Thursday, September 18, 2003

Business digest

From wire reports

Bankers charged in Enron-related scheme

HOUSTON - Three former Merrill Lynch executives were charged with conspiracy Wednesday, accused of helping Enron Corp. inflate earnings with a loan disguised as a sale of Nigerian barges.

Daniel Bayly, Robert Furst and James Brown are the first Wall Street bankers to be criminally charged in the scandal.

The charges do not involve Merrill Lynch, which reached a side agreement that would allow the brokerage to avoid any corporate culpability if it implements reforms to improve the integrity of its transactions.

The three men were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and falsifying books and records. Brown also was charged with obstruction and lying to a grand jury. All three pleaded innocent.

Unions plan one-day Amtrak shutdown

WASHINGTON - Unions representing Amtrak workers said Wednesday they will shut down the railroad for one day next month to draw attention to what they consider chronic underfunding by the government.

Labor leaders want Amtrak employees to stay home Oct. 3. They hope that the public will recognize the railroad's importance and pressure Congress to spend more on it.

Amtrak officials said they would seek a court injunction to prevent a work stoppage that they said would be illegal.

New housing slows, but remains strong

WASHINGTON - Housing construction slowed last month but still remained close to a 17-year high, a sign that a recent upward swing in mortgage rates has done little damage to the resilient housing market.

Builders broke ground on 1.82 million units at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in August, a 3.8 percent drop from the previous month, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

GE changes bonus for chief executive

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - General Electric Co. chief executive Jeffrey Immelt will receive "performance share units" instead of stock options, tying the equity portion of his compensation more directly to the company's results.

GE said it has granted Immelt PSUs instead of the retention-oriented stock options and restricted stock units it awards to other executives. The board also made changes to the equity compensation of other executives, although Immelt is the only executive getting PSUs.

The changes do not affect Immelt's base salary of about $3 million, a company spokesman said.

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