolidated Edison Inc. to set aside $18 million in shareholder money to benefit customers after the agency found the company had failed to meet service standards in 2006. The commission also ordered Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., owned by National Grid, to set aside $8.8 million in shareholder money as a penalty for having too many service interruptions. Firms fined for calling Do Not Call List people WASHINGTON (AP) � The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced settlements totaling nearly $7.7 million with six companies accused of calling people on the national Do Not Call list. Craftmatic Industries Inc., maker of adjustable beds, would pay the biggest fine: $4.4 million in civil penalties. ADT Security Services Inc. agreed to a $2 million settlement. The four other companies are Ameriquest Mortgage Co., Alarm King Inc., Direct Security Services and Guardian Communications. The FTC accused Craftmatic and three of its subsidiaries of running a sweepstakes for a Craftmatic bed and using the phone number that consumers provided on the entry form to make sales calls later to entrants even though their numbers were on the Do Not Call list. ADT and two of its dealers, Alarm King and Direct Security Services, were accused of directly marketing security systems to consumers who had placed their numbers on the list. Freddie Mac’s CEO, U.S. reach $16.4M settlement WASHINGTON (AP) � The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight reached a $16.4 million settlement with Freddie Mac’s former chief executive officer over his role in the mortgage finance company’s multibillion-dollar accounting scandal. Leland Brendsel, who was ousted in 2003, agreed to pay $2.5 million in fines to the government, give back $10.5 million in salary and bonuses to Freddie Mac and waive claims worth $3.4 million against the company. The office, which regulates Freddie Mac and its government-sponsored sibling Fannie Mae, filed civil charges against Brendsel in December 2003. An accounting scandal erupted at the government-sponsored company in June 2003 when it disclosed that it had misstated earnings by some $5 billion to smooth quarterly volatility in earnings and meet Wall Street expectations.

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