Microsoft will pay up to $241.4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by Minnesota computer users who claimed the software company overcharged them. The settlement includes $174.5 million in computer equipment vouchers for consumers. The suit alleged that Microsoft violated state antitrust law by overcharging for its Windows operating system and its Excel and Word programs.

IG: No Halliburton 'Gouging' Evident

No evidence has emerged that Halliburton has been "gouging" the U.S. government for work to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry and provide food services for U.S. troops, Pentagon Inspector General Joseph Schmitz said. "I know that there have been some instances of overcharging and we will pick up on them and hold people accountable," Schmitz said. "I haven't seen any real deliberate gouging of the American taxpayer but we are looking."

MORE NEWS

Maryland has filed a lawsuit against the maker of Kool cigarettes, charging that the company is illegally targeting young people with a marketing campaign built around hip-hop music. The suit by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran asked that Brown & Williamson be fined at least $5.3 million and prohibited from continuing with its Kool Mixx 2004 promotional campaign in Maryland. New York state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer got a preliminary order last month from that state's Supreme Court halting use of the Kool Mixx Web site and a live audio webcast of DJ contests along with the recall of special cigarette packs and brand merchandise.

IBM, rattled by Oracle's hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft, considered making defensive investments in other software makers and lobbying the government to discourage other mergers, according to company documents released in court. IBM's assessment of Oracle's $7.7 billion bid for PeopleSoft is part of the evidence that has piled up in a month-long antitrust deal challenging the proposed combination of business software makers. Yesterday was the last day of testimony in the nonjury trial in San Francisco. Oracle's lawyers and government lawyers seeking to block the PeopleSoft bid will return to court July 20 to present their final arguments to U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

Apple Computer has stopped taking orders for current models of its iMac computer and said it expects to run out in the next weeks. And the new version, Apple said, won't be ready until September, about two months behind schedule.

AT&T, MCI and other telephone companies asked the Supreme Court to restore rules that give them discounted access to local-phone networks owned by competitors, saying the ruling that struck down the regulations conflicts with prior Supreme Court decisions and may prevent competition. The Bush administration and FCC have declined to support an appeal to the high court.

Manufacturing increased again in June. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index declined to 61.1 last month from 62.8 in May, but any number above 50 indicates expansion. The Commerce Department reported that construction spending increased 0.3 percent in May from April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $988.5 billion. Construction spending had increased 1.2 percent in April.

Jobless claims rose by a seasonally adjusted 1,000 last week, to 351,000, although the overall pace of recent applications suggests the labor market remains in recovery mode, the Labor Department said. A year ago, new applications for unemployment benefits stood at 427,000.

Closing arguments in the larceny trial of former Tyco International general counsel Mark A. Belnick are set to begin next week. The defense rested its case during a half-day session focused on Belnick's stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington, where prosecutors say he was offered a huge bonus in exchange for covering up corruption at the company.

Verizon Wireless added calling capacity in Denver, Phoenix, Seattle and other cities as it agreed to buy Qwest Communications International's wireless assets for $418 million. The agreement includes airwave rights in parts of 14 states covering 30.8 million people, and cellular towers and network-switch centers.

Adelphia Communications asked a federal judge to hold founder John J. Rigas and his sons Michael and Timothy in contempt for defying another judge's 2002 court order not to transfer assets without his permission by paying more than $100,000 to ex-assistant treasurer Michael C. Mulcahey. Mulcahey, who is on trial on fraud charges with the Rigases, has testified that he has received $1,846 a month from them since May 2003. Jurors yesterday weighed evidence in the criminal case for a fourth day without reaching a verdict.

Nielsen Media Research may proceed with its plans to introduce a new local television ratings system in Los Angeles next week after a California judge denied Univision Television Group's bid for a delay. Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster, claims that Nielsen's "people meter" system undercounts minority viewers. Nielsen collects ratings used to set advertising rates.

Charles River Laboratories International is proposing to buy Inveresk Research Group for $1.5 billion in cash and stock, with both companies hoping to capitalize on the growing market for drug research and development. The deal awaits shareholder and regulatory consent and would create a company with 7,300 employees and about $920 million in revenue.

RECALLS

Packaged seafood products from Taiwan are being recalled because their ingredient labels don't list eggs, posing a serious risk to people allergic to eggs. Recalled are the following See Best brand products: 7-ounce bags of fish dumplings, 4.9-ounce bags of frozen codfish balls, codfish balls with mushrooms, simulated crab balls, simulated lobster balls, two-color balls, cuttlefish balls and colorful fish roll with roe. Consumers allergic to eggs should return them to the place of purchase or contact Walong Marketing at 714-670-8899.

INTERNATIONAL

The European Central Bank decided to leave its key interest rate unchanged as it sorts through mixed signals about growth in countries using the euro -- even as central bank rates are on the rise in the United States. The bank's 18-member governing council kept the main refinancing rate at 2 percent, where it has been for 13 months.

Air Canada would rely on smaller planes and fewer workers and would postpone wage negotiations with unions until 2006, at the earliest, under a bankruptcy restructuring plan. Creditors would get as few as 6 cents for every dollar they claimed they were owed, assuming proven claims of about $15 billion. Creditors meet Aug. 17 to vote on the plan, in which Air Canada said it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection on Sept. 30.

LOCAL BUSINESS

Lockheed Martin received a definite order for 22 F/A-22 fighter jets from the Air Force, setting the value of the contract first announced in March at $2.03 billion. The contract is the fourth low-rate production order for the F/A-22, the Air Force said in a statement. The Air Force had announced a verbal agreement with Lockheed for the planes in March without giving the value of the award.

EARNINGS

ConAgra Foods' fourth-quarter profit rose 41 percent, to $212 million, boosted by higher sales across its divisions and an accounting change that made this year's period a week longer. Sales for the quarter ended May 30 increased to $4 billion from $3.6 billion. ConAgra is the nation's second-largest food company. Its packaged food brands include Banquet, Blue Bonnet, Chef Boyardee and La Choy.

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

The 2005 Chrysler 300C was unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Chrysler rode strong demand for the current version of the 300 sedan to a 5.5 percent increase in car sales and a 1 percent overall gain last month, while General Motors and Ford Motor both posted unexpectedly large double-digit sales declines. Most foreign automakers posted sales gains. Toyota, the No. 1 Japanese automaker and No. 4 behind GM, Ford and Chrysler in U.S. business, ended its best six months of sales in its 47 years in the United States.