The Supreme Court yesterday let stand a federal appeals court ruling that is expected to make it easier for the regional Bell companies to win approval to enter the information services business.
The federal appeals court in Washington in April ordered federal Judge Harold Greene, who oversees the operation of the phone companies for antitrust purposes, to reconsider an earlier ruling using a legal standard more favorable to the regional telephone companies. The ruling is likely to require Greene to approve information services operations, such as electronic Yellow Pages, for the regional firms.
The ruling was challenged by MCI Communications Corp., the American Newspaper Publishers Association and other groups that are concerned that the Bell operating firms would have too much of a competitive advantage if they are allowed to begin offering information services.
In other business-related actions:
The court turned away a multibillion-dollar dispute over natural gas costs.
Without comment, the court refused to ease a burden on pipeline companies that signed contracts to buy gas in the 1970s and '80s at a specified price.
The so-called take-or-pay agreements were signed when the price of gas was higher than it is today.
But natural gas supplies began to exceed demand by 1982 because of warm winters, a recession and customers' switching to alternate fuels.
As a result, the pipeline companies were left with billions of dollars in costs for unwanted gas.
The justices agreed to review a federal rule that lets employees of private hospitals organize into eight separate collective bargaining units, according to their jobs. The court said it will hear an appeal by the American Hospital Association seeking fewer employee categories.
The National Labor Relations Board adopted the rule in 1989. The regulation applies to employees at more than 4,000 private hospitals nationwide.
The court said it will use an Oregon dispute to decide whether state or federal law should determine how long investors have to sue for securities fraud.
At issue is whether an absolute three-year deadline imposed by the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934 should apply.
Under the federal deadline, the clock would start ticking at the time of investment. But an appeals court said Oregon's two-year deadline should apply from the time the investors were aware, or should have been aware, that fraud was a possibility.