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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statement from the law firm, the settlement is conditional, "contingent upon court approval, and the settlement may be rescinded if a sufficient number of class members opt out of the settlement."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.

Court date set for Wild Oats-Whole Foods case
Business Law Info | 2007/06/13 13:21

Wild Oats Markets Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. will go to court late next month in an attempt to keep the planned merger between the two companies alive.

The Federal Trade Commission has raised concerns about whether the two natural foods grocers should be allowed to merge. The two have agreed to a temporary restraining order, pending the July 31 hearing. The hearing is expected to conclude the next day.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will rule on whether to approve the FTC's request for an injunction to block the merger.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFMI) and Boulder, Colo.'s Wild Oats (NASDAQ: OATS) agreed in February to merge. Whole Foods offered $18.50 a share, plus taking over all of Wild Oats' debt.

Whole Foods has 195 stores, including two in New Mexico, and annual sales last year of $5.6 billion, while Wild Oats has 109 stores, including four in New Mexico, and $1.2 billion in sales.

Spitzer warns about pre-takeover options trading
Business Law Info | 2007/05/30 14:39

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a former state attorney general who prosecuted some of the biggest firms in the United States, said on Tuesday that recent options trading ahead of takeovers was "deeply problematic."

In past months, announcements of proposed buyouts such as a $32 billion takeover of utility TXU Corp. (TXU.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research purchase of aQuantive Inc. (AQNT.O: Quote, Profile, Research and Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion offer for Dow Jones & Co. Inc. (DJ.N: Quote, Profile, Research, have been preceded by unusual spikes in options trading, raising questions about whether the news was leaked.

"Some smart prosecutor somewhere is going to be dropping a lot of subpoenas wanting to know who placed all these options purchased in the 48 to 72 hours before the deals were announced," Spitzer predicted in an interview on CNBC.

"There are a lot of people who should be very nervous about that," he said.

Authorities are already looking into some of these deals. Earlier in May, federal prosecutors in New York brought charges against a junior-level investment banker at Credit Suisse Group (CSGN.VX: Quote, Profile, Research, charging he divulged inside information on TXU and other yet-to-be-announced merger deals to a banker in Pakistan.

Also in May, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against a husband and wife in Hong Kong over trading in Dow Jones shares.

Options contracts give investors the ability to bet on a steep rise or decline in a stock price without having to put up the money to buy the actual shares.

As attorney general of New York, Spitzer made a name for himself by filing charges against famous individuals such as former American International Group Inc. (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research Chief Executive Maurice Greenberg.

He won a $10 billion settlement from the largest U.S. investment banks for biased research.

Stocks End Flat As Dow Sets New Record
Business Law Info | 2007/04/27 17:54

Wall Street paused Thursday, with stocks little changed as strong profit reports from names like Apple Inc. and 3M Corp. failed to galvanize the market a day after the Dow Jones industrials crossed 13,000. Still, a modest advance in the Dow gave the blue chips another record close.

Investors often tread water and reassess valuations after stocks push through technical or psychological barriers such as the Dow's ascent past 13,000 Wednesday. Beyond the Dow's move, investors were also keeping watch over the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which has in recent sessions crept closer to its high of 1,527.46, reached in March 2000.

Better-than-expected profit news, which helped vault the Dow into record territory Wednesday and to a new trading high Thursday, continued but with less effect than in the previous session.

Apple said its fiscal second-quarter profit rose 88 percent amid robust sales of iPods and Macintosh computers. Reports from Dow component 3M and automaker Ford Motor Co. also pleased investors.

"Once you go through what people consider a milestone you are often going to have a little rest," said Ron Kiddoo, chief investment officer at Cozad Asset Management. "Earnings are lending support to the market. Obviously, there are some disappointments, but they're much above what people were expecting."

The Dow rose 15.61, or 0.12 percent, to 13,105.50 after hitting a fresh trading high of 13,132.80. Thursday marked the Dow's 18th rise in the past 20 sessions and its 36th record close since the start of October. The gains Wednesday and Thursday left the Dow up more than 5 percent for the year.

Broader indexes ended mixed Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 1.17, or 0.08 percent, to 1,494.25, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 6.57, or 0.26 percent, to 2,554.46.

Bonds fell amid the continuation of strong earnings reports. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 4.69 percent from 4.65 percent late Wednesday.

The Dow swept past its latest milestone Wednesday amid better-than-expected earnings and economic data. But the question on investors' minds is whether upcoming data will prove the market's recent rally was justified, or overdone.

While the economic calendar is busier next week, Kiddoo contends earnings will continue to drive stocks until midweek or so when investors begin to focus on the governments employment report, due to arrive May 4.

So far, 22 of the 30 Dow components have reported earnings, with 16 of those reports topping expectations. Dow component Exxon Mobile Corp. released better-than-expected earnings Thursday; it rose 63 cents to $80.55. Microsoft Corp.'s fiscal third-quarter results, which the company announced after the closing bell Thursday, also came in ahead of expectations. Microsoft finished up 11 cents at $29.10 and rose in after-hours electronic trading.

In other corporate news, Apple's profit report beat analysts' estimates, and the stock at times surpassed $100 a share. Apple closed up $3.49, or 3.7 percent, at $98.84.

3M, whose products include Scotch tape and coatings for flat-panel televisions, reported a stronger profit than Wall Street predicted, sending the stock up $3.48, or 4.5 percent, to $80.45. Ford, meanwhile, reported a narrower-than-expected loss for the first quarter. Ford rose 32 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $8.20.

Wendy's International Inc. said late Wednesday it is considering a possible sale of the company, among other options. The burger chain rose $5.31, or 16.3 percent, to $37.99.

Covansys Corp. rose $6.49, or 24.2 percent, to $33.29 after the provider of information-technology services agreed to be acquired by Computer Sciences Corp. for $1.3 billion. As is typical of companies announcing acquisitions, Computer Sciences slipped 14 cents to $55.83.

Harman International Industries Inc., which makes audio equipment, agreed to be taken private in an $8 billion deal. The company, which also said its fiscal third-quarter profit rose 11 percent, jumped $19.94, or 19.4 percent, to $122.50.

A light flow of economic news Thursday didn't appear to hold much sway over stocks. Among the reports, the Labor Department said applications for jobless benefits fell last week by 20,000, the biggest decrease in nearly two months.

Federal Reserve banks in Chicago and Kansas City said manufacturing activity rose in their respective regions.

Friday will bring more weighty data for investors, who are particularly interested in the Commerce Department's initial estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product.

Gold fell on Thursday, while the dollar was mixed against other major currencies.

Light sweet crude settled down 78 cents at $65.06 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Declining issues outpaced advancers by about 9 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume totaled 3.14 billion shares, compared with 3.17 billion traded Wednesday.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 1.12 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.12 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.60 percent, and France's CAC-40 ended down 0.05 percent.

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