Wal-Mart's Woes

A federal judge ruled that a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could go to trial as a class action. Under that new status, the suit promises to become the largest civil rights case against a private employer in U.S. history. Wal-Mart, which denies the allegations, saw its shares fall in response to the decision. "This decision means instead of facing six individual women with claims, Wal-Mart faces the claims of 1.6 million women," said Brad Seligman of the Impact Fund, lead counsel for the women.

Southern Strategy

Wachovia agreed to buy SouthTrust for $14.3 billion to tighten its hold on banking in the Southeast and Texas. Wachovia chief executive G. Kennedy Thomson conceded that he is paying "full price" for the Birmingham-based bank, but defended the deal as geographically desirable and cost-efficient. Wachovia, which is based in Charlotte, said it would be able to reduce costs by $255 million after taxes by cutting 4,300 jobs and 130 to 150 branches from the combined company.

Another 'No' to United

United Airlines' request for $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees was turned down by federal regulators. It was the second time the troubled UAL Corp. unit was rejected by the Air Transportation Stabilization Board. But the airline hasn't given up trying to get aid from Uncle Sam. It quickly filed a revised application for the loan and this time asked for $500 million less. It also promised to keep lots of cash on hand despite expected large pension payouts by the end of the year. Will the third time be the charm? No decision yet.

Media Rules Rejected

A federal appeals court barred the Federal Communications Commission from limiting the number of media outlets that a company can acquire. The three-judge panel ruled that the FCC used faulty reasoning when it determined how many newspapers, television stations and radio stations companies can own. The decision is a setback for the FCC, which must either devise new regulations or appeal to the Supreme Court. Consumer groups hailed the decision as a boon to diversity since older, tighter limits apply for now.

AOL Worker Accused

A 24-year-old America Online software engineer was charged with stealing the Internet provider's subscriber list and selling it to people who sent "massive amounts" of spam -- or unwanted e-mails -- to 92 million computer users. Jason Smathers was accused by federal prosecutors of stealing a list with subscribers' screen names and selling it twice to another man, Sean Dunaway, who then sold it to spammers. Dunaway was also charged. The case was brought under a recently enacted anti-spam law.