Morgan Stanley Dean Witter said its top chief legal officer, Christine Edwards, stepped down after an internal probe found she allowed the firm to pay an informant to help get a former employee arrested. Edwards remains an employee of the firm, but another in-house lawyer who had arranged the payment, Monroe Sonnenborn, resigned, Morgan Stanley said. The firm commissioned the investigation after the former employee, Christian Curry, attracted nationwide attention by suing the firm for $1.35 billion. Curry, who is black, said the firm fired him because of his race and because he posed nude in a magazine. Morgan Stanley said it dismissed him for expense account abuses. Curry was arrested in August on charges he conspired to plant racist e-mail messages in Morgan Stanley's computer system to bolster his discrimination lawsuit, but criminal charges were dropped after the Manhattan District Attorney's Office determined that the payment to the informant compromised its case.

Royal Ahold, the Dutch grocery conglomerate that owns Landover-based Giant Food, said its first-quarter net income rose 32 percent though it was hurt by the weaker U.S. dollar and Brazilian real. Earnings in the quarter ended April 25 rose to $183 million from an estimated $144.6 million in the year-earlier period. Sales climbed 27.2 percent to $9.7 billion. In the United States, sales increased 36.7 percent to $6.1 billion mainly because of the Giant Food acquisition.

The FCC will ask telecommunications companies whether regulations need to be relaxed to improve Internet access in rural areas, Chairman William E. Kennard said. The agency also intends to hold field hearings to hear the concerns of rural residents, Kennard said after meeting with a group of farm-state Senate Democrats.

Ralston Purina plans to spin off its struggling Eveready battery unit to focus on its pet-food business. The company's battery business is No. 2 worldwide with its Eveready and Energizer brands, though sales dropped last year because of U.S. competition and slumping Asian economies.

Jobless claims rose last week to the highest level since early January, but economists shrugged it off as a temporary blip in a job market that remains exceptionally healthy. The Labor Department reported that 323,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits for the week that ended June 5, up 14,000 from the previous week. The jump pushed jobless claims to the highest level since the week of Jan. 9, when there were 358,000.

Bennett Funding Group's former chief financial officer, Patrick Bennett, accused of orchestrating one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history, was convicted by a federal jury in New York of 42 counts of money laundering and other crimes. Bennett must forfeit $109 million and also faces as much as 20 years in prison. The jury could not reach a decision on the remaining 11 counts against Bennett, including a key charge of securities fraud. U.S. District Judge John Martin declared a mistrial on those charges.

EARNINGS

National Semiconductor, a maker of a wide range of computer chips, reported a $783.5 million loss for its fourth quarter after charges for leaving the PC processor business, but its operating results met Wall Street expectations. Excluding charges totaling $743.5 million, National Semi reported a loss of $40 million for the quarter, compared with a loss before charges of $69.3 million a year ago.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Standard & Poor's said it was placing the long-term debt of Lockheed Martin under review because of the Bethesda-based aerospace company's forecast of weaker earnings and cash flow. The credit-rating firm said it would meet with Lockheed management to assess whether the reduced profits this year and next will affect the firm's ability to retire its debt.