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TD Ameritrade, E-Trade hold merger talks
Business Law Info | 2007/08/22 13:18

Online brokerage giants TD Ameritrade Holding (AMTD) and E-Trade Financial (ETFC) have been holding talks for weeks about a possible merger, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The discussions currently are focused on making sure both companies agree on strategy, and the companies aren't yet close to a deal, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

A spokeswoman for E-Trade said the firm's management team believes there is "tremendous value in consolidation that aligns business strategy and operational synergies and will do what is in the best interest of its customers." A spokeswoman for Omaha-based Ameritrade said the company has talked to and continues to talk to industry peers.

The companies previously have discussed an alliance but never reached a deal. This time, however, there is the added pressure of two hedge funds with big stakes in Ameritrade that have publicly urged the two companies to talk.

Jana Partners and S.A.C. Capital Advisors, which claim to collectively own 8.4% of Ameritrade shares, have been urging Ameritrade to join forces with a major competitor such as E-Trade or Charles Schwab (SCHW) in the interests of the majority of shareholders.

U.S. Fed pumps $3.5 bln into financial market
Business Law Info | 2007/08/20 18:44
The U.S. Federal Reserve on Monday pumped 3.5 billion dollars into the financial system to help beat back a widening credit crisis. The injection was announced by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which handles such operations for the Fed. Since Aug. 9, the Fed has injected a total of 97.5 billion dollars into the financial markets to ease tightening credit stemming from the troubles in the U.S. subprime mortgage market, which offers loans to people with lower credit and income.

On Friday, the U.S. central bank approved a half-percentage point cut in its discount rate on loans to banks to "promote the restoration of orderly conditions in financial markets."

The decision means the discount rate, the interest rate that the Fed charges to make direct loans to banks, will be lowered to 5.75 percent from 6.25 percent.

But the Fed did not change its target for the more important federal funds rate, the interest commercial banks charge each other on overnight loans. The benchmark interest rate has remained at 5.25 percent for more than a year.

In the statement announcing the interest rate cut, the Fed said it "is monitoring the situation and is prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from the disruptions in financial markets."     

US court OKs Dura sale of Atwood unit, equity plan
Business Law Info | 2007/08/17 13:23

Dura Automotive Systems Inc. has received U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval for the $160.2 million sale of its Atwood Mobile Products unit and an equity plan with Pacificor LLC to support its reorganization.

Dura, which filed for bankruptcy in October 2006 in Delaware, announced the approvals late on Wednesday. It expects to emerge from court protection in the fourth quarter.

The agreement with Pacificor provides a $140 million to $160 million commitment and would make Dura a privately held company upon its emergence from Chapter 11, with protections for minority shareholders, Dura said.

Several parties objected to an earlier equity plan led by Pacificor, but Dura filed an amended agreement earlier this week to address the objections.

Private equity firm Insight Equity is acquiring the Atwood unit from Rochester Hills, Michigan-based Dura. Atwood is based in Elkhart, Indiana.

Fed chief says subprime losses could hit $100bn
Business Law Info | 2007/07/19 09:05

Total losses from the subprime mortgage meltdown may be in the order of $50bn to $100bn, according to estimates cited by Ben Bernanke in testimony to Congress on Thursday.

The Fed chairman said:"There clearly will be some significant financial losses associated with defaults and delinquencies on these mortgages."

Mr Bernanke also cautioned Congress against legislating narrowly on China's exchange rate, rather than addressing this in combination with the need for structural reform.

He said the exchange rate was "not a subsidy in the legal sense" but rather the cause of distortions in the Chinese economy that channel resources towards exports rather than production for domestic demand.

Sony Settles $8.5 Million Class Action Suit
Business Law Info | 2007/06/29 11:52

Sony Computer Entertainment America has settled an $8.5 million class action lawsuit with current and former employees, according to a statement issued by the law offices of Shapiro Haber & Urmy. First filed in 2005, the suit claims that Sony broke California labor laws by failing to pay overtime to qualifying employees. The suit represented a class of various artists and modelers known as "Image Production Employees," who worked at Sony any time between February 11, 2001 and September 25, 2007. The suit sought statutory penalties, damages, punitive damages, restitution and injunctive relief.

Under the terms of the settlement, Sony will pay $8.5 million in overtime wages to current and former employees, and will also "reclassify class members with a job title of Associate Artist and Artist 1 as nonexempt employees under the wage and hour laws of California and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act."

In spite of the settlement, Sony has denied the allegations in the suit and has admitted no liability or wrongdoing. According to a statement from the law firm, the settlement is conditional, "contingent upon court approval, and the settlement may be rescinded if a sufficient number of class members opt out of the settlement."

Colgate warns of fake toothpaste, maybe toxic
Business Law Info | 2007/06/14 16:32

Colgate-Palmolive (CL) said Thursday that counterfeit "Colgate" toothpaste that may contain a toxic chemical has been found in discount stores in four states.
"There are indications that this product does not contain fluoride and may contain diethylene glycol," the company said. Colgate-Palmolive said it does not use, nor has ever used, diethylene glycol as an ingredient in its toothpaste anywhere in the world. The chemical, known as DEG and sometimes illegally used as an inexpensive sweetener and thickening agent, is commonly used in solvents and antifreeze.

The Colgate-Palmolive announcement comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to avoid any toothpaste made in China after inspectors found DEG in tubes sold at two stores.

Colgate-Palmolive said the counterfeit toothpaste was found in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. It can be recognized because it is labeled as being manufactured in South Africa, and the company does not import toothpaste to the United States from South Africa.

The packaging also contains several misspellings, Colgate said. It said it is working with the FDA to help to identify those responsible for the counterfeit product.

DEG-contaminated toothpaste has also been seized in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua. It was also found in cough syrup in Panama that led to the deaths of at least 100 people last year.

The FDA issued its alert about Chinese toothpaste after seizing a batch of Cooldent found to contain 3% DEG. Inspectors found the toothpaste at a Dollar Plus store in Miami and at a store called Todo a Peso in Puerto Rico.

Brands seized earlier included Cooldent, Clean Rite and Oralmax that are usually found at discount retailers, the agency said.

The FDA identified products by Goldcredit International Enterprises, Goldcredit International Trading Co. and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Co as containing DEG.

Goldcredit International Enterprises is a unit of JiangsuXingda Stationery Group, a manufacturer of glue and office supplies. Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals also makes soap and pet products.

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