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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.

U.S. says Pfizer unit pleads guilty to kickback
Business Law Info | 2007/04/26 07:01

Pharmacia and Upjohn Company Inc., a unit of Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N), pleaded guilty to one count of offering a kickback to a pharmacy benefit manager and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $19.68 million, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

As a result of its conviction, Pharmacia will be excluded permanently from participation in all federal health care programs, prosecutors said.

Pharmacy benefit managers often recommend drugs to health plans. Their list of recommended drugs is called a formulary.

Prosecutors alleged Pharmacia offered the pharmacy benefit manager inflated payments in the amount of $12.3 million.

They also charged that Pharmacia's financial analyses showed the company expected to earn that much or more from the improved formulary positioning and benefits their drugs were expected to receive in return.

Earlier this month, prosecutors said Pharmacia would plead guilty to the charge, pay the fine and be permanently banned from federal health care programs.

Samsung exec pleads guilty in DRAM scandal
Business Law Info | 2007/04/20 19:18

A sixth executive from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced. Il Ung Kim, a Korean executive, has agreed to serve 14 months in a United States prison, the longest imprisonment ever by a foreign defendant charged with price fixing in the United States, according to the DOJ.

Kim, vice president of marketing for the memory division at Samsung, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of price fixing. As part of his plea agreement, Kim agreed to pay a $250,000 criminal fine and to assist prosecutors in the ongoing investigation. The entry of the plea agreement and sentencing is currently scheduled for April 25, 2007. The plea and recommended sentence must be approved by the court.

Kim agreed to plead guilty to the charge contained in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in October 2006. Kim was charged with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of personal computers and servers, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

To date, the court has imposed criminal fines totaling more than $730 million against the DRAM cartel members, which is the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation. A total of 18 individuals and four companies have been charged as a result of the Department's ongoing antitrust investigation into the DRAM industry.

In November 2005, Samsung pleaded guilty to participating in the price- fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. A second Korean manufacturer, Hynix Semiconductor Inc., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005.

In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay an $84 million fine.

Of the 18 individuals that have been charged in the DRAM investigation, 15 individuals have been convicted. Kim is the first of three defendants charged in the October 2006 indictment to plead guilty. A trial against Kim's co- defendant Gary Swanson, senior vice president of memory sales and marketing for Hynix Semiconductor America Inc., is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2007.

A third defendant charged in the October 2006 indictment, Young Bae Rha, a Korean national and the vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung's memory division, remains at large.

Kim is the sixth Samsung executive to agree to plead guilty and agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S.

Cytochroma settles lawsuit with Genzyme
Business Law Info | 2007/04/18 18:17

Cytochroma, Inc., a company managed by former employees of Bone Care International, has announced the settling of a lawsuit filed in August 2006 by Genzyme Corp., the company that acquired Bone Care in 2005.

The lawsuit, in which Genzyme claimed that the former Bone Care employees had begun to develop the company's trade secrets into new products, was being adjudicated in the United States District Court, Western District of Wisconsin.

Genzyme filed the suit in August of 2006 against Cytochroma Inc., Proventiv Therapeutics, LLC, and the three former Bone Care International employees.

The complaint alleged the misappropriation of Vitamin D-related trade secrets, and has been formally dismissed. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The three former Bone Care employees - Charles Bishop, Keith Crawford, and Eric Messner - formed Proventiv Therapeutics, which was acquired by Cytochroma in 2006.

Cytochroma is a pharmaceutical company that is developing products to treat and prevent diseases and disorders related to vitamin D hormone deficiency. The company is deciding whether to open an office in Madison.

New York seeks probe of Wal-Mart for surveillance
Business Law Info | 2007/04/11 16:01

New York City is seeking a probe of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) over the retailer's reported surveillance of shareholders who submitted proxy petitions that could potentially disrupt the company's annual meeting. New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. sent letters to the U.S. Attorney General's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking for an investigation into the world's largest retailer for what he called "ill-considered and possibly illegal surveillance operations."

"As New York City's Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Investment Advisor to the City's Pension Funds, I am particularly troubled by reports that Wal-Mart engaged in chilling and truly outrageous surveillance activities," Thompson wrote. Copies of the letters were posted on the comptroller's Web site.

Wal-Mart could not immediately comment on the story. The SEC declined to comment.

Last week, a report in The Wall Street Journal said an internal Wal-Mart security group was asked to investigate the potential threat of those submitting proposals to its June shareholder meeting.

Following the article's publication, Tom Hyde, Wal-Mart's top legal officer, sent a letter to shareholder proponents saying that while the article implied that the company had initiated an intrusive "threat assessment" of shareholders who submitted proposals for inclusion in Wal-Mart's annual proxy statement, that was not true.

"In spite of a January 2007 memo referenced in the article, there were no inquiries made with respect to the proponents of shareholder proposals," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which Wal-Mart provided. "Given the nature of the matters proposed and our familiarity with the individual proponents, the request contained in the memo was not acted upon."

The New York City Pension Funds represent nearly 600,000 active members, beneficiaries and retirees and are valued at nearly $100 billion, according the Web site.

Wal-Mart shares fell 24 cents to $47.70 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade.

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