Business Digest


September 21, 2004

In the Region

EEOC suit accuses Perdue of bias against Adventists

The U.S. government has sued Perdue Farms Inc., a Maryland-based poultry producer, alleging that the company discriminated against a group of Seventh-day Adventist workers because of their religion.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces laws barring workplace bias, filed the suit Friday in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., on behalf of Jean Ulysse and other employees at Perdue's facility in Georgetown, Del. The employees accused the company of "failing to reasonably accommodate their religious requirement that they not work on Saturdays," according to the suit.

The suit argued that as part of their religion the employees are not allowed to work on Saturday, which is their Sabbath. Perdue unfairly requires employees who are Seventh Day Adventists to produce written documentation to prove that they attended church services for each Saturday they are absent, the suit said.

A Perdue spokesman declined to comment, saying the company has not yet seen the suit.

Grace says Honeywell will settle N.J. claim

W.R. Grace & Co., a chemical and building-materials maker forced into bankruptcy by asbestos-injury lawsuits, said yesterday that Honeywell International Inc. will settle claims related to a contaminated New Jersey property.

Honeywell will pay $62.5 million and take possession of a Jersey City property tainted by chromium waste from a nearby plant owned by a predecessor of Honeywell that closed in 1954, Columbia-based Grace said.

Grace acquired the property in 1981.


Chicago trade board gets judge's OK to settle lawsuit

The Chicago Board of Trade received approval yesterday from an Illinois judge to settle a lawsuit over ownership of the exchange, paving the way for the second-biggest U.S. futures market to become a for-profit company.

Cook County Circuit Judge Patrick McGann approved the agreement to give so-called minority members a 22 percent stake valued at about $350 million in a for-profit exchange. The share is more than the 12 percent offered in a plan that prompted the group to sue full members in 2000.

The price of membership or of owning a seat on the exchange rose after the decision, which allows the Board of Trade to become shareholder-owned, like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The new structure permits decision-making without polling members and the sale of shares to the public.

Chamber tries to block SEC rule on directors

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an emergency motion yesterday seeking a court order to block the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring 75 percent of mutual fund directors, including the chairman, to be independent of the fund company.

The motion, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, requested a court order by Oct. 18 to stay the SEC rule pending resolution of a legal challenge to it by the business group. Failing that, the Chamber of Commerce asked for an expedited hearing.

A divided SEC approved the stricter independence standard in a 3-2 vote this summer and ordered fund companies to comply by mid-January 2006. The Chamber of Commerce challenged the rule in lawsuits filed in the Circuit Court and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and unsuccessfully sought to have the SEC defer implementing it while the lawsuit continues.

Mutual fund giants such as Fidelity Investments and the Vanguard Group, whose boards are chaired by fund-company executives, opposed the SEC action.

Boeing, IBM pool efforts on intelligence systems

Boeing Co. and International Business Machines Corp. said yesterday that they plan to develop advanced information technologies for the Defense Department and intelligence systems under a 10-year partnership.

IBM and Boeing - the nation's second-largest defense contractor - said the estimated market for the systems to enhance the nation's military communications, intelligence operations and homeland security is about $200 billion.

Technologies developed under the alliance will be critical for "network-centric" operations in which satellites, aircraft, ships and submarines - as well as tanks, radios and even hand-held computers - share information using the same interfaces, standards or protocols, the companies said.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Rigas, 2 sons ask judge for access to $11.8 million

Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas and two of his sons want a U.S. bankruptcy judge to unfreeze an additional $11.8 million in family assets to pay lawyers defending them against claims that they looted the company.

The request, if granted, would raise to $39.6 million the total amount of family funds released for legal bills stemming from the criminal case and civil lawsuits by investors and others.

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