U.S. and German prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into whether DaimlerChrysler paid bribes in foreign countries, the Wall Street Journal reported. The stepped-up probe follows the suicide last month of a company executive in Nigeria, and the announcement by chief executive Jurgen Schrempp that he would retire this year, before the end of his contract. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission is examining payments made by Exxon Mobil and two other oil companies to officials in Equatorial Guinea.
The Federal Communications Commission handed a big victory to regional phone companies, allowing them to require Internet service providers, such as America Online and EarthLink, to pay a fee to deliver services over their DSL phone lines. The 4 to 0 ruling is likely to result in increased prices for consumers who want to do business with independent service providers rather than buy their Internet service directly from the phone companies. Phone companies said it would give them the incentive to build out their high-speed networks.
Partners May Face Charges
As many as 20 former partners at KPMG, including some in senior management, face criminal charges for their role in peddling tax shelters during the 1990s that the government contends were abusive, sources told The Post. At the same time, the Justice Department has apparently hesitated to indict the firm itself, in part out of concern that prosecution could lead, as it did in the case of Arthur Andersen, to the loss of yet another major accounting firm. KPMG has already apologized for the "unlawful" activity of some of its former employees.
Throwing In the Towel
Chinese oil company Cnooc withdrew its $18.5 billion offer for California energy firm Unocal after what it called unprecedented and unwarranted political opposition from members of Congress. The Cnooc bid had stoked public fears and resentment of China as an emerging economic and military superpower, particularly because the Chinese government retains a controlling interest in the company. But the withdrawal of the bid is likely to undercut U.S. efforts to open up other countries to free trade and investment.
Murdoch vs. Murdoch
All is not well in the House of Murdoch. Lachlan Murdoch resigned as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., where he was expected to take over some day from his father, Rupert Murdoch, 74. Lachlan, 33, was reported to be upset that his father was undercutting him at the office while also trying to dilute his inheritance by adding two young stepsisters to the trust that controls the family holdings. Rupert expressed hope his son might return eventually. Lachlan will move back to Australia with his wife and son.