Exxon Mobil, the nation's largest oil company, has joined the list of petroleum firms under federal scrutiny for possible violation of securities law barring bribes to foreign officials. The company, which said it is cooperating fully, said it received a letter yesterday from the Securities and Exchange Commission requesting information from Exxon Mobil about transactions handled by Riggs Bank involving the company and the dictator of Equatorial Guinea and his family. The probe is part of a broader government review, including an inquiry by the Justice Department, into Riggs and its embassy accounts, particularly those involving Equatorial Guinea, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Saudi Arabia.
Case Lightens Time Warner Holdings
Steve Case is selling stock in Time Warner for the first time since resigning as its chairman 15 months ago. The former America Online chief disclosed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that he sold 100,000 shares this week for about $1.7 million, and Time Warner spokeswoman Tricia Primrose said Case plans to sell 1.65 million shares in the next three months for financial planning purposes. Case remains on the Time Warner board, and SEC documents show he owns 15.1 million shares, with options to purchase 7.9 million more.
Wal-Mart Stores is negotiating with federal prosecutors on a legal settlement that would resolve allegations that it used illegal workers to clean its stores, according to lawyers close to the case. A federal grand jury has been meeting in Pennsylvania since December to investigate charges that the world's largest retailer knew that some of the janitorial companies it used to clean its floors employed illegal immigrants. Lawyers close to the case, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, said the settlement negotiations, which were reported by the Wall Street Journal, included a possibility that the company could pay a multimillion-dollar fine without having to acknowledge criminal liability.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund agreed to shorten their annual meetings to two days from four after the United States asked that the gathering be confined to a weekend to minimize the disruption in Washington, the IMF said in a statement. Finance ministers and central bankers from the 184 members of the so-called Bretton Woods institutions will gather in Washington Oct. 2-3, a Saturday and a Sunday, and not meet through Oct. 5 as scheduled earlier, the statement said.
Former Enron trading manager John M. Forney pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud as part of a scheme to manipulate California's energy markets, prosecutors said. The U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco said in an e-mailed statement that Forney, who was charged with 11 counts of fraud, will cooperate with prosecutors investigating Enron's trading practices.
Coca-Cola said it inadvertently inflated worldwide volume increases for two quarters last year and underreported volume in the first quarter this year. The world's biggest beverage company blamed the mistakes on errors in production numbers reported by an affiliated Indonesian water company.
Initial jobless claims dropped last week to 336,000, a hopeful sign for the job market recovery. The Labor Department reported new applications for jobless benefits declined by a seasonally adjusted 11,000, the lowest level since the beginning of July. A year ago, claims stood at 399,000.
McDonald's, which has faced criticism for contributing to obesity in developed nations, released its second report on social responsibility. It has not set a deadline for switching to a frying oil that has less trans fatty acids, a problem it set out to solve in September 2002, its chief executive said.
New York City is suing 44 pharmaceutical companies over claims that they inflated drug costs for Medicaid patients and cost the city millions of dollars.
Consumers' frugal spending extended into a second month during July, giving many retailers lackluster sales gains, particularly at mall-based apparel chains, though discounters had solid gains. The preliminary International Council of Shopping Centers-UBS sales tally of 54 retailers, based on sales at stores open at least a year, was up 3.5 percent, in line with forecasts.
Charter Communications, the third-largest U.S. cable-television operator, said it agreed to a $144 million settlement of shareholder lawsuits over its accounting practices. Charter, controlled by billionaire Paul Allen, last week settled a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into how it counted subscribers.
AT&T said in its second-quarter report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may write down the value of some of its $43.8 billion in assets, intensifying speculation that the nation's largest long-distance phone company is a takeover target. A write-down, which analysts estimate could be in the billions of dollars, would reflect that the company's assets have declined in value since the company invested billions of dollars in upgrading its network during the telecom boom.
Children's Place Retail Stores, which operates clothing stores in shopping malls, said it signed a non-binding letter of intent to purchase Walt Disney's Disney Store chain in North America. Children's Place would run the stores under a license agreement. It's not certain the talks will lead to a purchase, Children's Place said in a statement.
Parmalat Finanziaria, the Italian food company that collapsed in December, is being investigated by the country's competition regulator for the sale of its Newlat dairy company in 1999 and the 2001 acquisition of milk producer Carnini, the agency said. Newlat "always remained under the control of Parmalat," even though Parmalat claimed it sold the company, the regulator said.
General Motors's financial services arm has received final approval from the Chinese government to offer automotive financing, making GM the first foreign business of this kind in China.
The European Central Bank left its key interest rate at 2 percent while it waits for confirmation that an economic recovery is solidly underway. The Bank of England raised its key rate by a quarter-point to 4.75 percent to try to curb the inflationary effects of rising housing prices and strong consumer spending.
Saturn is recalling nearly all of its VUE sport utility vehicles, which regulators are investigating because the rear suspension failed during two government rollover tests. The recall affects about 245,000 VUEs in the 2002-04 model years, including about 231,000 in the United States.
Rival Slow Cookers are being recalled after 45 reports of handles breaking and 14 people being burned by hot contents. Some 1.8 million cookers are affected. Manufactured in China, the cooker was sold at Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and other discount department stores nationwide from January 1999 through May 2002. Consumers should contact the Holmes Group to get a replacement base, either by calling 800-299-1284 or by registering online at www.rivalrecall.com.
Lockheed Martin's board of directors has elected company President Robert Stevens, 52, as chief executive, effective Aug. 5, to replace the retiring Vance Coffman as head of the largest U.S. defense company. Stevens will retain his title of president.
Carlyle Group, the District-based buyout and venture capital firm, said former British prime minister John Major stepped down as European chairman in May and won't be replaced. He remains an adviser to Carlyle's European funds and energy fund.
DirecTV Group swung to a loss in its second quarter as the cost of luring and keeping subscribers offset higher sales. The company posted a loss of $13.3 million on $2.64 billion in revenue, compared with a profit of $21.6 million on $2.19 billion in revenue in the same period last year.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber had its first quarterly profit in almost two years as it sold more tires at higher prices and cut costs. Profit was $25.1 million, compared with a loss of $53 million, and revenue rose 20 percent, to $4.5 billion, a record for any quarter.
Sara Lee's fourth-quarter profit rose nearly 30 percent over last year's, to $354 million, thanks to favorable exchange rates and an extra week in this year's period, which ended July 3.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.