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Business news in brief

In the Region

Lawmakers seek to ease system for scam victims

Several congressman urged the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to establish a proactive system for reimbursing 300,000 victims of telemarketing scams that targeted the elderly. The federal Office of the Comptroller of Currency in April ordered Wachovia Corp. to put $125 million in a reimbursement fund for its role in dealing with fraudulent telemarketers through payment processors, including one in Bucks County. The initial proposal required victims to file a claim for reimbursement. Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) called for a system that would identify victims from records and mail them reimbursement checks, instead of requiring victims to return forms and file cumbersome paperwork.

- Harold Brubaker

Air Products to supply hydrogen to Texas refinery

Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, said it agreed to supply 60 million standard cubic feet of hydrogen per day to Total Petrochemicals Inc.'s refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, which is being expanded. Air Products will begin supplying the gas in 2010. The company has total hydrogen capacity in the Gulf Coast of 900 million tons daily. The hydrogen will be used to process alternative crude oils and expand Total Petrochemicals' production of cleaner-burning transportation fuels.

- Paul Schweizer

Isolagen's plan to keep AMEX listing is rejected

Isolagen Inc., the Exton biotechnology firm that develops skin-care products, said it remained in danger of losing its listing on the American Stock Exchange, after the exchange last week rejected a company plan for meeting listing requirements. The company received a non-compliance notice March 12 from the AMEX and submitted its compliance plan April 14. Isolagen said in a statement Friday that it intended to appeal the latest AMEX decision and would request a hearing before an exchange committee. According to Isolagen, it violates, among other things, an AMEX requirement that it have net worth of at least $2 million if it has had continuing operations or net losses in two of the last three years.

- Roslyn Rudolph

Phila. hosts a record half million global tourists

Philadelphia hosted 550,000 international visitors last year, an increase of 100,000 from 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. Philadelphia reached a record level of international visitors in 2007 due to targeted international marketing by the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau to the United Kingdom, Germany and France, according to the report. Philadelphia was the 12th most-visited U.S. city for international visitors, a trend that has been rising since 2002, the report said. Mayor Nutter attributed the increase to the focused marketing effort, more international flights here, and the favorable currency exchange rate.

- Linda Loyd

Pa. unit of Voorhees utility buys Poconos assets

American Water Works Co., Voorhees, said its Pennsylvania subsidiary has acquired water-utility assets for Mountain Top Estates, in the Poconos, for about $240,000. Shares closed up 10 cents at $21.60.

- Roslyn Rudolph


Washington Mutual CEO loses board chairmanship

Washington Mutual Corp., hard-hit by the mortgage and credit crises, said it would replace chief executive officer Kerry Killinger as chairman of the board and take other steps to improve corporate governance. Killinger, 58, will remain on the board, where he has served as chairman of the country's largest savings and loan since 1991. He will also hold his post as chief executive officer.

- AP

Airline group: Carriers will lose $2.3 billion over oil

The airline industry will lose $2.3 billion this year because of increases in oil prices, the world airlines group said yesterday, revising its earlier forecast of a collective industry profit. The loss forecast by the International Air Transport Association, which represents more than 240 airlines around the world, contrasted with a projected profit of $4.5 billion announced in March. It was the second time IATA has lowered its forecast this year. The forecast uses a consensus oil price of $106.50 per barrel of crude, up from the $86 per barrel used in the March forecast, IATA said.

- AP

Law firm cofounder sentenced in kickback scheme

Melvyn Weiss, the cofounder of a law firm known for securities class-action suits, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a lawsuit kickback scheme targeting some of the largest corporations in the nation. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter in Los Angeles also ordered Weiss, 72, to pay $9.7 million in forfeitures and $250,000 in fines. Weiss pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in April as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Authorities said the New York-based law firm made about $250 million over two decades by filing legal actions on behalf of professional plaintiffs who received $11.3 million in kickbacks.

- AP

U.S. loses WTO appeal in cotton-growers subsidies

The United States has lost its final appeal in a billion- dollar dispute with Brazil at the World Trade Organization over subsidies to U.S. cotton growers. The organization said a three-judge WTO panel upheld a ruling that found that the U.S. subsidies unfairly helped American cotton farmers undersell foreign competitors. The Geneva-based trade group says Washington should bring its payments in line with international trade rules. Brazil will now have to decide whether to impose retaliatory trade sanctions on the United States that could run into the billions of dollars.

- AP

Time Warner to test metered Web billing in Texas

On Thursday, new Time Warner Cable Internet subscribers in Beaumont, Texas, will have monthly allowances for the amount of data they upload and download in a company test of metered Internet access. Those who go over will be charged $1 per gigabyte, a Time Warner Cable executive told the Associated Press. Metered billing is an attempt to deal fairly with Internet usage, which is very uneven among Time Warner Cable's subscribers, said Kevin Leddy, Time Warner Cable's executive vice president of advanced technology. Just 5 percent of the company's subscribers take up half of the capacity on local cable lines, Leddy said. Other cable Internet service providers report a similar distribution.

- AP

Rates mixed on short-term T-bills

Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills were mixed in yesterday's auction. The Treasury Department auctioned $24 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.820 percent, down from 1.870 percent last week. An additional $24 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 1.950 percent, up from 1.920 percent last week. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,953.99 while a six-month bill sold for $9,901.42.

- AP

Yield up on index used to set adjusted-rate loans

The Federal Reserve said yesterday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 2.16 percent last week from 2.09 percent the previous week.

- AP