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Business news in brief

In the Region

Ace, Pa. departments reach $9 million settlement

Ace Ltd. has reached a $9 million settlement with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance related to the Philadelphia insurance company's involvement with other insurers and brokers to rig bids for excess casualty insurance, Attorney General Tom Corbett said yesterday. The settlement is in addition to a previous agreement that called for Ace to return $40 million to policyholders for those illegal business practices. They took place between 2000 and early 2004. The $9 million will be used to reimburse government agencies that had bought Ace excess liability policies.

- Harold Brubaker

Conestoga Bancorp finishes deal with First Penn

Conestoga Bancorp Inc. said it had completed the integration of First Penn Bank, Philadelphia, into Conestoga Bank. Conestoga Bank now operates 14 banking offices in the greater Philadelphia area. Conestoga Bancorp, chartered in July 2006, is a private bank holding company that owns all the capital stock of Conestoga Bank. The bank has total assets of about $600 million.

- Paul Schweizer

Pa. DEP penalizes Moyer Packing Co.

Pennsylvania Environmental Protection regional director Joseph A. Feola said the DEP has assessed a $61,000 civil penalty against Moyer Packing Co. for air quality violations noted at the company's Franconia Township, Montgomery County, rendering plant. The violations were discovered during a June 7, 2006, inspection.

- Thomas J. Brady


Supreme Court denies executive's appeal

The Supreme Court refused to review a former Merrill Lynch executive's convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with fraud by former energy giant Enron Corp. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit threw out some convictions against James A. Brown and other Merrill Lynch executives, but sustained Brown's perjury and obstruction convictions. The defendants were prosecuted for their role in the sham sale in 1999 of power barges anchored off the coast of Nigeria. The deal was struck to make the earnings of Enron's energy division appear larger. The justices did not comment in denying Brown's appeal. Federal prosecutors plan to retry Brown and the others on the counts that were overturned.

- AP

Ex-Siemens officials convicted of bribery charges

Two former Siemens AG officials were convicted in Germany of bribery and assisting bribery for their involvement in multimillion-dollar payments to officials at an Italian utility. The verdict came in the first trial over a series of scandals at the German company. The Darmstadt state court also ordered Siemens to forfeit $51.4 million in profits from deals with Enel, of Italy. Siemens immediately said it would appeal that decision. The court found Andreas Kley, a 63-year-old former finance chief at Siemens' power generation unit, guilty of bribing managers at Enel and of breach of trust, and handed him a two-year suspended sentence. Horst Vigener, 73, a former employee and consultant, was convicted of abetting bribery and given a nine-month suspended sentence. Siemens Medical Solutions USA Inc., Malvern, has 4,000 employees.

- AP

Intel, Chinese firm settle copyright case

Intel Corp., the world's largest chip maker, said it had settled a copyright infringement dispute with a Chinese maker of telecommunications and network equipment. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel sued Shenzhen Donjin Communication Technology Co. in 2004 for allegedly infringing its copyright for touch-pad telephone systems. Intel accused the company of copying parts of the software used by its Dialogic brand of high-end communications equipment. Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said it no longer made strategic sense to pursue the litigation, and the two companies brokered a licensing deal over the disputed technology. The companies have agreed to keep confidential the terms of the out-of-court settlement.

- AP

China's inflation rate cools to 3 percent

China's inflation slowed to 3.0 percent in April, the government said, amid efforts to rein in the sizzling economy. That rate is down from the 3.3 percent increase in consumer prices in March, the highest level in 25 months, and in line with the government's 3 percent target for inflation this year.

- AP

Supreme Court passes on municipal bond case

The Supreme Court has passed up an opportunity to take action on a case with potentially big implications for the $3 trillion municipal bond market. At issue in

Kentucky v. Davis

is whether states can exempt their own municipal bonds from taxation while taxing such bonds from other states. A Kentucky state court ruled last year that doing so violated the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by discriminating against out-of-state commerce. Kentucky's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state court decision "creates considerable uncertainty for a significant number of states [and localities] in this critical area of public finance." More than 40 states have similar policies, the National Association of State Treasurers said in a friend-of-the-court brief.

- AP

Verizon to buy Cybertrust for security services

Verizon Communications Inc., the second-biggest U.S. phone company, agreed to buy Cybertrust to help safeguard its technology services for corporate customers. The company gives Verizon a new service that helps control network users' access to systems and software, spokesman Peter Lucht said. New York-based Verizon didn't disclose the terms of the deal for Cybertrust, which has about 800 workers.

- Bloomberg News

Clothes top computers in online shopping

U.S. consumers for the first time bought more clothing than computers over the Internet, according to a study that tracks online purchases. Shoppers spent $18.3 billion on clothes, accessories and shoes ordered over the Internet last year, according to the study by Forrester Research Inc. Consumers bought about $17.2 billion worth of computer products online in 2006. About 10 percent of apparel sales in 2007 will take place over the Internet, the group said.

- Bloomberg News

Little standards-tightening for prime mortgages

A "relatively small" number of banks tightened lending standards for prime mortgages in the three months that ended in April, according to a Federal Reserve survey. The Fed said in its April quarterly survey of senior loan officers that while "considerable" numbers of lenders tightened their standards for subprime and nontraditional mortgages, the spillover to the highest-rated loans was limited.

- Bloomberg News

Rates fall for three-, six-month Treasury bills

The Treasury Department auctioned $14 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 4.730 percent, down from 4.760 percent last week. An additional $13 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 4.735 percent, down from 4.815 percent. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,880.44, while a six-month bill sold for $9,760.62.

- AP

Yield falls for one-year Treasury bills

The Federal Reserve said the average yield in the secondary market for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, edged down to 4.89 percent last week from 4.90 percent the previous week.

- AP