Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Business digest

Coca-Cola settles whistleblower lawsuit

ATLANTA - The Coca-Cola Co. has agreed to pay $540,000 to a former finance manager to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that led to a criminal investigation of fraud allegations at the world's largest beverage maker.

Matthew Whitley sued for wrongful termination in state and federal court in May. The suit accused Coke of rigging a marketing test three years ago to inflate the popularity of Frozen Coke at Burger King restaurants in Virginia.

At the time, the government was looking into whether CSFB doled out some hot stock offerings to clients in exchange for illegal kickbacks. The investigation closed in 2001 with no criminal charges brought.

Discount airline announces 3-for-2 split

NEW YORK - Fast-growing discount carrier JetBlue Airways Corp. said Tuesday it will split its stock three for two for the second time since going public last year.

"The three-for-two stock split reflects our confidence in the company's future growth prospects," chief executive David Neeleman said in a statement.

The stock split will increase the number of shares by 50 percent to 101 million, but reduce their value by a third.

The new shares will be issued Nov. 20 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 10.

W.Va. steel company may cut 950 jobs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Weirton Steel Corp. would eliminate 950 jobs - nearly one-third of its work force - and terminate an under-funded pension and health care plan that covers 10,000 retirees and their dependents, under a reorganization plan filed Tuesday in bankruptcy court.

The cutbacks are necessary for the nation's fifth-largest integrated producer to remain on its own, Weirton said, acknowledging for the first time it has held talks with a prospective buyer.

Banker's lawyer says he followed policy

NEW YORK - The lawyer for banker Frank Quattrone stressed in court Tuesday that the bank never sent a broad notice telling employees to save documents until two days after Quattrone urged workers to destroy some of them.

The contention is central to Quattrone's defense that he was merely following Credit Suisse First Boston policy on document destruction when he sent the e-mail to his employees on Dec. 5, 2000.

Companies can choose accounting methods

NEW YORK - The board that sets U.S. accounting standards is moving toward drafting a stock-option proposal that would let companies decide which method to use in valuing employee options.

At a meeting Tuesday with Wall Street analysts and portfolio managers, officials of the Financial Accounting Standards Board said the seven-member board has decided not to designate one particular formula in an option-expensing standard it expects to propose by February.

Rather, board officials said, an objective would be specified in the proposal, which is to measure how much a stock option is worth at the time it is granted.

Kraft to sell certified sustainable coffee

NORTHFIELD, Ill. - Kraft Foods Inc. will sell coffee certified by the Rainforest Alliance as environmentally and socially sustainable after forming a partnership with the conservation organization.

The alliance, announced Tuesday, comes with large U.S. coffee sellers responding to activists' calls to pay more heed to social, economic and environmental issues in coffee production.

Sustainable coffee production aims to grow coffee without damaging the environment, with improved social conditions for farmers and workers and in a way that provides farmers with better returns for their coffee.

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