Daily Briefing

March 20, 2009

U.S. seeks class action vs. Wal-Mart

SAN FRANCISCO: The Obama administration sided with women suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for discrimination yesterday, urging a federal appeals court to let current and former workers sue as a group and proceed with the biggest sex-bias case in U.S. history. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rejected Wal-Mart's argument that as many as 2 million workers shouldn't be allowed to seek back pay and punitive damages as a group because that would violate the company's right to defend itself against each worker's claims before a jury. That position would prevent the government from ever seeking punitive damages from companies with a pattern of discrimination, EEOC attorney Barbara Sloan said. Wal-Mart is accused in the lawsuit filed in 2001 of paying women less than men and giving them fewer promotions.

Bloomberg News

GE says financial unit is sound

WASHINGTON : General Electric Co. assured investors yesterday that its financial unit is stable and will at least break even this year, even under a worst-case scenario of double-digit unemployment and a sharper slump in the economy. One the world's biggest companies, the Fairfield, Conn.-based GE makes everything from light bulbs to jet engines, but last year it generated nearly half its $18 billion in earnings from GE Capital, its finance arm. Fears that the business, which finances credit cards, airplanes, factories and overseas mortgages, could see big losses on loans gone bad, have helped pushed down GE stock 71 percent in the past year. GE had set a target of $5 billion in profits for GE Capital this year. But the company cautioned yesterday at an investors meeting in New York that earnings could be flat if the economy is bleaker than expected.

Associated Press

Blockbuster lists loss of $360 million

Blockbuster Inc. suffered a fourth-quarter loss of $360 million to conclude another bleak year, but the struggling video rental chain has lined up critical financing to buy it more time to adapt to ever-fiercer competition from the Internet and cable services. Despite the tentative agreements with JPMorgan Chase Bank and two other lenders to extend credit through September 2010, Blockbuster warned yesterday that its auditor is likely to raise doubts about the Dallas-based company's ability to remain afloat. Earlier this month, rumors swirled that Blockbuster was poised to file for bankruptcy protection to extricate itself from a financial bind created by the August expiration of a $350 million revolving credit line. Blockbuster's already battered stock plunged to a record low of 13 cents earlier this month. The shares added 6 cents to close at 89 cents yesterday.

Associated Press

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