Gradison to Lead Audit Board

Willis D. Gradison Jr. was named acting chairman of the U.S. auditing oversight board as the Securities and Exchange Commission outlined how it will select a permanent chair and fill future openings on the panel.

Gradison, 76, a former Republican congressman from Ohio, is one of four original members of the five-person Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. He will temporarily replace William McDonough, who stepped down Wednesday after leading the board for 2 1/2 years.

The five members of the SEC chose Gradison unanimously, the agency said.

IRS Sets 2006 Mileage Rate

The Internal Revenue Service set the deductible rate that workers can claim for using personal cars on business at 44.5 cents a mile for 2006. That's down from the 48.5-cent temporary rate that the tax agency put in place for the last four months of this year because of higher gasoline prices nationwide, but it is up from the 40.5 cents in effect for most of 2005. Many businesses use the IRS rate as a benchmark for reimbursing employees for travel costs.


AOL Accused of Unlawful Billing

A lawsuit seeking to potentially cover hundreds of thousands of America Online subscribers accuses the Time Warner unit of illegally billing customers by creating secondary accounts without their consent.

The lawsuit, filed last month in Illinois on behalf of 10 AOL customers in six states, claims the company confused and deceived customers about the charges, stalled them from canceling unauthorized accounts and refused to return questioned fees.

Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman, said, "The important thing is that we deny the allegations now as we've done several times, and we will defend this case as we have other cases accordingly."

Grace Seeks Change of Venue

Attorneys for seven current and former W.R. Grace executives accused of concealing health hazards posed by Grace's asbestos-laced vermiculite mine near Libby, Mont., compared the intensity of media coverage of the case to that of the Oklahoma City bombing, as they again sought a change of venue in federal district court. The mine closed in 1990.

The executives' trial is set for September 2006 in Missoula. Charges include conspiracy, Clean Air Act violations and other offenses. They are accused of concealing the mine's dangers from mine workers and other Libby residents, hundreds of whom have been sickened by asbestos-related disease.

Scrushy Faces 2007 Civil Trial

HealthSouth founder Richard M. Scrushy, who was acquitted of criminal charges that he orchestrated a $2.7 billion fraud, will go on trial in April 2007 on related civil claims brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In June, a federal jury in Birmingham found Scrushy, 53, not guilty of criminal fraud charges. The SEC is seeking to seize Scrushy's $75 million fortune and bar him from serving as an executive or board member of a publicly traded company.

Former Prosecutor Joins Wachtell

David Anders, a lead prosecutor against former WorldCom chief executive Bernard J. Ebbers and former Credit Suisse First Boston banker Frank P. Quattrone, will leave the U.S. attorney's office to join Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a New York law firm.

Ebbers was convicted in March of conspiracy, securities fraud and seven counts of making false filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He has appealed.

Quattrone was convicted in May 2004 of obstruction of justice for hindering probes into how the bank allocated shares in initial public stock offerings. He has appealed.


Icahn Plans Hostile Fairmont Bid

Billionaire Carl C. Icahn plans a $1.19 billion hostile offer for control of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and said he would sell the company. Icahn, who already owns 9.3 percent of Toronto-based Fairmont, wants to buy as many as 29.6 million shares for $40 each, giving him a majority stake.

The company, which owns or manages 88 luxury hotels, should be sold to a larger hotel chain "that is able to more effectively take advantage of economies of scale," Icahn said in a statement.


Wal-Mart Probes Credit Fraud

Wal-Mart Stores said it is working with Visa and MasterCard to investigate credit card fraud affecting customers who bought gasoline at Sam's Club stations.

About 600 cardholders who used their MasterCard or Visa credit cards at the fuel stations between Sept. 21 and Oct. 2 are known to be affected, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division said in a statement.


MercExchange Has Large Investor

MercExchange, the Great Falls company suing eBay, alleging patent infringement, confirmed that New York-based investment firm Altitude Capital will invest "substantial millions" in the company.

In part, the money will help fund MercExchange's case, which earlier this week was granted a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Courts have upheld MercExchange's claim that technology eBay uses in about a third of its operations infringes on MercExchange patents.

"[The investment] will help gird us for battle with eBay," MercExchange spokesman Michael Caputo said.

Compiled from staff and news service reports.