In the Region Worldcom's Digex settlement OK'd by judge...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 07, 2001

In the Region

Worldcom's Digex settlement OK'd by judge

A Chancery Court judge in Wilmington, Del., approved yesterday WorldCom Inc.'s $420 million settlement with Digex Inc. shareholders who sued over the No. 2 long-distance company's $4.1 billion purchase of Digex parent Intermedia Communications Inc.

Judge William Chandler III concluded that WorldCom's offer, including giving about $165 million in stock to Digex investors and $15 million to the company, was a satisfactory resolution of the lawsuits.

The decision clears the way for WorldCom to complete the takeover of Intermedia, a phone company that owns a 55 percent stake and a 94 percent voting interest in Beltsville-based Digex, which manages Web sites for companies such as Sony Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Md. Assembly passes mutual fund bill

Mutual fund companies scored a victory last night, when the General Assembly gave final approval to a bill making it more difficult for shareholders to sue fund directors.

The 133-1 vote in the House of Delegates marked the third time the legislation has passed the legislature in four years. The bill's passage - the Senate passed it earlier - is insurance against the possibility that an identical provision in current law will be overturned by the courts.

Lawmakers turned a deaf ear to the Maryland State Bar Association's objections to a retroactivity clause that it suspected was directed at circumventing a particular lawsuit brought by a Montgomery County investment adviser.

Md. Senate OKs ban on predatory gas pricing

Maryland's independent service station owners won a significant victory yesterday as the Maryland Senate gave final approval to a bill restricting so-called predatory pricing of gasoline.

The dealers have insisted that such legislation is vital to their survival in the face of cut-rate competition from such chains as Sheetz and Wa-Wa. The bill essentially bars selling gasoline for less than it cost the retail outlet.

The General Assembly also enacted legislation requiring that the pricing on display on gas station signs conform to the definitions of gasoline grades used at the pump. The bill was prompted by complaints that the Sheetz chain had been advertising gasoline as premium even though it did not have the minimum octane to fit the legal definition.

Md. jobless rate is 4.1%, well below national pace

The Maryland unemployment rate remained well below the national average in February, when job-seekers entered the state labor market in record numbers, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported yesterday.

The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in February, half a percentage point below the national average of 4.6 percent. The rate was a revised 3.9 percent in January and was 4.3 percent in February 2000.

The state's labor force grew by nearly 15,800 people to 2.859 million, the largest gain for the month since record keeping began in 1978. Employment posted its largest monthly increase since 1996, rising to an all-time high for February of 2.743 million.

Elsewhere

Jury orders MP3.com to pay $300,000 for infringing copyright

Online music provider MP3.com must pay about $300,000 to independent music label Tee Vee Toons for copyright infringement, a federal jury ruled yesterday, falling far short of Tee Vee Toons' bid for $8.5 million.

Executives of MP3.com, which has paid $130 million in copyright battles with record labels over the last year, said the modest verdict should deter other copyright holders from suing the online music provider.

Tee Vee Toons is one of more than a dozen record companies that have sued MP3.com for distributing their songs on the Web.

This column was compiled from reports by Sun staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters.

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