Tyson Foods and three managers were acquitted by a federal jury in Chattanooga of hiring illegal immigrants as part of a conspiracy to increase production and profits. The government's case stemmed from a four-year investigation that had undercover agents posing as immigrant-smugglers. Among evidence presented to jurors were hundreds of secretly recorded conversations between the agents and managers at Tyson poultry plants. Tyson denied there was any conspiracy, saying that a few plant managers independently violated the company's ban on hiring undocumented workers.
New-Home Sales Fell 8.1% Last Month
New-home sales in February plunged 8.1 percent, to their lowest level in more than two years, as bad weather kept house hunters indoors, and orders for costly manufactured goods fell by the largest amount in three months, according to the Commerce Department. The 1.2 percent drop in orders, however, wasn't as deep as the 1.5 percent decline economists were forecasting.
Two laser-eye-surgery firms agreed to settle federal charges that they made misleading promises of life without glasses and perfect vision. The Federal Trade Commission said the Laser Vision Institute and LCA Vision, which did business as LasikPlus, did not have scientific evidence to support claims that their Lasik procedures would eliminate the need for glasses and contact lenses. The firms also made unproven claims that its procedure was less risky than wearing contacts or glasses, the FTC said. The settlement bars the firms, which did not admit breaking any law, from making such claims in the future without proof.
Five drug manufacturers charged AIDS clinics, community health centers and other providers of health care for the indigent 80 percent more than they should have under a federal program, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services said. The companies, which were not identified, charged the clinics about $13.7 million for 11 drugs in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 1999, the inspector general said. The health care providers should have paid $7.6 million, the report found. The companies will be required to credit the groups.
Andrew S. Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer, must face lawsuits seeking more than $29 billion over the company's collapse, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston found that investors and former Enron employees have made a strong enough showing of securities and pension fraud allegations for the suit to proceed. Separately, a federal grand jury indicted two former mid-level Enron executives for allegedly using accounting tricks to generate $111 million in fake earnings from a failed Internet movie-on-demand service. The 19-count indictment mirrors criminal charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and lying to the FBI unsealed March 12 against Kevin A. Howard, 40, and Michael W. Krautz, 34. Both are free on $500,000 bond, and both deny the charges.
AOL Time Warner on Monday will end free online access to some of its highest-profile magazines as part of a previously announced effort to help its troubled America Online unit. The restrictions initially apply to People and Entertainment Weekly, whose Web content will be available only to AOL subscribers and people who buy the magazine. A dozen other Time Inc. publications, including Real Simple and In Style, are expected to follow suit by mid-May. Sports Illustrated and Time are not on the initial list.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, on the second try, had its request for a $250 million loan guarantee approved by the federal government. The eighth-largest U.S. steel producer, which is operating under bankruptcy protection, wants to invest in a $110 million electronic arc furnace that will make its steel production more cost efficient. Earlier this month the federal Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee Board rejected the company's original application because the risk of default was too high. The revised application included additional contributions from the company's creditors, suppliers, and the states of West Virginia and Ohio.
McDonald's will include choices such as fruits and vegetables in its children's Happy Meals, and it plans to pay for public service ads promoting fitness and health. Children's meal options might also include low-fat yogurt and fruit juices, chief executive James R. Cantalupo said.
Univision Communications, the biggest U.S. owner of Spanish-language TV stations, was cleared by antitrust officials to purchase Hispanic Broadcasting for $2.3 billion. The buyout still requires approval by the Federal Communications Commission. Univision agreed to reduce its stake in another media company to win the Justice Department's backing.
Adelphia Communications' plan to move its headquarters to Denver from Coudersport, Pa., is a waste of the firm's resources, said John J. Rigas, who is charged with defrauding the company he founded. The relocation is being orchestrated for the convenience of chief executive William T. Schleyer and Chief Operating Officer Ronald Cooper, who worked at the Denver offices of AT&T Broadband before joining Adelphia, Rigas and three of his sons said in a bankruptcy court filing.
Sears, Roebuck plans to sell its 91-year-old consumer finance business because rising credit card delinquencies have been eroding earnings. Chief executive Alan J. Lacy said Sears no longer needed the credit unit to support the retail operations. Most retailers contract out credit card services.
American Airlines, possibly only days away from reaching an agreement on $660 million in concessions from its pilots, wants to lay off as many as 1,000 of them in addition to cuts already included in talks, the Allied Pilots Association union said. American denied increasing its demands. The pilots union said it expects to reach an agreement by Monday.
Gannett agreed to buy a group of British newspapers for $94 million. The purchase of the Greater London publishing unit from Dublin-based Independent News & Media will add 45 newspapers to its holdings, Gannett said. McLean-based Gannett last year bought the 90,000-circulation Herald in Glasgow, Scotland, and in 1999 bought Newsquest, which owns 300 newspapers, for $1.6 billion.
Lockheed Martin won dismissal of an investor suit which claimed that the company inflated its share price by issuing misleading statements on its 1998 earnings. U.S. District Judge Mariana Pfaelzer in Los Angeles said the investors failed to meet the required legal standard of showing that company officials knew statements were false when they made them. Lockheed "made some forecasts in 1998 which, while aggressive, were nevertheless grounded in some realistic expectations," Pfaelzer wrote in a 28-page order.
WorldCom posted a profit of $155 million in January, compared with a loss of $580 million in December, as bankruptcy reorganization expenses fell. Sales slipped 1.8 percent, to $2.16 billion. The company, which reports results monthly to a federal bankruptcy court, did not give year-earlier figures.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers