Vivendi to hold new votes after irregularities, Vivendi...

BUSINESS DIGEST

April 27, 2002

Vivendi to hold new votes after irregularities, Vivendi Universal SA said yesterday that it discovered irregularities in votes cast electronically by shareholders at its stormy annual meeting Wednesday.

The media company said it will call an extraordinary meeting of shareholders to conduct new votes on all resolutions. Vivendi described the irregularities as systematic and "probably due to piracy."

A person familiar with the situation said the company suspects there was "fraudulent intrusion" rather than internal sabotage. In other words, they believe someone outside Vivendi tampered with the electronic-voting system, this person said.

Trade representative criticizes Democrats

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick criticized Senate Democrats yesterday for linking passage of a bill to expand President Bush's trade-negotiating authority to a health program for displaced workers that Republicans say could cost $14 billion.

"This bill should be about trade, not developing some new entitlement program," Zoellick said in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Senate Democrats, led by Montana's Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, have made their support for trade-negotiating authority contingent on Republican backing for measures to help workers who lose their jobs because of trade.

France's economy leads Europe, U.S.

France's economy contracted 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter and growth for all of 2001 slowed to 1.9 percent, the European nation's government statistics agency said yesterday.

The finance ministry said the performance was still better than those of the world's other top economies last year. It said U.S. growth was 1.2 percent, the 12-nation euro zone grew 1.5 percent and Germany expanded 0.7 percent last year, while Japan's economy fell 0.4 percent.

Northwest Airlines settles racial harassment suit

Northwest Airlines has agreed to pay at least $280,000 to settle allegations that a dozen Dulles International Airport ramp employees were racially harassed by their co-workers, federal officials said yesterday.

In a federal lawsuit filed in September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that ramp workers for the Minneapolis-based airline used racially offensive language to address black, Hispanic and other minority employees.

After some complained about the language and other offensive activities, they were further harassed and, in some cases, fired from their jobs, the suit alleged. The alleged actions took place mostly in 1999, the EEOC said. Ramp employees are responsible for cleaning planes between flights.

Overture Services news sends stock up 31.8%

Shares of Overture Services Inc., formerly GoTo.Com Inc., surged yesterday, propelled by news about the company's strong first-quarter results and its surprise announcement that it signed a new three-year deal with Yahoo!

The shares closed at $33.77 on the Nasdaq stock market, up $8.14, or 31.8 percent, on heavy volume.

Supermarket chain stops carrying Oxycontin

The Stop & Shop supermarket chain will no longer stock the painkiller Oxycontin because of an increasing number of robberies involving the drug.

Stop & Shop, with headquarters in Quincy, Mass., has 226 pharmacies and 322 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York.

Last month, Scarborough, Maine-based chain Hannaford Bros. Co. pulled Oxycontin from its pharmacies after a man robbed one of its Shop `n Save stores. James Heins, a spokesman for Purdue Pharma, which manufactures Oxycontin, said Stop & Shop and Hannaford Bros. are the only chains to implement such a policy.

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

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