- - Thursday, July 12, 2012

PENALTY

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay an additional $13 million to settle charges of failing to fix safety violations at its Texas City oil refinery after a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers.

The settlement announced Thursday is the latest move toward resolving hundreds of violations at the plant alleged by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

BP already paid $50 million in 2010 to settle some of the OSHA violations.

The government had been seeking a total of $80 million in penalties, which would have been the largest fine in its history.

LABOR

Fewer auto closings reduce unemployment claims

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits plunged last week.

But a big reason is that automakers have skipped some of their usual summer shutdowns to keep up with demand, causing fewer temporary auto layoffs.

Economists expect the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid to go back up in coming weeks.

The auto industry’s recovery has helped support the struggling U.S. economy.

U.S. auto sales in the first half of the year jumped 15 percent over the same period a year ago. Sales of new vehicles surged in June. Automakers also began Independence Day promotions early, lifting sales at the end of the month.

RETAIL

Nordstrom to launch Topshop in 14 stores

NEW YORK — Upscale Nordstrom Inc. has teamed up with Arcadia Group to launch shops under the British company’s Topshop and Topman brands in 14 of its 117 full-scale department store locations.

With this deal, Nordstrom will become the largest U.S. retailer to sell a broad assortment of the U.K. brands’ fast-fashions in its stores and online. Topshop offers women’s clothing, while Topman is the menswear counterpart.

The partnership comes at a time when Nordstrom, which has enjoyed strong sales since the recession, is looking for new ways to get shoppers in its store more frequently.

Meanwhile, Arcadia is trying to raise its profile of Topshop and Topman in the U.S. among young customers.

CALIFORNIA

Ex-investigators for HP sentenced in fraud case

SAN JOSE — Two former private investigators have each been sentenced to three years of probation after authorities said that they used false identities to access Social Security numbers and other information on Hewlett-Packard board members, employees and journalists.

A U.S. District Court judge on Thursday also sentenced Joseph DePante and his son, Matthew DePante, to six months of electronic home monitoring as part of a plea deal after both pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit Social Security fraud.

Both men expressed remorse at their sentencing.

However, journalist Dawn Kawamoto said she was victimized and told the judge the defendants should receive more stringent sentences.

Federal prosecutors said HP had hired the DePantes’ Florida-based firm to track down who was leaking boardroom information to journalists in 2005.

The men were accused of directing other investigators posing as account holders or employees of phone companies to illegally obtain phone numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates, call logs and other personal information.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports