Allstate Taps Former FEMA Chief

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt and his firm, James Lee Witt Associates, registered to lobby for Allstate Insurance, which wants Congress to create a natural catastrophe fund. Witt's lobbying registration came after Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hired him to advise her on the state's hurricane relief work. A partner in Witt's firm said the former FEMA director and his firm would turn away current and potential clients seeking lobbying services in Louisiana.


ATA Pilots Delay Contract Vote

With a strike threat looming, a vote on a new contract that would give the pilots of bankrupt ATA airlines partial ownership of the company has been delayed, the pilots union said.

Rusty Ayers, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, said Saturday that the 12 members of the union's master executive council would consider the "breakthrough" deal during a conference call on Saturday. A vote had been planned for yesterday.

The union, which represents about 800 pilots and flight engineers with the Indianapolis-based airline, said this week that its members had voted to authorize a strike. After the vote, union and company officials quickly resumed negotiations.


Prescription Drug Prices Surge

Pfizer's cholesterol-lowering medicine Lipitor and pain pill Celebrex led a 25 percent increase in drug prices nationwide from 2000 to 2004, a government report shows. Prescription drug costs rose to 10.7 percent of health spending from 5.8 percent in 2003. Some lawmakers are concerned that the federal government will be on the hook for the rising prices when Medicare starts paying for some medications in 2006.

The report by the Government Accountability Office found the price of a 30-day supply of 96 drugs used by older Americans rose 24.5 percent from January 2000 to December 2004.


CBOT Raises Share Price

The Chicago Board of Trade said it increased the price at which it will sell its first shares to the public by as much as 48 percent, to $45 to $49 a share from the $33 to $36 range it announced June 22. The higher price range may alleviate concern among shareholders that the exchange would sell itself too cheaply. The Board of Trade did not say when the share sale will take place.


Charles Schwab to Drop Fees

Charles Schwab Corp. is dropping its remaining account service fees effective Oct. 1 in the latest step back to the stock brokerage's low-cost heritage. Relinquishing the account service fees will cost Schwab about $40 million annually, a sacrifice that the company believes it can afford after shedding more than $300 million in annual expenses since mid-2004. Schwab also is abandoning a $3 handling fee for stock trades.


Amtrak Delays Fare Increase

Amtrak has delayed a Sept. 20 fare increase of as much as 7 percent and for reduced discounts on monthly tickets, saying it needs more time to brief public officials. The railroad, which had cited higher fuel costs for the fare changes, said that it is meeting with public officials and "other interested groups." Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski declined to identify the officials or groups.

Amtrak said on Sept. 9 that fares would rise an average of $4 a ticket in the Northeast and $3 elsewhere. It also planned to cut discounts on multiple-trip and monthly tickets used by Northeast commuters to 50 percent of regular prices from as much as 70 percent.


Trust Issues Claims Blacklist

A trust set up to pay the medical claims of people exposed to asbestos has issued a list of doctors and X-ray screening companies from which it will no longer accept medical reports supporting claims. The action is based on a Texas judge's decision in June that the work of nine doctors and three screening companies was unacceptable.

The Claims Resolution Management Corp. published the list of nine physicians and four screening companies in a memo dated Sept. 12 and posted on its Web site. Past claims based on the screeners' and doctors' work will be honored. New ones will not, the memo said.

Bear Stearns said its third-quarter profit rose 34 percent, to $378.3 million from $283.3 million in the comparable quarter a year earlier. Revenue rose 18 percent, to $1.81 billion.

Adobe Systems said that its fiscal third-quarter profit climbed 38.6 percent, to $144.9 million from $104.5 million, as the maker of Acrobat and Photoshop reported strong sales. Revenue for the three months ended Sept. 2 grew 20.6 percent year-to-year, to $487 million.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

In proposing higher fares and reduced discounts on monthly tickets, Amtrak has cited a 40 percent increase in its fuel costs from a year ago.