- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Regional

Warren Buffett testified that he detected signs of trouble at mortgage giant Freddie Mac years before a $5 billion accounting lapse was revealed. The billionaire investor testified for the government against Leland Brendsel, the former Freddie Mac chief who was ousted in 2003. Mr. Buffett said, among other things, that he was skeptical about management’s claims that it could deliver double-digit earnings growth.

C.E. Andrews, the chief executive officer of student loan provider SLM Corp. since May 22, will receive a salary this year of $750,000, the company said in a regulatory filing. Mr. Andrews will also get a target performance bonus of $2.5 million for the portion of the year that he is CEO, according to the filing.

AOL, Time Warner Inc.’s Sterling, Va., Internet unit, said it is introducing Web sites in Hindi and Tamil languages to target Indian users, part of a push to expand in 30 new countries by the end of 2008. AOL seeks to tap Internet users in India by offering news, movie and astrology sections.

National

Countrywide Financial Corp. shareholders sued Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo and 19 other company officers and directors, claiming a stock buyback program allowed them to sell shares at inflated prices. The defendants sold $842 million in company stock while issuing false and misleading statements about the financial health of Countrywide, the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund claimed in a complaint filed Oct. 29 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Bank of America Corp.’s said Michael J. Meyer, head of investment-grade bond trading, and Christopher Pesce, head of prime brokerage, are leaving, continuing a spate of executive changes after the company’s corporate and investment bank reported a 93 percent decline in third-quarter profit.

Someone posing as a manager at Merrill Lynch & Co. has been sending racist e-mails to black investment brokers, as well as to civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, and the world’s largest brokerage firm has gone to court to try to stop it. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Merrill Lynch names a defendant known only as “John Doe.” The company said it suspects he lives somewhere in the Midwest.

A Virginia court granted GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from imposing new rules that the pharmaceutical company says will harm innovation. During a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge James Cacheris temporarily delayed implementation of the proposed rules, which reduce the number of times a patent applicant can contest or amend rejected or pending patent claims.

Garmin Ltd., the biggest U.S. manufacturer of car navigation devices, will make a hostile $3.3 billion cash offer for Tele Atlas NV, topping a bid by TomTom NV for the Dutch digital-mapping company. The battle for the second-largest maker of digital maps, comes as sales of navigation products are estimated to rise 20 percent this year.

Clorox Co., looking to expand into the natural beauty products business, said it would purchase lip balm maker Burt’s Bees of Morrisville, N.C., for $925 million.

Hours before millions of American children were to dress up and go trick-or-treating, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 43,000 sets of Halloween disguise teeth because they contain high levels of lead. The agency also recalled 16,000 sets of military-style Elite Operations toys, including action figures and vehicles, distributed by the Toys “R” Us chain, and 1,500 Ribbit board games yesterday, also because of concerns over lead.

Tests by the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not find a lead problem in toy animals that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled from its shelves last month over what the retailer called high lead levels. A spokeswoman for the watchdog agency said the government tests did not find lead levels that were higher than federal safety standards.

IAC, the Internet conglomerate controlled by media mogul Barry Diller, said that profit for its third quarter ended Sept. 30 fell 4.2 percent but investors were reassured by signs that its key home shopping network business has begun to turn around. Profit fell to $71.8 million (24 cents).

MasterCard, the No. 2 credit-card processor, said that increased cardholder spending, particularly overseas, boosted its profit by 63 percent in the third quarter ended Sept. 30. The Purchase, N.Y., company said profit was $314 million ($2.31), up from $193 million ($1.42) a year ago. Excluding a one-time gain, profit came to $1.80 per share.

Chrysler began laying off thousands of salaried workers as part of an effort to slash costs in the company’s new era of private ownership, a spokesman said. The cuts won’t end there. Chrysler planned to announce today that the third shift at the Toledo North plant in Ohio will be eliminated in the first quarter of 2008, a reduction of 750 jobs, according to a congressional aide.

Boston Scientific Corp.’s Guidant unit agreed to pay at least $240 million to settle claims it hid defects in its heart defibrillators, $45 million more than a settlement proposed in July, people with direct knowledge of the accord said. The increase from $195 million would let the company dispose of 8,000 claims, double the number in the initial settlement, the people said.

International

China will raise the prices of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel by $67 per ton, state media quoted China’s economic planner as saying. The nearly 10 percent increase, which takes effect today, was made to narrow the gap between soaring international crude and domestic oil prices, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the National Development and Reform Commission.

Hundreds of people are making stuffed Walt Disney toys at a factory in southern China up to 16 hours a day with only a few days off a month, a Hong Kong labor activist group said. Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior said that in the run-up to Christmas, workers at the factory start at 8 a.m. and don’t finish until midnight.

Cisco Systems and Indian software company Wipro agreed to develop information technology in an alliance that could fetch $1 billion in new business annually for the two companies. Under the agreement, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco and Wipro will develop and deliver software services that incorporate Cisco’s networking technology and Wipro’s expertise in outsourcing.

The crystal division of Waterford Wedgwood PLC, an icon of Irish artisanship, wants to cut its work force in Ireland nearly in half and could shift much of its crystal production to lower-cost Slovenia, labor union officials said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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