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Business news in brief

In the Region

Pa.: J&J liable in pricing suit

Attorney General Tom Corbett said Friday that Johnson & Johnson Inc. had been found liable to Pennsylvania for nearly $52 million in damages and civil penalties for falsely reporting the prices of its drugs. Commonwealth Court Judge Robin Simpson rendered the verdict Dec. 7, after a trial in Easton. In 2004, according to Corbett, his office sued J&J and several

of its subsidiaries, as well as 14 other drug companies, for allegedly manipulating a pricing benchmark known as Average Wholesale Price, or AWP. The suits contended J&J and the other drugmakers inflated AWP above the true average of wholesale prices in order to increase drug sales and profits. "We are pleased with the court's decision dismissing the majority of the claims brought by the Commonwealth," J&J spokesman Michael Heinley said. "We respectfully disagree with the court's provisional finding under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and intend to pursue our arguments through motions before the court during the next phase of this case." - Suzette Parmley

Penn Va. cuts 2011 spending plan

Penn Virginia Corp., citing a weak environment for the natural gas industry, said it would slash capital spending by 40 percent next year compared with 2010. That will bring the Radnor energy company's 2011 capital spending - mostly on development drilling and exploratory drilling - down to $290 million. Penn Virginia said it would focus development of natural gas sources on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and on sites in Oklahoma and Texas. - Paul Schweizer

Judge Group to increase hiring

The Judge Group, a Philadelphia staffing company, said it planned to increase hiring for its internal corporate functions in 2011 by 30 percent, or about 120 employees. It also expects to boost the number of contractors it supplies with workers to between 3,900 and 4,000

from 3,000 currently. The company attributed the move to the tax agreement reached this month between President Obama and congressional Republicans and approved by Congress this week. - Paul Schweizer

AAA: Holiday travel up from year ago

A million travelers from the Philadelphia area will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the year-end holidays - 3 percent more than last year - AAA Mid-Atlantic said. "A modestly improved economic environment resulted in more Americans traveling overall in 2010 and the year-end holidays are no exception," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Rick Remington said in a prepared statement. Separately, AAA said gasoline prices in the region stood at their yearly highs Friday - an average $3.11 per gallon of regular in

Southeastern Pennsylvania, and $2.92 in South Jersey. - Reid Kanaley

Hudson City withdraws application

Hudson City Bancorp Inc. withdrew its application to convert to a national commercial bank under the regulation

of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and will remain a federal savings bank, the Paramus, N.J., company said. As a federal savings bank, Hudson

is regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision, which will be merged into the OCC under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Hudson City, which has

135 branches, including five in South Jersey, decided that under the new law it makes sense to keep the savings bank charter. - Harold Brubaker

Sheriff sales blocked in alleged fraud

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order in the U.S. attorney's civil case against Anthony J. DeMarco, who was also charged criminally Tuesday in a mortgage-foreclosure rescue scheme involving $31 million in fraudulent loans on 120 properties. The restraining order shields an unspecified number of properties from sheriffs' sales until

at least February. A hearing on a longer-term preliminary injunction was scheduled by U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson for Feb. 2. An attorney representing Bank of America appeared in court to object to the restraining order with respect to a Riegelsville, Pa., property that is scheduled for sheriff's sale in January. The attorney was overruled. The restraining applies not

just to DeMarco but also to the companies he used in his alleged scheme. At a separate hearing, the decision was made to detain DeMarco until trial. - Harold Brubaker

Valero completes Paulsboro sale

Valero Energy Corp. said it completed the sale of its Paulsboro refinery to a subsidiary of PBF Energy Co. L.L.C., Greenwich, Conn. Total value of the deal came to $707 million, Texas-based Valero said. PBF agreed to buy the 500-employee, 185,000-barrel-per-day refinery in September. - Reid Kanaley

BioClinica to buy back shares

BioClinica Inc., Newtown, announced a share-buyback program of up to $2 million over the next 18 months. The company's shares closed up 11 cents at $4.60 Friday. The company provides management services for pharmaceutical companies' clinical trials on new drugs. - Paul Schweizer

SugarHouse expands trolley service

SugarHouse Casino on the Philadelphia waterfront expanded its free shuttle service, the Sugar Express, with three new routes. The new routes include two trolleys and one bus, taking guests between the casino and Center City, South Philly, and Northeast Philly. The Center City service, called the Red Line, now will shuttle guests from 2 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The Red Line will have nine stops: 17th Street between Race and Vine; Rittenhouse Square and Locust; Rittenhouse and 18th; 17th and Walnut; 17th and Locust; the PATCO stop at

16th and Locust; LOVE Park at 16th and JFK; the Convention Center at 12th and Market; and Chinatown at 10th and Race. The South Philly Green Line runs continuously from 2 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. - Suzette Parmley

Share-buyback plan authorized

The board of Resource America Inc., a specialized asset management company

in Philadelphia, authorized a share-repurchase plan for up to $20 million worth of shares. Shares closed up 5 cents at $6.55. - Harold Brubaker


Banks closed in Ga., Fla., Ark., Minn.

Regulators have shuttered three small banks in Georgia and one each in Florida, Arkansas, and Minnesota, raising to 157 the number of U.S. banks brought down this year by the struggling economy and soured loans. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the three Georgia banks: Appalachian Community Bank, McCaysville, with $68.2 million in assets; Chestatee State Bank, Dawsonville, with $244.4 million in assets; and Atlanta-based United Americas Bank, with $242.3 million in assets. The FDIC also seized Bank of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., with $448.2 million in assets; First Southern Bank, Batesville, Ark., with $191.8 million in assets; and Community National Bank, Lino Lakes, Minn., with $31.6 million in assets. - AP

A push for higher retirement age

Spain's prime minister said the government was set on raising the retirement age to 67 from 65 in the new year, despite strong resistance from some opposition parties and labor unions. Spain's central bank and other financial institutions have urged Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to change the

pension system as part of reforms to

help the country slash its deficit to prepare for a coming wave of retirements and emerge from the economic crisis. - AP