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FBR Settles Research Suit

Thursday, August 26, 2004; Page E02

Arlington's Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. agreed to pay $125,000 to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that the firm failed to disclose a payment it had received in exchange for publishing research about Arena Pharmaceuticals in 2001. The SEC said Friedman received $100,000 from the lead underwriter of Arena's secondary offering. An FBR spokesman said the analyst who issued the two research reports in question is no longer with the firm and that the firm regrets the incident.

Brazilian Regulators Fine Microsoft

Microsoft was fined by Brazil's antitrust regulator the equivalent of 10 percent of its 1998 sales to the federal government for illegal practices. The regulator alleges that Microsoft manipulated the criteria to choose a single representative to handle contracts with the government, said Roberto Pfeiffer, a member of the board. IOS, a Brazilian company, filed the complaint with the antitrust regulator. Microsoft can appeal the decision, Pfeiffer said.

W. Edmund Clark, chief executive of TD Bank Financial Group, answers a shareholder's question during the company's annual meeting in Edmonton in March. Shares in Canada's TD Bank dipped after the bank confirmed it is in talks about a "possible transaction" with Banknorth Group, based in Portland, Maine, in what would be its first expansion into U.S. consumer banking. The deal potentially could be worth more than $3 billion. (Jason Scott -- CP Picture Archive)

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Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. (FBR)
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Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSM)
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Ex-Enron Investor Liaison Pleads Guilty (The Washington Post, Aug 26, 2004)
CORRECTIONS (The Washington Post, Aug 26, 2004)
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Computer Associates shareholders overwhelmingly voted against a proposal that called for the company to recoup compensation given to executives implicated in its accounting scandal. The scandal has resulted in the resignation of its chief executive, Sanjay Kumar, as well as the firing of a slew of executives.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is demanding details on Bank of America's recent firing of hundreds of former Fleet Bank employees, saying the layoffs could violate an agreement made to assure state regulatory approval of the merger. Under that agreement, every "customer facing employee" who worked for Fleet in Massachusetts would remain in the same position after the merger, according to Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. Bank of America laid off an unspecified number of employees last week at hundreds of Fleet branches, a byproduct of the merger, a company spokeswoman said last week.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued JB Oxford Holdings, a small brokerage and clearing company, and three of its executives for allegedly helping customers from as far away as Switzerland improperly trade fund shares. JB Oxford unit National Clearing and its former chief executive, James G. Lewis, are among those accused of helping facilitate thousands of so-called "late trades" in more than 600 mutual funds. The defendants are also accused of concealing "market timing" trades from the mutual funds whose shares were involved.

Northwest Airlines sued Sabre for breach of contract, accusing it of unfairly making it more difficult for travel agents to view Northwest's flights and sell its tickets. Sabre, which distributes route and fare data to agents, made the change in its system after Northwest announced it would begin charging fees to customers who don't book through its Web site. Sabre said Northwest's decision violates an agreement to offer Sabre customers the same fare as those who book on Northwest's site.

Sprint will offer computer-based phone service to more than 2 million Mediacom Communications cable customers starting next year. Mediacom will sell phone service in 23 states as part of a product bundle to include Internet access and cable television, and Sprint will make the phone call connections, executives said. Sprint has a similar partnership with Time Warner's cable division.

Wachovia, the fifth-largest U.S. bank, won antitrust clearance to purchase SouthTrust for $14.3 billion after agreeing to sell 18 SouthTrust branches, the Justice Department said. The takeover, which still needs approval from the Federal Reserve Board, would enable Wachovia, based in Charlotte, to expand into nine states, including Florida.

WorldCom former chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers, 62, accused of orchestrating an $11 billion fraud that led to the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history, wants his trial, scheduled for Nov. 9, moved to Mississippi from New York, according to court records. Ebbers, who lives in Mississippi, pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy in March.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board tightened federal rules that require companies to count in their financial report the costs of cleaning up asbestos and oil contamination and of closing power plants. Although some companies, such as Exxon, had already changed to the new standard, others had been deferring such costs for years, until the remedial work took place. Under the rule, any company that has a legally required remediation or power plant decommission cost must determine the market value of the cleanup, estimate when it will be done and begin logging the costs.

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