News Corp. moved to protect itself from a potential hostile takeover, adopting a "poison pill" that calls for offering half-price stock to shareholders if Liberty Media increases its interest in the news and entertainment company headed by Rupert Murdoch. Liberty, which is headed by John C. Malone, said last week that it has an option to buy 84.7 million News Corp. Class B voting shares from Merrill Lynch in April 2005. The purchase would raise Liberty's stake in News Corp. to 17.2 percent, above the poison pill threshold established by News Corp.
Lucent Ex-Officials Face Bribery Suit
Lucent Technologies said that three former employees face possible civil charges over an alleged bribery scheme involving Saudi Arabian officials. Former chief executive Richard McGinn, who left the company in 2000; the former head of Lucent's Saudi Arabian operations, John Heindel; and a third, unnamed person received notices of possible legal action from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a filing with the SEC yesterday, the company said that the notices emerged from a 15-month investigation by the Justice Department and SEC into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Murray Hill, N.J.-based maker of telecommunications gear has been sued by Silki-La-Silki National Telecom, an Internet provider in Saudi Arabia that claims that Lucent cheated the company out of business through the scheme.
Pfizer said it is likely to add a "black box" warning -- the strongest warning available for prescription drugs -- to the label of its painkiller Bextra, because the drug sometimes causes Stevens Johnson syndrome, a severe, painful blistering of the mucus membranes and skin that has a 30 percent mortality rate.
General Electric will sell 60 percent of its outsourcing arm to General Atlantic Partners and Oak Hill Capital Partners for $500 million. GE Capital International Services had served only GE and its customers, and GE said it will remain the largest customer for several years.
Federal jurors in the accounting fraud trial of former Cendant executives ended a second day of deliberations without a verdict. Chairman Walter Forbes and Vice Chairman E. Kirk Shelton are accused of inflating income at CUC International by $286 million before it merged with HFS to form Cendant.
Marsh & McLennan, the world's largest insurance brokerage, said General Counsel William Rosoff and two senior brokerage executives stepped down as the company seeks to resolve accusations that it rigged bids and took kickbacks. Marsh said it asked for the resignations of Roger E. Egan, president of Marsh's brokerage unit, and Chris M. Treanor, chief executive of the brokerage division cited by New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer in a suit against the New York company.
Bail was set at $1 million for a North Carolina man awaiting sentencing in the nation's first felony prosecution of illegal distribution of spam. Prosecutors argued that Jeremy Jaynes of Raleigh was too great a flight risk to be allowed bail, saying he had been putting parts of his $24 million fortune in foreign bank accounts.
T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 2.045 percent from 1.950 percent the previous week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 2.260 percent from 2.140 percent. The actual return to investors is 2.084 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,948.88, and 2.318 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,886.37. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for changing adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 2.35 percent from 2.27 percent the previous week.
Charles Schwab agreed to pay $6.2 million to former chief executive David S. Pottruck, who was ousted in July after he failed to stem a loss in market share to cheaper equity firms.
Michael D. Eisner didn't have to seek board approval to fire Michael Ovitz as president in a way that allowed Ovitz to collect $140 million in severance pay, a former Walt Disney Co. director testified. Irwin Russell, who formerly led Disney's compensation committee, said directors routinely deferred to Eisner on management decisions.
Oracle will abandon its legal challenge to PeopleSoft's anti-takeover protections if shareholders fail to tender a majority of their shares by a Nov. 19 deadline, an Oracle attorney said.
The European Union's head office filed a World Trade Organization complaint against the United States and Canada for keeping sanctions against the E.U. because of its ban on imports of hormone-treated beef. An E.U. spokeswoman said that officials invited both countries to lift their sanctions after the 25-nation bloc passed legislation limiting the ban on hormones but that the countries have not done so.
ConocoPhillips's $370 million purchase of a stake in Russia's Lukoil Holdings has been approved by the European Commission.
A recall of canned turkey luncheon meat that began in Puerto Rico has spread to seven U.S. states and Amsterdam, the Agriculture Department said. The meat, which could cause serious health problems or death if it was underprocessed as feared, is labeled in the United States "Al Haloub Cow, Turkey Luncheon Meat." It was distributed in California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Texas by International Trading of Houston.
James M. Brady, a former America Online executive and copy editor and reporter in The Washington Post's sports section, will become executive editor of Washingtonpost.com effective Feb. 1, 2005, replacing Douglas Feaver, who is retiring. Brady, 37, helped launch The Post's Web site in 1995 before going to Dulles-based AOL, where he ran the Internet service provider's news and sports staffs, eventually overseeing all editorial content and rising to vice president of production.
Criimi Mae, a Rockville buyer of commercial mortgages, reported a third-quarter loss of $7.8 million, compared with a loss of $5.6 million for the same period a year earlier. The results for the most recent quarter included $13.2 million in charges, or 86 cents a share, reflecting impairment in the value of its some of its commercial mortgage-backed securities.
Conseco reported third-quarter earnings of $57.9 million. The insurance company, based in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, emerged from bankruptcy protection on Sept. 10, 2003, and adopted new accounting adjustments that provide no meaningful comparison with results for the third quarter of 2003.
Pepco Holdings, owner of utilities in the District and four states, said third-quarter profit fell 29 percent as unusually cool weather reduced demand for air conditioning. Net income for the quarter fell to $111 million, from $157.3 million during the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell to $2.05 billion, from $2.13 billion.
Six Flags, the world's second-largest amusement park operator, said third-quarter profit fell 60 percent, to $56.4 million, as storms and wet weather led to lower attendance. Revenue fell 77 percent, to $527.4 million.
Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers.