CAR_Public/040102.mbx            C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R
  
             Friday, January 2, 2004, Vol. 6, No. 1

                           Headlines                            


ALLIANCE CAPITAL: Lead Plaintiff Deadline Set January 28, 2004
ALLIED PRODUCTS CORP: Settlement Hearing on January 2004 in IL
ANTHRAX: Government Asks Judge To Reconsider Ban On Vaccinations
AOL TIME: Court Denies Certification For ERISA Violations Suit
AVON PRODUCTS: Recalls Jack-In-The-Box Toys For Choking Hazard

CAPE TOWN: Study Points To Caltex Refinery Over Asthma Cases
CATHOLIC CHURCH: Californians Face Molestation Suit Deadline
ECKERD: Judge Certifies Employee Lawsuit Seeking 'Overtime Pay'
FINANCIAL ADVISORY: SEC Launches Suit To Halt Investment Scheme
FLORIDA: Court Finds Felon Disenfranchisement Law Discriminatory

HEPATITIS A: Lawyers Assert Assigning Blame Won't Kill Lawsuits
JOSEPHTHAL & CO.: SEC Settles Charges V. Former Office Manager
LEUCADIA NATIONAL: Fairness Hearing Set For February 2004 in NY
MAD COW DISEASE: Infected Meat May Have Reached Eight States    
MARYLAND: NC Residents Charge Insurance Firms with Abuse, Fraud

NATIONAL WESTERN: Settlement Hearing Set For February 2004 in OK
NATIONWIDE SECURITIES: NY Court Enters Judgments V. Former Execs
NESCO INC.: OK Jury Convicts Ex-Chairman of Stock, Bank Fraud
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Judge Declares New Abortion Law Unconstitutional
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Reports Outcrop Of Meningitis Cases, One Death

NORTH CAROLINA: Seven Young NC Residents Killed In Car Crash
OPSIS TECHNOLOGIES: SEC Files Civil Action For Securities Fraud
PROVIDIAN FINANCIAL: Appeal on Attorneys Fees in CA Suit Denied
RENT-WAY INC.: Three Executives Sentenced over Securities Fraud
ROCKY MOUNTAIN: SEC Files Amended Stock Suit, Adds New Defendant

SECURITY BROKERAGE: SEC Commences Lawsuit for Securities Fraud
SMITHFIELD FOODS: RICO Suit Dismissal Upheld, Sanctions Reversed
VIVENDI UNIVERSAL: NY Court Allows Securities Lawsuit To Proceed
VIVENDI UNIVERSAL: SEC Settles Injunctive Securities Complaint
WORLDCOM: "Opt-Out" Deadline In Stock Suit Set February 20, 2004

                        Asbestos Alert

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Bankruptcy Judge Rebukes Lawyer-Detractors
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: 67-year-old Man's Death Linked to Asbestos
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Ohio Prepares to End Asbestos-Related Suits
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: ABB Eyes Settlement Completion Next Year
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: ArvinMeritor, Unit Face Asbestos Woes

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Court Junks Suit vs. Interstate Bakeries
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: PCC, Insurer Clash On Asbestos Liabilities
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Tyco, Units Battle Asbestos Suits
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Zurn Notes 59,000 Pending Asbestos Claims

                  New Securities Fraud Cases

JANUS CAPITAL: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Securities Suit in CO
MARSH & MCLENNAN: Scott + Scott Files Securities Suit in S.D. NY

                        *********      
                           
ALLIANCE CAPITAL: Lead Plaintiff Deadline Set January 28, 2004
--------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP announced January 28,
2004 as the deadline for filing for Lead Plaintiff in the
securities fraud lawsuit filed in the United States District
Court for the Southern District of New York, on behalf of
Adrienne Green, individually, and all other persons who
purchased Alliance Capital Management Holdings Securities
between April 30, 2001 and November 5, 2003, inclusive, against:

     (1) AllianceBernstein Growth and Income Fund,

     (2) AllianceBernstein Technology Fund,

     (3) Alliance Capital Management Holding, L.P.,

     (4) Alliance Capital Management, L.P.,

     (5) Bruce Calvert,

     (6) John Carifa, and

     (7) Robert H. Joseph, Jr.

This class action concerns Alliance Capital's illegal scheme of
entering into agreements with its own hedge funds and other
"special" investors who were permitted to "time" its
AllinaceBernstein family of mutual funds in return for money
also known as "sticky assets". AS a result of this undisclosed
illegal scheme, Alliance Capital was able to inflate its
financial result throughout the Class Period.

More specifically, Alliance Capital failed to disclose and/or
misinterpreted the following adverse facts, among others:

     (i) that Alliance Capital Management L.P.'s wholly-owned
         subsidiary Alliance Capital Management entered into an
         illegal agreement with special investors wherein
         Alliance Capital Management permitted the special
         investors to time AllianceBernstein mutual funds;   

    (ii) that in exchange for permitting the special investors
         to time AllianceBernstein mutual funds, they deposited
         "sticky assets" into certain Alliance Capital hedge
         funds;

   (iii) that the "sticky assets" deposited into certain
         Alliance Capital hedge funds permitted Alliance Capital
         to materially overstate its assets under management and
         thus permitted Alliance Capital to receive a steady
         flow of fees from such "sticky assets", and;

    (iv) as a result of this illegal scheme, Alliance Capital
         throughout the Class Period, materially overstated and
         artificially inflated Alliance Holding's earnings,
         income, and earning per share.

The lawsuit alleges violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of
the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and
seeks to pursue remedies under the Securities Exchange Act of
1934.

For more information, contact Marc A. Topaz, by Mail: Three Bala
Plaza East, Suit 400, Bala, Cynwyd, PA 19004, by Phone:
(888) 299-7706, or by E-mail: info@sbclasslaw.com.


ALLIED PRODUCTS CORP: Settlement Hearing on January 2004 in IL
--------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Northern District of
Illinois announced that a Settlement and Fairness Hearing, for a
proposed settlement of $3.7 million, will be held on January 14,
2004 at 10:00 a.m. before the Honorable Harry D. Leinenweber in
Courtroom 1941, in regards the securities fraud lawsuit brought
against Allied Products Corporation, on behalf of all persons
who purchased or acquired the Company's common stock from
February 6, 1997 through March 11, 1999, inclusive.

For more information, contact Allied Products Securities
Litigation, c/o Berdon Claims Administration LLC, by Mail: P.O.
Box 9014, Jericho, NY 11753-8914, by Phone: (800) 766-3330, Fax:
(516) 931-0810, or visit the Website:
http://www.berdonllp.com/claims;or contact Plaintiffs Lead  
Counsel Robert I. Harwood, by Mail: 488 Madison Ave., 8th Floor,
New York, NY 10022.


ANTHRAX: Government Asks Judge To Reconsider Ban On Vaccinations
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Justice Department has asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G.
Sullivan to reconsider the ban that has halted mandatory anthrax
vaccinations for military personnel, the Associated Press
reports.

The department's motion seeks to clarify whether the judge's
injunction on the vaccinations applies only to the six
plaintiffs who sued over the anthrax shots, according to a
lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mark S. Zaid.

The motion asks Judge Sullivan to reconsider his action on the
grounds that the suit was not filed on behalf of all military
personnel.  Judge Sullivan ruled earlier that the military's
mandatory vaccine program should be halted because it was being
used for an "unapproved purpose" - protection against exposure
to airborne anthrax as well as exposure through the skin. Judge
Sullivan ruled that the Pentagon should not inoculate service
members without their consent.

Mr. Zaid told AP the department's legal step turns the court
ruling into a "farcical exercise," as the vaccination "cannot be
illegal for one person but legal for another."  He said he is
considering seeking class action status on the suit to ensure
the injunction applies to all military service members and
contractors.

A department spokesman on Saturday refused to comment on the
motion. The government maintains the vaccine is safe, is not
experimental and can protect against anthrax inhaled or absorbed
through the skin.


AOL TIME: Court Denies Certification For ERISA Violations Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification in a
lawsuit brought against AOL Time Warner, Inc., several of its
related companies, and six pension plans and their
administrative committees, on behalf of Henry Spann, Carol
Munley, and Catherine Chiapparoli, et al.  Allegations state the
Defendants violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) Sections 404 and 502, by failing to annualize
Plaintiffs' partial years of compensation when calculating their
pension benefits using the Plans' definition of "Average
Compensation."

On April 8, 2002, the Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint
in the Central District of California. On October 8, 2002,
Defendants' motion to transfer the action to the Southern
District of New York was granted. With the exception of the
issue of damages, discovery was completed on October 31, 2003.
The parties are in the process of briefing cross motions for
summary judgment. On December 8, 2003, the Court heard oral
argument on this motion for class certification.

The Plaintiffs have moved for certification of a class
consisting of all participants in the Plans who had received a
partial year of compensation, which was not annualized and used
to calculate their Average Compensation


AVON PRODUCTS: Recalls Jack-In-The-Box Toys For Choking Hazard
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Learning Journey International, L.L.C., of Phoenix, Arizona,
in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(CPSC), is recalling 56,000 Jack-In-the-Box toys since a spring
mechanism attached to the lid can break and detach from the toy,
posing a choking hazard to young children. Avon Pdocuts, the
toys distributor, has received one report of the spring
mechanism detaching from the toy. No injuries were reported.

The Jack-In-the-Box toy is battery operated, and has two yellow
sides, two red sides, and a blue top and bottom. "THE LEARNING
JOURNEY" is printed on the bottom of the toy. Model number
F483361 is printed on the bottom of the packaging.

The toys, manufactured in China, were sold by independent Avon
sales representatives and at the Avon Web site from August 2003
through November 2003 for about $13.

For more information on how to remove the spring mechanism, call
Avon toll-free at (800) 445-AVON between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET
Monday through Friday. Known purchasers are being sent direct
mail notification of this recall.


CAPE TOWN: Study Points To Caltex Refinery Over Asthma Cases
------------------------------------------------------------
The first real scientific proof that an unacceptably high
incidence of asthma is sweeping across the city's northern
suburbs near the controversial Caltex refinery in Milnerton has
emerged in a study, undertaken by the University of Cape Town's
Lung Institute, which sampled thousands of school children in
the area, the Sunday Argus reports.  

According to the study, a staggering 2,146 (68%) out of 3,162
northern suburbs children, who live and are schooled near the
refinery, said they were living with a brother, sister or parent
who suffered from some sort of lung disease.  Of the 3,162
children interviewed, 23.7% or 749 confirmed that they
themselves had asthma, while 1,043 said they had experienced
asthma symptoms such as wheezing or a whistling chest in the
last year.

The prevalence of asthma and hay fever in the area was found to
be higher than that reported in a previous International Study
of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood (ISAAC) study in the city and
is in fact in the high range of results reported globally using
the same questionnaire.

The Table View Residents' Association, which has battled for
years to limit emissions from the refinery, has confirmed that
the study is an important step in assisting residents in a
possible class action lawsuit against the refinery.  The study
found that petrochemical emissions carried "at least" the same
weight of blame for the asthma plague as having an adult at home
who smokes, being male and other risk factors.

Caltex said in a statement to the Sunday Argus on Saturday they
had noted the study and would "most certainly take the
information that we can obtain from this study and incorporate
it into our future plans to achieve operational excellence,"
Newspress reports.

Children from 17 primary and high schools were interviewed as
part of the area's first scientific study, commissioned by
residents in an attempt to link the high lung disease rate in
the area to the refinery pumping toxic chemical gases into the
air.  The schools included those in Edgemead, Table View,
Blouberg, Woodbridge, Milnerton and Monte Vista. All these
schools are situated five kilometers or less from the refinery,
which, according to a local ratepayers' association, produces or
uses approximately 300 toxic chemicals.

Concerned residents believed the study was necessary to begin to
document scientifically the extent of lung and allergy problems
in the area.  Although the study could not prove conclusively
that the asthma plague was caused by the refinery, it, for the
first time, gave the petrochemical emissions the same weighting
as other risk factors including having an adult at home who
smokes.  The study also documents some disturbing facts,
including that 2 064 of the children claimed to have suffered at
some stage of their development from severe night wheezing, a
symptom of asthma, while thousands of children interviewed said
they suffered from asthma, while many suffered from wheezing or
a whistling chest.

The study concluded, "The study has shown a measurable health
effect, primarily more frequent asthmatic symptoms associated
with estimated petrochemical emissions dose. This indicates a
substantive basis for community concern, notwithstanding the
relatively modest levels of ambient air pollution regularly
measured in the area."

Andy Birkinshaw, the chairman of the Table View Residents'
Association and the Northern Communities Air Monitoring Task
Group, told Newspress, "To achieve a scientifically acceptable
study of asthma within the communities bordering the refinery,
the study had to be comparable, and of course costs also come
into the equation.  The ISAAC study was the best that we could
get and afford."

"Although the study only focuses on children between the ages of
11 and 14 years, we know that toddlers and senior citizens are
much more affected by air pollution, and they are not included
in the parameters of the study," he continued.  "If you work on
the premise that for every child there will be parents and
grandparents, albeit that they may not all live in the area, it
really pushes the figures up of those who are affected.  Also if
one takes into account that Table View/Parklands is the fastest
growing suburb in Cape Town, many more will be affected."

Mr. Birkinshaw said some of the other worrying factors were that
volatile organic compounds such as benzene were not being
monitored.  "Benzene is a cancer causing chemical that was
measured in our last air sample, eight times more than the World
Health Organisation guide lines.  The refinery produces or uses
approximately 300 toxic chemicals only four of these are
monitored at the three monitoring sites which are placed 2km
away from the refinery," he said.  "I personally think that most
people are not aware of the impact that air pollution has on
them. They accept that they get headaches, itchy eyes, sinusitis
etc. and put it down to stress and the daily worries of life."

"The results of the ISAAC study prove that there is a problem of
asthma within the communities bordering the refinery and that
compared to other studies completed elsewhere our results are
higher than most," said Mr. Birkinshaw.

Caltex refinery General Manager Steve Woodruff told Newspress,
"As a responsible member of industry and the community, we
welcome all opportunities to communicate with the public,
particularly with our neighbors.  Our goal at the refinery is to
achieve operational excellence, which means continually striving
to improve our safety, health, environmental and reliability
performance. At the same time we will continue to meet the fuel
needs such as jet fuel, gasoline, diesel, fuel oil and other
related products that drive our economy."

He said Caltex was working in partnership with all the relevant
authorities on the new air quality bill, and would fully support
the revised South African national air quality standards.  "We
support the principle of a health-based ambient air quality
standard which will be applied to all areas in South Africa,"
said Mr. Woodruff.

"The refinery will continue to strive to be a good neighbour,
which to us includes managing safety, health and environmental
affairs in a responsible and transparent manner," he added.  "We
appreciate the work done by the UCT Lung Institute and value
their input.

When looking to the specialists for guidance on operational
levels that minimize impact, we are guided by the World Health
Organization, which provides the international standard for
acceptable emission levels . We will most certainly take the
information that we can obtain from this study and incorporate
it into our future plans to achieve operational excellence."


CATHOLIC CHURCH: Californians Face Molestation Suit Deadline
------------------------------------------------------------
Californians are rushing to file hundreds of lawsuits against
the Roman Catholic Church before the year-end deadline
established under a state law that opened a window for old
molestation claims, the Associated Press reports.

Attorneys handling the cases predict that up to 750 people will
sue statewide and that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the
nation's largest, will pay a colossal sum to settle as many as
500 cases.

Ray Boucher, who represents 300 plaintiffs, said such a
settlement could surpass the record-breaking $85 million the
Archdiocese of Boston is paying.  "I think the settlements in
other states will pale in comparison to what should happen in
Southern California," he told AP.  "If you just do the math,
you're talking about 25 to 30 years of trials, which will never
happen."

An informal survey by The Associated Press of attorneys and
church officials found that at least 670 plaintiffs had filed
cases or were about to file as of mid-December.  The flood of
litigation is the result of a California law that took effect
Jan. 1, 2003, lifting for one year the statute of limitations
for molestation lawsuits. Previously, alleged victims could sue
only until their 26th birthday, or within three years of
discovering they had emotional problems linked to the
molestation.

Those accusing priests of abuse were further frustrated in June
when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that
erased the statute of limitations for molestation in criminal
cases.  That ruling led the state to overturn convictions or
drop charges against hundreds of suspects.

Timothy McDonnell, 44, told AP he tried to sue the Los Angeles
Archdiocese and his childhood church more than 10 years ago but
was thwarted by the statute of limitations.  Mr. McDonnell, who
said he was molested repeatedly by a priest when he was an altar
boy in the early 1970s, sees the law as a second chance at
justice.  He said the statue of limitations is what the Catholic
church has been hiding behind for many, many years.  He added
that he has suffered severe depression because of abuse.

Attorneys for the church say it unfair to dust off allegations
after the passage of so much time - in one case, more than 70
years.  "It's always an impossible task to try to defend
decades-old cases because you lose the memories, you lose the
witnesses.  There's a reason why they have statutes of
limitation in the first place," Don Steier, who represents more
than 20 accused priests from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, told
AP.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said the law had made the
church vulnerable to "some claims that are demonstrably false."

Both the archdiocese and the neighboring Diocese of Orange,
which faces about 50 claims, are trying to work out a
settlement.  However, the archdiocese has refused to turn over
the personnel files of priests suspected of child molestation.
The files contain reports by people claiming abuse,
psychological evaluations of the priests and transcripts of
their interviews by bishops.

Similar files from the Boston Archdiocese, made public by court
order in 2002, proved explosive.  They revealed the church had
protected pedophile priests.  Cardinal Bernard Law resigned last
December as archbishop, and the archdiocese is selling or
mortgaging property to pay the huge settlement.

"We feel that if we can force disclosure of the corresponding
documents from the various dioceses in California, and
particularly in Los Angeles, the result will be much the same,"
Laurence Drivon, a lawyer who represents 350 plaintiffs, told
AP.

The church says releasing the files would violate priest-
penitent confidentiality, freedom of religion and the privacy
given to medical records.  For now, the documents remain under
seal and are the focus of a legal battle, elements of which
could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Los Angeles District
Attorney is also trying to get the files to see if they contain
evidence for current or new criminal cases.

Mr. Tamberg said if the archdiocese cannot reach a settlement,
it may challenge the constitutionality of extending the statute
of limitations.  However, that would be "a difficult argument to
make," Stephen Yeazell, a professor at UCLA School of Law and an
expert in civil litigation, told AP.  "We have a whole series of
protections that apply to criminal cases that don't apply to
civil cases," he said.

Erin Brady, 44, told AP the priest who molested her for three
years in Southern California still heads a parish in the
northern part of the state, even though she repeatedly warned
the church about him years ago.  Ms. Brady, a teacher, said she
did not want to sue at first, "but looking at the protection of
children, if this is the only way I can do it, then I have to do
it."


ECKERD: Judge Certifies Employee Lawsuit Seeking 'Overtime Pay'
---------------------------------------------------------------
U.S. District Judge John E. Steele signed an order Monday
certifying a lawsuit filed by five area current and former
Eckerd photo lab managers who believe they were illegally denied
overtime pay, Newspress.com reports.

Judge Stelle gave Eckerd 30 days to provide the five with an
electronic list of names and last known addresses of all current
and former photo lab managers and supervisors who have worked
for the giant drugstore chain since July 14, 2000.

Attorney Bill B. Berke of Cape Coral, who is handling the
lawsuit that claims Eckerd has been violating state and federal
labor laws, plans to notify people by mail that they can opt
into the lawsuit.  He filed the suit on August 27 on behalf of
Lance Teblum, Bernadette Teblum and Nancy Civitarese of Cape
Coral, Joyce Brindle of Bonita Springs and Rhonda Kline of
Lehigh Acres.  Mr. Berke has since filed affidavits from 46
additional Eckerd employees from Florida, Texas and North
Carolina who have claimed they also were illegally denied
overtime pay and say they want to opt into the suit.

The suit claims Eckerd has willfully violated state labor laws
and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which says employees
must be paid time and a half for any hours they work more than
40 a week.  According to the suit, Eckerd has its photo lab
managers and supervisors sign agreements saying they'll be paid
a fixed salary plus "a fluctuating amount" for any hours they
work more than 40 a week.  However, the company, according to
the suit, doesn't follow the agreement and has "reaped the
benefits of its errant scheme."  

Eckerd has denied breaking the law, saying the five employees
were salaried and weren't due overtime, AP reports.

In a memorandum opposing the class-action request, attorney
Susan L. Dolin of Fort Lauderdale, who represents Eckerd, wrote
that Berke failed to include enough information on other
potential plaintiffs, including where they worked and what
positions they held.  Ms. Dolin also objected to the notices
Berke planned to send to potential plaintiffs, saying they
amounted to nothing more than business solicitations.

Mr. Berke declined comment on the suit Tuesday, the Associated
Press reports.  Ms. Dolin couldn't be reached for comment.  
Neither could Eckerd spokeswoman Tami Alderman, who has insisted
Eckerd has broken no laws.  Eckerd, Ms. Alderman has said,
"complies with all state and federal laws pertaining to wage and
hour administration."


FINANCIAL ADVISORY: SEC Launches Suit To Halt Investment Scheme
---------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges to halt a
fraudulent scheme in which over 5,200 investor accounts
purportedly hold investments of over $813 million through an
Orange County, California, business known as Financial Advisory
Consultants (FAC).  

The SEC's complaint, filed in California federal district court,
names James P. Lewis, Jr., of Laguna Niguel, California, who
allegedly has sold securities in two funds, known as the Income
Fund, Ltd. and the Growth Fund, Ltd., since 1983 through FAC.

Also, the Honorable Audrey B. Collins, United States District
Judge for the Central District of California, issued a temporary
restraining order against Mr. Lewis, which temporarily restrains
him from committing future securities fraud violations and
freezes the assets of Mr. Lewis, FAC, and the Funds.
     
Randall Lee, Director of the SEC's Pacific Regional Office,
stated, "Our action alleges that the defendant has refused to
honor withdrawal requests from over 150 investors based on the
false claim that the Department of Homeland Security had frozen
the Funds' accounts.  What's worse, he continued to solicit new
investors and he personally withdrew $3 million from one of the
Funds even as he denied other investors the same opportunity -
classic indicia of a Ponzi scheme."
     
The Commission's complaint alleges that for almost 20 years, Mr.
Lewis, doing business as FAC, sold interests in the Funds.  
According to the Funds' offering documents, the Income Fund
purportedly invests in equipment leasing and insurance premium
financing programs and has purportedly realized an average
annual return of more than 19% per year since its inception in
1983; and the Growth Fund purportedly buys and sells distressed
businesses and has purportedly realized an average annual return
of almost 39% per year since its inception in 1987.  Mr. Lewis
has paid about $1.6 million per month in regular withdrawals and
about $4 to $7 million per month in other withdrawals.  Mr.
Lewis, FAC, and the Funds are not registered with the
Commission.

The Commission's complaint further alleges that since about June
2003, Mr. Lewis has not honored many requests to withdraw monies
by investors in the Funds.  Instead, he has misrepresented to
the investors that FAC's and the Funds' accounts had been frozen
by the Department of Homeland Security.  The Commission's
complaint alleges that the Department of Homeland Security has
not frozen FAC's and the Funds' accounts, and that Mr. Lewis,
either directly or indirectly, posed as a Department of Homeland
Security official in an attempt to convince FAC administrative
personnel that the freeze existed.

The Commission complaint further alleges that while he has
failed to honor many withdrawal requests, Mr. Lewis has been
accepting new investments into the Funds, reinvesting the
investors' purported profits in the Funds, soliciting certain
investors to make additional large investments in the Funds, and
honoring certain investors' withdrawal requests.  

In addition, about the time that Mr. Lewis began to tell Fund
investors that FAC's and the Funds' accounts had been frozen by
the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Lewis withdrew $3
million from his Income Fund account.
          
The district court's order temporarily restrains Mr. Lewis from
future violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a)
of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.  The
court's order also freezes the assets of Mr. Lewis, FAC, and the
Funds; orders Lewis to account for his, FAC's, and the Funds'
assets and not to destroy any documents; grants expedited
discovery; and orders Mr. Lewis to show cause why a preliminary
injunction should not be entered against him.  A hearing on the
preliminary injunction is scheduled for January 7, 2004.
     
In addition to the emergency relief granted on December 23,
2003, the Commission seeks against Mr. Lewis a permanent
injunction from future securities fraud violations, disgorgement
of all ill-gotten gains plus interest, and civil penalties.  


FLORIDA: Court Finds Felon Disenfranchisement Law Discriminatory
----------------------------------------------------------------
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a trial for
Florida convicts seeking to restore their civil rights,
reversing a decision by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King,
who had dismissed the case, Miami Daily Business Review reports.

In a December 19 opinion that reviews the history of Sunshine
State's constitution, the 11th Circuit said that there is
evidence that the state's felon disenfranchisement law
discriminated against blacks when it was enacted and that
discrimination may persist to this day.  

A racist boast by a white delegate to the 1868 Constitutional
Convention that he kept blacks from taking over the state helped
convince the federal appeals court that the law violates the
U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.  By a 2-1 vote, the
appeals court partially reversed summary judgment in favor of
Gov. Jeb Bush, his cabinet and the election supervisors in the
state's 67 counties.  The class action filed by eight ex-felons
could affect more than a half-million people currently denied
the right to vote.

The court affirmed U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge James
Lawrence King's order dismissing claims that denying clemency to
ex-felons who haven't paid court-ordered restitution violates
laws against poll taxes.  However, it remanded equal protection
and voting rights claims for trial.

"We conclude that an original discriminatory purpose behind
Florida's felon disenfranchisement provision establishes an
equal protection violation that persists with the provision
unless it is subsequently reenacted on the basis of an
independent, nondiscriminatory purpose," Judge Rosemary Barkett
wrote for the majority, the Miami Daily Business Review reports.

Citing evidence offered by the plaintiffs, Judge Barkett noted
that 10.5 percent of voting-age African-Americans cannot vote
because they are ex-felons, while 4.4 percent of voting-age
nonblacks are barred because of felony convictions.  The
Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C., criminal justice think
tank, reports that 13 percent of African-American men are unable
to vote nationally because of felon disenfranchisement laws.  
Judge Barkett cited other evidence showing blacks are convicted
of felonies at rates disproportionate to arrest rates that show
involvement in criminal activities is not race-related.

Florida is one of four remaining states to bar first-time felons
from voting unless they receive clemency and have their rights
restored.  Three states have loosened or lifted their bans in
recent months.  In Florida, felons who have completed their
sentences lose the right to vote, cannot serve on juries, hold
public office or qualify for some state occupational licenses.

To regain these rights, they must apply to the Board of
Executive Clemency, which consists of the governor and his
cabinet.  The process can take several years, the Miami Daily
Business Review reports.

In her dissent, Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch said the reversal is
wrong because the 14th Amendment specifically allows states to
forbid convicted felons from voting.  She agreed with the
majority affirming King's dismissal of a claim that denying
clemency to those ex-felons who haven't paid their court-ordered
restitution violates laws against poll taxes.


HEPATITIS A: Lawyers Assert Assigning Blame Won't Kill Lawsuits
---------------------------------------------------------------
Lawyers familiar with the case say the likely Mexican origin of
the onions blamed in hepatitis outbreaks probably won't bring
dismissal of lawsuits against the U.S. restaurants that served
them, the Associated Press reports.

Federal investigators believe green onions imported from Mexico
may be the source of hepatitis A that sickened hundreds at
restaurants including O'Charley's and Chi-Chi's in several
states.

"It's really not a defense that someone else sold you the
adulterated food," Sid Gilreath, a Knoxville attorney, told AP.  
"It doesn't relieve you of legal responsibility."

About 80 percent of the green onions on U.S. tables come from
Mexico, agriculture officials said.  Attorneys say it will be
difficult but not impossible to bring Mexican farms into the
U.S. lawsuits.

O'Charley's reported in November that at least 18 lawsuits have
been filed against it.  Assigning blame for the illness will
almost certainly involve lengthy legal wrangling.  Tennessee law
allows a jury to assign percentages of blame to various parties
so each has to pay its share.

Nashville attorney Paul Davidson said he believes that because
Tennessee law lets juries apportion blame, it's possible
O'Charley's will be assigned a smaller part of the fault.  "This
is not a situation where the restaurant failed to adhere to
cleanliness requirements," Mr. Davidson told The Tennessean.

Mr. Davidson, who does not represent O'Charley's, said he did
not think the lawsuits against O'Charley's would warrant
punitive damages and said he thinks it unlikely that class-
action status would be granted.  In short, the infections may
not hammer the company's bottom line.  In filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it has
adequate insurance to cover the lawsuits.  Nevertheless, the
lawsuits come at a difficult time for O'Charley's.

The Nashville-based chain of about 300 restaurants, including
about 85 Ninety Nine Restaurant and Pub outlets, had been hit
hard by the downbeat economy.  The company shifted to cheaper
menu items in an attempt to attract new customers, but the
switch reduced profits.  O'Charley's missed its own earnings
estimates in each of the last three quarters.

In September, people began getting sick with hepatitis A, a
liver ailment, after eating at an O'Charley's in Knox County. A
total of 81 people became ill, and one later died.  After the
outbreak around Knoxville, people got sick at O'Charley's
restaurants in Macon and Centerville, Georgia.  The outbreak
spread to restaurants in other states.  

More than 600 people got sick and three died after eating at a
Chi-Chi's restaurant outside Pittsburgh.  Chi-Chi's has since
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and food-poisoning
claims will be handled in bankruptcy court.  Others became sick
after eating at an Asheville, N.C. restaurant.


JOSEPHTHAL & CO.: SEC Settles Charges V. Former Office Manager
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced settlement of
public administrative proceedings against Richard M. Ohlhaber, a
branch office manager for Josephthal & Co., Inc., a broker-
dealer formally registered with the Commission.  

The Commission's order found that, from at least October 1998
through May 2001, Mr. Ohlaber failed reasonably to supervise two
registered representatives in Josephthal's Addison, Texas branch
office, who were subject to his direct supervision.  The two
registered representatives, each of whom had a disciplinary
history or a history of customer complaints and who were subject
to special supervision, engaged in fraudulent sales practices by
making excessive, unsuitable and unauthorized trades in certain
of their customers' accounts.   

While ostensibly performing special supervisory procedures, Mr.
Ohlhaber failed reasonably to supervise the first
representative, when he failed to respond to red flags showing
evidence of excessive and unsuitable trading in three of the
customers' accounts and, over the objection of the customer,
refused to reverse unauthorized trades.  Mr. Ohlhaber failed
reasonably to supervise the second registered representative
when, during a six-month special supervisory period, he
continued to approve numerous unsuitable securities transactions
in the accounts of two unsophisticated investors.  Additionally,
during this same period, Mr. Ohlhaber never contacted the
customer to verify the trading activity in the account, a period
in which 19 unauthorized trades were made.  

Without admitting or denying the Commission's findings, Mr.
Ohlhaber agreed to be barred from association with any broker or
dealer in any supervisory capacity with the right to reapply for
association after three years and to pay a civil money penalty
of $50,000.


LEUCADIA NATIONAL: Fairness Hearing Set For February 2004 in NY
---------------------------------------------------------------
The Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County
announced that a Fairness and Settlement Hearing will be held
before the Honorable Richard B. Lowe III on February 2, 2004 at
9:30 a.m. in IAS Part 56 of the Supreme Court of the State of
New York, New York County, 60 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007
in regards the securities fraud lawsuit brought against Leucadia
National Corporation, on behalf of Daniel Provorny, and all
other persons who owned shares of Wiltel common stock during the
period beginning on May 15, 2003 and concluding on November 6,
2003.

For more information, contact: Kathyrn J. Kindell, WilTel
Communications Group, Inc., One Technology Center, Tulsa, OK
74103, by Phone: (918) 547-6000, Fax: (918) 547- 2360, or E-
mail: Kathy.kindell@wcg.com.


MAD COW DISEASE: Infected Meat May Have Reached Eight States    
------------------------------------------------------------
Agriculture Department officials on Sunday said that meat from a
Holstein sick with mad cow disease could have reached retail
markets in eight states and one territory, but still poses no
health risk, the Associated Press reports.

Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an Agriculture Department veterinarian,
said investigators have determined that some of the meat from
the diseased dairy cow slaughtered December 9 in Washington
state could have gone to Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and
Guam.  Earlier, officials had said most of the meat went to
Washington and Oregon, with lesser amounts to California and
Nevada, for distribution to consumers.  

"The recalled meat represents essentially zero risk to
consumers," Mr. Petersen told AP, of the USDA's food safety
agency.  He said the parts most likely to carry infection - the
brain, spinal cord and lower intestine - were removed before the
meat from the infected cow was cut and processed for human
consumption.

Mad cow disease, officially called bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, is a concern because humans who eat brain or
spinal matter from an infected cow can develop a related brain-
wasting illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  In Britain,
143 people died of it after an outbreak of mad cow in the 1980s.

Despite their assurances of food safety, federal officials have
taken the precaution of recalling 10,000 pounds of meat from the
infected cow and from 19 other cows slaughtered December 9 at
Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co., in Moses Lake, Washington.  Because
it is not known exactly what portions of the 10,000 pounds
slaughtered there that day actually came from the diseased cow,
health authorities must work on the possibility that some meat
from the diseased cow could have reached any location where any
part of the 10,000 pounds was distributed.  Officials say they
are still recovering meat and won't know how much has been
returned until later this week, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Petersen said, "We expect by now that many of the customers
who may have purchased some of this meat have been notified by
the grocery chain or other store where perhaps they purchased
it. If not, they can contact those stores" related to the
recall."  He added said the slaughtered cow was deboned at
Midway Meats in Centralia, Washington, and sent on December 12
to two other plants, Willamette Valley Meat and Interstate Meat,
both near Portland, Oregon.  Mr. Petersen has said that much of
the meat is being held by those facilities.

Willamette also received beef trimmings - parts used in meats
such as hamburger.  Officials told AP those were sold to some
three dozen small, mom-and-pop Asian and Mexican facilities in
Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada.

Supermarket chains in the West - Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway
and WinCo Foods - have voluntarily removed ground beef products
from the affected distributors.  Safeway has said it will look
for another supplier.

Despite assurances that American beef is safe, Japan and more
than two dozen countries have blocked U.S. beef imports.  Jordan
and Lebanon joined the list on Sunday.  U.S. beef industry
officials this week estimated they've lost 90 percent of their
export market because of the bans.  U.S. agriculture officials
arrived Sunday in Japan to discuss maintaining beef trade even
as the United States investigates how the Holstein in Washington
state got sick.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief veterinarian for USDA, told AP Sunday
that science has shown certain meat cuts are fairly safe from
infection.  Among those are whole cuts without bones, such as
beef steaks, roast, liver, and ground beef from labeled cuts
like chuck or round.  Dr. DeHaven said this suggests the trade
restrictions "are not well-founded in science."

Investigators have tentatively traced the first U.S. cow with
mad cow disease to Canada.  This could help determine the scope
of the outbreak and might even limit the economic damage to the
American beef industry.  The tentative finding traced the cow to
Alberta, the same Canadian province where scientists found a
lone cow infected with the illness in May.

Dr. DeHaven stressed that officials still haven't confirmed this
because U.S. records outlining the animal's history do not match
ones in Canada.  Canadian officials have said it was premature
to reach a firm conclusion.  The department said DNA tests will
help resolve the matter.

Canadian documents show the cow had two calves before it arrived
in the United States, contrary to U.S. records that said it had
never born calves.  Also, Canadian documents say the diseased
cow was 6 1/2-years-old, but U.S. records say it was younger,
around 4- and 4 1/2-years-old.  The cow's age is significant
because it may have been born before the United States and
Canada in 1997 banned certain feed that is considered the most
likely source of infection.  A cow contracts the virus by eating
feed containing tissue from the spine or brain of an infected
animal. Farmers used to feed their animals such meal to fatten
them.

The FDA is looking into whether the cow ate contaminated feed -
a difficult task because the animal may been infected by feed it
ate years before it appeared sick.  BSE can incubate for four to
five years.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's Center for Veterinary
Medicine, said it takes as little as half a gram of infected
material to sicken an animal. "Even if a small amount amount of
brain or central nervous system (material) were to get into
cattle feed, there is the potential for even that very small
dose to result in the disease," Dr. Sundlof told AP.

Officials are less certain how much would infect a human.  "It's
not known what dose would infect humans, but it would higher for
humans than for cattle," Dr. Sundlof said.

Investigators have considered other ways the disease could
spread.  Although scientists have never found a case of mad cow
infection being passed from a mother cow to its calf, they want
to test the sick cow's calves as a precaution.  They also are
seeking to determine whether the strain of BSE, a disease caused
by a misshapen protein, is the same as the one that struck
Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.


MARYLAND: NC Residents Charge Insurance Firms with Abuse, Fraud
---------------------------------------------------------------
More than three months after they watched their homes get
flattened and their belongings tossed about in a sea of mud when
Hurricane Isabel slammed into this tight-knit community on the
Chesapeake Bay, appalled residents say they have been victimized
again - this time, by insurance companies, the Associated Press
reports.

Mike Vivirito, president of the Bowley's Quarters Improvement
Association, told AP residents are struggling with insurers who
have offered payments amounting to tens of thousands of dollars
less than it will take to rebuild.  Some say they've been blind-
sided by obscure provisions in their policies that enabled
companies to refuse any kind of payment.  "There's actually a
lot of anger and frustration out here," Mr. Vivirito said.  
"People feel shortchanged. They feel lied to. They feel used."

"We're getting the screws put to us," Bernice Myer, a resident
of Miller's Island who formed the Isabel Victims Citizens Group,
told AP.  Members include people living in the eastern Baltimore
County communities of Bowley's Quarters, Dundalk, Miller's
Island and Sparrows Point.  "People are tired, desperate,
they've been through the mud, and now they're pretty much
getting slammed," she said.

Isabel reached Category 5 strength over open water, but had
weakened to a Category 2 storm by the time it made landfall near
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, on September 18.  It was the
strongest storm to hit the country since Hurricane Floyd in 1999
and was blamed for 40 deaths and $2 billion in damage, much of
it from flooding.

In Baltimore County, complaints against insurers have reached
such a crescendo that County Executive James Smith launched a
probe headed by former state Insurance Commissioner Steven
Larsen.  "The insurance industry performed miserably in the face
of this crisis," Mr. Smith said earlier this month, AP reports.  
"There is no justification for the magnitude of uncovered loss
that occurred in eastern Baltimore County or for the delays and
procrastinations of insurance adjusters."

Mr. Smith complained residents had received little assistance
from the Maryland Insurance Administration - a charge current
Commissioner Alfred Redmer has angrily denied.

Complaints by residents have included difficulty penetrating the
federal bureaucracy, particularly the National Flood Insurance
Program, which falls under the Federal Emergency Management
Agency.  Some said Redmer was unable to answer their questions
during an October town hall meeting in Bowley's Quarters.

"Basically, we were treated like we were illiterates or morons,"
Mr. Myer told AP.  "All they could offer was, 'Oh, didn't you
read your policy? You should have read your policy.'"

Michael Popowski, president of Timonium-based PBI Restoration
Resources, a disaster restoration company, told AP many property
owners just didn't have the necessary coverage.  "I hate to say
this, but it's a case of buyer beware," he said.

Congress established the NFIP in the late 1960s after a series
of floods destroyed homes along the Mississippi River.  Flood
insurance policies are sold by local insurance agents but
underwritten by the federal government, which can be confusing,
said Mark Stevens, a spokesman for NFIP.  Typically, flood
insurance covers damage to a structure but not to its contents,
Mr. Stevens said.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski has arranged for
representatives of the NFIP to meet January 6 with the
community.

"For some of us, it'll be too late," Mr. Myer said.  "People are
angry and tired. They're saying, 'I don't want to go to any more
meetings and get talked down to like we're idiots.' A lot of
people are just taking the little bit of money they're being
offered and trying to get on with their lives as best they can."


NATIONAL WESTERN: Settlement Hearing Set For February 2004 in OK
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Michigan Circuit Court for the County of Oakland announced
that a proposed Fairness and Settlement Hearing will be held
before the honorable Michael D. Warren in Oakland County Circuit
Court, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, Pontiac, Michigan, at 1:30 p.m.,
on February 18, 2004, in regards the lawsuit brought against
National Western Life Insurance Co. (NWL), on behalf of Keith
Johnson, as personal representative of the Estate of Richard K.
Kershaw, and as Trustee of the Kershaw Joint Living Trust, and
all other persons who purchased on or before November 19, 2003,
an Annuity from the Company with the Policy Form numbers of: (1)
01-1108A; or (2) 01-1096 (versions A, B, C and D).

The lawsuit alleges that Defendant NWL improperly sold annuities
with the policy form numbers 01-1108A and 01-1096 (version A, B,
C, and D) by failing to disclose certain information relating to
first-year bonus interest rates. Without admitting any
wrongdoing, NWL has agreed to settle the lawsuit for no less
than $9,708,000, subject to court approval.

For exclusion from the Class, a request must be submitted by
January 26, 2004. To share in the distribution of the Settlement
fund, a Proof of Claim and Release must be submitted on or
before March 9, 2004.

For more information, contact Class Counsel Kevin B. Love, or
Michael Criden, of HANZMAN & CRIDEN, PA, by Mail: 220 Alhambra
Circle, Suite 400, Coral Gables, FL 33134.


NATIONWIDE SECURITIES: NY Court Enters Judgments V. Former Execs
----------------------------------------------------------------
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
entered final judgments by consent on November 20, 2003, against
defendants in an action brought by the Securities and Exchange
Commission for deceptive and fraudulent sales practices in
connection with the 1996 initial public offering of the
securities of Thermo-Mizer Environmental Corporation by
Nationwide Securities Corporation, a now dissolved Texas
registered broker-dealer.  The defendants are:

     (1) Marco G. Fiore, Jr., of East Islip, New York,  

     (2) Benjamin V. Salmonese, Jr. of Old Bridge, New Jersey,

     (3) Thomas DeCeglie of Old Bridge, New Jersey,  

     (4) David C. Lavender of Staten Island, New York, and

     (5) Peter C. Restivo of Valley Stream, New York

The suit alleged that, from between approximately January 1996
and March 1996, at the direction and under the control of Mr.
Fiore and Mr. Salmonese, the control persons at Nationwide's New
York City branch office, Mr. DeCeglie, Mr. Lavender, and Mr.
Restivo used a variety of fraudulent sales practices to sell
Thermo-Mizer securities to customers of Nationwide and
thereafter, in aftermarket trading, inflate artificially the
market price of, and demand for, Thermo-Mizer securities so that
the defendants could sell their own holdings of Thermo-Mizer at
an inflated price.
     
Without admitting or denying the allegations of the Commission's
complaint, Mr. Fiore, Mr. Salmonese, Mr. DeCeglie, Mr. Lavender,
and Mr. Restivo consented to the entry of the Court's Final
Judgments.   The Final Judgments permanently enjoin the
defendants, except Mr. Restivo, from further violations of
Sections 5 and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section
10(b) of the Exchange Act, Rule  10b-5, and Rules 101 and 102 of
Regulation M promulgated  thereunder.
In the case of Mr. Restivo, who already has been enjoined from
future violations of the registration and anti-fraud provisions
of the federal securities laws in "SEC v. Emsanet Internet
Services, Inc., et al." filed in the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of New York, October 23, 2002,"  
the Final Judgment permanently enjoins him from further
violations of Rules 101 and 102 of Regulation M and bars him,
for a period of ten years from the entry of the Final Judgment,
from participating in any unregistered offering.   

The suit is styled "SEC v. Marco G. Fiore, Jr., Benjamin V.  
Salmonese, Jr., Thomas Deceglie, David C. Lavender and Peter C.
Restivo, Civil Action No. 00 Civ. 9422."


NESCO INC.: OK Jury Convicts Ex-Chairman of Stock, Bank Fraud
-------------------------------------------------------------
A federal jury in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convicted Eddy L. Patterson,
the former chairman and chief executive officer of Tulsa-based
Nesco, Inc., of securities fraud, bank fraud and tax-relegated
offenses.  

Mr. Patterson, 59, was convicted for his role in fraudulently
inflating the accounts of Nesco, a former NASDAQ company once
recognized by Fortune Small Business Magazine as one of
America's 100 fastest growing small companies (OTC: NESCQ).  Mr.
Patterson sentencing is scheduled for March 2004.  His wife,
Judith Ray Patterson, was also convicted of tax-related
offenses.

On May 7, 2003, the Commission filed a civil securities fraud
case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
Oklahoma (Tulsa Division) against Mr. Patterson.  The SEC
charged Mr. Patterson with financial fraud and other securities
law violations related to his orchestration of a false invoice
scheme that inflated Nesco's assets and revenue for its fiscal
year 2000 and first quarter 2001 by over $2 million.

According to the SEC's complaint, Mr. Patterson was Nesco's
chairman and CEO at all relevant times until August 16, 2001,
when the company's board of directors forced him to resign.  
Assisted by Nesco's now deceased former controller, Mr.
Patterson grossly overstated the company's earnings by booking
28 bogus customer invoices totaling $2,153,986 in the fourth
quarter of 2000 and one invoice totaling $183,385 in the first
quarter of 2001. These false invoices resulted in overstatements
to Nesco's pretax income for those periods of 400% and 175%,
respectively.  

Nesco included these false figures in its annual and quarterly
reports filed with the SEC.  The complaint further alleges that
Mr. Patterson, who had borrowed heavily to acquire large amounts
of Nesco stock, devised the fraudulent scheme to conceal the
company's dismal financial performance from investors,
bolstering Nesco's share price and preventing his personal
financial ruin.  The SEC's complaint further alleged that Mr.
Patterson lied to Nesco's auditor to prevent discovery of the
scheme during its audit of the company's 2000 fiscal year.
     
According to the SEC's complaint, Nesco's management became
suspicious of the company's financial statements for the 2000
fiscal year and commenced an internal investigation in May 2001.
This investigation ultimately revealed Mr. Patterson's fraud and
caused Nesco to compel his immediate resignation from the
company on August 16, 2001.  Further, Nesco voluntarily issued a
press release disclosing its financial overstatements, restated
its financial results for its fiscal year 2000 and first quarter
2001, and continued its internal investigation to ensure that it
had uncovered the whole scheme and any other financial
mismanagement.  Nesco also fully cooperated with the SEC in its
investigation of the matter.
     
The SEC's case, which is continuing, requests that Mr. Patterson
be permanently enjoined from future securities violations, that
a civil monetary penalty be assessed against him, that he be
ordered to disgorge the full amount of compensation he received
from Nesco during the relevant period, including salary and
bonuses, with prejudgment interest, and that he be barred from
serving in the future as an officer or director of a public
company.

On May 7, 2003, the SEC also announced the institution of cease-
and-desist proceedings against Nesco based on the aforementioned
misconduct.  The SEC simultaneously accepted Nesco's offer to
consent to a cease-and-desist order.  The order, in charging
violations of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2) of the Exchange Act
and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13a-13 thereunder, orders Nesco to
cease and desist from committing or causing any future
violations of the above books and records, reporting, and
internal controls provisions.

The suits are styled "U.S. v. Eddy Lynn Patterson, USDC,
District of Oklahoma, Criminal Action No. 03-CR-55-ALL," and
"SEC v. Eddy Lynn Patterson, Defendant, Civil Action No.  03 CV-
302 (USDC/NDOK) (Tulsa Division)."


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Judge Declares New Abortion Law Unconstitutional
----------------------------------------------------------------
U.S. District Judge Joseph DiClerico declared a New Hampshire
law that would require parental notice before a minor could get
an abortion to be unconstitutional, the Associated Press
reports.  The ruling came two days before the law was to have
taken effect.  A brief online notice did not give Judge
DiClerico's reasoning for the ruling.

Opponents had argued the law was unconstitutional for reasons
including the lack of an exception to protect the mother's
health.  Attorney General Peter Heed had defended the law,
saying judges had enough leeway to grant exceptions to make the
law constitutional.  The law requires minors to notify a parent
48 hours before getting an abortion or, as an alternative, get
permission from a judge.

"We won," Martin Honigberg, one of several lawyers for Planned
Parenthood of Northern New England, which along with other
opponents had sued to block the law, told the Associated Press.  
Republican Gov. Craig Benson, a strong supporter of the law, and
Republican legislative leaders had no immediate comment on the
judge's ruling Monday.

Similar laws have been struck down in other states.  This
summer, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a version in that
state, saying the law violated privacy rights guaranteed by the
state Constitution.  A federal appeals court in Denver last year
ruled that a similar Colorado law was unconstitutional because
it provided no exceptions for health emergencies.


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Reports Outcrop Of Meningitis Cases, One Death
-------------------------------------------------------------
Scientists are examining a strain of bacterial meningitis and
trying to make links among five teenagers who contracted the
brain-swelling disease that has already claimed the life of one,
the Associated Press reportsreports.

State health officials planned to alert emergency room personnel
statewide Monday about the cases and urge them to watch for
signs of additional infections, according to state
epidemiologist Jesse Greenblatt.  He told AP it is unusual to
have so many cases in such a short period.

Meningitis, which causes the brain to swell, is spread by fairly
intimate contact, such as kissing or sharing utensils or water
bottles.  It is not easily transmitted through sneezing and
coughing.

Rachael Perry, 18, died Saturday at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical
Center, where the woman, from the southern community of
Bennington, had been hospitalized since Christmas, Mr.
Greenblatt revealed.  Meanwhile, a 13-year-old boy from
Colebrook, in the far northern tip of the state, also appears to
have contracted the disease.  The boy became sick Friday and was
in critical condition Sunday.  Three other teens - two 15-year-
old classmates at Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey and
a 14-year-old from the Concord area - were in fair condition
Sunday.

Mr. Greenblatt told AP the 15-year-old classmates, Brady Ells
and Louis Gilman, appear to have spread the disease to one
another, but that health officials had found no links between
the other cases.  Ells, Gilman and Perry all contracted a strain
of the disease that cannot be prevented by vaccination.  Health
officials were testing to determine whether the Colebrook boy
had the same strain, and suspect the Concord-area boy did, as
well.

"If all of the strains of the bacteria match, and certainly if
there are more cases, that would be more concerning," Mr.
Greenblatt said.  "It would mean that there is potentially more
risk from a new strain that has entered the area."

He said officials hoped to know more about the strain during the
next day or two, AP reports.

On Friday antibiotics were given to Monadnock Regional High
School's 1,300 students and staff.  They also were given to
about 40 of Perry's co-workers, friends and family.  Health
officials were contacting people who may have had contact with
the Colebrook and Concord-area boys.

Mr. Greenblatt said that despite the unusual cluster of cases,
the state has had only 11 cases of meningitis this year, down
from the average of 15 to 25.  He said typically there are one
or two deaths.  "We have to keep our vigilance high," he said.
"But that's good advice regardless. This is a time of year when
we tend to see more meningitis cases."

Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the membranes
surrounding the spinal cord and the brain.  Symptoms include
severe headache, fever, nausea, stiff neck, and sometimes a
rash. The incubation period is generally two to six days.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, up to 15 percent of meningitis cases are fatal.


NORTH CAROLINA: Seven Young NC Residents Killed In Car Crash
------------------------------------------------------------
North Carolina Highway Patrol, in a report, said that a car
trying to outrun a police officer ran off a road and crashed
early Monday, killing all seven young people inside, the
Associated Press reports.  All of the victims - five males and
two females - were believed to be in their teens, Highway Patrol
Sgt. Terry Robinson said.

A police officer from Troutman gave chase after seeing the 2001
Dodge Intrepid weaving in its lane, the patrol said.  "They
passed us going 85 to 100 miles an hour with the police car
passing us," a witness, Brandon Jackson, told AP.

The officer chased the car about five miles on U.S. 21 until it
crashed shortly after midnight just south of Statesville, Mr.
Robinson said.  It flipped over after hitting an embankment,
crashed into a tree and then skidded to a stop upside down in a
creek.

One of the victims was identified as Quentin Maurice Reed, 18, a
passenger, officials said.  The others were not immediately
identified, AP reports.

Worried residents called the Highway Patrol to see if their
teens were in the car, said Ralph Ray, a patrol dispatcher.
"We've had a multitude of people to call who think they may be
their family members," Mr. Ray said.

Troutman police referred calls seeking further detail to Chief
Eric Henderson, who was not immediately available for comment
Monday.  The town, about 35 miles north of Charlotte, has about
1,600 residents.


OPSIS TECHNOLOGIES: SEC Files Civil Action For Securities Fraud
---------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil action in
the United States District Court in Miami, Florida against Opsis
Technologies International, Inc. (Opsis), a Delaware corporation
with a purported principal office in Boca Raton, Florida and:

     (1) Venture Capital Holdings, LLC (VCH), a company with an
         office in Boca Raton, Florida identified as "exclusive
         consulting agents" for sales of Opsis securities;

     (2) M&T Consulting Group, LLC, another company with an
         office in Boca Raton, Florida which sold Opsis
         securities;

     (3) Michael Kordich, a principal of VCH;   

     (4) Joseph Catapano, a principal of M&T; and  

     (5) Aaron Andrzejewski a/k/a Aaron Andrews, an associate of
         M&T
     
The complaint alleges that the defendants deceived investors by
falsely claiming that Opsis was on the verge of conducting an
initial public stock offering, and by making baseless
projections about the price at which Opsis stock would trade on
the secondary market.   

According to the complaint, Opsis has not filed a registration
statement with the Commission or otherwise taken any meaningful
steps toward conducting an IPO.  The complaint also alleges that
the defendants falsely claimed that:

     (i) Opsis held rights to a purportedly patented "smart
         card" technology called the Op-Card; and  

    (ii) Opsis had a partnership with a prestigious university
         relating to the use of "smart cards."

The complaint seeks, as to each defendant, a permanent
injunction against violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a)
of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5; an accounting;
disgorgement, together with pre-judgment interest; and civil
penalties.  In addition, the complaint seeks, as to each
defendant other than Opsis, a permanent injunction against
violations of Sections 15(a) of the Exchange Act, and an order
barring them from participating in an offering of penny stock.  
The litigation is pending.  

The suit is styled "SEC v. Opsis Technologies International,
Inc., et al., Case No. 03-62251-CIV-MARTINEZ, Magistrate
Judge:Klein."


PROVIDIAN FINANCIAL: Appeal on Attorneys Fees in CA Suit Denied
---------------------------------------------------------------
The United States Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5,
California denied Plaintiffs appeal, and upheld a ruling by the
San Francisco County Superior Court awarding attorney
fees following a settlement of a class action lawsuit brought
against Providian Financial Corporation, on behalf of Kelly
Moreau, et al., over allegations of credit card fraud.

In 1999, numerous plaintiffs filed consumer class actions in
both state and federal court alleging that Providian Financial
Corporation, Providian Bancorp Services, Providian National Bank
and Providian Bank had committed a range of fraudulent business
practices.  In October 1999, the state Judicial Council
Coordination Motion Judge granted in part a motion to coordinate
the state court actions, with the coordinated actions to be
resolved in San Francisco Superior Court.  Ms. Moreau's case,
Moreau v. Providian Financial Corporation, San Francisco Court
Case No. 304489, was among those cases ordered coordinated.
Judge Stuart Pollak was appointed as coordination judge.
Simultaneously, the federal Judicial Panel on Multi-district
Litigation ordered the federal Providian cases coordinated in
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania.
      
On February 28, 2000, at a preliminary hearing held pursuant to
California Rules of Court, rule 1541(a), the coordination judge
in the state action appointed four firms as "Co-Lead Counsel":
Girard & Green, LLP; Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP;
Kaplan, Kilsheimer & Fox LLP; and The Sturdevant Law Firm.

In December 2000, plaintiffs and Providian reached a global
settlement of the state and federal actions. Co-Lead Counsel
initially valued the settlement at $105 million. Plaintiffs
moved for and obtained preliminary approval of the settlement.
The trial court provisionally certified a settlement class,
approved the proposed class notice, and adopted deadlines for
issuing class notice, opting out or objecting to the settlement,
and filing final approval papers and requests for attorney fees.
The approved class notice advised class members that plaintiffs'
counsel would seek an attorney fees award of up to 25 percent of
the expected $105 million settlement. The trial court held three
days of final approval hearings. On November 8, 2001, the trial
court granted final approval of the settlement. The trial court
determined that the settlement created a common fund of
approximately $75 million for the class members, and awarded all
plaintiffs' counsel $12,826,500, or 17 percent, from that fund.
      
On appeal, Ms. Moreau challenged the award of any fees to Co-
Lead Counsel.  She contends that the class received inadequate
notice of the fees to be sought, that Co-Lead Counsel have
engaged in criminal conduct, and that the trial court erred in
appointing multiple firms as Co-Lead Counsel and calculating
their fees.


RENT-WAY INC.: Three Executives Sentenced over Securities Fraud
---------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Rent-way,
Inc. executives Jeffrey Conway, Matthew Marini and Jeffrey
Underwood were sentenced in connection with their respective
roles in Rent-Way's $60 million financial reporting fraud.   

On July 22, 2003, Mr. Conway and Mr. Underwood each settled SEC
charges against them and Mr. Marini partially settled charges
against him.  Each of the defendants also pleaded guilty to
criminal charges against them on the same day.
     
Mr. Conway, Rent-Way's former president and CFO, pleaded guilty
to one count of conspiring to falsify Rent-Way's books and
records.  On November 25, 2003, he was sentenced to 13 months in
prison and 2 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay
a $20,000 fine.
     
Mr. Marini, Rent-Way's former controller and CAO, pleaded guilty
to one count of securities fraud.  On November 26, 2003, Mr.
Marini, who cooperated in the investigations by the Department
of Justice and the Commission, was sentenced to 3 months in
prison, 3 months of home detention, and 2 years of supervised
release.
     
Mr. Underwood, Rent-Way's former vice president in charge of
operations, pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying Rent-Way's
books and records.  On December 19, 2003, Mr. Underwood, who
also cooperated in the investigations by the Department of
Justice and the Commission, was sentenced to 2 years probation
and ordered to pay a $7,000 fine.
     

ROCKY MOUNTAIN: SEC Files Amended Stock Suit, Adds New Defendant
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed to amend its
complaint in a lawsuit against Rocky Mountain Energy
Corporation, a Houston-based oil-and-gas company whose stock was
formerly quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board, to name attorney
Michael L. Labertew as a defendant.  Mr. Labertew, age 39 of
Park City, Utah, is the former securities counsel to Rocky
Mountain.
     
The Commission filed the original lawsuit in April 2003 in the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging
that Rocky Mountain, its president, and its general counsel had
engaged in a fraudulent "pump-and-dump" scheme involving Rocky
Mountain's stock.

The amended complaint, alleges that, from June 2002 to December
2002, Mr. Labertew participated in an illegal distribution of
approximately 47 million shares of Rocky Mountain stock in four
unregistered share-exchange transactions.  In connection with
each transaction, Mr. Labertew prepared and filed a petition
with a Utah state court on behalf of Rocky Mountain to obtain a
court order approving the transaction pursuant to Section
3(a)(10) of the Securities Act of 1933.  Section 3(a)(10)
exempts from registration securities exchanged for other
securities or property interests, as long as a court approves
the transaction after a fairness hearing.  

The complaint alleges that, notwithstanding the court's
approval, the Section 3(a)(10) exemption did not apply in this
case because the four transactions were in fact shams forming
part of a larger manipulation scheme orchestrated by Rocky
Mountain's president, defendant John Ehrman.  Mr. Labertew
received 410,220 shares in the transactions, which he sold into
the market for $62,088.
     
In settlement of the Commission's lawsuit against him and
without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint,
Mr. Labertew has consented to the entry of an agreed final
judgment, permanently enjoining him from future violations of
the securities-registration provisions of Sections 5(a) and 5(c)
of the Securities Act of 1933, ordering disgorgement plus
prejudgment interest, and ordering a civil penalty in the amount
of $25,000.  In addition, Mr. Labertew, based upon the
anticipated entry of the civil injunction, has agreed to the
entry of a Commission administrative order pursuant to Rule
102(e) of the Commission's Rules of Practice, permanently
suspending him from appearing or practicing as an attorney
before the Commission.
     

SECURITY BROKERAGE: SEC Commences Lawsuit for Securities Fraud
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud charges
against Security Brokerage, Inc. of Las Vegas and its president
and majority owner, Daniel Calugar, for their participation in a
scheme to defraud mutual fund shareholders through improper late
trading and market timing.  

From at least 2001 to 2003, Mr. Calugar, trading through
Security Brokerage, reaped profits of approximately $175 million
from improper late trading and market timing, principally
through mutual funds managed by Alliance Capital Management and
Massachusetts Financial Services (MFS).  Mr. Calugar, age 49, is
an attorney with residences in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
     
Based on the SEC's application, United States District Judge
Robert Clive Jones of the District of Nevada issued a temporary
restraining order freezing the assets of the defendants,
prohibiting the destruction of documents, and granting expedited
discovery.  The court scheduled a hearing for January 5, 2004,
on the SEC's application for a preliminary injunction.  The SEC
applied for the emergency relief after learning that on December
18, 2003, Calugar had transferred $50 million of proceeds from
his scheme out of MFS.  This transfer occurred on the same day
that the Commission instituted an enforcement action against
Alliance in connection with market timing activity.   The
Commission's action against Alliance identified Calugar as the
largest market timer at Alliance.

Stephen M. Cutler, Director of the SEC's Division of
Enforcement, stated, "Our enforcement action and request for an
asset freeze against Daniel Calugar further reflect the
Commission's resolve to ensure that the proceeds of illegal late
trading and market timing are returned to investors.  When we
learned Calugar was seeking to transfer $50 million out of his
mutual fund account, we took prompt action."
     
Randall R. Lee, Regional Director of the SEC's Pacific Regional
Office, added, "Calugar's market timing and late trading were
phenomenally profitable to him and came at the expense of long-
term mutual fund shareholders.  By obtaining a court order
freezing Calugar's assets, the Commission has taken action to
preserve funds to be returned to the victims of his illegal
schemes."
     
The SEC's complaint, filed in the United States District Court
in Las Vegas, charged the firm with late trading, which refers
to the practice of placing orders to buy or sell mutual fund
shares after market close at 4:00 p.m. EST, but at the mutual
fund's NAV, or price, determined at the market close.  Late
trading enables the trader to profit from market events that
occur after 4:00 p.m. EST but that are not reflected in that
day's price.  Because Security Brokerage was a self-clearing
broker-dealer, it was permitted to submit trades that it
received from its clients before 4:00 p.m. EST to the National
Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC) after 4:00 p.m. EST.  
Security Brokerage created false internal records in which the
order time for all trades was entered as 3:59 p.m. EST.  Mr.
Calugar, who was trading on his own behalf and therefore making
trading decisions, routinely sent trades for his own account to
the NSCC one to two hours after 4:00 p.m. EST, even though he
had no legitimate reason for doing so.
     
The suit also alleged "market timing," which refers to the
practice of short term buying and selling of mutual fund shares
in order to exploit inefficiencies in mutual fund pricing.  From
at least 2001 to September 2003, the defendants engaged in
extensive market timing of Alliance and MFS funds despite
knowing that the prospectuses for those funds either prohibited
or discouraged timing and that timing was not available to most
investors.  With Alliance, Mr. Calugar agreed to make long-term
investments (referred to as "sticky assets") in Alliance hedge
funds in exchange for Alliance permitting him to engage in
market timing in its mutual funds.  Mr. Calugar made a similar
proposal to MFS which was not accepted, but he nevertheless
continued to engage in market timing in MFS funds.

Security Brokerage and Calugar are charged with violating the
antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws, Section
17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder.  In
addition to the emergency relief granted by the court, the SEC
is seeking a judgment of permanent injunction, disgorgement of
ill-gotten gains, and monetary penalties.  


SMITHFIELD FOODS: RICO Suit Dismissal Upheld, Sanctions Reversed
----------------------------------------------------------------
The United States 11th Circuit Court of appeals upheld a lower
court ruling dismissing the civil class action filed against hog
producer and pork processor Smithfield Foods, Inc., alleging
violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act (RICO).  The suit also names as defendant the Company's
chief executive officer Joseph W. Luter III.

Plaintiffs Eugene C. Anderson, Cynthia Bailey Watson, Roger Dae
Pickett, Marvin Carnagey, Keith Dotson, Jim Braum, Linus
Solberg, Betty Janssen, and Don Webb own land abutting the
Company.  Plaintiffs bring this putative class action on their
own behalf and for all others similarly situated, alleging that
the Company and Mr. Luter violated the RICO Act, U.S.C.   1961,
et seq., for business practices amounting to racketeering.  The
suit was originally filed in the United States District Court
for the Middle District of Florida.

The plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleged that defendants
polluted land and water in violation of numerous laws and
regulations, and lied about and profited from these
environmental transgressions.  Plaintiffs alleged that this
conduct gives rise to liability under RICO because it
constitutes a pattern of money laundering and wire and mail
fraud.

The Company asked the district court to dismiss the suit for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).  The court later granted the motion,
ruling that RICO was not an available remedy.  In its decision,
the district court stated that the Clean Air Act, the Clean
Water Act, and a variety of other statutes were designed to
protect against these hazards.  The court asserted that although
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants consistently and constantly
violate these statutes, RICO is not the proper remedy for
Plaintiffs to vindicate their rights involving violations of
these statutes.  The court, however, gave plaintiffs leave to
file an amended complaint.

The Plaintiffs then filed a Second Amended Complaint.  They
again sought to recover under RICO.  In this complaint, however,
they dropped the money laundering allegations, but elaborated on
their mail and wire fraud allegations and added new allegations
of extortion.  Defendants again moved to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6).

The district court granted this second motion to dismiss.
(Anderson v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 207 F. Supp. 2d 1358, 1365
(M.D. Fla. 2002).  When the defendants moved to dismiss the
Second Amended Complaint, they also moved for sanctions under
Fed. R. Civ. P. 11, asserting that the plaintiffs had improperly
pleaded RICO claims in the Second Amended Complaint.  

The district court granted the motion and imposed monetary
sanctions in the amount of $128,563.43 to defray the fees and
costs incurred by the defendants in attacking the second amended
complaint.  Anderson v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 209 F. Supp. 2d
1278, 1282 (M.D. Fla. 2002).

The court imposed the sanctions on plaintiffs' counsel amounting
to US$128,563.43 because it concluded that the plaintiffs had
not made a reasonable inquiry into the viability of the RICO
claims before filing the second amended complaint. Id. at 1281.  

Specifically, the court stated, "In dismissing the First Amended
Complaint, the Court warned Plaintiffs that, although Plaintiffs
could possibly have a cause of action against defendants, they
did not have a claim under RICO.  After detailing the reasons
why Plaintiffs did not have a claim under RICO, this Court
granted Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint.  Plaintiffs
took the opportunity to amend their complaint, and Plaintiffs
again brought a RICO claim, against this Court's advice . (T)he
Court finds that no reasonable attorney, especially in light of
the dismissal of the First Amended Complaint and under the
circumstances, could reasonably believe that the Second Amended
Complaint had any reasonable chance of success or that it stated
a claim of relief upon which relief could be granted."

The plaintiffs promptly appealed the decision, stating that the
court erred in imposing sanctions related to the second amended
complaint.  The plaintiffs asserted, among other things, that it
was reasonable for them to interpret the district court's order
dismissing the first amended complaint as inviting an effort to
remedy pleading defects in the RICO claims.  The plaintiffs
further contend that the district court erred in granting the
defendants' two motions to dismiss.

In a ruling dated December 17,2003, the appellate court upheld
the lower court's dismissal, stating that they found plaintiff's
arguments "meritless."  In doing so, the court stated that it
affirmed only the district court's ultimate conclusions that
plaintiffs' complaints fail to state a claim on which relief can
be granted, and do not endorse all of the district court's
reasons for these conclusions.  The court further said that "we
do conclude, however, that the district court entered judgment
for the defendants without a reversible error of law."

However, the appeals court reversed the sanction against the
plaintiff's counsel, saying the lower court abused its
discretion in meting the sanction.  In its ruling, the appeals
court said that there was "scant on-point authority to guide the
reasonable lawyer to the conclusion that, with the RICO claims
in the Second Amended Complaint, he either had no reasonable
chance of success or was advancing an unreasonable argument to
change existing law.  Though we have concluded that the Second
Amended Complaint does not state viable RICO claims, we are
unable to conclude that only an unreasonable lawyer would have
made these claims."

The court further stated that the district court's order
dismissing the claims in the first amended complaint did not
give such a clear warning not to refile under RICO that only an
unreasonable lawyer would have repleaded RICO claims.  The
district court's sanctions order gives particular consideration
to its first dismissal warning that RICO was not a proper
remedy.  The court states that its first dismissal order clearly
stated that RICO was not an available remedy, and reasons that
the order would have put any reasonable lawyer on notice that
the RICO claims had no chance of success.  While the district
court's first dismissal does state that RICO is not the proper
remedy for Plaintiffs to pursue, the order also points out the
pleading defects in the Plaintiffs' RICO claims and gives the
Plaintiffs leave to file a Second Amended Complaint.

The appeals court said this approach created an ambiguity. Based
on this ambiguity, a reasonable lawyer could interpret the order
as inviting better-pleaded RICO claims.  Thus, it ruled that it
cannot say, in light of the first dismissal order, that a
reasonable lawyer must have known that improved RICO claims
would have no reasonable chance of success.

The suit is styled, "EUGENE C. ANDERSON,
CYNTHIA BAILEY WATSON, et al., v. SMITHFIELD FOODS, INC., JOSEPH
W. LUTER, III."


VIVENDI UNIVERSAL: NY Court Allows Securities Lawsuit To Proceed
----------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York allowed the consolidated securities class action filed
against Vivendi Universal, S.A. to proceed with most of its
claims intact.  

The suit, styled "In re Vivendi Universal S.A. Securities
Litigation (Master File No. 02 CV 5571)," names as defendants
the Company, its former chairman Jean-Marie Messier and its
former chief financial officer Guillaume Hannezo.  The suit,
filed on behalf of shareholders who acquired Company securities
between February 11, 2002 and July 3, 2002, inclusive, charges
that defendants violated the federal securities laws by issuing
a series of materially false and misleading statements to the
market throughout the class period which statements had the
effect of artificially inflating the market price of the
Company's securities, an earlier Class Action Reporter story
(March 12,2003) states.

On November 6, 2003, the court issued an Opinion on Vivendi
Universal's motion to dismiss the suit, allowing the plaintiffs
to proceed with most of their claims against the Company.  
Plaintiffs and defendants, including Vivendi Universal, have
since filed motions asking the Court to reconsider certain
findings in its Opinion.  Those motions remain pending.  This
litigation was recently transferred to Judge Richard
Holwell.


VIVENDI UNIVERSAL: SEC Settles Injunctive Securities Complaint
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it filed
settled injunctive actions against Vivendi Universal, S.A., a
media and environmental services conglomerate, its former CEO,
Jean-Marie Messier, and its former CFO, Guillaume Hannezo.

The settlements include Vivendi's consent to pay a $50 million
civil money penalty.  The settlements also include Mr. Messier's
agreement to relinquish his claims to a 21 million severance
package that he negotiated just before he resigned his positions
at Vivendi, and payment of disgorgement and civil penalties by
Mr. Messier and Mr. Hannezo that total over $1 million.
     
The Commission's complaint describes a course of fraudulent
conduct by Vivendi, Mr. Messier, and Mr. Hannezo that disguised
Vivendi's cash flow and liquidity problems, improperly adjusted
accounting reserves to meet earnings before income taxes,
depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) targets, and failed to
disclose material financial commitments.
     
Specifically, the Commission's complaint alleges that during
2001 and the first half of 2002, Vivendi issued misleading press
releases authorized by Mr. Messier, Mr. Hannezo, and other
senior executives.  The press releases falsely portrayed
Vivendi's liquidity and cash flow as "excellent" or "strong" and
as sufficient to meet Vivendi's future liquidity requirements.  

These statements were misleading in light of Vivendi's inability
unilaterally to access the cash flow of two of its biggest
subsidiaries, a situation that substantially impaired Vivendi's
ability to satisfy its debt burden and other operating costs.
     
The suit also alleges that Vivendi, at the direction of its
senior executives, made improper adjustments that raised
Vivendi's EBITDA by approximately 59 million during the second
quarter of 2001 and by at least 10 million during the third
quarter of 2001.  These adjustments were made so that Vivendi
could meet ambitious earnings targets that it had communicated
to the market.
     
The suit further alleges Vivendi failed to disclose future
financial commitments regarding two of its subsidiaries.  
Vivendi failed to disclose the commitments in Commission filings
and in meetings with analysts.  If Vivendi had revealed those
commitments, they would have raised doubts about the company's
ability to meet its cash needs.
     
Vivendi and the other defendants also allegedly failed to timely
disclose all of the material facts about Vivendi's investment in
a fund that purchased a 2% stake in Elektrim Telekomunikacja Sp.
zo.o (Telco), a Polish telecommunications company in which
Vivendi already held a 49% stake.
     
All of the defendants consented to the settlements without
admitting or denying the Commission's allegations.  The settled
action permanently enjoins Vivendi, Mr. Messier, and Mr. Hannezo
from further violations of the federal securities laws and
includes other substantial relief.
     
Vivendi is required to pay a civil money penalty in the amount
of $50 million and disgorgement of $1.  Mr. Messier is required
to relinquish his claim to a severance package of about 21
million, which includes back pay and bonuses for the first half
of 2002, and to pay a civil money penalty of $1 million and
disgorgement of $1.  Mr. Hannezo is required to disgorge
$148,149, and to pay a penalty of $120,000.  Finally, Mr.
Messier and Mr. Hannezo are prohibited from serving as an
officer or director of a public company for, respectively, 10
and 5 years.
     
The Commission intends to direct that disgorgement and penalties
paid in this case be paid to defrauded investors, including
those who held Vivendi's ordinary shares and its American
Depository Shares during the time period alleged in the
Commission's Complaint, pursuant to Section 308 (Fair Funds for
Investors) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
     
The 21 million payment, now valued at approximately $25 million
(including interest), to which Mr. Messier is relinquishing his
claim has already been placed in an escrow account as a result
of the Commission's successful litigation pursuant to Section
1103 of the Sarbanes-Oxley of 2002.  On the SEC's motion, the
District Court in New York ordered Vivendi to place those funds
in escrow on September 24, 2003.
     
The suit is styled "SEC v. Vivendi Universal, S.A., Jean-Marie
Messier, and Guillaume Hannezo, 03-CIV-10195."


WORLDCOM: "Opt-Out" Deadline In Stock Suit Set February 20, 2004
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Firm of Klayman & Toskes, P.A. announced that the
deadline to 'opt-out' of a class action, against major brokerage
firms, on behalf of high net worth investors and WorldCom
employees whose portfolios were concentrated in WorldCom stock,
and who do not wish to participate in the class action federal
lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, is set for
February 20, 2004.

The brokerage firms named in the class action include: Salomon
Smith Barney, Inc. n/k/a Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; JP
Morgan Chase & Co.; Banc of America Securities LLC; Deutsche
Bank Securities Inc. f/k/a Deutsche Bank Alex Brown Inc.; Chase
Securities Inc. n/k/a J.P. Morgan Securities, Inc., Lehman
Brothers, Inc., Blaylock & Partners, L.P.; Credit Suisse First
Boston Corp., n/k/a Credit Suisse First Boston LLC; Goldman,
Sachs & Co.; UBS Warburg LLC; ABN AMRO, Inc.; Utendahl Capital
Partners L.P.; Tokyo-Mitsubishi International plc; Westdeutsche
Landesbank Girozentrale n/k/a WestLB AG; BNP Paribas Securities
Corp.; Caboto Holding SIM S.p.A; Fleet Securities, Inc.; and
Mizuho International plc.

Securities law experts contend that it makes economic sense to
opt out of a class action if you have a very large claim. For
small claimants, however, the cost of pursuing an individual
lawsuit may be larger than the amount that they could recover.
Investors also need to be aware of the statute of limitations
for filing these types of claims.

For more information, contact Lawrence L. Klayman, by Phone:
888-997-9956, or visit the firm's Website:
http://www.nasd_law.com.


                        Asbestos Alert


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Bankruptcy Judge Rebukes Lawyer-Detractors
---------------------------------------------------------------
The judge overseeing five multibillion-dollar asbestos-related
Chapter 11 bankruptcies recently agreed to let parties who call
for his recusal depose his advisers but rejected the other
requests.

U.S. District Judge Alfred Wolin, the federal judge in Newark
accused the lawyers of trying to drown the proceeding in legal
maneuvers instead of moving the case forward.  "Counsel cannot
further be trusted to guide these proceedings," he told the Star
Ledger.

Judge Wolin's rebuke came a few days after the 3rd U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals gave a partial victory to the attorneys for the
asbestos-related companies.  The petitioners contended Judge
Wolin conflicted himself by appointing two advisers who have or
will represent asbestos victims and by having private
conversations with other parties in the case, according to a
report from the Star Ledger.

The hearing drew dozens of attorneys to Judge Wolin's courtroom
and marked the first time the judge faced the lawyers who are
trying to oust him. It lasted for three hours.  If Judge Wolin's
detractors succeed, it could derail an unprecedented case that
the respected 71-year-old jurist thought would be his last when
he took it two years ago, the report said.

Judge Wolin used an unconventional case management process that
let him have private discussions with the parties.  He also
enlisted the help of five advisers.  Newark attorney David Gross
and retired state Appellate Court Judge C. Judson Hamlin, whose
work in other, unrelated asbestos cases has now become an issue,
are part of his army.  The federal judge belied having
impropriety, arguing in court papers that all the parties knew
about the advisers, and that their other roles have not
influenced his decisions in the case.

In its order, the appellate court said it lacked enough evidence
to decide whether Judge Wolin should be removed, but returned
the issue to him.  It directed him to gather evidence and decide
whether to step aside by January 31, a timetable that sparked
yesterday's herd of attorneys into his courtroom, the report
said.  Judge Wolin complained that the requests were largely
time-wasting "fishing expeditions."

Stephen Neal, representing USG Corporation, told Star Ledger
that he wanted to subpoena the judge's own documents related to
Judge Wolin's dealings with his advisers, a request Judge Wolin
denied.  "You can go to all the advisers and consultants and
demand documents," the judge told him.

When another attorney asked the judge if he could receive copies
of all documents retrieved during the discovery process, the
judge wondered aloud how many trees would die for the case.  
Gary Orseck, representing one of the petitioners seeking Wolin's
removal, told Star Ledger that the process could be orderly.
"I'm not at all suggesting that we intend to run wild with
discovery," he said.

David Bernick, an attorney representing W.R. Grace, which
opposes Wolin's removal, called the mammoth discovery request
outrageous and suggested it was an attempt to force Wolin to
reject some requests and guarantee the case return to the
appeals court, the report said.  "What is the objective? It is
to make a record (for appeal)," he told Star Ledger.

Judge Wolin agreed, quashing all outstanding discovery requests
and issuing strict guidelines saying, "the court will speak
plainly," he said the petitioners made such requests hoping he
would deny them, so they had more appeal issues.  Firing
directly at his detractors, Judge Wolin said he now knew how the
asbestos bankruptcy world works.  "It need not pretend to itself
nor to the world that counsel conduct [it]self with the decorum
of a church social," he said.  "It is clear they have not."

He ordered the deposition of his five advisers and three others
to be completed by January 6, and he told attorneys to send him
any document requests by this morning.  Judge Wolin also
scheduled another management hearing on the matter for January
8.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: 67-year-old Man's Death Linked to Asbestos
---------------------------------------------------------------
The death of a fire safety equipment tester who succumbed to
cancer was ruled to be asbestos-related.  An investigation led
to the findings that exposure to asbestos was the sole reason
for the death of Geoffrey Russell, 67, of The Larches, Warfield
Park in Great Britain.

Mr. Russell, who received payout after he was diagnosed,
developed the cancer 12 years after finishing his work at
Yarsley Research at Ashtead in Surrey.  He suffered chest
problems in 2000.  He began having chest pains that kept awake
him awake at night.  He was diagnosed with a lung tumor the
following year.

Mr. Russell's wife Patricia told icBerkshire that her husband
worked in fire testing from 1975 to 1978 and it was known that
he was working with asbestos."  "They did not use particular
safety apparatus there and when they were testing fire doors
there was a rope seal to the furnace which had asbestos on it.
You don't have to be somewhere for long to be infected - you
only have to be there for an hour," the widow added.

Mr. Russell had left the job after three years and went to work
at another company before retiring aged 55.  His GP Mandy
Robinson said in a statement that Mr. Russell had had to have
his lung drained of fluid twice before his death on September 15
this year.  GP Robinson said, "This was a cancer caused solely
by asbestos exposure."


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Ohio Prepares to End Asbestos-Related Suits
----------------------------------------------------------------
Ohio, having the fifth highest number of asbestos claims
remaining in the courts, girds up to be first state in the
nation to clamp down on asbestos-related litigation against
companies.  

The bill could wipe away more than half of the pending 40,000
asbestos cases in Ohio courts filed by people exposed to the
deadly dust.  Its impact rests largely on the courts.  The bill
will be challenged mainly because of its provision that is
retroactive to include cases already filed.

"There's a good likelihood that this piece of legislation could
wind up in the Supreme Court of the United State," William
Weisenberg, director of government affairs for the Ohio State
Bar Association, said in a Tribune Chronicle article.  "It could
be years before people will really know if it's going to stand
up."

The asbestos bill, which passed the House earlier this month and
will go before the Senate next year, would set medical standards
for asbestos-related lawsuits, according to the article.  People
who haven't developed cancer or who have lost a measurable
amount of lung function could have their cases put on hold.  
Showing exposure to asbestos or even physical changes to the
lungs no longer would be enough to sue asbestos makers.

Supporters of the bill say the thousands of asbestos lawsuits
have forced 70 companies nationwide into bankruptcy, including
five in Ohio - most notably building materials and fiberglass
maker Owens Corning.  The Toledo-based company sought bankruptcy
protection in October 2000 because of rising costs from asbestos
lawsuits.  It stopped selling insulation that contained asbestos
25 years ago.

"This bill protects jobs in Ohio and protects Ohio companions,"
Sen. Steve Stivers, a Columbus Republican, remarked in the
report.  "It makes sure that those who are sick go to the front
of the line."

Supporters, who include a number of business leaders and Gov.
Bob Taft, say there are so many lawsuits that those who are
truly sick have to wait longer to get compensated.

Overall, insurers have lost $65 billion to asbestos settlements,
estimates A.M. Best Co., a national insurance rating agency.  
"Asbestos is clearly the biggest lawsuit crisis we have in
Ohio," Sen. Stivers said.

Tom Bevan, a suburban Cleveland attorney who represents asbestos
victims, accused lawmakers of "legislative malpractice."  He
said that medical standards for asbestos lawsuits would shut out
people who are deserving of compensation.  He estimated that up
to 80 percent of his 6,000 cases that are pending could be
thrown out.  If that happens, he could look to other states to
file the lawsuits.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: ABB Eyes Settlement Completion Next Year
-------------------------------------------------------------
ABB recently declared that its asbestos settlement package of
$1,200,000,000 might be completed in the first half of 2004
despite delays in the United States, reports The Wall Street
Journal Europe.

Swiss engineering firm's Chief Executive Juergen Dormann said a
settlement, which focuses on the company's Combustion
Engineering unit, could be delayed until June after a U.S. court
postponed a hearing for objections to the package designed to
cap ABB's asbestos claims, according to the article.

According to a Reuters report, an ABB spokesman said the
situation had not changed and the firm, which almost went bust
last year after racking up debt under an over-ambitious
acquisition spree, was confident of a ruling in its favor over
the settlement.

"There have been no developments. The settlement is on track and
basically we expect it to be completed at any date in the first
half of the year," the spokesman told Reuters.

Analysts foresee that the process could go on till next year
when a U.S. appeals court delayed a hearing until February 4
from previously set date of January 12.

Mr. Dormann reiterated in the interview that ABB was likely to
wrap up the sale of its oil, gas and petrochemicals business in
the first quarter of next year, according to the Wall Street
Journal report.

Analysts said a large package of measures unveiled earlier this
autumn to secure its finances would cover the company's
liquidity needs in the medium-term, even if the disposal of the
OGP business would be delayed further by asbestos woes.

Mr. Dormann, also ABB's chairman, told Reuters in November he
did not believe appeals to the asbestos settlement would drag on
for years and eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: ArvinMeritor, Unit Face Asbestos Woes
----------------------------------------------------------
ArvinMeritor reports in its latest annual report filed with the
Securities and Exchange Commission that together with its
subsidiary, Maremont Corporation, and many other companies are
defendants in suits brought by individuals claiming personal
injuries as a result of exposure to asbestos-containing
products.

Maremont, which manufactured friction products containing
asbestos from 1953 through 1977, lists around 63,000 pending
asbestos-related claims at September 30.

Although Maremont has been named in these cases, in the cases
where actual injury has been alleged, very few claimants have
established that a Maremont product caused their injuries. For
purposes of establishing reserves for pending asbestos-related
claims, Maremont estimates its defense and indemnity costs based
on the history and nature of filed claims to date and Maremont's
experience. Maremont developed experience factors for indemnity
and litigation costs using data on actual experience in
resolving claims since February 2001 and its assessment of the
nature of the claims. Billings to insurance companies for
indemnity and defense costs of resolved cases were $15,000,000
in fiscal year 2003.

According to the filing, at September 30, Maremont had
established reserves of $82,000,000 relating to these potential
asbestos-related liabilities and corresponding asbestos-related
recoveries of $76,000,000.  The amounts recorded for the
asbestos-related reserves and recoveries from insurance
companies are based upon assumptions and estimates derived from
currently known facts.  All such estimates of liabilities for
asbestos-related claims are subject to considerable uncertainty
because such liabilities are influenced by variables that are
difficult to predict.

If the assumptions with respect to the nature of pending claims,
the cost to resolve claims and the amount of available insurance
prove to be incorrect, the actual amount of Maremont's liability
for asbestos-related claims, and the effect on ArvinMeritor,
could differ materially from current estimates. Maremont does
not have sufficient information to make a reasonable estimate of
its potential liability for asbestos-related claims that may be
asserted against it in the future, and has not accrued reserves
for these unknown claims.

ArvinMeritor, along with hundreds of other companies, is also a
defendant in suits claiming personal injury as a result of
exposure to asbestos used in products manufactured by Rockwell
many years ago. Liability for these claims was transferred to
the company at the time of the spin-off of the automotive
business to Meritor from Rockwell in 1997. Most of the
complaints, however, do not identify any of Rockwell's products
or specify which of the claimants, if any, were exposed to
asbestos attributable to Rockwell's products, and past
experience has shown that the vast majority of the claimants
will never identify any of Rockwell's products.

For those claimants who do show that they worked with Rockwell's
products, the company believes it has meritorious defenses.

Historically, ArvinMeritor has been dismissed from about 95% of
these claims with no payment to claimants. Rockwell maintained
insurance coverage that the company believes covers indemnity
and defense costs, over and above self-insurance retentions, for
most of the claims where there is any exposure to Rockwell's
products.

ArvinMeritor has not established reserves for pending claims and
corresponding recoveries for Rockwell-legacy asbestos-related
claims, and defense and indemnity costs related to these claims
are expensed as incurred.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Court Junks Suit vs. Interstate Bakeries
-------------------------------------------------------------
The previously disclosed federal court complaints arising, in
part, from its removal of insulation alleged to have contained
asbestos at one of its bakeries in January 1998 that were filed
in Illinois against Interstate Bakeries Corp. and certain
individuals by a former employee have been dismissed with
prejudice, and the company have been awarded its costs.

In one case, the time for appeal has expired, in the second
case, an appeal was attempted after dismissal, but the appellate
court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the trial court
had not decided its counterclaim for payment of court ordered
costs in yet another case filed by the employee, which had been
dismissed.

The purported class action in the Circuit Court of Cook County,
Illinois, Chancery Division is still pending. The company has
obtained summary judgment on several of class plaintiffs' claims
and the court recently decertified a class claim for medical
monitoring.

At issue is class plaintiffs' claim for breach of warranty on
which the court has granted plaintiffs partial summary judgment.
The court has ordered briefing as to whether the warranty counts
may properly be certified as class actions. Plaintiffs claim
class damages of $5 million for breach of the implied warranty
of merchantability. The court has made no ruling with respect to
any damage amount.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: PCC, Insurer Clash On Asbestos Liabilities
---------------------------------------------------------------
Pittsburgh Corning Corporation and Travelers Indemnity Co. are
in a legal scuffle as to who is responsible for the neglect of
disclosure about the hazards of asbestos.  A lawyer for the
Pittsburgh Corning Corporation stood before a jury in Houston a
decade ago and argued that the company didn't know its asbestos-
laden insulation product was dangerous until too late, according
to an article from the Star Tribune.

The attorney, David Tolin, apparently was convincing. The jurors
rejected the damage claims of 10 Gulf Coast plant and oil
refinery workers afflicted with asbestos-related lung diseases
and an 11th who already had died, the report said.

The Star Tribune said, plaintiffs' lawyers say that if the jury
had known of the documents that are only now emerging, the case
might have taken on a different complexion, as might other
asbestos suits against Pittsburgh Corning in Minnesota and
nationwide.  They say the Texas case exemplifies a system of
often-secret justice that has deprived tens of thousands of
workers of information that might have enabled them to recover
more compensation for disabling illnesses.

Years before the Texas trial, Pittsburgh Corning's insurance
company accused the manufacturer in federal court of a
"criminal" cover-up of its early knowledge of asbestos' hazards.
Lawyers for the insurer, The Travelers Indemnity Co., cited
evidence that Pittsburgh Corning executives knew in 1962 that
asbestos fibers could cause crippling lung diseases, but they
didn't warn workers, the report said.

They pointed to a deposition in which Dr. Richard Gaze, chief
scientist for the British-based Cape Asbestos Industries,
testified that he had discussed asbestos' dangers with
Pittsburgh Corning's directors in 1961 before they approved the
purchase of Cape's Unarco line of insulation products.

Travelers also charged that an assistant to Pittsburgh Corning's
president shredded documents in 1972 to conceal its early
knowledge and that company officials arranged for "perjurious
testimony" to thwart victims' claims.  Travelers contended that
it no longer owed Pittsburgh Corning liability coverage because
the manufacturer had knowingly harmed workers.

Pittsburgh Corning countered by saying that Travelers itself
knew as early as 1942, when Travelers representatives attended a
meeting of the U.S. Maritime Commission about World War II
shipyard safety, that asbestos was hazardous.  It said the
insurer had been a "full partner" in the handling of asbestos
claims.

The report said that the 1993 jury wasn't told about those
charges and countercharges.  Pittsburgh Corning had settled the
disputes with Travelers and the Commercial Union Insurance Co.
in 1984, and the three firms persuaded a federal judge in
Philadelphia to seal the records.

According to the same article, Commercial Union Vice President
Harvey Lewis said disclosure of those records "may severely
prejudice" Pittsburgh Corning, other asbestos companies and
insurers in their defense against thousands of asbestos claims,
in a sworn affidavit in 1991.  Unsealing the documents, he said,
could "potentially expose them to inflated compensatory and
punitive damages."

Dr. Steven Miles, who teaches at the University of Minnesota's
Center for Bioethics, told the Star Tribune, "that's what's so
troubling here.  "Basically, a sweetheart deal was made between
the insurers and the manufacturer to enable the manufacturer to
make the most advantageous deal against the consumer."

Mr. Tolin, a lawyer from Beaumont, Texas, represented Pittsburgh
Corning in the 1993 trial and in a separate Houston case in
which some of the Philadelphia documents were eventually
produced.  He said that Travelers' allegations were
unsubstantiated and that he "certainly didn't do anything
deceptive" at the 1993 trial.  "We began by telling the jury
what we knew and when we knew it," he said.

Officials of Pittsburgh Corning, which sought Chapter 11
bankruptcy protection in 2000, did not respond to phone
inquiries.  A Travelers spokeswoman declined to comment.
However, last month, Travelers' chief spokesman, Keith Anderson,
alleged to the Star Tribune that plaintiffs' attorneys were
releasing internal company records in an effort to block
proposed federal legislation that would settle the nation's
growing mass of asbestos injury suits for more than $100
billion.  The asbestos disaster is projected to kill up to
500,000 and sicken up to 3 million American workers by the year
2030.

Mr. Miles noted that the documents in the Philadelphia court
fight were not the only ones in asbestos litigation that were
kept from victims' reach.  Even plaintiffs' attorneys have had a
role in burying incriminating evidence against asbestos
companies by agreeing to court settlements that sealed evidence,
he said.

Court orders have shielded evidence in scores of other cases
pitting manufacturers of asbestos products against their
insurers, firms that had previously worked side by side to fight
injury claims.  Unsealed court files from some of those cases,
along with documents uncovered elsewhere, now show that some
manufacturers and insurers knew about asbestos' health hazards
much earlier than they had acknowledged.  Not only has the
finger pointing in those cases created a fault line between the
liability insurers and their policyholders, but it also has put
some of the nation's largest insurers on awkward legal footing.

A new wave of asbestos injury suits, based in part on unsealed
documents, is aimed at some of the nation's largest insurers.  
In San Francisco, more than 70 insurers are engaged in coverage
disputes with as many as five major asbestos companies: the
Johns-Manville Corporation, Armstrong World Industries, Inc.,
GAF Corporation, Nicolet, Inc., and Fibreboard Corporation.

In papers filed in San Francisco Superior Court in 1987,
Travelers charged that Armstrong executives knew "in the mid-
1950s, or at the latest, by 1961" that several of its asbestos
products were hazardous.  Yet it reentered the asbestos
insulation market in 1966 with a new product, Armaspray,
"without taking even the simplest and most basic of steps to
protect its workers," the Travelers lawyers wrote.

Armstrong's lawyers said the company relied on Travelers and
Aetna claims examiners in the 1950s and 1960s to alert it of
health risks. "When the carriers raised no concerns, Armstrong
concluded that there were no asbestos hazards," they wrote.

In New York, lawyers for the National Gypsum Co. made similar
allegations in a suit against Liberty Mutual, Travelers,
Commercial Union, Employers Insurance of Wausau and a dozen
other insurers. The insurers knew of the dangers from inhalation
of raw asbestos but took "a calculated risk" and decided to
insure the wallboard maker without excluding asbestos-containing
products, the National Gypsum lawyers wrote.

Class-action suits in West Virginia and Massachusetts accuse
Aetna, One Beacon and a number of other insurers of fraudulently
defending asbestos injury claims by arguing that asbestos
companies didn't know the dangers until the late 1960s.
Travelers became the first to settle allegations in those suits
last month, agreeing to pay several hundred million dollars just
as it was merging with the St. Paul Companies, according to a
person knowledgeable about the settlement. The settlement funds
will be disbursed among thousands of victims in 10 states,
including many workers whose cases had already been resolved.

In addition, more than 3,000 victims of asbestos diseases in
Texas and Ohio have filed suits accusing dozens of insurers and
asbestos companies of concealing knowledge of asbestos' dangers
and failing to warn workers.

Insurance industry documents have shown that underwriters agreed
in the late 1970s to defend manufacturers against a torrent of
victims' suits with the argument that the manufacturers knew no
more than anybody else about asbestos. Plaintiffs' attorneys
charge that, as a result, many asbestos victims who sued were
denied the full truth and got smaller damage awards, the report
said.

In Minnesota, Hastings attorney Rick LaVerdiere said Pat Hosley,
an insulator, worked frequently in the 1960s with Pittsburgh
Corning's Unibestos insulation to cover pipelines at Koch
Industries' Rosemount oil refinery. LaVerdiere said hazardous
clouds of asbestos fibers would fill the air when insulators
sawed sections of Unibestos to the needed sizes.

He contracted asbestosis, a disease restricting his lung
functions. He settled with multiple defendants, but went to
trial against Pittsburgh Corning in late 1983. A jury found the
company responsible but only for 10 percent of Hosley's illness,
given his other asbestos exposures. Lawyers in the case said
they recall that the award was $250,00 to $300,000, according to
the Star Tribune report.

St. Paul attorney Patrick Tierney, who helped represent
Pittsburgh Corning, said Travelers probably financed the
defense. He said the manufacturer brought in national attorneys
and expert witnesses who argued that the company did not know
until the late 1960s or early 1970s of asbestos' dangers.
Tierney expressed surprise to learn of Travelers' allegations
against Pittsburgh Corning in the Philadelphia suit.

Mr. LaVerdiere said that if evidence from that case had been
introduced in the trial, there might have been "the potential
for a punitive-damage case against Pittsburgh Corning."

Punitive damages for intentional harm can run far beyond an
award for compensatory damages.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Tyco, Units Battle Asbestos Suits
------------------------------------------------------
Tyco reports that the company and some of its subsidiaries face
around 14,000 pending asbestos liability cases, as of Sept. 30.

There are claims of asbestos exposure while on a subsidiary's
property. Some of the cases involve product liability claims,
based principally on allegations of past distribution of heat-
resistant industrial products incorporating asbestos or the past
distribution of industrial valves that incorporated asbestos-
containing gaskets or packing. Each case typically names between
dozens to hundreds of corporate defendants.

Tyco's involvement in asbestos cases has been limited because
its subsidiaries did not mine or produce asbestos. In Tyco's
experience, many of the claims were never substantiated and have
been dismissed by the courts. Tyco's vigorous defense
of these lawsuits has resulted in judgments in its favor in all
cases tried to verdict. The company has not suffered an adverse
verdict in a trial court proceeding related to asbestos claims.

Tyco asserted that they settle claims when appropriate but the
total amount paid to date to settle and defend all asbestos
claims has been immaterial.

Tyco believes that it has substantial indemnification protection
and insurance coverage, subject to applicable deductibles, with
respect to asbestos claims. These indemnitors and the relevant
carriers typically have been honoring their duty to defend and
indemnify. The company believes that it has valid defenses to
these claims.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Zurn Notes 59,000 Pending Asbestos Claims
---------------------------------------------------------------
Zurn Industries, Inc. reveals that it is a co-defendant in
numerous asbestos-related lawsuits pending in the United States
wherein the plaintiffs allege personal injuries allegedly caused
by asbestos exposure used primarily in industrial boilers and as
of Sept. 30, there are 59,000 asbestos claims pending against
the company.

According to the latest regulatory report of the company filed
with the Securities and Exchange Commission, since Zurn around
84,000 asbestos claims including dismissals of around 6,400 of
such claims through Sept. 30.

Jacuzzi Brands, the mother company of Zurn Industries, reports
that at Sept. 30, Zurn and its actuarial consultant estimated
that its potential liability for asbestos claims pending against
it and for claims estimated to be filed through 2013 is roughly
$160,000,000. This estimate is based on the current and
anticipated number of future asbestos claims, the timing and
amounts of asbestos payments, the status of ongoing litigation
and the potential impact of defense strategies and settlement
initiatives.

However, there are inherent uncertainties involved in estimating
both the number of future asbestos claims as well as future
settlement costs, and the actual liability could exceed Zurn's
estimate due to changes in law and other factors beyond their
control. Further, while Zurn's current asbestos liability is
based on an estimate of claims through 2013, such liability may
continue beyond 2013, and such liability could be substantial,
the filing said.

Zurn's analysis of its available insurance to cover its
potential asbestos liability as of Sept. 30 is around
$314,000,000.  While Zurn believes, based on its experience in
defending and dismissing such claims and the insurance coverage
available, that it has sufficient insurance to cover the pending
and reasonably estimable future claims, there is no assurance
that
this amount of insurance will ultimately be available or that
Zurn's asbestos liabilities will not ultimately exceed this
amount.

In June 1998, Jacuzzi Brands acquired Zurn Industries, Inc.,
which itself owned various subsidiaries.  Zurn is a wholly owned
subsidiary of Jacuzzi.


                  New Securities Fraud Cases

JANUS CAPITAL: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Securities Suit in CO
---------------------------------------------------------------
Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP initiated a securities class action in
the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on
behalf of purchasers of the common stock of Janus Capital Group,
Inc., between July 21, 2000 and September 2, 2003, inclusive,
against the Company and:

     (1) Mark B. Whiston,

     (2) Loren M. Starr, and

     (3) Gregory A. Frost

The complaint alleges that Defendants violated Sections 10(b)
and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5
Promulgated thereunder.  More specifically, the Defendants
failed to disclose and indicate:

     (i) that it's wholly-owned subsidiary Janus Capital Corp.
         entered into an illegal agreement with Edward Stein,
         Canary Capital Partners, LLC, and Canary Investment
         Management, LLC wherein JCC permitted Canary to time
         Janus mutual funds;

    (ii) that in exchange for permitting Canary to time Janus
         mutual funds, Canary deposited "sticky assets" into
         certain Janus money market funds;

   (iii) that the "sticky assets" deposited into certain Janus
         money market funds permitted Janus to materially
         overstate its assets under management and thus
         permitted Janus to receive a steady flow of fees from
         such "sticky assets;" and

    (iv) as a result of this illegal scheme, Janus, through the
         Class Period, materially overstated and artificially
         inflated Janus' earnings, income, and earnings per
         share.

For more information, contact Mark A. Topaz, or Stuart L.
Berman, by Mail: Three Bala Plaza East, Suite 400, Bala Cynwyd,
PA 19004, by Phone: 1-888-299 (toll free), or 1-610-667-7706, or
by E-mail: info@sbclasslaw.com.


MARSH & MCLENNAN: Scott + Scott Files Securities Suit in S.D. NY
----------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Scott + Scott, LLC initiated a class action
lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York against Marsh and certain of its officers
and directors, on behalf of purchasers or those who acquired
Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. common stock during the period
between January 3, 2000 and November 3, 2003, inclusive.

The complaint alleges that Marsh represented that Putnam's
mutual funds were designed to be long-term investments for "buy
and hold" investors and were a favored investment for Americans'
retirement plans or annuities for a child's education. Certain
investors, however, have attempted to use mutual funds to
generate quick profits by rapidly trading in and out of mutual
funds which have been the topic of business news as of late
(examples include the Mutual Fund's of Excelsior, Invesco, MFS,
PBHG,SNWL, Van Kampen and more). Typically, these investors, who
are able to time the market, seek to capitalize on low fund
prices. They then focus on price discrepancies involving
international funds (examples other than Putnam include those by
Templeton, T Rowe Price, Scudder, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley
and more). Market timers take advantage of price inequities and
thereby damage long-term shareholders who own such annuities.

The complaint alleges that Marsh had a duty to treat all
shareholders equally. This duty would not permit granting one
group of shareholders (i.e., market timers) privileges and
rights not granted to all shareholders (i.e., long-term
investors). In addition, when a fund's prospectus discloses that
the fund management will act to limit timing the market, it
cannot knowingly permit such activities. The complaint further
alleges that Marsh knowingly permitted this behavior.

As a result of the defendants' false statements and/or failure
to disclose adverse facts regarding Marsh's Putnam subsidiary,
Plaintiff alleges Marsh's stock price traded at inflated levels
during the Class Period, increasing to as high as $67.43 on
October 5, 2000, whereby the Company's top officers and
directors sold more than $31 million worth of their own shares.

Plaintiff seeks to recover damages on behalf of all purchasers
of Marsh common stock during the Class Period.

For more information, contact Neil Rothstein, by Phone:
(619) 251-0887, or by E-mail: nrothstein@scott-scott.com.


                           *********

A list of Meetings, Conferences and Seminars appears in each
Wednesday's edition of the Class Action Reporter. Submissions
via e-mail to carconf@beard.com are encouraged.

Each Friday's edition of the CAR includes a section featuring
news on asbestos-related litigation and profiles of target
asbestos defendants that, according to independent researches,
collectively face billions of dollars in asbestos-related
liabilities.  The Asbestos Defendant Profiles is backed by an
online database created to respond to custom searches. Go to
http://litigationdatasource.com/asbestos_defendant_profiles.html

                        *********


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., Fairless Hills,
Pennsylvania, USA, and Beard Group, Inc., Frederick, Maryland
USA.  Roberto Amor, Aurora Fatima Antonio and Lyndsey Resnick,
Editors.

Copyright 2003.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

This material is copyrighted and any commercial use, resale or
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re-mailing and photocopying) is strictly prohibited without
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