LEGAL

Hollinger Defendant Skips Court

John A. Boultbee, 62, a Canadian associate of former Hollinger International press baron Conrad M. Black, did not appear in court in Chicago for his arraignment on federal fraud charges. A government prosecutor threatened extradition proceedings.

Black and other former Hollinger executives were indicted on charges that they used improper transactions to loot the newspaper company of more than $84 million.

Another former Hollinger executive, Peter Y. Atkinson, had his arraignment postponed until today, when Black also is scheduled to appear.

De Beers Settles Fixing Suits

De Beers, the world's largest diamond company, settled class-action lawsuits in the United States that alleged it had fixed prices. The settlements will "bring an end to a number of disputes" and allow it to pursue "global interests," the Johannesburg-based company said.

The settlements will cost the company $250 million, De Beers said.

Host America Fires CEO

Host America fired its chief executive and his sister after an internal investigation of a misleading news release, which boosted the company's shares and prompted an insider-trading investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Geoffrey Ramsey was fired Nov. 28, three months after he was placed on leave without pay, the Hamden, Conn.-based company said in a regulatory filing. Anne L. Ramsey, secretary and director of human resources, also was dismissed.

Icahn Warns Time Warner on AOL

Financier Carl C. Icahn threatened to sue Time Warner directors if they make a deal for America Online that he finds unacceptable.

Icahn said he would go after Time Warner's directors if they cut what he considered a poor deal for AOL. Time Warner has been talking with companies, including Microsoft, about investing in or buying AOL, which has become a hot property because of strong advertising sales and ability to draw in large audiences online.

Enron Prosecutors Support Gag

Federal prosecutors support a gag order barring both sides from making comments outside the courtroom before the January fraud trial of former Enron executives Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling.

Government lawyers said at least one defendant is likely to object to the order.

INSURANCE

Lloyd's May Post 2005 Loss

Lloyd's of London may post its first annual loss since 2001 after the costliest hurricane season on record resulted in claims of about $5 billion. "The chances of the market making a profit in 2005 are now small," said Lloyd's, an umbrella group for about 62 insurance businesses. "The market expects to be able to meet all its liabilities."

Payouts will exceed claims from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which cost Lloyd's about $3.3 billion in its single biggest loss.

INTERNET

EBay Is Top Holiday Shopping Site

EBay and Amazon.com were the two most-visited online shopping sites at the start of the holiday season.

The Web sites of Wal-Mart Stores and Target were third and fourth for visitors on Friday and Monday, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. They were followed by Overstock.com, computer maker Dell, and eBay's comparison-shopping service, Shopping.com.

Bally Total Fitness Holding said it retained J.P. Morgan Securities "to explore strategic alternatives" that could include the sale or merger of the company.

Bally has accused former executives of improper accounting practices and delayed filing a number of financial reports pending the completion of an investigation.

General Electric said it plans to sell the rest of its stake in Genworth Financial, the consumer insurance business it spun off in May. GE, which cut its ownership in Genworth to 27 percent in September, said it plans to sell 38 million Genworth shares today and price the offering after markets close.

GE said it will sell the rest of its Genworth shares by the end of next year.

Northwest Airlines said it lost $346 million in its first six weeks under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Northwest lost $475 million in the third quarter and has said in court filings that it expects to lose $1.7 billion in the full year.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.

Walgreen said it put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, known as the morning-after pill, in violation of a state rule. The four cited religious or moral objections to filling the prescriptions.