Business Digest


October 01, 2003

In the Region

2 Baltimore firms ranked among 10 fastest-growing

Two Baltimore businesses are among the 10 fastest-growing private companies in the nation, according to a ranking by Inc. magazine that is scheduled to be released today.

Under Armour Athletic Apparel, a sports apparel company, ranks second on the list, and 180s LLC - which makes "performance wear" such as sunglasses and ear warmers - is ranked ninth on the list, according to a press release from Inc., a publication aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses.

The magazine's annual ranking lists the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the country. To be eligible for the list, companies had to be independent and privately held through 2002 with at least $200,000 in sales five years ago and with sales increasing from 2001 to 2002, the magazine said.

SEC suit claims ex-CEO diverted $2 million to self

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed suit against the former chairman and chief executive of Bethesda-based 1st Atlantic Guarantee Corp., alleging he diverted $2 million in funds from the investment company to his own accounts and defrauded at least three investors out of $1 million.

John J. Lawbaugh, 38, left the company and its subsidiary, SBM Certificate Co., in spring 2002 after SBM's chief financial officer discovered the fraud. Both SBM and 1st Atlantic sell fixed-income debt securities.

The suit alleges Lawbaugh engaged in a series of fraudulent transactions that allowed him to skim money from company accounts. The SEC also accuses Lawbaugh of taking money from several clients with the promise of investing it in face-amount securities that were never purchased.

The SEC is seeking repayment of the misappropriated funds, as well as civil penalties. Lawbaugh also would be barred from being an officer or director in any public company.

Microsoft agrees to settle suit for $10.5 million

Microsoft Corp. and a group of lawyers representing a group that bought some of its Windows software agreed to settle a class action, antitrust lawsuit that is pending in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Microsoft will pay a total of about $10.5 million to the class of people who bought Windows from Microsoft's Web site or directly through one of the software company's marketing campaigns over a time period that ended April 30.

Chief U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz must still approve the settlement before it becomes effective. The class action lawsuits are separate from an antitrust lawsuit that the Justice Department and nine states agreed to settle last month.

Royal Ahold to present audited accounts today

Royal Ahold NV, the Dutch food retailer that overstated profits in the last three years, got a third extension, for one day, to file audited 2002 accounts with its creditors.

The company is to submit the figures to banks today after New York Stock Exchange trading ends and publish them publicly tomorrow, spokesman Fritz Schmuhl said. The huge retailer, based in Zaandam, Netherlands, must submit audited 2002 accounts to its creditors to keep access to credit lines.

Ahold, which has found 970 million euros ($1.1 billion) in inflated profit over the last three years - most of it from its U.S. Foodservice unit based in Columbia - also must submit audited accounts for 2000 and 2001.

BB&T to cut 940 jobs at First Virginia Banks

BB&T Corp. will cut 940 jobs in Virginia to reduce back-office staff as part of its purchase of First Virginia Banks Inc.

BB&T completed the $3.4 billion purchase of First Virginia, its largest acquisition to date, on July 1. The job cuts will occur about Oct. 17, when First Virginia's branches will be converted to BB&T branches, First Virginia spokesman Doug Church said Monday.

Only First Virginia employees are affected by the layoffs, the banks said. Church said 543 positions are being eliminated at the former First Virginia headquarters in Falls Church, Va.


Sears, Target among 11 bidders for Pillowtex Corp.

Sears Roebuck & Co. and Target Corp., are among the 11 companies submitting bids to buy some part of Pillowtex Corp., a sheet and towel manufacturer in bankruptcy.

In filings this week with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., the companies said they intend to participate in Thursday's auction of Pillowtex assets.

Although Pillowtex is closing its operations, the company's buyer will determine whether any of Pillowtex's plants will reopen and what will become of the company's well-known brands such as Royal Velvet, Cannon and Charisma. Most of the bids were exclusively for the brand names, which are considered the company's most valuable assets.

Ford to eliminate 3,050 jobs in North America

Ford Motor Co. will eliminate 1,700 contract workers, 1,300 vacant salaried positions and 50 salaried employees in North America by year's end, the automaker said yesterday.

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