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                Friday, May 4, 2001, Vol. 3, No. 88


BROWARD COUNTY: Jury Reviews Charges Of Neglect, Abuse In Foster Care
CALIFORNIA POWER: Generators Under Fire; Penalties and Agreement Debated
CHARLES SCHWAB: CA Fed Judge Remands Dispute over e-Trading Commissions
CVS PHARMACY: MA Sp Ct Upholds Cert in Case over Customer Privacy
DAIMLERCHRYLSER AG: Twiggs, Abrams Files NC Suit over Recycled Lemons

DAIMLERCHRYSLER AG: Accused of Concealing Safety Defects in N.C. Suit
DIGIMARC CORP: Sirota & Sirota and Lovell & Stewart File Securities Suit
HOOVER CAPITAL: Money manager Charged of Stealing from Clients
INMATES LITIGATION: $150M Suit Accuses Ontario Psychiatric Facility
IOMEGA CORP: Shareholders Grill Executives of Utah-Based Data Storage Co

NATIONAL LIFE: Contests Suits over Conversion to Mutual Holding Company
NATIONAL LIFE: Expects No Material Effect of Settled Suits re Policies
NGK METALS: 'Informal Interviews' In Class Action Limited
ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT: Admits Error in Math on Safety Level of Nickel
RITE AID: Fd Judge Refuses to Disqualify Himself Or Lead Defense Lawyers

SEARS ROEBUCK: Class Action Over Tire-Balancing Services Is Certified
VANISHING PREMIUMS: MassMutual Sues Atty. Handling Opt-outs for TV Ads.
VENTRO CORP: Wolf Haldenstein Commences Debt Instruments Class Action


BROWARD COUNTY: Jury Reviews Charges Of Neglect, Abuse In Foster Care
For the second time in three years, a grand jury is considering charges
of abuse and neglect in Broward County's foster care system.

A team of lawyers who settled a federal lawsuit against the Department of
Children & Families last year say their evidence indicates the system has

"We're extremely concerned that Broward County's foster care system may
even be getting worse," said Howard Talenfeld, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer
and board member of the Youth Law Center, which filed the suit.

The problems persist despite pledges of improvement by the governor and
Florida's child-welfare chief.

The county's child-welfare system, designed to provide havens to about
1,500 children who have been abused or neglected by their families, came
under grand jury scrutiny three years ago.

In a November 1998 report, the grand jury found Broward's foster children
in danger and the problems "so pervasive that they threaten to collapse
the entire system."

Children were being sexually assaulted by other children in crowded
foster homes. On any given day, as many as 100 foster children had run
away and were missing. A critical shortage of foster homes forced some
children to sleep on couches or spend the night in a caseworker's office.

A month before the report came out, Talenfeld and the Youth Law Center
filed its class-action suit on behalf of all the county's foster

In a settlement last May, the lawyers agreed to drop the suit in return
for the state adopting a series of reforms. Almost a year later, the
attorneys say they see virtually no progress.

"Nothing has changed in any substantial way to make the system better,"
said Michael Dale, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who is
working on the case. "There is an extraordinary lack of capacity in the
agency to look after these children."

The lawyers are considering reopening the case and asking a judge to
force the state to make improvements, Dale said.

"We really, really hope we don't have to go back to court," said Children
& Families spokeswoman LaNedra Carroll. "We really think things are
getting better."

Agency Secretary Kathleen Kearney, who as a former Broward juvenile court
judge was one of the system's biggest critics, promised to make changes
after she was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in December 1998.

Her first month on the job, Kearney announced an emergency plan for
Broward that included tracking incidents of abuse and neglect in foster
care and creating a system to identify and search for runaways.

Kearney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

"They have plan after plan after plan," Dale said. "They don't act on
them, and what they have doesn't always make sense."

Bush, appearing personally at a hearing on the federal lawsuit in 1999,
told a judge he was "committed to transforming our child welfare system."

"The governor is still committed to improving the foster care system,"
said Bush spokeswoman Lisa Gates. "It is our understanding that DCF is
continuing to perform under the settlement agreement to improve foster

In the past three years, the county has gone through five administrators
at DCF.

Carroll could not provide statistics to show improvements in Broward.

Kearney recently brought in a new management team after Phyllis Scott
resigned to spend more time with her family. The new team is sifting
through records to cull an accurate picture of the state of foster care
in the county, Carroll said.

Talenfeld, who has been monitoring the system as part of the settlement,
said foster children continue to suffer sexual abuse and physical harm.
Almost 100 children have run away and are missing, he said.

"They can't find them," Dale said. "They don't know where they are."

While the state has made strides in reducing crowding in foster homes,
some Broward shelters are rundown and over capacity, with children
sleeping on couches, Dale said.

A grand jury began meeting last month to examine the system, said
prosecutor John Countryman. The 1998 grand jury requested a follow-up to
review progress.

But jurors also will hear about continuing problems, such as abuse,
Countryman said. Talenfeld already appeared before the grand jury, and
Dale was scheduled to testify on May 3.

"One of the allegations is nobody is safe in Broward County (foster
care)," Countryman said. "Some of those concerns will be addressed. We're
covering a lot of things."

The jury is scheduled to meet through October but could extend the

"I think it might take a long time," Countryman said. (Sun-Sentinel (Fort
Lauderdale, FL), May 3, 2001)

CALIFORNIA POWER: Generators Under Fire; Penalties and Agreement Debated
Power generators vilified by California lawmakers and regulators want to
end the raft of pending lawsuits and investigations accusing them of
creating and profiting from the state's energy crisis.

''You don't need to threaten people with putting them in jail in order to
get them to negotiate,'' said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the
Independent Energy Producers, which represents the independent
generators, on Wednesday.

Duke Energy released details of its offer to Gov. Gray Davis to cut its
energy charges retroactively and into the future in exchange for ''prompt
suspension of State investigations, lowering of rhetoric and stay of
State litigation.''

Its proposal listed an alphabet soup of investigations by Attorney
General Bill Lockyer, the Public Utilities Commission, Energy Oversight
Board, state auditor, Independent System Operator, Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, private class-action and antitrust lawsuits, and
claims by investor-owned utilities.

The disclosure came two days after Williams Cos. agreed to refund $8
million to settle a federal investigation into alleged improper charges
for electricity.

It came the same day Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante filed suit against five
generators. Bustamante is sponsoring legislation that would allow
corporate officers to be jailed and part of a company's assets seized if
the company was convicted of price gouging.

''FERC, the investigation by the attorney general, the work of other
investigatory groups, outside litigation all of that combined is bringing
pressure on the industry and we're starting to see cracks in that
veneer,'' said state Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, chair of the Senate
Select Committee to Investigate Price Manipulation of the Wholesale
Energy Market.

Independent energy analyst David Huard, a partner at Manatt, Phelps &
Phillips in Los Angeles, said generators must face the possibility of
criminal as well as civil penalties.

''It's a very expensive and damaging process. It's going to take a
toll,'' Huard said. ''The fact that they're facing this on so many levels
has got to be putting pressure on them.''

Legislators and legal experts questioned whether any state agreement
could end all the suits and investigations pending against Duke.

However, Duke presented six options, including a ''prepackaged'' suit and
settlement by the attorney general that would include a simultaneous
settlement of other class-action suits. The attorney general's settlement
could be broad enough to preclude antitrust actions; Davis could use his
emergency powers to bar other suits; or the Legislature settle claims,
Duke suggested.

''If we could get beyond the lawsuits and the accusations we are prepared
to invest in considerably more generating facilities in the state,'' said
Duke spokeswoman Cathy Roche. ''We also need assurance that we're not
going to continue to be subjected to accusations that quite honestly have
no substance behind them. ... As long as you have this type of litigation
and threats to take over the assets of the companies it's very difficult
to commit to adding new plants.''

Smutny-Jones and former FERC attorney Stephen Angle, whose firm
represents generators including Duke on non-California issues, said
criminal charges had little chance for what they call predictable
free-market behavior by generators taking advantage of California's
electricity shortage.

Davis aides said they immediately gave Duke's office to Lockyer's office
and never negotiated with Duke.

Lockyer spokeswoman Sandra Michioku declined comment on the offer, and
said the attorney general's investigation is pursuing its investigation.
(AP Online, May 3, 2001)

CHARLES SCHWAB: CA Fed Judge Remands Dispute over e-Trading Commissions
A federal judge in Los Angeles has remanded a dispute over Charles Schwab
& Co.'s e-trading practices to California state court. The judge
concluded that the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998
does not apply to claims regarding a broker's commission rates or the
efficacy of its Web-based trading system. Shaw v. Charles Schwab & Co.,
No. 00-12349 (C.D. Cal., Jan. 23, 2001).

"The legislative history does not indicate that Congress was especially
worried about brokerage companies that have purposefully availed
themselves of business opportunities in jurisdictions with onerous laws,"
Central District Judge Carlos R. Moreno wrote.

Plaintiffs represent a proposed class of investors who used Charles
Schwab's Web site to buy and sell stocks, options and other securities.
They allege that:

-- Despite claiming to charge a commission of $29.95 for the first 1,000
shares bought and $.03 for any additional shares, Charles Schwab charged
$.03 for all shares resulting in a $.05 overcharge per transaction;

-- The broker automatically entered short-sell positions in plaintiffs'
accounts rather than immediately selling their stock as requested;

-- The defendant automatically split single transactions without prior
approval resulting in excessive transaction fees;

-- The broker maintained its trading price records so as to incorrectly
price call options; and

-- Defendant erroneously calculated accounts' option requirements.

After removing the case to federal court, Charles Schwab moved for
dismissal. The plaintiffs asked the court to remand the proceedings to
the state level.

The court addressed whether the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards
Act was intended to preempt state-law claims such as these. It noted that
under the statute, a removing party must show: (1) the class action is
covered under the legislation; (2) the complaint is based on state-law
claims; (3) there has been a purchase of sale of a "covered security";
and (4) the alleged misfeasance was committed "in connection with" the
purchase of sale of the security. Only the last requirement was disputed
by the parties.

Citing Superintendent of Insurance v. Bankers Life and Casualty Co., 404
U.S. 6 (1971), the court said the U.S. Supreme Court has held that
Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act should be read flexibly.
Misrepresenting the risks associated with the purchase of securities or
their value satisfies the "in connection with" requirement, the court
said. However, the act's legislative history shows that its purpose is to
protect the interests of shareholders and employees of public companies
from meritless "strike" suits, the court added. Judge Moreno found that a
"wholesale adoption" of Section 10(b)'s "in connection with" requirement
was unwarranted. "The Plaintiffs do not allege that Defendant's fraud
induced them to invest in particular securities. Rather, the plaintiffs
contend that defendant's fraud induced them to select defendant as their
broker rather than some other brokerage firm. It would appear that
plaintiff's suit lies more in the realm of consumer protection that
securities litigation," the court concluded.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kevin J. Yourman and Behram V. Parekh
of Weiss & Yourman in Los Angeles.

Charles Schwab is represented by George M. Garvey, Malcolm A. Heinicke
and Carolyn Hoecker Luedtke of Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles.
(E-Trading Legal Alert, March 2, 2001)

CVS PHARMACY: MA Sp Ct Upholds Cert in Case over Customer Privacy
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a unanimous decision,
affirmed on May 1 a ruling by Judge Raymond J. Brassard of the Superior
Court granting class action status to a case brought by pharmaceutical
customers of CVS Pharmacy against the pharmacy chain, a direct mail
marketing firm and four pharmaceutical manufacturers. The suit alleged
breach of privacy and other claims arising out of a marketing scheme by
CVS and the pharmaceutical manufacturers. In the Superior Court, Judge
Brassard granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, allowing
the case to proceed as a class action. Three of the pharmaceutical
manufacturers appealed the decision, arguing that the case should not
have been granted class action status. In a 20-page opinion, authored by
Justice Francis X. Spina, the SJC affirmed Judge Brassard's ruling.

The marketing scheme targeted by the suit involved letters sent by CVS to
pharmaceutical customers who had particular medical conditions based on
their pharmaceutical histories. The mailings, which were funded by the
pharmaceutical manufacturers, were directed at promoting sales of
products manufactured by those companies and sold through CVS. The
pharmaceutical companies also provided CVS with the criteria from which
the recipients for each mailing were selected.

The plaintiffs in the suit allege that their confidential medical
information was improperly disclosed and misappropriated for commercial
gain by CVS, the pharmaceutical companies and the direct mail marketing

In the opinion, Justice Spina described the case as "a classic
illustration" of a consumer class action suit.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by the firms of Gilman and
Pastor, LLP of Saugus, Massachusetts and Finkelstein and Krinsk of San
Diego, California.

Contact: David Pastor of Gilman and Pastor, LLP, 781-231-7850,
Dpastor692@aol.com; or Jeffrey Krinsk of Finkelstein and Krinsk,
877-493-5366, Fk@class-action-law.com

DAIMLERCHRYLSER AG: Twiggs, Abrams Files NC Suit over Recycled Lemons
Raleigh, N.C.'s Twiggs, Abrams, Strickland & Rabenau has filed a class
action against DaimlerChrysler Corp. in a state court in Raleigh charging
the auto company with deceptive trade practices in the reselling of
reacquired Chrysler vehicles. The lawsuit claims that Chrysler is not
disclosing to the new buyers that they are buying recycled lemons, said
plaintiffs' attorney Douglas Abrams of Twiggs, Abrams. The other
plaintiffs' attorneys representing the class are Howard Twiggs of Twiggs,
Abrams, H. Clifford Kirkhart of Cary, N.C., and Richard H. Middleton Jr.
of the Savannah, Ga., office of Suggs, Kelly & Middleton and Kenneth
Suggs and Brad Simpson of the Columbia, S.C., office. The size of the
putative class has not yet been determined, Mr. Abrams said, but Chrysler
has released records indicating "that over a four year period, 45,000
lemons were resold." Chrysler has not yet filed a response, he added.
Williams v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., No. 01CVS3390 (Wake Co., N.C., Super.
Ct). (The National Law Journal, April 30, 2001)

DAIMLERCHRYSLER AG: Accused of Concealing Safety Defects in N.C. Suit
DaimlerChrysler AG faces a growing list of lawsuits over vans, trucks and
sport utility vehicles made since 1984 without a device preventing the
vehicles from shifting out of park until the brake pedal is depressed.

Four North Carolina residents this week filed a lawsuit in Rowan County,
N.C., Superior Court against DaimlerChrysler Corp. alleging negligence,
fraudulent concealment of alleged safety defects and unfair trade

The plaintiffs claim DaimlerChrysler compromised safety by manufacturing
the vehicles without the so-called brake shift interlock system, which
they claim was an industry standard used in almost all vehicles,
including the Ford Windstar, since the early 1990s.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of North
Carolina owners of the company's vehicles and makes claims similar to
other lawsuits filed recently in at least six other states.

Plaintiffs in the North Carolina lawsuit hope to represent owners of
Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans
manufactured for the model years 1984 through 2000; Dodge Ram and Dakota
pickups built from 1990 through 2000; and all Dodge Durango sport-utility
vehicles built since 1995.

Jim Seifter, an Atlanta lawyer representing claims against
DaimlerChrysler by plaintiffs in Georgia, said he also represents
plaintiffs from Guilford County, N.C., and from South Carolina, Iowa,
Nebraska and West Virginia. He has also talked with attorneys
representing disgruntled DaimlerChrysler vehicle owners in New York, New
Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Plaintiffs in several of the cases seek a court order requiring the
vehicles to be retrofitted and also seek damages of up to $75,000 per
class member.

A DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuits'
allegations, saying the company has not been served with many of them.
But spokeswoman Elaine Lutz said none of the cases alleges injuries.

"We've seen these types of suits before," she said. "These are simply
lawyer-driven suits in search of generating large fees."

Brake shift interlock mechanisms are not required by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration, although DaimlerChrysler integrated the
feature into its vehicles with new-model years beginning in the
mid-1990s, she said.

"That was based on market conditions at the time, not because NHTSA
regulates it," Lutz said. "It's something like many other features we've

Lutz wouldn't comment on whether the company is considering measures to
address safety concerns over vehicles without the device. (The Detroit
News, May 3, 2001)

DIGIMARC CORP: Sirota & Sirota and Lovell & Stewart File Securities Suit
The law firms of Sirota & Sirota, LLP ((212) 425-9055 or
www.sirotalaw.com) and Lovell & Stewart, LLP ((212) 608-1900 or
www.lovellstewart.com) filed a class action lawsuit on May 3, 2001 on
behalf of all persons and entities who purchased, converted, exchanged or
otherwise acquired the common stock of Digimarc Corporation
(NasdaqNM:DMRC) between December 1, 1999 and March 12, 2001 inclusive.

The lawsuit asserts claims under Sections 11, 12 and 15 of the Securities
Act of 1933 and Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act
of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated by the SEC thereunder and seeks to
recover damages. Any member of the class may move the Court to be named
lead plaintiff. If you wish to serve as lead plaintiff, you must move the
Court no later than July 2, 2001.

The action, Morris Kassin v. Digimarc Corp., et al., is pending in the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (500 Pearl
Street, New York, New York), Docket No. 01- CV-3792 (JGK) and has been
assigned to the Hon. John G. Koeltl, U.S. District Judge. The complaint
alleges that Digimarc Corporation, Bruce Davis, Digimarc's President and
Chief Executive Officer, Geoffrey Rhoads, its founder and Chief
Technology officer, E. K. Ranjit, its Chief Financial Officer and
Secretary, Philip J. Monego, Sr., its Chairman, and Brian J. Grossi and
John Taysom, two of its directors, violated the federal securities laws
by issuing and selling Digimarc common stock pursuant to the December 2,
1999 IPO without disclosing to investors that one of the lead
underwriters in the offering had solicited and received excessive and
undisclosed commissions from certain investors.

In exchange for the excessive commissions, the complaint alleges, lead
underwriter BancBoston Robertson Stephens, Inc. allocated Digimarc shares
to customers at the IPO price of $20.00 per share. To receive the
allocations (i.e., the ability to purchase shares) at$20.00, defendant
BancBoston Robertson Stephens's brokerage customers had to agree to
purchase additional shares in the aftermarket at progressively higher
prices. The requirement that customers make additional purchases at
progressively higher prices as the price of Digimarc stock rocketed
upward (a practice known on Wall Street as "laddering") was intended to
(and did) drive Digimarc's share price up to artificially high levels.
This artificial price inflation, the complaint alleges, enabled both the
underwriters and their customers to reap enormous profits by buying
Digimarc stock at the $20.00 IPO price and then selling it later for a
profit at inflated aftermarket prices, which rose as high as $88.00
during its first day of trading.

Rather than allowing their customers to keep their profits from the IPO,
the complaint alleges, BancBoston Robertson Stephens required its
customers to "kick back" some of their profits in the form of secret
commissions. These secret commission payments were sometimes calculated
after the fact based on how much profit each investor had made from his
or her IPO stock allocation.

The complaint further alleges that defendants violated the Securities Act
of 1933 because the Prospectus distributed to investors and the
Registration Statement filed with the SEC in order to gain regulatory
approval for the Digimarc offering contained material misstatements
regarding the commissions that the underwriters would derive from the IPO
transaction and failed to disclose the additional commissions and
"laddering" scheme discussed above.

Contact: Lovell & Stewart, LLP, New York Christopher Lovell Victor E.
Stewart Christopher J. Gray 212/608-1900 sklovell@aol.com or Sirota &
Sirota, LLP, New York Howard B. Sirota Saul Roffe 212/425-9055

HOOVER CAPITAL: Money manager Charged of Stealing from Clients
The Securities and Exchange Commission said it has charged former
Boston-based money manager Stevin R. Hoover and his firm, Hoover Capital
Management Inc., with stealing more than $475,000 from clients. In a
civil fraud action filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, the SEC
alleged that Hoover and his firm misappropriated the money through forged
checks, unauthorized transfers and overbilling of management fees. Hoover
operated his firm in Boston from 1995 to 1999, when the alleged fraud
occurred. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, Worth magazine featured Hoover in its
annual article describing selected money managers' stock picks. (The
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 3, 2001)

INMATES LITIGATION: $150M Suit Accuses Ontario Psychiatric
insane men at an Ontario psychiatric facility were stripped naked and
kept together in a tiny room -- their only food a liquid they drew
through straws inserted through holes in the wall, alleges a proposed
$150-million class-action lawsuit.

A second inmate at Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre, Oak Ridge
division, was added to the unproven claim filed in Superior Court which
alleges patients were used as "human guinea pigs" in CIA-type
mind-control programs from 1965-1979.

Justice Peter Cumming authorized inmate Danny Joanisse to join with
fellow patient Vance Egglestone to represent the proposed class action,
which could include up to 2,000 men.

In an amended claim, they're suing facility psychiatrists Dr. Gary Maier
and Dr. Elliott Barker, and the province. A hearing seeking class-action
certification will begin Nov. 21.

The lawsuit claims inmates were given "mind-altering" drugs and subjected
to psychological and physical torture in an effort to reconstruct their

Instead, they say experiments weren't based on proven science, and the
province turned a blind eye.

"We're alleging there were a series of mind-control experiments conducted
at the Oak Ridge facility," said Egglestone and Joanisse's lawyer, Joel
Rochon. "The allegation is these mind-control programs mirrored the types
initiated by the CIA during the Cold War. It's frightening to think these
sorts of experiments were allegedly permitted to take place in a country
such as Canada." (The Ottawa Sun, May 3, 2001)

IOMEGA CORP: Shareholders Grill Executives of Utah-Based Data Storage Co
Shareholders didn't take it easy on executives from Iomega Corp. at the
company's annual meeting Wednesday.

Iomega chairman David Dunn, president and CEO Bruce Albertson and other
executives of the Roy-based producer of data storage hardware and
software were grilled by shareholders on a number of subjects.

Albertson, in a phone interview later in the day, said he thinks
shareholders' concerns are fair, but it seems to him the underlying
concern is Iomega's stagnant stock price, which has traded, for the most
part, between $ 3 and $ 4 per share for months.

"If our stock was trading at $ 5, $ 6, $ 7 a share or more, no one would
ask those questions," he said. "I think those questions come out of the
stock not moving."

Iomega (NYSE: IOM) closed down 4 cents per share at $ 3.31 on Wednesday,
despite the fact that the company showed a profit of more than $ 169
million in 2000 -- the first profitable year Iomega had reported since
1997 -- and a strong price to earnings ratio of 7.2.

He's been told some analysts are waiting for a turnaround in Iomega's
revenue, which was $ 1.3 billion in 2000 -- down from $ 1.5 billion in
1999 and $ 1.7 billion in 1998 and 1997.

"I had an analyst tell me about a month ago, 'When you show us top-line
growth, we're going to recommend the stock.' And I said, 'By the time we
show you top-line growth, everybody and his grandmother will know to buy
the stock,'" Albertson said.

That is an attitude Albertson said is changing among analysts.

Iomega's percentage of institutional ownership -- shares purchased by
mutual fund operators, as well as other large investors -- is more than
23 percent, more than four times what it was little more than a year ago.

"The institutions -- the smart-money, the big-money guys -- understand
it," he said. "They're buying into it while it's low."

Dunn, who was publicly criticized recently by an industry analyst,
responded to questions regarding charges that he and Iomega's board of
directors handcuff their CEO and hamper the trading of company stock by
failing to provide adequate guidance on earnings expectations.

The analyst also criticized Dunn, who has been an Iomega director since
1980, for the recent sale of 623,000 shares of his personal holdings of
company stock.

Dunn refused to say why he made the stock sale, but pointed out that he
still personally holds some 24 million Iomega shares, and that the sale
represented approximately 5 percent of his Iomega holdings.

He said charges that his personal stock sale was contrary to corporate
well being were "absolute nonsense."

As for the board's refusal to provide greater mid-reporting-period
guidance to individual investors and analysts, Dunn pleaded guilty as
charged, saying that the board intended to promise only exactly those
financial results it could deliver.

Albertson said on the record that he did not feel handcuffed by Dunn or
the board, but if he did, it would not likely be public knowledge.

"If I really felt handcuffed, I would tell my chairman," he said. "And
that's where it would end. My style is that if I had that issue, I would
tell David and the board, myself -- and probably would leave it there."

Albertson also fielded questions regarding the pending settlement of a
class-action lawsuit against Iomega.

The suit charged that some of Iomega's Zip drives and disks contained
design or manufacturing defects that led to a persistent clicking noise
and the ultimate failure of the products.

The settlement, while not acknowledging any merit in the charges, calls
for rebates of $ 5 to $ 40 on future purchases of Iomega products to some
28 million potential class members.

Albertson said the company continues to strongly deny any problem with
Zip products, but the amount of staff time and corporate resources needed
to continue to defend the suit prompted the company to settle.

The marketing of Iomega's recently expanded line of products was another
subject of concern for some shareholders present.

Iomega's executive vice president of marketing and product management,
Doug Collier, said the company is seeking to leverage the company's
flagship product line, Zip drives and disks.

He said Zip products have been well marketed to "early adopters,"
consumers who tend to stay on or near the cutting edge of new technology.

However, Collier said the company needs to more effectively market to
broader groups of customers.

"The whole secret of marketing on Zip, is to get a targeted message and
deliver it to targeted audiences," Collier said.

"Because what we're not going to do is spend tens of millions of dollars
on doing these broad national campaigns, that you really don't have an
opportunity to deliver a direct message through."

Iomega is putting its products in new retail markets where a broader base
of computer users can be found, like Wal-Mart and Kmart stores.

"I think it's safe to say that, in general, the Wal-Mart audience would
not be the classified as the earliest-adopting part of the population,
but they deal with computers," Collier said. "Sixty percent of U.S.
households have computers, so computer owners are shopping Wal-Mart. By
having our products there at affordable price points, we can start
penetrating that market a little more effectively." (Standard-Examiner,
May 3, 2001)

NATIONAL LIFE: Contests Suits over Conversion to Mutual Holding Company
In late 1999, two lawsuits were filed against National Life and the State
of Vermont in Vermont related to National Life's conversion to a mutual
holding company structure. National Life and the State of Vermont
specifically deny any wrongdoing and intend to defend these cases
vigorously. In the opinion of National Life's management, based on advice
from legal counsel, the ultimate resolution of these lawsuits will not
have a material effect on National Life's financial position. However,
liabilities related to these lawsuits could be established in the near
term if estimates of the ultimate resolution of these proceedings are

NATIONAL LIFE: Expects No Material Effect of Settled Suits re Policies
During 1997, several class action lawsuits were filed against National
Life in various states related to the sale of life insurance policies
during the 1980's and 1990's. National Life specifically denied any
wrongdoing. National Life agreed to a settlement of these class action
lawsuits in June 1998. This agreement was subsequently approved by the
court in October 1998. The settlement provides class members with various
policy enhancement options and new product purchase discounts. Class
members may instead pursue alternative dispute resolution according to
predetermined guidelines. Qualifying members may also opt out of the
class action and pursue litigation separately against National Life. Most
of the alternative dispute resolution cases were settled by December 31,
1999. Management believes that while the ultimate cost of this litigation
(including those opting out of the class action) is still uncertain, it
is unlikely, after considering existing provisions, to have a material
adverse effect on National Life's financial position.

NGK METALS: 'Informal Interviews' In Class Action Limited
Ethics rules prohibit a defense lawyer from conducting "informal
interviews" with potential witnesses in a personal-injury action, when
the witnesses are also putative plaintiffs in a proposed class action
suit involving the same alleged tortious conduct, without first getting
the consent of the class action lawyer, a federal judge has ruled.

In his nine-page opinion in Dondore v. NGK Metals Corp., U.S. District
Judge Harvey Bartle III found that Rule 4.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of
Professional Conduct extends to all members of a class action -- even
before the class is certified.

Until the issue of class certification is decided, Judge Bartle said, the
lawyers must be restrained in their communications with the putative
class members.

Judge Bartle is presiding over two individual personal-injury suits
brought by Berks County, Pa., residents who claim they suffer from
"chronic beryllium disease" as a result of living near a beryllium metal
manufacturing facility in the Reading area. (The National Law Journal,
April 30, 2001)

ONTARIO ENVIRONMENT: Admits Error in Math on Safety Level of Nickel
In a stunning admission of error, the Ontario environment ministry is
redoing the math on the safety of the level it's established for nickel
exposure in Port Colborne.

An embarrassed ministry official said that a calculation error has been
discovered in one of the tests it did before deciding that the city's
19,000 residents can safely be exposed to 10,000 parts per million of
nickel compounds in soil. "We're hoping we're seen as objective and we're
seen as credible, and that's a challenge when this mistake is made,"
admitted Jim Smith, director of the ministry's standards development

The test calculates the nickel's bio-availability - whether it could be
absorbed by a person who ingests it.

"I'm not too impressed," Mayor Vance Badawey commented after being
informed of the error.

The calculation of the so-called "intervention level" is part of a
300-page report the ministry released March 30, which was the basis of an
order that nickel giant Inco Ltd. clean up 16 properties in the highly
contaminated Rodney St. neighbourhood next to its 90-year-old refinery.

Smith would not say how long it will take to revise the report, but a
frustrated Badawey said he was told it could take six months.

"That's not acceptable," Badawey said, noting the city has been working
with the ministry and Inco on a remediation plan for more than a year.

"We would expect to have those results in hand within weeks, not months."

The error does not affect the prospects of the 16 homeowners who are the
subject of the order.

Inco announced at its annual general meeting last week that it would
voluntarily clean up the properties, despite reservations about the
conclusions of parts of the report.

Now, said lawyer Eric Gillespie, acting on behalf of a group of city
residents in a class action suit, more properties may be included in the

"If it turns out that the errors in the calculation lower the exposure
level from 10,000 (ppm) to 7,000 or 5,000, there are definitely other
properties that would be included."

The public comment period on the order ended Sunday. Criticisms in the
four responses that were received will be evaluated as part of the
revision of the study, Smith said.

Inco raised some questions about methodology, said Alan Stubbs, the
company's vice-president of government and public affairs.

Stubbs said Inco will wait to see the revised study before elaborating on
its concerns.

Dr. Mark Richardson, an Ottawa risk assessment expert, sent the ministry
a seven-page report criticizing the study and its conclusion that 10,000
ppm is a reasonable guideline.

He points out an error in the method used to calculate bio-availability
and a "critical flaw" in the methodology used to simulate gastric
solubility. (The Toronto Star, May 3, 2001)

RITE AID: Fd Judge Refuses to Disqualify Himself Or Lead Defense Lawyers
A federal judge has refused to disqualify either himself or the lead
defense lawyers in a class action against Rite Aid Corp., rejecting the
claims of former CEO Martin Grass, who said the judge and his former
lawyers held ex parte meetings in which they engineered a settlement that
leaves him out in the cold with no insurance coverage. U.S. District
Judge Stewart Daizell found that neither he nor attorney Alan J. Davis of
Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll did anything unethical by meeting with
plaintiffs' lawyers and negotiating the $ 200 million settlement -- even
though none of the other defendants was invited. In re Rite Aid,
MDL-1360. (The National Law Journal, April 30, 2001)

SEARS ROEBUCK: Class Action Over Tire-Balancing Services Is Certified
A judge in Madison County has certified a nationwide class action lawsuit
against Sears Roebuck & Co. on behalf of certain customers who purchased
tire-balancing services.

The suit alleges that Sears charged customers for AccuBalance balancing
services from May 1989 to April 1994 but, in many instances, did not
perform the service. An estimated 7 million to 30 million customers paid
$ 12.50 per tire for the services.

Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian certified the class on Thursday and
scheduled a hearing on May 29 to determine how best to notify class
members. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 3, 2001)

VANISHING PREMIUMS: MassMutual Sues Atty. Handling Opt-outs for TV Ads.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. is alleging defamation by Morris
Bart, a Louisiana trial attorney specializing in personal injury.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Morris Bart, No. 1:01cv1356
(S.D. Fla. April 4, 2001).

According to the complaint, Mr. Bart's firm, New Orleans' Morris Bart,
broadcast television ads claiming that for those who had purchased
MassMutual life insurance policies "there are deadlines rapidly
approaching and you may be entitled to money damages" and that also "you
may be entitled to a cash award." The complaint alleges that the
statements interfered with insurance company business and prejudiced its
contractual relationships.

Mr. Bart says that he stands behind his ads and that the firm is
investigating whether there were any staff misstatements to callers.

The underlying litigation involved the sale of so-called "vanishing
premium" policies; Mr. Bart's firm is handling hundreds of plaintiffs who
opted out of class actions.

MassMutual is represented by John Meagher and Jeffrey M. Landau of
Miami's Shutts & Bowen. Mr. Bart is represented by James L. Robertson of
Jackson, Miss.' Wise Carter Child & Caraway. (The National Law Journal,
April 30, 2001)

VENTRO CORP: Wolf Haldenstein Commences Debt Instruments Class Action
Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP announces that it filed a class
action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern
District of California on behalf of all purchasers of Ventro Corporation
("VENTRO" or the "Company") (Nasdaq: VNTR) publicly traded debt
instruments during the period between March 29, 2000 and December 6,
2000, inclusive (the "Class Period") against Ventro, certain of its
officers and directors, and certain of its underwriters.

The case name and index number are Sunshine Wire and Cable Defined
Benefit Pension Plan Trust DTD 01/01/92 v. Ventro (01-1713 BZ), and is
before Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman. A copy of the complaint filed
in this action is available from the Court, or can be viewed on the Wolf
Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP website at http://www.whafh.com.

The complaint alleges that the defendants violated federal securities
laws by issuing inaccurate and misleading materials, including a
Registration Statement and Prospectus, for its offering of convertible
subordinated notes.

Ventro Corporation is a builder and operator of business-to-business
e-commerce marketplace companies. The complaint alleges that during the
Class Period, it was evident to defendants that Ventro did not possess
the technology to successfully compete as a marketplace. Defendants knew
this would severely impair Ventro's future revenue growth but wanted to
raise additional money through debt offerings before the bottom fell out
of Ventro's stock price. Thus, defendants continued to make positive but
false statements about Ventro's business and future revenues while
issuing $250 million worth of convertible subordinated notes. The
complaint further alleges that on December 6, 2000, Ventro announced a
restructuring in which it closed down two out of three of its main B2B
marketplaces. In early 2001, it was revealed that defendants had realized
by December 1999 that Ventro's business model of independent marketplaces
didn't make sense and that even Ventro's partners were not satisfied with
Ventro's technology for operating the marketplaces. By this time,
Ventro's stock and debt instruments had declined precipitously,
inflicting billions of dollars of damage on plaintiff and the Class.

Contact: Gregory M. Nespole, Esq., George Peters, Michael Miske, Fred
Taylor Isquith, Esq., all of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP,
800-575-0735, classmember@whafh.com


S U B S C R I P T I O N  I N F O R M A T I O N

Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by Bankruptcy
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Washington, DC. Theresa Cheuk, Managing Editor.

Copyright 1999.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

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