/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/010514.MBX              C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

               Monday, May 14, 2001, Vol. 3, No. 94


AURORA FOODS: Shareholder Lawsuit Settlement Confirmed
AUTOWEB.COM, INC: Cauley Geller Announces Securities Suit Filed in N.Y.
AUTOWEB.COM, INC: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in New York
BRANDY LANE: Buyers of Townhomes Lost in Giant York Fire Plan Lawsuit
BROWARD: Child Welfare Reviews Find Foster Care System In Shambles

FIRST UNION: Are Bank Fees For Cashing Checks Smart Business Or Rip-off
FLORIDA: Class Action Status Sought to Boost Foster Care System Reform
FORD MOTOR: Defends Tire Recall, Reviews System
GENERAL MOTORS: Californians May Lose Settlement Cash for Privacy Laws
HMOs: AMA Issues Statement on Discovery, Pleased It's Time to Prove

HOBBS POLICE: Settles Suit re Alleged Discrimination against Minorities
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: German Chancellor Talks On Legal Guarantees
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Judge Kram Clears Obstacles To Payment
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Schroeder Expects Parliament To Approve Law By July
INMATES LITIGATION: D.C. Scatters Inmates From Troubled Ohio Prison

INMATES LITIGATION: Lawyers Seek To Stop Execution With Class Action
INTERNET CAPITAL: Lovell & Stewart Files Securities Fraud Suit in N.Y.
JAPANESE GOVT: Leprosy victims win suit; 1953 Law Ruled Unconstitutional
MICRO CIRCUITS: Wechsler Harwood Announces Expanded Period for Lawsuit
NPC INTERNATIONAL: Board OKs Merger; Reaches Agreement to Settle Suit

PERDUE FARMS: To Pay for Overtime; Chicken Catchers Get $2.4 Million
PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER: EPA to Rush Arsenic-Risk Report
PRIMEBUY NETWORK: Keller Rohrback and Cosho, Humphrey File Investor Suit
RACIAL PROFILING: Mt. Prospect Suit Still Unresolved; Settlement Snags
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Judge Certifies CA Suit over Business Practices

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Moody's Ratings Confirmed after Ct Approval re Bond
TOBACCO LITIGATION: R.J. Reynolds Faces Deadline to Set Aside Funds


AURORA FOODS: Shareholder Lawsuit Settlement Confirmed
Aurora Foods Inc. (NYSE: AOR) announced that the United States District
Court for the Northern District of California has confirmed the
settlement of all class action and derivative suits brought against the
Company relating to the earnings restatements announced in February 2000.

As a result of the settlement, the Company anticipates it will record a
net, after-tax, non-cash gain in the range of $2 million to $3 million in
the second quarter of 2001 related to its receipt of shares from former

AUTOWEB.COM, INC: Cauley Geller Announces Securities Suit Filed in N.Y.
The Law Firm of Cauley Geller Bowman & Coates, LLP announced on May 11
that a class action has been filed in the United States District Court
for the Southern District of New York on behalf of purchasers of
Autoweb.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AWEB) common stock during the period between
March 23, and December 6, 2000, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges defendants Autoweb, Credit Suisse First Boston
Corporation ("Credit Suisse"), BancBoston Robertson Stephens, Inc.
("BancBoston"), Bear Stearns & Co., Inc. ("Bear Stearns"), Dean DeBiase
and Samuel M. Hedgpeth III with violations of Sections 11, 12(a) (2) and
15 of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. On or about
March 23, 1999, Autoweb commenced an initial public offering of 5 million
of its shares of common stock at an offering price of $14 per share (the
"Autoweb IPO"). In connection therewith, Autoweb filed a registration
statement, which incorporated a prospectus (the "Prospectus"), with the
SEC. The complaint further alleges that the Prospectus was materially
false and misleading because it failed to disclose, among other things,
that (i) Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns had solicited and
received excessive and undisclosed commissions from certain investors in
exchange for which Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and Bear Stearns
allocated to those investors material portions of the restricted number
of Autoweb shares issued in connection with the Autoweb IPO; and (ii)
Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns had entered into agreements
with customers whereby Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns agreed
to allocate Autoweb shares to those customers in the Autoweb IPO in
exchange for which the customers agreed to purchase additional Autoweb
shares in the aftermarket at pre-determined prices. As alleged in the
complaint, the SEC is investigating underwriting practices in connection
with several other initial public offerings.

Contact: Charlie Gastineau or Sue Null, both of Cauley Geller Bowman &
Coates, LLP, 888-551-9944

AUTOWEB.COM, INC: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in New York
The law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP announces that a
class action lawsuit was filed on May 10, 2001 on behalf of purchasers of
the securities of Autoweb.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWEB) between March 23, 1999
and December 6, 2000, inclusive. A copy of the complaint filed in this
action is available from the Court, or can be viewed on Milberg Weiss'
website at: http://www.milberg.com/autoweb/

The action, numbered 01 CV 3997, is pending in the United States District
Court for the Southern District of New York, located at 500 Pearl Street,
New York, NY 10007, against defendants Autoweb, Credit Suisse First
Boston Corp. ("Credit Suisse"), BancBoston Robertson Stephens, Inc.
("BancBoston"), Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc. ("Bear Stearns"), Dean DeBiase
and Samuel M. Hedgpeth III.

The complaint alleges violations of Sections 11, 12(a)(2) and 15 of the
Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act
of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. On or about March 23,
1999, Autoweb commenced an initial public offering of 5,000,000 of its
shares of common stock at an offering price of $14 per share (the
"Autoweb IPO"). In connection therewith, Autoweb filed a registration
statement, which incorporated a prospectus (the "Prospectus"), with the
SEC. The complaint further alleges that the Prospectus was materially
false and misleading because it failed to disclose, among other things,
that: (i) Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns, had solicited and
received excessive and undisclosed commissions from certain investors in
exchange for which Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns allocated
to those investors material portions of the restricted number of Autoweb
shares issued in connection with the Autoweb IPO; and (ii) Credit Suisse,
BancBoston and Bear Stearns had entered into agreements with customers
whereby Credit Suisse, BancBoston and Bear Stearns agreed to allocate
Autoweb shares to those customers in the Autoweb IPO in exchange for
which the customers agreed to purchase additional Autoweb shares in the
aftermarket at pre-determined prices. As alleged in the complaint, the
SEC is investigating underwriting practices in connection with several
other initial public offerings.

Contact: Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP Steven G. Schulman or
Samuel H. Rudman, 800/320-5081 Email: autowebcase@milbergNY.com Website:

BRANDY LANE: Buyers of Townhomes Lost in Giant York Fire Plan Lawsuit
Buyers who lost their new townhomes in a giant North York fire earlier
this month are planning a class action lawsuit against the builder. The
purchasers, some of whom bought their units in early 1999, will meet with
lawyers at 7 p.m. May 14 night at the law firm of Macdonald, Sager and

They are miffed that Brandy Lane Homes won't return their deposits but
intends instead to rebuild the 245-home development.

"We're all angry because we've been waiting 2 1/2 years," said Diana
Hetea, who was set to move this summer and had already sold her condo.

The law firm, which has yet to be retained, refused to say if a lawsuit
is in the works.

Brandy Lane president David Hirsh could be not be reached for comment.
(The Toronto Sun, May 11, 2001)

BROWARD: Child Welfare Reviews Find Foster Care System In Shambles
The state agency charged with keeping abused kids safe will review
thousands of Broward County foster care cases after two independent
reports reveal a system in need of a massive overhaul.

The analyses by out-of-state child welfare experts studied how children
were faring in foster homes, group homes, shelters and treatment centers.

The most surprising recommendation suggested emergency shelters, a staple
of child welfare, be phased out. One of the reports noted shelters can be
chaotic places, with a dangerous mix of children new to foster care and
those hardened by the system.

The overarching findings of the reports emphasized that while the
majority of children basically are safe, they are languishing in a system
that fails to treat them as individuals and offers little hope of a
permanent home anytime soon. That has been a common thread in countless
grand jury reports and investigations into the Department of Children &
Families over the years.

"Because we have these major concerns, it's real important for us to go
100 percent," into reviewing the case files, said Fotena Zirps, director
of mission support and performance for the Department of Children &
Families in Tallahassee. "We're going to look for anything alert-worthy.
We're going to look for any medication issues. And then we're going to
look at the basic social work stuff."

While uncommon, similar en masse reviews of state child welfare files
have taken place in Palm Beach County and the Orlando area -- both of
which occurred after children suffered serious injury or death.

Local child advocates said the two independent reports expose a child
welfare system in dire straits.

"It shows total systemic failure," said Howard Talenfeld, a Broward
County attorney.

In 1998, Talenfeld and others sued the state in federal court on behalf
of all Broward foster children, charging that children were placed in as
much or more harm under the state's care than they were in their
allegedly abusive homes. The advocates settled the case last year under
the condition the state work with them to make improvements.

The two outside reviews of the system, which cost a total of $ 230,000
and were released May 10 by the Department of Children & Families, were
part of that settlement.

"We are hopeful the department recognizes the severity of this emergency
and will address it with all deliberate speed," Talenfeld said.
"Otherwise we have no choice but to ask the court to intervene."

The report by Paul Vincent of The Child Welfare Policy and Practice
Group, based out of Montgomery, Ala., studied 44 children living in
Broward County foster homes. Eight of the children were named plaintiffs
in the class-action lawsuit. The other 36 were randomly selected.

Vincent and his team found that while 90 percent of the children were
safe, only 31 percent of them were living in a home -- or would soon be
placed in a home -- where they could stay until they reached adulthood.

When the reviewers estimated how a particular child would be doing in the
next six months, they found almost 48 percent would be in the same
situation and 26 percent would be worse off.

Vincent's team also noted Broward County places too many children in
group homes instead of foster homes. Others are bounced from home to
home, separated from siblings and given little stability in their lives.
Of one 7-year-old, a reviewer wrote: " ... There has been a steady
decline in her quality of life over the course of DCF involvement."

The second report, done by Paul DeMuro, a consultant with the Anne E.
Casey Foundation in Baltimore, studied seven institutions -- from
emergency shelters to treatment centers.

Like Vincent's group, DeMuro's team found too many young children
lingering in restrictive settings far away from their families. It notes
that at some centers, there's an alarming use of physical restraints and
medication, a lack of sufficient supervision at night, and failure to
plan for a child's eventual departure from the center.

Department officials said that along with an in-depth review of the case
files, the agency is double-checking its files against its computer
system to make sure potentially dangerous children are flagged so they
aren't allowed to sexually or physically assault other children.

While that was supposed to be happening before, officials say they
recently found out that the "alert" system wasn't working -- and that
children were getting hurt.

Department officials reiterated their desire to create a system that
stabilizes and protects vulnerable children. But they said to do so, they
can't lose hope.

"If we continue to say problem, problem, problem, people think it's
impossible," Zirps said.

"And it's not," added Lee Johnson, acting district administrator in
Broward County.

Shana Gruskin can be reached at sgruskin@sun-sentinel.com or
561-243-6537. (Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), May 11, 2001)

FIRST UNION: Are Bank Fees For Cashing Checks Smart Business Or Rip-off
Whether the way First Union National Bank of Florida treated Steven
Stefiuk two days before Christmas in 1997 was smart business or a
consumer rip-off depends on whom you ask. But the only opinion that
really counts is that of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael B. Chavies.

In July 1999, attorneys at Richman Greer Weil Brumbaugh Mirabito &
Christensen in Miami filed a class-action suit on behalf of Stefiuk and
all other persons similarly treated by the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank.

The suit argues that First Union's actions violated Florida banking law
and the state Uniform Commercial Code. It claims, among other things,
that the bank's policy constituted unjust enrichment. In December, Judge
Chavies was asked by both sides to rule on motions for summary judgment.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. On Dec. 23, 1997, Stefiuk,
while out shopping for holiday gifts, decided to cash a $ 400 bonus check
from his employer, Hamilton Risk Management, a Miami insurance company.
He took it to the Dadeland branch of First Union, assuming there would be
no fee, since the check was drawn on Hamilton's business account at First

But the bank refused to cash the check unless Stefiuk did one of three
things. Drive-in teller No. 117 told him that it was First Union policy
to require a $ 1 fee to cash checks for more than $ 50 written on First
Union business accounts if the person presenting the check did not have a
First Union account. Stefiuk could avoid the fee, he was informed, by
opening a First Union account there and then. Or, he could sign up for a
special, nonaccount holder's check cashing ID card, for a one-time fee of
$ 10.

Stefiuk argued with the teller, but he needed the money and didn't want
to sign up for the ID card. So he paid the $ 1 fee. He also asked for and
received a receipt for the fee. He later took the receipt and his story
to attorneys at Richman Greer.

Partner Manuel Garcia-Linares, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, says
the suit is a statewide test case for the legality of these types of bank

First Union's lead defense attorneys, J. Thomas Cardwell and Virginia
Townes, partners in the Orlando office of Akerman Senterfitt, declined to
comment on the case. Townes said it would be improper to do so while
Judge Chavies is considering the summary judgment motions.

First Union's rationale for the check cashing fee and check cashing card
requirements is spelled out in a deposition by William T. Morrison, the
bank's senior vice president in charge of branch operations. He stated
that the $ 1 fee helps offset the bank's labor and processing costs for
cashing each check, which the bank estimated at $ 2.40. The bank
collected $ 2,125,983 in check cashing fees in 1999 from those who
declined to register for the check cashing ID card.

But Garcia-Linares questions the bank's estimate of the processing cost
of cashing each check, contending that the bank improperly figured its
fixed operating costs into the cost of processing a check. No matter how
many or how few checks are cashed on a given day, he says, "First Union
has its doors open and the clerks are there." He also argues that any
costs for cashing checks on a business account should be charged to the
account holder.

Kathy Bartlett, vice president for communications at the Florida Bankers
Association, says, however, that Garcia-Linares' argument reflects a
misunderstanding of the banking business. Any fee charged to the payee,
she says, is a separate matter from service provided to the account
holder who writes the check.

As far as the check cashing ID card, Morrison said it was designed to
speed up customer service, enabling nonaccount holders to cash payroll
checks without having to show two pieces of identification and leave a
thumb print each time.

In its motion for summary judgment, First Union also claims that the ID
card is intended to cut down on "the rampant check-fraud problem
experienced throughout the banking industry." But the bank has declined
to provide figures on the extent of such fraud and how much it has been
reduced by the ID card system.

In his deposition, Morrison noted that the $ 10 fee for obtaining a check
cashing card was eliminated in November 1998. Bank representatives say
there currently is no fee of any kind for use of the card.

Mary Beth Navarro, a First Union spokeswoman in Charlotte, says First
Union uses the ID card system throughout Florida and currently is
implementing it at outlets in New Jersey, with plans to introduce it in
other states as well. She estimates that 300,000 Floridians have signed
up for cards.

Mark Ferrulo, director of Florida Public Interest Research Group, a
consumer advocacy group in Tallahassee, supports the lawsuit. He says
First Union has excessively high and unjustified customer fees, and that
its fee for cashing checks drawn on business accounts at the bank is
unprecedented nationally. "This penalizes those Floridians who can't
afford bank accounts," he says.

Bartlett says her organization has no official position on fees like
those challenged by the lawsuit. But she says that if people seeking to
cash a check don't want to deal with fees, they should insist on payment
in cash in the first place. "These are probably people without any money,
anyway," she says. "They'd probably prefer cash."

Neither side offered any predictions about when Judge Chavies would rule.
(Broward Daily Business Review, May 10, 2001)

FLORIDA: Class Action Status Sought to Boost Foster Care System Reform
A federal magistrate has recommended granting class-action status to a
lawsuit seeking to overhaul Florida's foster care system, clearing the
way for 22 plaintiffs to represent 18,000 children.

U.S. Magistrate Robert L. Dube also recommended on May 9 that some 6,000
black children be considered a subclass of the suit because black
children are in foster care for far lengthier periods than their white

Advocates said class-action status is critical to their efforts to prompt
a statewide reform of Florida's foster care system.

"We now represent all 18,000 children in a suit to get the state to
follow their own regulations, to stop treating children actually worse
than they were treated with their parents," said Ted Babbitt, a West Palm
Beach attorney who is co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

If accepted by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, the decision would
allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to take the depositions of Gov. Jeb
Bush, Department Secretary Kathleen Kearney and others. Moreno has set a
trial date for July 16.

The suit, filed in June, outlines the plight of 22 foster children, most
from Palm Beach County, who allege they were abused, neglected or
otherwise mistreated in state care. It was originally filed by Karen
Gievers, an activist who filed a similar lawsuit against Children &
Families in 1990.

Attorneys for the department could not be reached for comment. They now
have 10 days to file objections to Dube's ruling.

Paul Hancock, deputy attorney general for south Florida, has
characterized the case as an attempt by the New York-based Children's
Rights Inc., which supports the suit, to outdo another advocacy group. He
has said the New York organization, which is involved in child-welfare
litigation in at least nine states, is pitted against the San
Francisco-based Youth Law Center, which last year settled a suit against
the state over Broward County's foster care.

Leaders of the New York group, however, hailed Dube's decision as a
victory for children in Florida, whom they contend are often placed in
overcrowded temporary facilities without supervision, which subjects them
to abuse and neglect.

"Magistrate Dube's decision strengthens the rights of foster children not
only in Florida, but throughout America," said Marcia Robinson Lowry,
executive director of Children's Rights.

Dube's decision excludes children in Broward County, where the agency is
operating under last year's settlement.

It also excludes those children whose claims against the department were
made before July 24, 1995, and any claims for failure to provide mental
health or developmental services. In April, the state departments of
Juvenile Justice and Children & Families agreed improve the delivery of
mental heath services to foster children and delinquents.

David Cazares can be reached at dcazares@sun-sentinel.com or
305-810-5012. (Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), May 11, 2001)

FORD MOTOR: Defends Tire Recall, Reviews System
Ford Motor Co. executives defended the company's environmental
initiatives, the handling of the Firestone tire recall and a
controversial employee ranking system at the automaker's annual meeting.

The meeting, attended by about 400 shareholders at the Fitzgerald Theater
in St. Paul, followed a tumultuous 12 months for the Dearborn-based

Ford raked in record revenues in 2000 but became embroiled in the
Firestone controversy, which cost the company $500 million and dented the
reputation of its best-selling Explorer sport-utility vehicle.

The 6.5 million recalled tires, mounted mostly on Explorers, were linked
to 174 deaths and more than 700 injuries.

"After last year's Firestone tire recall, every one at Ford Motor Co. has
a very clear understanding of the harm that can be done to all of our
stakeholders if we do not fulfill the highest standards and expectations
of society and ourselves," Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. said Holders
focused on the environment a week after Ford said it created a team to
find ways to reduce car and truck emissions.

Ann Stewart of Cambridge, Mass., asked if the company's stance on the
environment was merely "corporate greenwashing."

"Over the last couple of years, you will see that we have been very to
careful to demonstrate action as opposed to rhetoric," Bill Ford said.

He said voluntary action is preferable to government regulation.

Ford employee Richard Mills grilled Ford brass about the practice of
ranking managers from top to bottom along a curve.

Two class-actions lawsuits have been filed, claiming the policy -- which
requires supervisors to rate 10 percent of subordinates with As, 80
percent Bs and 10 percent Cs -- discriminates against older workers and
white males.

"The general feeling is ABC equals DEF, demoralized employees at Ford,"
Mills said. "Discrimination is not acceptable. And if it's done under the
guise of diversity, it does not change the fact that it's

President Jacques Nasser said the forced ranking system "is not related
to age and it's not related to diversity. The connection of the two is
just not reality."

Despite the challenges, Bill Ford and Nasser said the company can
leverage its broad portfolio of brands and strong balance sheet to remain
competitive in tough economic times.

So far this year, Ford shares have climbed 21 percent but its U.S. car
and truck sales -- the backbone of the company -- have fallen 13 percent
compared to an industrywide drop of 6.8 percent. (The Detroit News, May
11, 2001)

GENERAL MOTORS: Californians May Lose Settlement Cash for Privacy Laws
In an ironic twist, nearly half a million California owners of General
Motors pickup trucks may lose the opportunity to get cash as a result of
a class action settlement involving their fire-prone pickups because the
state's tough privacy laws are making it difficult to mail notices to
class members.

Don Barrett, lead class attorney, said a mailing to 5.8 million owners of
GM pickup trucks was sent out by GM on April 18. That mailing offered
owners of 1973-91 GM full-size pickups with sidesaddle fuel tanks a
certificate for $1,000 off the purchase price of a new GM car or truck.
The fuel tank location allegedly makes these vehicles more likely to
explode and burn in a side-impact collision.

At the same time, the class attorneys sent out a letter from Certificate
Redemption Group (CRG) of Houston with an offer to buy those certificates
for $ 100 each from GM truck owners who didn't plan to buy a new vehicle
and had no use for them. To take the cash offer the two letters had to be
returned by mail in one envelope, or recipients could close the deal by
using the group's consumer hotline or Web site.

Californians did not get the cash offer because of the difficulty class
counsel had in getting the state's vehicle owner registration data by the
mailing deadline. Further, the state wouldn't expedite the request even
though it involves pickup trucks that tend to explode in a collision,
said Barrett. However, Californians who received the GM letter can still
take advantage of the cash offer, Barrett said, by completing the
necessary steps in the GM mailing and then calling the consumer hotline
at 800-317-4997, or by logging on to www.CertificateRebates.com .

"I feel bad for the 498,000 Californians who own these pickup trucks,"
said Barrett. "California is a pro-consumer state, but here's a situation
where their tough state laws are actually working against consumers by
complicating the transaction."

As a result, said Barrett, the response to the $100 cash offer in
California has been minimal while nationally, more than 800,000 truck
owners have opted for the cash offer and the number continues to grow.

"This automotive class action settlement was unique because it provided a
way for class members to get a certificate or to sell it if they had no
use for it," said James R. Dawley, chairman and CEO of Certificate
Redemption Group, the company selected by class attorneys to handle the

The idea behind the cash offer is to create a secondary market for the
certificates so fleets and others could use them to buy new vehicles. In
this way, money could be raised to return to class members.

"By creating the secondary market, we're able to return cash to a much
larger percentage of class members than GM had planned on. GM certainly
isn't happy about our success and continues to fight it, but without our
offer to buy these certificates, only a few consumers would get anything
at all from the lawsuit after waiting nine years," said Dawley.

Dawley said that if one million requests for cash are received, up to
$100 million could be returned to the class, a first in class-action

Houston-based Certificate Redemption Group LLC was formed in 1996 for the
sole purpose of creating a secondary market for GM certificates in the GM
pickup truck class settlement. CRG is the exclusive secondary market
maker endorsed and supported by class counsel for the GM Program 01-50,
GM Full-Size Pickup Settlement.

Source: Certificate Redemption Group LLC

Contact: Mike Hedge of Hedge & Company, 248-350-2190, for Certificate
Redemption Group LLC

HMOs: AMA Issues Statement on Discovery, Pleased It's Time to Prove
The following statement is attributable to: Donald J. Palmisano, MD, AMA

"The American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased that a federal judge
has ordered full discovery in the combined class action lawsuits brought
against major insurance companies by thousands of physicians across the
country. Let the discovery begin. We are certain it will show the
patients of America how the insurance industry puts profits ahead of

HOBBS POLICE: Settles Suit re Alleged Discrimination against Minorities
The Hobbs Police Department and the American Civil Liberties Union have
settled a class-action lawsuit that alleged widespread discriminatory
practices against minority residents.

The lawsuit, filed in March 1999 in federal court, accused police of
using excessive force and warrantless searches. It also accused them of
maliciously filing false charges against residents.

The settlement agreement calls for improved police procedures in the use
of force, detentions, searches, seizures and arrests. It also requires
the department to pay $605,500 in damages as well as injunctive relief.

Plaintiffs' lawyers viewed this month's settlement as vindication for
Hispanic and black residents who had endured an alleged "campaign of

Hobbs Police Chief Tony Knott said he considered such statements to be
"sensationalistic" and said the settlement orders the department to
comply with policies it already largely follows voluntarily.

"I'm extending the olive branch," Knott said. "We have to get past this,
get past the old hateful rhetoric and name-calling."

The chief added that the settlement was a financial decision intended to
avoid paying legal fees that could have exceeded $1 million if the
lawsuit dragged out.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU,
called the case the biggest one the organization has handled in New
Mexico in terms of its impact on a community.

The settlement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Martha
Vazquez at a hearing next month in Santa Fe.

Under the settlement, Hobbs police must receive a minimum of 40 hours of
training each year on appropriate arrest procedures. Emphasis will be on
avoiding racial profiling, using techniques to avoid confrontation and
working with integrity and ethics.

Knott pointed out the department already trains officers in those areas,
including annual training on cultural sensitivity.

The department must also keep statistics on the conduct of individual
officers, such as field contacts and the use of force, and the race of
residents contacted by police in such incidents.

The department, which has four black uniformed officers, must also try to
hire more minority officers.

The chief of the UCLA Police Department, Clarence Chapman, will act as a
monitor and mediator for three years to ensure compliance, to review the
investigation of citizen complaints, to recommend changes to police
procedures and to mediate disputes between plaintiffs and the police

Knott said he welcomed the oversight.

Santa Fe attorney Daniel Yohalem said an analysis of thousands of police
stops of residents found a higher proportion of minority residents were
arrested for resisting or evading officers than nonminority residents.

Longtime Hobbs activist Carl Mackey, who was instrumental in pushing the
class-action lawsuit, said the settlement could change the department and
help heal the community.

"We weren't interested in tearing the community down," he said. "We were
interested in improving it." (The Associated Press State & Local Wire,
May 11, 2001)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: German Chancellor Talks On Legal Guarantees
In connection with compensation payments to Nazi-era forced labourers,
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (Social Democratic Party of Germany) has
warned the industry against exaggerated demands. He has always claimed
that there can be no 100 per cent legal guarantees, Schroeder said in
Berlin. According to Anglo-Saxon law, legal security exists if there are
"sufficient cases that have been decided in a positive manner." Those who
believe that every individual complaint must have been rejected until
legal security can be confirmed have not completely understood
Anglo-Saxon law, the chancellor stated.

Schroeder added that he was very happy about the decision by the US Judge
Shirley Kram to dismiss the class-action suit against German banks. Now
the procedure must be brought to an end as swiftly as possible. "I hope
and I expect that legal security can be achieved before the summer
recess," Schroeder stated. Text of report by German news agency DDP (BBC
Monitoring Europe - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, May
11, 2001)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Judge Kram Clears Obstacles To Payment
A federal judge dismissed lawsuits on May 10 that had blocked payments
from a $5 billion German fund set up last summer to pay reparations to a
million or more people forced into slave labor during the Nazi regime.

Lawyers involved in the case said victims could begin receiving payments
within weeks. The German Parliament still must act on the matter, but
quick approval is expected.

The judge, Shirley Wohl Kram of the United States District Court in
Manhattan, refused to dismiss the lawsuits two months ago. But she said
on May 10 that her concerns had been satisfied by an agreement worked out
by lawyers for victims and others. "These are elderly people, and we're
trying to proceed as quickly as possible," she said.

Most victims are in their 70's or 80's, and many have died in the 10
months since German companies as a group and the German government agreed
to provide about $2.5 billion each for the fund. In return, the companies
wanted assurances that they would be free of any future claims by
Holocaust victims. The United States has urged American courts to reject
any existing and future claims, but Judge Kram said she had concerns
about the small group of cases that she finally dismissed on May 10.

Victims who were forced into concentration camps or ghettos stand to
receive the highest payments, about $7,500, which would come in two
installments. An inital payment of about $5,000 is to be sent as soon as
the funds become available, and the remainder after fund administrators
determine how many people ultimately file claims. The filing deadline is
Aug. 11.

Felix Kolmer, 79, a survivor of Auschwitz and other camps, said in a
telephone interview from his home in Prague that many Holocaust survivors
live in poverty and desperately need the money. "This sum will help us
very much," he said. "Two hundred former prisoners and forced workers are
dying every day, and we wish the money would come to the people who

Mr. Kolmer said he spent three years in Theresienstadt (now Terezin), a
concentration camp in the Czech Republic, where he was forced to work as
a carpenter. At Auschwitz, he was forced to work building a road, and had
to survive on 300 to 500 calories a day.

"No one wanted to speak, because it takes energy to speak," he said. "We
needed the energy for survival. There was also the dreadful smell -- the
smell of burning flesh. Twelve thousand people died every day."

People who were not held in camps or ghettos, but were forced to work for
German companies or the government, are eligible for payments of up to

Judge Kram had refused to dismiss pending lawsuits because a few involved
Holocaust victims who had made claims against Austrian banks in a
separate class action lawsuit. The Austrian banks, in turn, had claims
against German banks. As part of the settlement of that lawsuit, the
Austrian banks assigned their claims to the victims, who were to be
compensated by Germany. But the $5 billion German agreement last summer
contained no provision for those claims.

To settle the matter, the lawyers arranged to set aside about $2 million
from the Austrian case that was for archiving documents, said Morris
Ratner, who represented Austrian plaintiffs. Also, Mr. Ratner's firm and
two others agreed to forgo their fees in the Austrian matter. The lawyers
urged the judge to reject the legal bills of other lawyers, which could
total millions of dollars and were to be paid from reparation money.

There are surviving workers in about 40 countries, mostly non-Jews in
Eastern Europe, said Gideon Taylor, the executive vice president of the
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The conference is
processing claims for the estimated 160,000 Jews who are eligible. About
60,000 live in the United States, Mr. Taylor said, half in the New York
area. Most are eligible for the full $7,500, he said.

The organization can be reached at (800) 697-6064 and on the Internet at

George Simpson, a Hungarian Jew who was forced to build airplane bunkers
while in the Dachau-Allach camp, said from his home in Los Angeles that
he was disappointed in the settlement. "Even if it were a million and a
half dollars, it would not compensate for the parents and the friends I
lost," he said.

His parents and a brother were deported with him from Hungary; they never
saw one another again. (The New York Times, May 11, 2001)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Schroeder Expects Parliament To Approve Law By July
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he expects parliament to approve
long-promised and delayed payments to former slave laborers before its
summer break, now that the most significant legal hurdle has been lifted.

But even the most optimistic estimates foresee the first payments
reaching victims by August not quite soon enough for activists in Central
Europe representing the aging workers forced into labor by the Nazis and
so far never compensated.

Schroeder was joined by a broad spectrum of German officials who greeted
optimistically Judge Shirley Wohl Kram's dismissal of a class-action
lawsuit against German banks by former slave laborers.

German business, which pledged to contribute half of the 10 billion mark
(dlrs 4.6 billion) industry-government fund, has refused to budge on
payments until pending lawsuits are dismissed.

While another dozen suits are active in other U.S. courts, Germany
believes Kram's decision will send an important signal to other judges to
act in kind.

''I was very pleased by the judge's decision,'' Schroeder told a news
conference. ''My hope and expectation is that we can achieve legal
security before the summer break'' in July.

The government's envoy on the slave labor issue, Otto Lamsdorff, is
expected to meet industry representatives and the chancellor soon to
decide whether enough legal security has been achieved, said government
spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye. Once that has been accepted, Lamsdorff will
notify the lower house of parliament, which must approve the law allowing
payments to begin.

Lamsdorff told German television he expects legal closure to be achieved
by the end of June.

''We can reach the goal of signaling the start of payments before the
summer break,'' Lamsdorff said.

Schroeder cautioned industry against holding out for full protection from

''Whoever believes that every single case must be dismissed doesn't fully
understand Anglo-Saxon law and exaggerates the demands,'' he said.

Volker Beck, a Greens lawmaker and a representative of the foundation
that will administer payments, demanded a firm timetable guaranteeing
payments reach victims by August.

Most of the estimated 1 million former slave laborers eligible for
payments were deported from their homeland by the Nazis to keep German
industry running and replace workers sent to the front lines in World War

Ivan Szenes, a former slave laborer who represents many like himself in
Hungary, demanded immediate payments emphasizing that all Hungarian
survivors have stated they will not make any further claims once they
receive compensation.

And in the Czech Republic, chief negotiator Jiri Sitler, representing
some 80,000 forced laborers who have already registered to receive
payments, expressed concerns that German industry would seek further
delays. The sentiments were shared by Karel Ruzicka of the Czech union
for forced laborers.

''We follow the issue with worries,'' Ruzicka said. ''Every year some 10
percent of us die, so many will not live long enough to receive the

The Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reminded Schroeder in a page-one
editorial that he pledged more than two years ago that payments would
begin on Sept. 1, 1999. ''I would have remembered that every 11 minutes
one forced labor victims dies. I would have remembered that since Sept.
1, 1999 some 100,000 Nazi victims have died.''

Half a million surviving victims in Poland are expected to receive
average payments of 5,000 marks (dlrs 2,260). (AP Worldstream, May 11,

INMATES LITIGATION: D.C. Scatters Inmates From Troubled Ohio Prison
The remaining 350 D.C. inmates at a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio,
will be moved to federal prisons across the country in coming months as
the troubled penitentiary prepares to close in August, officials said on
May 10.

The prison, run by Corrections Corp. of America, has been beset with
problems since it opened in 1997, accepting D.C. inmates from the Lorton
Correctional Complex in Fairfax County. Two inmates were stabbed to
death; 40 assaults were reported; six prisoners escaped in a 1998
breakout; and inmates won $ 1.65 million in a class-action lawsuit that
accused guards of excessive force.

But the impending closure of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center
concerns some inmates' relatives, who say they don't know where the
prisoners will be transferred or whether their new prisons will be within
driving distance for visits.

"It's going to be hard on the kids especially," said Vanessa
Brown-Thompson, 30, who planned to join a day trip by bus to the
Youngstown prison with her 7-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter to
visit the children's father, Abdul Malik Ali, who was convicted of
first-degree murder. Her daughter "doesn't know that Saturday might be
the last time she sees him for a while," Brown-Thompson said.

And residents of Youngstown, a former steel mill hub, fret that the
shutdown will mean the loss of more than 500 jobs.

"Anytime you lose a chunk of jobs, it affects the community economically
-- that's 500 people that are no longer bringing home a paycheck -- and
psychologically," said Sherry Linkon, co-director of the Center for
Working Studies at Youngstown State University. "Because we are
struggling economically, those jobs matter more."

Steve Owen, a prison company spokesman, said the correctional center is
being closed until the firm secures a new contract to house inmates.

Owen said the District did not renew its contract because of a law that
requires the federal Bureau of Prisons to oversee all D.C. felons by the
end of the year.

But the Bureau of Prisons didn't notify the company until late April that
it intended to relocate the Youngstown prisoners, Owen said. Soon after,
prison employees were given notices that they'd be out of jobs, he said.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R), in a letter last month to U.S. Attorney General
John D. Ashcroft, asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the D.C.
prison system to consider buying the prison, which has an annual payroll
of $ 11 million.

The 2,016-bed prison, which once held about 1,500 D.C. inmates, has been
reducing its prison population for about a year by transferring inmates
to federal prisons, said Darryl Madden, a D.C. Department of Corrections
spokesman. About 40 inmates are being transferred each week, he said.

Depending on their classification and prison space, the D.C. inmates will
be moved to any of the 98 federal prisons across the country, Bureau of
Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said. Whenever possible, the
prisoners will be transferred to a prison within 500 miles of the
District, she said.

Madden said inmates are given 48 hours' notice that they will be moved,
but are not told where they will go for security reasons. After they
arrive at the new prison, a case manager notifies relatives, he said.

Inmate advocates say the transfers likely will result in fewer family

"The advantage was that we've had these guys concentrated in one area, so
it was easier to provide services," said Carol Fennelly, a former
District resident who is a director of Hope House, a program in
Youngstown for families of Lorton prisoners. "But what's happening with
the federal takeover is that [inmates] are getting scattered all over the

Fennelly said her group will sponsor its last bus trip May 12 for
prisoners' relatives who want to make the 300-mile trip to Ohio. She
plans to move the program to a Wackenhut Corrections Corp. prison in
North Carolina by September.

The August 1997 inmate lawsuit, which also alleged improper grouping of
inmates and poor medical care, was settled in March 1999.

"We were getting complaints of poor medical care, assaults and guard
brutality," said Marie-Ann Sennett, executive director of D.C. Prisoners
Legal Services Project. "It was a real mess." (The Washington Post, May
11, 2001)

INMATES LITIGATION: Lawyers Seek To Stop Execution With Class Action
Attorneys for death row prisoners filed a class action lawsuit May 11,
contending it's illegal to execute the prisoners because Gov. Mike Easley
advocated executions when he was attorney general.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Robert Bacon and two others, said it
sought relief from Easley's "role as attorney general of North Carolina
during appellate and post-conviction proceedings in plaintiffs' capital
cases, and his role as governor of North Carolina in pending, and/or
prospective clemency proceedings on behalf of plaintiffs."

A stay of execution was sought for Bacon, who is scheduled to be executed
at 2 a.m. Friday May 11. Easley has scheduled clemency meetings in the
case for this week (beginning May 14).

A hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled for 2 p.m. May 14 in Wake Superior
Court, said Bacon's lawyer, Gretchen Engel of the Center for Death
Penalty Litigation in Durham. Attorneys Tom Loflin of Durham and Stephen
R. Greenwald of New York filed the lawsuit.

In a similar appeal in March, the state Supreme Court ruled that there
was no conflict and an execution went ahead. The primary difference in
the appeals is the latest one is a class action lawsuit covering many of
the 219 people on North Carolina's death row.

In addition to Bacon, the other prisoners named in the lawsuit are Elton
McLaughlin and Richard Cagle. The lawsuit said more than 100 prisoners
are affected by Easley's dual role.

Engel said earlier this month that Bacon's sentence should be commuted to
life in prison.

Bacon, 41, was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of Glennie Clark,
the husband of his lover, Bonnie Clark. Bacon stabbed the man 16 times as
they sat in Clark's car.

Prosecutors said the wife and Bacon intended to take $130,000 in life
insurance. They sought the death penalty for Bonnie Clark, who is white,
and Bacon, who is black, but Clark received life in prison.

Defense lawyers and the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People contend that racial bias infused Bacon's trial.

In March, Easley refused to remove himself from the case of Willie
Fisher. In a series of last-minute appeals, defense lawyers had argued
that Easley couldn't rule on Fisher's clemency request because of his
former role as state attorney general.

A state court judge ruled Easley might have a conflict, but the state
Supreme Court lifted the judge's stay of execution. (The Associated Press
State & Local Wire, May 11, 2001)

INTERNET CAPITAL: Lovell & Stewart Files Securities Fraud Suit in N.Y.
The law firm of Lovell & Stewart, LLP ((212) 608-1900 or
www.lovellstewart.com) filed a class action lawsuit on May 10, 2001 on
behalf of all persons and entities who purchased, exchanged or otherwise
acquired the common stock of Internet Capital Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: ICGE)
between August 4, 1999 and May 9, 2001, inclusive. The lawsuit asserts
claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated by the SEC thereunder; and Sections 11,
12(2) and 15 of the Securities Act of 1933 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 9, 2001.

The action, Michael G. Ryan v. Internet Capital Group Inc., 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-3975 (DC) and
has been assigned to the Hon. Denise Cote, U.S. District Judge. The
complaint alleges that Internet Capital Group Inc., Walter W. Buckley,

Contact: Lovell & Stewart, LLP Christopher Lovell or Peggy Wedgworth,
212/608-1900 sklovell@aol.com

JAPANESE GOVT: Leprosy victims win suit; 1953 Law Ruled Unconstitutional
Ryozo Tsutsumi had an ordinary childhood. He loved the circus and village
festivals where fireworks exploded over the inky seas. His dad carted
furniture along country lanes in a horse-and-buggy.

Then, when he was 10, the government took him away. He had leprosy and
lepers were banished from society to remote wards. Men were sterilized
before they were allowed to marry.

Earlier this month, Tsutsumi and hundreds of other former leprosy
patients were granted a belated consolation. A court ruled that Japan's
1953 leprosy law was unconstitutional and ordered the government to pay
millions of dollars in compensation.

''Tens of thousands of former leprosy patients have died. I'd like to
share this joy with them,'' said Tsutsumi, who is now 70 years old.

The Kumamoto district court in southwestern Japan said the Health
Ministry violated human rights by enforcing the law, repealed in 1996,
and that Parliament contravened the constitution when it approved it.

In awarding 1.8 billion yen (dlrs 15 million) in compensation to 127
plaintiffs, much less than they had demanded, the court said the
government ignored common medical knowledge that leprosy was not highly
contagious and could be easily treated.

It also said the government reneged on its duty by deepening the stigma
against leprosy instead of taking steps to lessen it.

''It's a landmark decision, but it's also a triumph of commonsense,''
said Hideki Mizuno, a lawyer representing another group of former leprosy
patients who are suing in the Tokyo District Court.

The 1953 law required patients to be isolated in leprosariums set up on
small islands or deep in the mountainous hinterland, completely
ostracizing them from society. It was an update to an earlier law that
forced leprosy victims into isolation.

Tsutsumi said that after he was sent into exile from his home on Japan's
eastern coast, he never saw his father again.

He was reunited with his mother only after she too contracted leprosy and
was sent to the same center.

Even with medical advances that made the disease fully curable, the
government waited for decades until it decided to allow the banished to
leave their colonies. For most of them, it was too late.

The vast majority of former patients stayed put. They had nowhere else to

The law required men with leprosy to be sterilized if they wanted to get
married, even though the government by then knew that the disease was
acquired and not hereditary.

The plaintiffs in the Kumamoto case had been seeking an apology and 115
million yen (dlrs 940,926) each in compensation. Thirteen plaintiffs
filed the original class-action suit in July 1998 in Kumamoto, located
907 kilometers (567 miles) southwest of Tokyo. The number was later
increased to 127.

Leprosy, which is also known as Hansen's disease, is caused by a
bacterium that affects the nerves. The disease can cause de-pigmentation
of the skin and deformities such as claw hand.

A total of 779 former patients have joined lawsuits filed against the
leprosy law in different parts of the country. Though they weren't
included in the Kumamoto suit and would receive no compensation as a
result, the precedent established by the ruling could affect their cases.

The Health Ministry issued a terse statement after the verdict.

''We will study the matter carefully and deal with the matter after
consultations with relevant ministries,'' it said.

While many people say official recognition that the government committed
human rights abuses was long overdue, victims said the ruling helped
restore their dignity.

''I'm so happy,'' said Tsutsumi. ''We can finally become human beings
again.'' (AP Worldstream, May 11, 2001)

MICRO CIRCUITS: Wechsler Harwood Announces Expanded Period for Lawsuit
Wechsler Harwood has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States
District Court for the Southern District of California on behalf of all
purchasers of the common stock of Applied Micro Circuits Corporation
(Nasdaq: AMCC) ("Applied Micro" or the "Company") from November 7, 2000
through February 5, 2001, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges Applied Micro and certain of its officers and
directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The
Complaint alleges that the defendants disseminated false and misleading
statements concerning the Company's operations and prospects, including
the following:

Applied Micro Circuits was on track to achieve 16% to 20% sequential
growth for Q4 2001. Applied Micro Circuits had $133 million in backlog
which was equal to 77% of its forecast for its March quarter. The
increase in its Q3 DSOs (days sales outstanding) was not attributable to
the financial problems many of Applied Micro Circuits' customers were
having but rather due to the MMC acquisition and back-end loading due to
foundry issues. The Company's $133 million of backlog was solid. MMC,
Applied Micro's new subsidiary, had not been notified of any material
order cancellations. Applied Micro's demand was so strong that its only
real restraint on its future financial prospects was its ability to have
enough supply. The Company would conservatively report Q4 EPS of $0.17
and fiscal 2001 EPS of $0.57. The Company would post growth of 16%-20%
compared to the 13% analysts had previously forecast, in spite of all the
recent concerns regarding telecom equipment slowdowns.

Taking advantage of the inflation in Applied Micro's stock caused by
their statements, the Applied Micro insiders sold more than $100 million
worth of their own Applied Micro stock at artificially inflated prices as
high as $87 per share.

On February 5, 2001, after the close of the market, the truth concerning
Applied Micro's operations and the sudden filings by Applied Micro's
officers to sell their personal holdings in Applied Micro came under fire
from analysts as they questioned Applied Micro about its claimed unique
position in the optical space. Defendants were forced to disclose that in
fact Applied Micro was experiencing large order cancellations with its
OC-12, OC-48 and OC-192 products. This news sent Applied Micro's shares
plummeting from $70 where they had traded days before when defendants
were selling their own shares to as low as $53 on February 6, 2001.

Contact: Wechsler Harwood, 877-935-7400, pguiteau@whhf.com

NPC INTERNATIONAL: Board OKs Merger; Reaches Agreement to Settle Suit
NPC International, Inc. (Nasdaq: NPCI) announced that its Board of
Directors, at a special meeting, approved entering into an Agreement and
Plan of Merger between the Company and Mergeco, Inc. (the "Merger"),
under which all of the outstanding common stock of the Company will be
acquired, other than the shares owned by Mergeco's stockholders,
for$11.55 per share in cash.

Mergeco, Inc. was formed to consummate the Merger and is controlled by O.
Gene Bicknell, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of NPC.
The minority interest, representing approximately 35% of NPC's
outstanding stock, will be purchased if the Merger is consummated for a
total purchase price of approximately $90 million.

The decision of the Company's Board of Directors was based upon the
recommendation of the Special Committee of the Board formed to represent
the interests of the stockholders other than Mr. Bicknell and his
affiliates (the "Minority Stockholders"). The Special Committee's
recommendation was based, in part, upon an opinion received from its
financial advisor, Goldsmith-Agio-Helms, that the consideration to be
received by the Minority Stockholders in the Merger is fair from a
financial point of view. A special meeting of stockholders is expected to
be held in August of this year to vote on the Merger.

In addition, the Company announced an agreement in principle among
parties to litigation filed in connection with the proposed Merger.
Attorneys for the parties to that litigation have signed a Memorandum of
Understanding describing the terms of the agreement in principle. Those
terms make the agreement in principle subject, among other things, to
review of the proposed settlement by the court and they would take effect
only if the Merger is approved and consummated.

The Merger is conditioned upon (1) Mergeco obtaining financing sufficient
to consummate the Merger, (2) approval by the holders of a majority of
the outstanding shares of NPC, (3) approval by the holders of a majority
of the shares owned by the Minority Stockholders that are present, in
person or by proxy, at the special meeting of stockholders, (4) there
being no legal or judicial restraints or prohibitions preventing
completion of the Merger, increasing the Merger consideration or imposing
material damages, (5) the holders of not more than 5% of the outstanding
shares having properly demanded dissenters' rights of appraisal, and (6)
the holders of a majority of the NPC stock options approving certain
amendments to NPC's stock option plan.

NPC International, Inc. is the world's largest Pizza Hut franchisee and
currently operates 835 Pizza Hut restaurants and delivery kitchens in 27
states, according to the Company’s statement.

PERDUE FARMS: To Pay for Overtime; Chicken Catchers Get $2.4 Million
Perdue Farms Inc., the largest poultry company on the Delmarva Peninsula,
has agreed to pay $ 2.4 million in double overtime fees to settle a
federal lawsuit filed by workers who catch the birds and stuff them into
cages for transport to slaughterhouses.

Attorneys for the chicken catchers hailed the settlement announced as the
largest triumph to date in legal battles against some of the nation's
largest poultry companies, which have maintained that they don't have to
pay workers overtime.

"Obviously, it's a tremendous victory for these individual catchers and
sets a great precedent for poultry industry workers in general," said
Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, of the Public Justice Center in Baltimore,
which filed the suit for 105 Perdue workers. "The fact that a leader in
the industry is taking this significant step sends a message to the other
poultry companies."

May 10’s is the second settlement of a lawsuit Perdue has reached in
recent months that focuses on whether the chicken catchers are company
employees and should be eligible for overtime and other benefits.

Though the industry today is largely automated, the dirty, laborious job
of grabbing chickens from the houses where they are raised and crating
them for shipment to processors is still done by hand. Teams of seven to
10 unskilled workers wade through warehouses lined with ammonia-soaked
chicken litter, gathering about 1,000 birds each every hour for an
average of $ 2.45 in wages. The labor often brings with it sore muscles
and sinus problems, and most catchers until recently have not received
health benefits or sick time. Some work as many as 80 hours per week.

Similar lawsuits against Perdue and other poultry companies, including
Tysons and Sandersons Farm, are pending elsewhere in the country. As a
result of May 10's settlement, all Perdue chicken catchers in Delmarva
will be eligible for overtime pay, company officials said.

"The money is outstanding, but it's more of a moral victory than it is a
financial victory," said Raymond White, a Pocomoke, Md., resident who has
worked for 18 of his 41 years catching chickens for Perdue in Accomac,
Va. "You have to really pay people what they're worth or eventually it's
going to catch up with you somewhere down the line. This has been going
on for decades."

The 105 catchers for Perdue plants in Salisbury, Md., Accomac and
Georgetown, Del., will split $ 1.7 million in settlement money, while
lawyers will receive $ 612,000. Workers will be paid double the amount of
their estimated overtime, the maximum allowed under federal law, and
payments will range from $ 1,000 to $ 39,000, depending on how long they
have worked and when they joined the lawsuit.

Company spokeswoman Tita Cherrier said Perdue decided to settle the
lawsuit rather than fight a judge's earlier ruling in the chicken
catchers' favor because "taking an appeal would have prolonged the
resolution of the case, and we felt it was in our employees' best
interest to settle this case now."

In February 2000, a federal judge ruled that Perdue Farms violated
federal wage laws by classifying the chicken catchers as independent
contractors, and therefore ineligible for overtime, instead of regular
employees. The judge also rejected Perdue's contention that catchers are
"agricultural workers," who also don't qualify for overtime, and warned
that the company could pay up to $ 1 million in damages.

Charles Bailey, 43, who has caught chickens for 20 years for Perdue, said
the settlement will help him put away money for his son to go to college
someday. But with his annual earnings stalled for years at about $
28,000, Bailey said he sees the overtime as "really the first step in
getting a little something, finally, from the company."

"We really haven't got no pay-grade raises over 20-some years," he said.
"But now we [are] standing up to Perdue and letting them know that we
have a voice and we want to be recognized."

Perdue once considered catchers employees, but in 1991, the company hired
crew chiefs as independent contractors, and then the contractors hired
catchers, who often turned out to be former Perdue employees. The company
contended that it did not have to pay workers overtime or provide health
and other benefits because the catchers were no longer employed by

In 1995, Delmarva chicken catchers filed the class-action lawsuit against
Perdue, seeking overtime pay and recognition of their employee status.
After the judge's ruling last year, Perdue agreed to reclassify the
catchers as "associates," recognizing them as employees and restoring
their benefits.

Last fall, Perdue settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of
Labor on behalf of 200 Delmarva workers. The department had alleged that
Perdue and other poultry companies routinely denied catchers overtime.
The company settled that lawsuit in September by agreeing to pay more
than $ 300,000 in time-and-a-half overtime pay to chicken catchers.

Attorneys for the workers said the latest settlement is a tacit
recognition by Perdue and other poultry giants that the people employed
to process the birds cannot be forced to work long hours and travel,
sometimes up to five hours to poultry houses for work, without

About 600 people are employed full time as chicken catchers across
Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.

Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., a
trade group funded by poultry producers, said he could not comment on the
settlement because he had not seen it. (The Washington Post, May 11,

PRESSURE-TREATED LUMBER: EPA to Rush Arsenic-Risk Report
Some guidance for parents worried about pressure-treated wooden
playgrounds could come as soon as next month. TALLAHASSEE - After years
of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency announced May 10 it will
speed up its efforts to find out whether children face a risk from
playing around pressure-treated lumber.

Some official guidance could be available for worried parents as soon as
next month, EPA officials said.

The EPA's risk assessment for children wasn't due to be finished until
2003. But with wooden playgrounds closing all over Florida after tests
revealed arsenic leaking from the wood, the agency is under pressure to
give some indication of what risk the wood may pose. The arsenic comes
from chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, a pesticide that's infused into
the boards to make them last longer.

The EPA on May 9 had a meeting with wood-treatment industry officials and
retailers including Lowe's and Home Depot. The EPA asked the industry to
voluntarily beef up its efforts to tell consumers that the wood contains
a pesticide. The EPA recommends safety precautions for people who build
with it.

As part of its speeded-up risk assessment for children, the EPA won't be
producing any new research. Instead, the agency will review studies from
other countries where CCA wood has been restricted or banned. The EPA
also will rely on studies paid for by the wood-treatment industry and
will review research from individual states, including Florida, said
Susan Hazen, an EPA deputy assistant administrator who oversees pesticide

The EPA's action on CCA wood comes while President Bush is under
criticism from environmentalists for proposing to weaken tough new
standards for arsenic in drinking water. Scientists said the Bush arsenic
standard was so high it would cause additional cases of cancer. The EPA
backtracked and announced it would take a second look at the standards
for arsenic in drinking water.

Among the parties who filed legal challenges to allow more arsenic in
water: the American Wood Preservers Institute, the industry trade group
that represents CCA wood manufacturers.

The EPA has done little to regulate CCA lumber, which is one of the most
widely used building products in America. The wood has enough toxic
chemicals in it to be considered a hazardous waste, but the industry was
able to get EPA to exempt it from hazardous waste rules years ago. Now,
Florida environmental officials are asking the EPA to revisit that
decision, saying even the sawdust probably should be treated as a
hazardous waste. Since the EPA last reviewed CCA wood 19 years ago, new
studies show that arsenic comes out of the wood into the soil and onto
people's hands. One Florida arsenic expert says children can pick up
enough arsenic from routine play on wooden playgrounds during childhood
to pose an unacceptable health risk.

Wood-treatment industry officials dispute those claims and say the amount
of arsenic leaking out of the wood poses little concern.

As part of a special review in the 1980s, the EPA considered banning CCA.
The EPA concluded that the economic impact of an outright ban would be
too great.

Instead, the EPA passed more restrictions to protect workers at
wood-treatment plants, who have the greatest exposure to the chemicals.
The EPA handled the consumer issue by allowing the industry to do a
"voluntary consumer awareness program" that was supposed to warn people
that the wood contained a pesticide and that they should use precautions
when working with it. When working with CCA wood, you're supposed to wear
a dust mask, gloves and coveralls to avoid getting the sawdust on you.

The industry barely complied with the voluntary program, and the EPA
never did anything to enforce the agreement. The consumer information
sheets only turned up in stores recently, after the St. Petersburg Times
published a special report about CCA wood in March, generating similar
news stories all over the country.

"We are concerned about what appears to be a case where consumers are not
getting access to information which they think they should have," said
Hazen, of the EPA.

The failed consumer education program is being attacked on another front,
as well: In Miami, a team of lawyers has filed a class-action lawsuit
against the wood-treatment industry, Home Depot and Lowe's. The lawsuit
alleges that the industry showed a "negligent, reckless, and/or
intentional disregard of the harmful effects of the chemicals used in the
treatment process."

On May 9, the EPA told the wood-treatment industry it wants better
information for consumers. In a meeting with wood-treatment industry
officials, retailers and environmentalists, EPA gave the industry just
two weeks to submit a proposal outlining ways it will better inform
consumers about CCA wood.

"What we've been asked for is what we can do real fast," said Mel Pine,
spokesman for the American Wood Preservers Institute.

The program, however, would still be voluntary.

"Unless it's mandatory, I don't think anything's going to change," said
Greg Kidd, of a national environmental group called Beyond Pesticides.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is planning to file a bill in mid May that
would make it mandatory to label all CCA wood in America.

"There would have to be a warning label on each piece of arsenic-treated
lumber," Nelson said. "People need to have the information."

His bill also would make EPA speed up its overall review of CCA wood,
which isn't scheduled to be finished until 2003. All registered
pesticides have to go through periodic reviews, and EPA started a new
review of CCA last year.

"Following the thorough assessment of the scientific, health and
environmental data described above, EPA will make an informed decision
about whether to continue the registration of CCA products and any risk
mitigation measures that may be necessary to ensure that these registered
products meet all federal health and environmental safety standards," EPA
administrator Christie Whitman wrote in an April 26 letter to Nelson.

Nelson asked Whitman specifically to speed up one part of the review:
assessing the risk the wood may pose to children. Nelson complained that
Whitman "blew me off."

Now, though, the EPA is moving forward. The agency also plans to hold a
public meeting in June in Washington to discuss concerns over arsenic in
pressure-treated wood.

Some people are pushing for an outright ban. A measure moving through the
Minnesota Legislature would prevent the state's agencies from buying CCA
wood at all. California requires a warning label on CCA wood and requires
that all public playgrounds be sealed periodically. Some studies say
sealing helps keep the arsenic from leaking out, others say it doesn't.

In Florida, some lawmakers tried to ban CCA wood in public playgrounds
during this past legislative session, but they made no progress. Florida
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs has
announced that the state won't use any more CCA-treated wood in the state

In a prepared statement of May 10, Struhs praised the EPA for
"accelerating efforts to address this emerging public health issue." (St.
Petersburg Times, May 11, 2001)

PRIMEBUY NETWORK: Keller Rohrback and Cosho, Humphrey File Investor Suit
Keller Rohrback L.L.P.'s Complex Litigation Group and Cosho, Humphrey,
Greener & Welsh, P.A. announce they filed a lawsuit on May 10, 2001, in
the United States District Court of Idaho, Case No. CIV-01-0207-N-EJL, on
behalf of Matthew and Glen Douglas and all persons who purchased or
acquired unregistered securities in the form of memberships and/or stock
issued by PrimeBuy Network.com, Inc. from September 24, 1999 to the
present, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The case has been assigned to the Honorable Judge Lodge. The complaint
alleges that, during the class period, PrimeBuy and its co-founders,
Charles Michel and Charles Culver, violated multiple sections of the
Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and the
Idaho Securities and Consumer Protection Acts, by misrepresenting and
omitting material facts in connection with the operation, financial
condition and prospects of PrimeBuy, and in connection with PrimeBuy

PrimeBuy purports to be an Internet "shopping mall," which solicits
investors to purchase memberships. The Company promises investors the
opportunity to participate as "Independent Sales Representatives,"
whereby investors purchase and customize web sites, and are led to
believe that they can make a profit in the form of commissions earned on
each product purchased through their web site. The complaint alleges
that, in reality, defendants were conducting a classic "pyramid" scheme,
in which the PrimeBuy Internet Mall was simply a multilevel marketing
scheme, offering an array of shopping "opportunities" already available
on the Internet.

In addition, it is asserted that defendants misrepresented that the
memberships and/or stock issued by PrimeBuy complied with applicable
state and federal securities laws, and that the Company would be holding
an initial public offering of its stock during September 2000. As a
result of these false and misleading statements and omissions, investors
are left holding worthless shares of unregistered stock in an allegedly
illegal pyramid scheme.

Contact: Keller Rohrback L.L.P. Jen Veitengruber, 800/776-6044
investor@kellerrohrback.com www.SeattleClassAction.com

RACIAL PROFILING: Mt. Prospect Suit Still Unresolved; Settlement Snags
A plan to settle a lawsuit that accused Mt. Prospect police of racial
profiling fell apart in federal court.

Village lawyers refused to discuss the closed-door settlement conference.
Gus Munoz, attorney for plaintiff Hiram Romero, said there was a rift on
the defendants' side of the negotiation table.

"We had structured a settlement that was agreed to, at least in
principle," by the attorneys, Munoz said. "Unfortunately other players
came into the fray today."

Munoz apparently was referring to an official from the village's
insurance company who attended May 10's conference. He declined to
elaborate on his statement.

Romero, a Mt. Prospect resident, filed his lawsuit in federal court in
February 2000, saying Mt. Prospect police stopped and ticketed him
without justification in April 1999. The village and four police officers
are the defendants.

Romero and two other plaintiffs hope to make the suit a class action,
representing other Hispanic drivers they allege were also stopped on the
basis of their ethnic background. The plaintiffs say the class could have
about 3,000 members.

In January 2000 a federal jury awarded $1.2 million to a former Mt.
Prospect police officer, Javier Martinez, who said supervisors
discriminated against him and encouraged officers to target Hispanic

The village said it would appeal, but instead in March 2000, the village
paid $900,000 to settle the Martinez suit and two other lawsuits that
involved similar claims.

Two months ago, another village attorney, William Kurnik, said the two
sides had reached a tentative settlement in the Romero case. Under that
plan, the village could reasonably expect to pay about $250,000,
depending in part on how many drivers stepped forward to become part of
the class-action suit, Kurnik said.

On May 8 Judge James Zagel ordered a representative of the village's
insurance company to attend May 10's closed-door settlement conference in
U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Munoz said the parties would continue to talk, but the case now appears
headed to trial.

"We thought we were very close to the finish line, and unfortunately
we're back at the starting line," he said. (Chicago Tribune, May 11,

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Judge Certifies CA Suit over Business Practices
A lawsuit seeking restitution from tobacco companies for every
Californian who has bought cigarettes can proceed, a state judge ruled.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager in San Diego has certified
class-action claims on behalf of California smokers who contend that
Philip Morris Cos. and other cigarette makers broke the state's unfair
business practices laws. Smokers may be eligible for billions of dollars
in restitution if the suit succeeds, plaintiffs' lawyers said.

While allowing the restitution claims to proceed, Prager refused to allow
a class of smokers to seek punitive damages under state
consumer-protection laws. Liability for addiction and smoking-related
health-care costs are not issues in the case.

Attorneys for Philip Morris said they would appeal Prager's ruling. (Los
Angeles Times, May 11, 2001)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Moody's Ratings Confirmed after Ct Approval re Bond
Moody's Investors Service confirmed the ratings of Philip Morris
Companies Inc, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc, British American Tobacco
PLC and Loews Corp, following the recent announcement by Philip Morris
and Lorillard, U.S. tobacco subsidiary of Loews, of a court-ratified
agreement between them and plaintiffs' attorney regarding bonding
requirements in the Engle class action lawsuit in Florida.

Moody's said the confirmations and stable rating outlooks reflect its
view that the agreement does not reflect a fundamental shift in the
litigation strategy followed by the industry. In general litigation
remains a significant source of event risk for the industry, said
Moody's, and the likeliest cause of potential future changes in outlooks
or ratings. The following companies' ratings are confirmed and stable
outlooks maintained: Philip Morris Companies Inc and its guaranteed
subsidiaries long-term debt rated A2 and Prime-1 rating for commercial
paper. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings Inc public debt issue and revolving
credit facility rated Baa2 based on a guarantee from RJ Reynolds Tobacco
Company. Other long term debt rated Baa3. British American Tobacco PLC
and its guaranteed subsidiaries long-term debt rated A2 and Prime-1
rating for commercial paper. Loews Corporation long-term debt rated A1.
(AFX.COM, May 11, 2001)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: R.J. Reynolds Faces Deadline to Set Aside Funds
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has 10 days left to decide whether it will set
aside money for the class of ill Florida smokers who won a suit against
the tobacco industry last year or it may face a billion-dollar lawsuit
from the smokers' attorneys.

Three cigarette companies agreed to set aside $ 710 million to the
Florida class, plus interest and investment income, regardless of whether
they fail or succeed in their appeal of the historic $ 145 billion

Philip Morris Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Liggett Group Inc. signed
the stipulation after plaintiff attorney Stanley Rosenblatt said he would
challenge a Florida law passed last year during the trial that puts a cap
on the amount of bond that must be posted while defendants appeal

The statute limited the bond requirement on an appeal to $ 100 million
per defendant. Before it was passed, Florida law required defendants to
post a bond that equaled the punitive-damages verdict, which was $ 36.3
billion in RJR's case.

"If R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson choose not to join in the
stipulation, the class retains the right to challenge the
constitutionality of the Florida appeal bond statue," Rosenblatt said in
a press release.

Both companies were given 14 days to decide, or face the possibility that
the plaintiffs would sue on the grounds that the cap is illegal. If RJR
joins the stipulation, it would have to make its payment within two

Last July, a six-member Miami jury awarded $ 145 billion to the Florida
class, which may include more than 500,000 sick smokers. The jury had
previously awarded $ 12.7 million in compensatory damages to three lead

Rosenblatt is likely to ask that RJR pay a few hundred million dollars in
a stipulation deal, said Richard Daynard, the chairman of the Tobacco
Products Liability Project at Northeastern University in Boston.

So far, RJR has not contacted Rosenblatt, said Tommy Payne, the executive
vice president for external relations for the company. However, Payne
declined to comment on whether the company would approach Rosenblatt in
the next several days.

"We're very confident that the bonding-cap statute is valid," Payne said.

"It was the state Attorney General Bob Butterworth that asked the
legislature to consider the bonding-cap legislation."

The $ 710 million agreement is proof that the cigarette companies lacked
faith in the legitimacy of the bonding cap requirement that Florida Gov.
Jeb Bush signed into law last May, Daynard said.

"Philip Morris, Lorillard and Liggett were terrified of the prospect that
a court would throw out the bonding cap," Daynard said. "I would bet very
large sums of money that RJR and Brown & Williamson will be in on the
agreement by the end of next week."

Under the agreement, the three companies must pay a total bond of $ 2.0
billion into an escrow account within 46 days. Philip Morris must pay $
1.7 billion of that total, guaranteeing $ 500 million to class members.

"No one could post a $ 74 billion bond," said William Ohlemeyer, the
chief legal counsel for Philip Morris, referring to the punitive damages
judgment against Philip Morris handed down by the Miami jury last July.

Lorillard must guarantee $ 200 million, and Liggett must pay $ 9.7

The stipulation gives the Miami-Dade Circuit Court the authority to
determine what will happen with the $ 710 million, Ohlemeyer said.

The agreement doesn't define the Florida class nor how the court will
distribute the money.

In their appeal of the lawsuit verdict, tobacco attorneys will argue that
the Florida class of smokers should never have been certified, because
each ill smoker had unique reasons why they became sick that might not
have been related to smoking.

The appeal might begin as early as this summer in Florida's Third
District Court of Appeal in West Miami-Dade. (Winston-Salem Journal, May
11, 2001)


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
Creditors' Service, Inc., Princeton, NJ, and Beard Group, Inc.,
Washington, DC. Theresa Cheuk, Managing Editor.

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

This material is copyrighted and any commercial use, resale or
publication in any form (including e-mail forwarding, electronic
re-mailing and photocopying) is strictly prohibited without prior
written permission of the publishers.

Information contained herein is obtained from sources believed to be
reliable, but is not guaranteed.

The CAR subscription rate is $575 for six months delivered via e-mail.
Additional e-mail subscriptions for members of the same firm for the
term of the initial subscription or balance thereof are $25 each.  For
subscription information, contact Christopher Beard at 301/951-6400.

                    * * *  End of Transmission  * * *