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Business news in brief

In the Region

Issa critical of FDA oversight

Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, criticized the Food and Drug Administration's supervision of the McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Puerto Rico in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. McNeil is a division of Johnson & Johnson, and its Fort Washington plant has been closed since April 2010, one of three plants found to have problems. Issa said committee staff could not get the district director in Puerto Rico to answer questions about whether McNeil was adhering to requirements for fixing that plant. When Issa visited Puerto Rico, the director said neither she nor staff had been to the plant since September 2010, because of strained resources. Issa said that was unacceptable because McNeil was supposed to pay for all costs related to inspections. The FDA declined comment on Issa's letter. - David Sell

New slot-swap plan by carriers

Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to acquire takeoff and landing rights from US Airways Group Inc. to expand at New York's LaGuardia Airport. US Airways is Philadelphia's dominant carrier. Delta will take over 132 pairs of LaGuardia takeoff and landing slots held by US Airways, which will get 42 pairs of slots at Washington's Reagan airport in exchange, the two carriers said Monday in a statement. US Airways also will receive rights to fly to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and $66.5 million in cash. The move would allow Delta to boost its share in New York, while US Airways focuses on growth in the nation's capital. The accord replaces one that Delta and US Airways unveiled in 2009, only to have regulators balk. - Bloomberg News

Air Products again raises prices

Air Products & Chemicals Inc., Allentown, said it was raising prices for the fifth time in less than seven months on lines of its surfactants. The increase, effective June 15, is for up to 10 cents per pound. While the company did not give a reason for the latest increase, it cited rising raw-material costs in the previous announcements. Surfactants are wetting agents used in paints, coatings, inks, and adhesives. - Paul Schweizer

Delaware jobless rate drops

Unemployment in Delaware edged down in April to 8.2 percent as the state's employers added 800 jobs, the state Department of Labor said. The new jobs were in the leisure and hospitality, retail, trade, and transportation industries. Delaware's jobless rate, which was 8.3 percent in March, has been relatively stable over the last year at between 8.5 percent and 8.2 percent. - Paul Schweizer


FDA clears hepatitis C drug

The Food and Drug Administration approved Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s hepatitis C drug Incivek on Monday, making it the second new treatment to be approved in the last two weeks. Incivek is a highly anticipated pill that is expected to have annual sales in the billions. It is approved for patients who have some liver damage from hepatitis C who either have not been treated or were not cured by other drugs. Incivek and Merck & Co.'s Victrelis, which was approved earlier this month, are the first new breakthrough treatments for the liver disease to be approved in 20 years. Merck has major operations in the Philadelphia area. - AP

CEO: Chrysler to pay back U.S. debt

Chrysler Group L.L.C., the U.S. automaker operated by Fiat SpA, expects to pay off its remaining debt to the U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday, said Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both automakers. Chrysler raised enough money in a debt offering to pay back the loans, letting Fiat boost its stake in Chrysler to 46 percent, Marchionne told reporters Monday. "Tomorrow is payoff day," Marchionne said at the opening of a Fiat dealership in Macomb, Mich. "Chrysler will again regain its independence." Marchionne raised $7.5 billion in loans, junk bonds, and a revolving credit line to help pay back the government loans. The face value of debts to the U.S. and Canadian governments was $7.53 billion, according to Chrysler's Feb. 25 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Paying off the debt will save Chrysler more than $300 million a year in interest payments, Marchionne said. - Bloomberg News

Investors have way to check advisers

Checking a financial adviser's past for errant behavior is much easier now with a new searchable database run by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees U.S. securities companies. Its Internet database allows users to perform searches by the name of a broker or investment firm. The search page is at The database lists complaints, settlements, and other documents associated with a disciplinary action. - AP

High court rejects U.S. claim

The U.S. Supreme Court set aside a ruling that had put the federal government on track to collect $3 billion from Boeing Co. and General Dynamics Corp. in a 20-year-old fight over a canceled Navy aircraft contract. The justices unanimously said the government forfeited at least one aspect of its claim against the companies by invoking the so-called state secrets privilege to avoid disclosing sensitive information in the litigation. The ruling sent the case back to a lower court. The justices also rejected a bid by General Dynamics to reinstate a $1.2 billion award the companies won at an earlier stage in the litigation. - Bloomberg News

Short-term T-bill rates rise

Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills rose in Monday's auction for the second straight week. The Treasury Department auctioned $27 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.055 percent, up from 0.030 percent last week. An additional $24 billion was auctioned in six-month bills at a discount rate of 0.1 percent, up from 0.070 percent last week. The discount rates indicate that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,998.61 while a six-month bill sold for $9,994.92. - AP

Yields for one-years rise

The Federal Reserve said Monday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 0.19 percent last week from 0.18 percent the previous week. - AP