Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Business news in brief

In the Region

Comcast, accountant at odds

Comcast Corp. and California accountant Conan O'Rourke, who has sued the cable-TV giant for defamation, did not reach a settlement Wednesday, according to a Northern California court filing. O'Rourke, who lives in San Jose, sued Comcast in late 2014 in federal court claiming that its controller, Lawrence Salva, had gotten him fired from his job at PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P. when O'Rourke complained about overcharges on his cable bill. U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Singh Grewal mediated the settlement conference. "We look forward to our day in court, but regret the circumstances that force us to spend coming years righting a wrong that Comcast could have rectified by settlement," O'Rourke's attorney, Harmeet K. Dhillon, said in a statement. Jenni Moyer, Comcast senior director for corporate communications, said in a statement, "While we don't normally comment on pending litigation, we believe Mr. O'Rourke's claims are without merit, and we expect to be fully vindicated." - Bob Fernandez

RBS sells Citizen Bank shares

Royal Bank of Scotland Group P.L.C. said investors agreed to pay $3.21 billion in a public offering for a 25 percent stake in its U.S. unit, Citizens Financial Group Inc. RBS is selling 135 million shares for $23.75 apiece, Citizens said in a statement. Citizens Bank has branches in the Philadelphia region and its name is on the Phillies' stadium. RBS must sell all of its shares in Providence, R.I.-based Citizens by the end of next year to meet a European Commission deadline after the bank required a bailout from taxpayers in the financial crisis. - Bloomberg News

Philly investment firm to close

Philadelphia International Advisors, a 13-year-old, $1.7 billion-asset Center City-based investment firm for pension plans and other large investors, will close at the end of June, according to Joe Langella, director of managed accounts. The shutdown "is related to the decision by founder and president Andrew Williams to retire for health reasons," according to Pensions & Investments magazine, citing the City of Sarasota Firefighters' Pension Board, which was informed of the shutdown earlier this week. PIA managed $3 billion when Williams and his colleagues separated from Glenmede Trust to form PIA in 2002. PIA's quantitative investor group has moved to Segall Bryant & Hamill Investment Counsel, a Chicago firm. - Joseph N. DiStefano

New instructions on scopes

The maker of medical scopes that have been linked to "superbug" outbreaks in California and Pennsylvania has issued new cleaning instructions for the devices amid increasing scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers, and medical professionals. Olympus America, which has a facility in Center Valley, sent the new guidelines to U.S. hospitals Thursday, recommending that customers begin using them as soon as possible. Those guidelines call for using a smaller cleaning brush and additional flushing steps to remove debris and disinfect the scope's cervices and joints. Olympus plans to send the new brush to hospital customers by May 8. Olympus scopes were linked to infections of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at two Los Angeles hospitals last month. Hospital staff said the infections occurred despite following Olympus' instructions for cleaning the devices, known as duodenoscopes. - AP

Consol Energy exec to prison

A former Consol Energy executive has been sentenced to 21/2 years in federal prison for stealing $440,000 in gas royalties from the company. He forged deed transfers so he could funnel the money into a fake company he ran out of a post office box. Scott Hamilton, 38, of Baden, was sentenced by a federal judge in Pittsburgh. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud in November. Hamilton was Consol's land- records general manager when he used two fake identities to forge deed transfers from Consol to his fake company, PRH. Consol officials alerted federal authorities when they discovered the scheme in 2013. - AP


Mortgage rates fall

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week for a second straight week, edging closer to historically low levels at the start of the spring home-buying season. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.69 percent from 3.78 percent last week. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage eased to 2.97 percent from 3.06 percent last week. - AP

Jobless claims decline

Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week. The Labor Department said that weekly applications for jobless aid fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, tumbled 7,750 to 297,000. Over the last 12 months, the average has dipped roughly 7 percent. - AP

Fuel mileage targets exceeded

Automakers exceeded U.S. government targets for improving gas mileage by "a wide margin" for the second year in a row, the Environmental Protection Agency said. Vehicles sold in the U.S. are on average the most fuel efficient they have ever been, averaging 24.1 miles per gallon for the 2013 model year, a 0.5 m.p.g. increase from the previous year, the EPA said. - Bloomberg News