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SunTrust Fires 3 Executives

Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page E02

SunTrust Banks fired its chief credit officer and two other executives. The Atlanta-based bank said it made "numerous errors" in determining how much to set aside for bad loans during the first half of this year. Chief Credit Officer Sandra W. Jansky was dismissed, as were two other executives SunTrust did not identify. Controller Jorge Arrieta was reassigned to a non-accounting position, the bank said. Chief executive L. Phillip Humann said an internal investigation found that some employees misled and ignored recommendations from its auditors and falsified information. Last month, the bank said the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun an informal inquiry into its announcement that it planned to restate earnings for the first six months of this year.

Flyi's Share Price Continues to Fall

Shares of Flyi, parent company of Dulles-based Independence Air, fell 32 percent after the firm reported in an SEC filing that it might seek bankruptcy protection. The commuter airline said that it is trying to renegotiate an $83 million payment on aircraft leases, due in January. The stock has fallen 87 percent this year. Shares closed at $1.30. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's said that at the end of this week Flyi will be replaced by another company in the S&P SmallCap 600 index because Flyi has traded below $2 a share for more than five consecutive days.

Starbucks said its fourth-quarter profit rose 49 percent, to $103.4 million. Sales were up 34 percent, to $1.45 billion. Same-store sales rose 9 percent. Average annual revenue at new stores is more than $800,000, up from $625,000 in 2001, led by smaller markets such as Chattanooga and Tulsa. (Amy Sancetta -- AP)

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General Growth Properties, the Chicago-based mall developer that plans to buy the Rouse Co. this week, said it may issue 4 million shares of stock to the heirs of the late billionaire Howard Hughes, according to a document filed by General Growth with the SEC. Hughes heirs, concerned about their stake in Rouse, had threatened to delay the sale unless they could continue sharing in profits generated by land they owned when Rouse acquired Hughes Corp. in 1996.

Diebold will pay California $2.6 million to resolve a lawsuit in which the state accused it of making false claims that its touch-screen voting machines and tabulation system were immune to tampering. Diebold's newest touch-screen voting machines were banned in California after problems arose during the March presidential primary. Some of the settlement would go to train poll workers, the state attorney general said.

The United States said it would appeal a ruling in favor of Antigua by the World Trade Organization, which found that U.S. bans on online gambling violate international trade rules. Even if the appeal fails, the WTO "cannot force the U.S. or the states to change their laws," a senior U.S. trade official said. If necessary, the official said, the United States may thwart the Antiguans by simply altering the commitment it made in the General Agreement on Trade in Services to open "recreational services" to foreign competitors, exercising the right that all countries have to change their commitments under the agreement.

Former Nicor Energy executives agreed to a lifetime ban on serving as officers of a public company as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC suit claimed that Kevin M. Stoffer, Andrew J. Johnson and John Fringer overstated revenue and improperly shifted income and expenses to inflate profit by more than $11 million at the natural gas, electricity and energy services venture.

Former Westar Energy executives David Wittig and Douglas T. Lake took more than $1.8 million worth of personal flights on company jets between 1998 and 2002, according to witness John Meara, a certified public accountant hired by prosecutors in the federal fraud case. Wittig, former chairman and chief executive, and Lake, former executive vice president, are accused of trying to loot the Kansas electric utility.

Goldman Sachs Group agreed to pay a $175,000 fine imposed by the New York Stock Exchange after a former salesman delayed trades for wealthy clients to trade for his own account. According to the decision by the NYSE, Goldman "failed to reasonably supervise" the employee, Karl Zachar, who delayed allocating trades for as long as six hours, which allowed him to lock in profits and to send more favorable trades to his account.

Marathon Oil is conducting audits that could result in a downgrade of its oil and gas reserves, the Houston company said in a regulatory filing. Marathon last month reduced 2004 production projections, partly because of poor performance from gas fields in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

Microsoft will expand the legal protection it offers customers in a bid to fend off the Linux operating system, whose sellers often do not provide similar safeguards. Microsoft previously protected only volume-license customers but will now extend the policy to all customers, a company official said. Microsoft will defend customers and cover legal costs related to suits for patent infringements, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks.

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