The Federal Reserve is considering whether banks should be required to tell consumers more about the costs of programs that cover checks that would otherwise bounce. The central bank recently asked for public comment on the programs and whether they should be made subject to truth-in-lending rules that require banks to disclose interest rates, fees and other information to consumers.

ID Theft Again Tops Fraud List

Identity-theft complaints nearly doubled in 2002; the crime topped the government's list of consumer frauds for a third consecutive year. The Federal Trade Commission said 43 percent of about 380,000 complaints involved the hijacking of someone's personal information, such as a credit card or Social Security number, to steal money or commit fraud. Gripes about fraud in Internet auctions ranked No. 2 and accounted for 13 percent of complaints.


Eastman Kodak plans to eliminate as many as 2,200 jobs as the slumping economy and consumers' shift to digital cameras have hurt sales and profit at the company. Costs to lay off workers will total as much as $100 million this year. The company said this quarter's profit will be about 13 cents a share, less than half the average estimate of analysts in a Thomson First Call survey.

Two former Tyson Foods managers pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrant workers into the United States and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of the largest U.S. chicken processor. Tyson and several managers face trial next month on charges that they plotted to bring immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras into the United States to work at poultry-processing plants.

Tyco International, trying to fend off a shareholder resolution calling for the company to shift its incorporation to Delaware from Bermuda, said its new board will consider that move on its own. Several U.S. companies have been criticized for incorporating offshore or, like the toolmaker Stanley Works, considering a shift. Such moves can cut a firm's tax bill and, as a shareholder argued in Tyco's proxy statement, weaken shareholder rights. Separately, Tyco reported a nearly 50 percent drop in its fiscal first-quarter earnings, to $1.2 billion, despite a 4 percent rise in revenue. Tyco is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for its accounting practices and three former top executives also have been indicted on charges of looting the company.

The Securities and Exchange Commission opened administrative proceedings against Andover Brokerage, alleging that the day-trading firm broke the law against shorting stocks as their prices fall. The SEC alleges Andover executed 202 of those transactions in 1998 and falsely identified them. The Montebello, N.Y., company declined to comment.

The Food and Drug Administration said it will hire at least 50 more employees to look for risks in drugs the agency has approved. The FDA has been criticized as ineffective in monitoring drugs for serious side effects after they've been approved, leading to the withdrawal of some medicines after they have caused death and organ damage. The agency didn't say how many people already work in the office that monitors drug risks.


A Uruguayan judge barred the government from paying J.P. Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse First Boston and Dresdner Bank $100 million they may be owed for bailing out a Montevideo bank last year. The judge ruled that depositors in several affiliated Latin American banks, also partially owned by the three international lenders, may have first claim on the money.

Colombia disclosed for the first time in a decade how much drug-related agriculture contributes to its economy, saying 1.2 percent of gross domestic product comes from coca leaf, cannabis and poppy plants. Cesar Caballero, director of the national statistics agency, said Colombia made the figure public in 1993, then stopped because of objections by the U.S. government. Colombia said it began reporting the figures again to provide a clearer view of the drug trade's impact on its economy.

Hitachi, Japan's largest electronics company, said it will restore -- two months ahead of schedule -- pay cuts it implemented on about 40,000 workers last year because it was losing money. The move reflects the company's earnings recovery, company spokesman Atsushi Konno said.


Gannett said it has agreed to pay $550,000 to settle a lawsuit against it by the former editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Lawrence K. Beaupre had accused Gannett of making him a scapegoat after the Enquirer in 1998 published, then renounced, stories critical of the business practices of Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International. Beaupre agreed to drop his lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court in exchange for a $200,000 severance package and a payment of $350,000 for legal fees.

Constellation Energy Group, owner of Baltimore Gas & Electric, agreed to buy Dynegy's electric-supply business in Calgary to enter the Canadian market. Constellation will gain contracts to supply about 125 megawatts of power to 65 industrial and commercial clients, spokesman Dave Potter said. It already supplies more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity to customers in 13 U.S. states. A megawatt is enough power to light about 800 U.S. homes.

The D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board will be putting a five-year full-service advertising contract up for grabs. The lottery's current contract with Reston firm HR Communications, which designs lottery ads, will expire in December, and the lottery is required by law to begin soliciting ad firms before HR's contract expires, said lottery spokesman Bob Hainey.


J.P. Morgan Chase said its loss widened to $387 million in the fourth quarter because of write-offs related to Enron's collapse and the setting aside of reserves to cover the cost of lawsuits. The bank lost $332 million a year earlier.

Merrill Lynch posted a fourth-quarter profit of $603 million as chief executive Stanley O'Neal cut expenses faster than revenue fell. The securities firm had a loss of $1.26 billion a year earlier. Revenue in the most recent quarter dropped 12 percent, to $4.2 billion, but expenses excluding interest payments declined 46 percent.

Pfizer's fourth-quarter net income climbed 46 percent from the year-earlier period, to $2.86 billion, as the drugmaker sold more of the epilepsy treatment Neurontin and the cholesterol medication Lipitor. Revenue increased 14 percent, to $9.3 billion.

Qualcomm said earnings in the latest quarter rose to $241 million, from $139 million a year earlier, on strong worldwide demand for cell phones using the company's CDMA technology. Revenue rose to $1.1 billion from $699 million.

Texas Instruments said it lost $589 million in the fourth quarter after writing down the value of its investments. That compared with a loss of $116 million a year earlier. The company, a leading maker of computer chips for cellular phones, said that excluding the write-down of assets it would have earned $100 million.

Weyerhaeuser reported a fourth-quarter profit of $126 million, compared with a loss of $15 million a year earlier, as it closed mills and lowered expenses. The wood products company said its revenue rose 39 percent, to $4.7 billion.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

McDonald's won a major victory for the fast-food industry when a federal judge threw out a lawsuit that blamed Big Macs, fries and Chicken McNuggets for obesity in children. "If a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of supersized McDonald's products is unhealthy and may result in weight gain . . . it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses," U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet said.