CAR_Public/040109.mbx            C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R
  
             Friday, January 9, 2004, Vol. 6, No. 6

                           Headlines                            

AMOCO OIL: Court Affirms Certification Denial For Consumer Suit
BEST BUY: Shareholders Launch Securities Fraud Suits in MN Court
BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: Critics Oppose $149M Pact In Texas Court
BUSYBOX.COM: SEC Launches Securities Complaint V. Exec, Trader
CALIFORNIA: Court Refuses To Compel Arbitration in Ultimo Suit

COMCAST CORPORATION: Gay Rights Group Complains About Cable Ad
DIRECTV: CA Court Grants Final Approval To Cable TV Settlement
ENRON: Ex-Executive Andrew Fastow Entering Plea Bargain Talks
MARTHA STEWART: Legal Analysts Say Fans Could Be Foes As Jurors
MAYO CLINIC: Workers Commence Lawsuit Over Withheld Back Pay

MITSHUBISHI MOTOR: Camden Law Firm Settles 'Brake Defect' Suit
MOHAWK INDUSTRIES: Suit Alleges Use Of "Illegals" To Limit Pay
NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR: Court Refuses Medical Monitoring Class
NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR: Discovery Starts in Derivative Lawsuit
NEW YORK: Atty. Gen. Spitzer Asked To Recoup NYSE Chairman's Pay

OXYCONTIN LITIGATION: CT Atty. General Vows Drug Investigation
PARMALAT FINANZIARIA: Ex-Exec Reveals "Bank Links" Amid Probe
PARMALAT: Deloitte & Touche Expects To Be Called In Stock Probe
PENSION FUNDS: Joining Securities Suits At Fast Pace, Says Study
PILLOWTEX: Three Workers Commence Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

PURDUE PHARMA: Faces Antitrust Suit, Probe By CT Atty. General
RITETIME AIRWAYS: Stranded Passengers Consider Filing Lawsuit
SHELL CANADA: Agrees To Settlement Payouts Of Fuel Additive Suit
ST. JUDE MEDICAL: Judge Allows Silzone Valve Lawsuit To Proceed
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Shares Fall On Missouri Suit Certification

TYCO INTERNATIONAL: Ex-Chief's Compensation Questioned in Trial
UNITED STATES: Judge Allows Resumption Of Anthrax Vaccinations
US LIQUIDS: Court To Hear Arguments on Summary Judgment Appeal
VIVENDI-UNIVERSAL: Ex-CEO Fined $1M In Wake Of Fraud Probe
WORLDCOM INC.: Klayman & Toskes Pursues Individual Stock Claim

                        Asbestos Alert

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Developer Loses Appeal in Asbestos Lawsuit
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Chamber Hopeful for Asbestos Bill Approval
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Timber Giant Settles Asbestos Liabilities
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Claimants Okays Congoleum Bankruptcy Plan
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Hanson Notes Lower Number of New Claimants

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Ohio Asbestos Victims Call for Reform Bill
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Legislator Drafts Another Asbestos Bill
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Upcoming Article Lashes at Asbestos Claims
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Victims Continue Their Battle, Firms Duck
ASBESTOS ALERT: Deere Mentions Asbestos Woes, Does Not Elaborate

                   New Securities Fraud Cases

AEROSONIC CORPORATION: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in FL
AEROSONIC CORPORATION: Lasky & Rifkind Files FL Securities Suit
AMERICAN PHARMACEUTICALS: Charles Piven Files Stock Suit in IL
AMERICAN PHYSICIANS: Lasky & Rifkind Lodges MI Securities Suit
AMERICAN PHYSICIANS: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in MI

BEST BUY: Charles Piven Commences Securities Fraud Lawsuit in MN
BOSTON COMMUNICATIONS: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in MA
FRED ALGER: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Securities Suit in NY
FRIEDMAN'S INC: Goodkind Labaton Launches Securities Suit in GA
GOODYEAR TIRE: Marc Henzel Commences Securities Suit in N.D. OH

GOODYEAR TIRE: Schatz & Nobel Commences Securities Suit in OH
IBIS TEHCNOLOGY: Bernard Gross Files Securities Suit in MA
INVESCO FUNDS: Spector Roseman Launches Securities Suit in CO
LEAPFROG ENTERPRISES: Gold Bennett Files Securities Suit in CA
PRICESMART INC: Scott + Scott Lodges Securities Suit in S.D. CA

SECURITY TRUST: Schiffrin & Barroway Lodges AZ Securities Suit
SONICWALL INC.: Milberg Weiss Lodges Securities Suit in N.D. CA
VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS: Marc Henzel Lodges Securities Suit in MA

                           *********

AMOCO OIL: Court Affirms Certification Denial For Consumer Suit
---------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court of Appeal of Florida, First
District affirmed a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court for Leon
County, denying class certification of a lawsuit brought against
Amoco Oil Company, on behalf of Plaintiff Barbara S. Earnest,
alleging violations of the Florida Motor Fuel Marketing
Practices Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade
Practices Act.
                                                  
The lawsuit alleges that Amoco violated statutory provisions
when, in 1994, it discontinued distributing its petroleum
products in Leon County to independent distributors and/or
station owners, commonly known as "jobbers" in the trade, and
limited distribution of its products exclusively to company-
owned Amoco stations.  

Ms. Earnest has contended that the decision to discontinue
distribution to jobbers adversely affected economic competition
among gasoline retailers operating in Leon County.  Upon the
filing of her complaint, Ms. Earnest sought certification as a
class representative of purchasers of Amoco gasoline in Leon
County subsequent to Amoco's cessation of distribution to
jobbers.
      
The trial court conducted an extensive hearing on the motion for
class certification.  The principal issue of which was whether
questions of law or fact common to appellant's claims and to
each member of the class "predominate over any question of law
or fact affecting only individual members of the class, and
[that] class representation is superior to other available
methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the
controversy."  The trial court determined that appellant's
evidence submitted in support of class certification was not
sufficient to show that the representative has proof to
establish injury to class members and, thus, class certification
was denied.
                                                     

BEST BUY: Shareholders Launch Securities Fraud Suits in MN Court
----------------------------------------------------------------
Best Buy Co., Inc. faces four securities class actions filed on
behalf of persons who purchased the Company's securities between
January 9, 2002, and August 7, 2002.  The lawsuits name Best Buy
Co., Inc., its Chairman and its Chief Executive Officer as
defendants.  The suit is pending in the United States District
Court in Minnesota.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated Sections
10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as
amended, and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, by making
material misrepresentations between January 9, 2002, and August
7, 2002, which resulted in artificially inflated prices of the
Company's s common stock.  Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages,
costs and expenses.


BRIDGESTONE/FIRESTONE: Critics Oppose $149M Pact In Texas Court
---------------------------------------------------------------
Critics of a proposed $149 million deal that would settle 30
class actions against Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire
packed a courtroom to oppose the agreement, asking a judge to
allow changes before approving it, AP/ WorldStream reports.

State District Judge Donald Floyd on Wednesday said that he
would decide within a month whether to approve, reject or allow
revisions to the settlement, which comes more than three years
after the 2000 recall of 14.4 million Firestone tires amid
safety concerns.

"This is a complete illusionary deal," attorney Mitchell Toups
told AP.  He also asked Judge Floyd to allow objectors 60 days
to improve the settlement so it would offer additional
compensation to people who owned Firestone tires but did not
suffer personal injury or property damage.  "We didn't come here
to wreck this deal," he said.  "Give us the opportunity to bring
to these lawyers what we think will work."

Company officials say the settlement, which could affect 15
million people and about 60 million tires, is good for all
parties.  "This is a large settlement and it is one we think is
fair and in the best interest of everyone," Marina Marich,
spokeswoman for the Nashville, Tennessee-based tire maker, told
AP.

The court received 110 written objections and more than two
dozen attorneys showed up Wednesday to personally voice their
discontent. However, attorneys for the tire maker and class-
action representative Terri Shields said they would not
negotiate with those opposed to the agreement, which the tire
maker agreed to in July.

Mike Caddell, an attorney who has handled Firestone class
actions and opposes the plan, said the company is trying to pass
off actions already planned or promised in other litigation as
compensation.  "It is important for the court to appreciate
whether this settlement includes repackaged items," he said.
"Let's determine if these are indeed new benefits."

Ms. Marich said the settlement consists entirely of new
initiatives.  It calls for Firestone to pay an estimated $70
million to replace tires, $41 million to manufacture certain
tires with materials that would perform better at high speeds,
$15.5 million on a consumer education and awareness campaign and
$19 million for attorneys fees.  The company also has paid $3.5
million to notify class members of the settlement plan.  The 45
named plaintiffs each could receive up to $2,500. Those who are
not named but owned one of 22 brands of Bridgestone/Firestone
tires between 1991 and 2001 qualify to have their tires
replaced.

The lawsuits resolved as part of the proposed settlement include
those filed by Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT customers
whose tires were among those investigated by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2000.

"What you have is an effort to quibble with a settlement that
has been fairly negotiated," Firestone attorney Hugh Whiting
told AP.  "A request for 60 days is just a request for delay. It
is a request to get in and interfere."

Plaintiffs' attorney Don Barrett said lawyers in the case have
spent millions of dollars pursuing the legal action and
thousands of hours going through documents.  They got a
settlement after discussions that were "long and contentious"
that will benefit the public, he said.  "This is a good
settlement. Nothing in this world is perfect," Mr. Barrett said.
"It is a bit unseemly for attorneys who don't know boo-turkey
about this case to come in at the end and second guess their
colleagues."


BUSYBOX.COM: SEC Launches Securities Complaint V. Exec, Trader
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York charging Thomas T. Prousalis, Jr. and Robert T. Kirk, Jr.
with committing fraud in connection with the June 2000 initial
public offering by busybox.com, Inc.  

Mr. Prousalis was securities counsel for busybox and Mr. Kirk
was the majority owner and president of Barron Chase Securities,
Inc., the lead underwriter for the offering.  Mr. Prousalis is a
resident of McLean, Virginia and is licensed to practice in
Washington, D.C.  Mr. Kirk is a resident of Parkland, Florida.
     
The complaint alleges that Barron Chase agreed to underwrite a
firm commitment offering that would raise approximately  $12.8
million for busybox.  After informing busybox that Barron Chase
was having difficulty selling the IPO securities to bona fide
investors, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Prousalis devised and executed a
fraudulent scheme to complete the offering.   

According to the complaint, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Prousalis arranged
for busybox insiders to "purchase" IPO securities using
undisclosed bonuses, and for Mr. Prousalis to receive an
inflated and undisclosed legal fee that was to be paid using IPO
securities.  Barron Chase secretly financed these transactions
and, during the IPO closing, Mr. Kirk and Mr. Prousalis caused
busybox to repay Barron Chase out of the proceeds of the
offering.   

The complaint further alleges that the scheme gave Mr. Prousalis
and the insiders almost 20% of the securities offered in the
IPO, and reduced the proceeds available to busybox by over $2.1
million.  The IPO registration statement and prospectus did not
disclose the insiders' stock purchases, the inflated legal fee
paid to Mr. Prousalis, Barron Chase's financing of these
transactions or the repayment to Barron Chase using IPO
proceeds.

As set forth in the complaint, the fraudulent scheme misled
investors as to the financial health and future viability of the
company.  The complaint alleges that Mr. Prousalis and Mr.
Kirk's firm benefited financially from the scheme by receiving
fees of approximately $1.25 million and $1.5 million,
respectively.  Finally, the Commission charged that, after the
IPO was completed, Mr. Prousalis owned more than 5% of the
company's outstanding stock, but failed to report his holdings
on a Schedule 13D, as required by law.  He also failed to report
the subsequent sale of all of his busybox IPO stock.
     
The Commission charges that Mr. Prousalis and Mr. Kirk violated
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.  Mr.
Prousalis is also charged with violating Section 13(d) of the
Exchange Act and Rules 13d-1 and 13d-2 thereunder.    

The Commission is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement of
defendants' ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, and the
imposition of civil penalties against M. Prousalis and Mr. Kirk.
     
The suit is styled "SEC v. Thomas T. Prousalis, Jr. and Robert
T. Kirk, Jr., USDC, SDNY, Civil Action No. 04-CV-00081."


CALIFORNIA: Court Refuses To Compel Arbitration in Ultimo Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
The United States Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3
affirmed a ruling by the U.S. Superior Court for Orange County,
denying Defendant's motion to compel arbitration in a lawsuit
brought against Frank Ultimo, et al., on behalf of Laurence H.
Harper, et al. alleging negligence, fraud, and breach of a
property repair contract that contained an arbitration clause
requiring settlement in accordance with remedy-limiting Better
Business Bureau arbitration rules that were not attached to the
contract.

The lawsuit stems from a pre-printed contract signed by
Plaintiffs Laurence and Michaelyn Harper with Frank Ultimo and
Ultimo Organization to stabilize the soil and re-level a pool on
the Harpers' property.  Mr. Ultimo rejected the Harpers' attempt
to add an "addendum" relating to start and stop dates,
integration, and notification.  The contracts also contained
arbitration provisions, which provided that all controversies
under, or related to the contract were to be settled "in
accordance with the Uniform Rules for Better Business Bureau
Arbitration."  The Better Business Bureau's rules were
not attached to the contract.
      
Allegedly, Mr. Ultimo broke a sewer pipe in the course of the
work, with the result that concrete spread into the sewer system
and soil, causing blocks to form in the house's plumbing
system.  He also is supposed to have caused considerable damage
to the backyard drainage system, and he misled the Harpers as to
the amount of work performed.
    
The Harpers' soon discovered, however, that the arbitration
rules of the Better Business Bureau limit the damages and
remedies available to dissatisfied customers.  Customers cannot
obtain compensation for "personal injuries" unless all
parties otherwise agree in writing (and, after oral argument and
as of the date of this writing, Mr. Ultimo has conspicuously not
made an offer to so agree).  Customer remedies are limited to
full or partial refund, completion of work, costs of repair or
any out of pocket loss or property damage, but "not to exceed
$2,500, caused by provision of the service."  Any additional
remedies may be awarded "only if" the remedy is already included
in a business's precommitment with the Bureau or, as in the case
of personal injury claims, if agreed in writing by all parties.  
Customers are thus precluded under the Better Business Bureau
arbitration rules from obtaining tort damages, punitive damages,
or any other damages otherwise appropriate in a court of law.
      
The Harpers filed suit in superior court, alleging tort causes
of action for negligence and fraud as well as breach of
contract.  The suit also seeks punitive damages as well as other
tort and contract relief.  Mr. Ultimo brought a motion to compel
arbitration.  The trial court denied the motion, concluding that
the arbitration clause was unconscionable and therefore would
not be enforced, which he appealed.


COMCAST CORPORATION: Gay Rights Group Complains About Cable Ad
--------------------------------------------------------------
A gay rights group complained to Comcast Corporation about an
advertisement for its cable TV service that spoofs the hit show
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," saying the ad perpetuates gay
stereotypes, the Associated Press reports.

Comcast already was planning to stop running the spot - one in a
series spoofing various TV shows - in the next few days, a
spokesman said.  The ad, run in the Philadelphia and Harrisburg
markets, has been airing the past few weeks.  "We're not aware
of any other complaints," spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick told AP.

The ad shows a blond man in a pink-and-white print shirt
descending on a bored family in need of a "cable makeover."  A
previous spot in the campaign spoofed "The Newlywed Game," Mr.
Fitzpatrick said.

Rita Addessa, executive director of the Pennsylvania Lesbian and
Gay Task Force, said the ad sends the stereotypical message
"that gay men are effeminate (and) care only about fashion .
This is simply not reflective of the community; it is a tired,
old stereotype," she told AP.

She also faults "Queer Eye," which has become a cable hit on the
Bravo network, for presenting the same narrow view of gay men.  
"Minorities are rarely depicted (in the media) except in ways in
which the mainstream will accept," she said.  Her group, with
about 1,000 paying members, received two complaints about the
Comcast ad, she said.


DIRECTV: CA Court Grants Final Approval To Cable TV Settlement
--------------------------------------------------------------
DIRECTV, Inc. announced that the U.S. District Court for the
Central District of California has ruled that a proposed
settlement agreement between DIRECTV and a Class consisting of
certain members of the National Rural Telecommunications
Cooperative (NRTC) is fair and has granted final approval of the
class action settlement.

Last August, DIRECTV entered into a settlement agreement with
the NRTC and representatives of the Class, subject to court
approval of the Class settlement. The court approval ends the
four-year-old litigation for all plaintiffs except Pegasus
Communications and its affiliates that distribute DIRECTV
programming through the NRTC.

In the ruling, the Court concluded that the settlement is "fair,
just, reasonable and adequate," and noted that the settlement,
reached after an exhaustive examination of both the factual and
legal bases for the disputed claims, provides the Class "with
certainty regarding its business and with the opportunity to
profit from the business for an extended period on economic
terms, many of which are more beneficial than those in place at
the start of the litigation."

Rob Hall, senior vice president, general counsel, DIRECTV, Inc.,
said, "We are of course delighted with the Court's approval of
the settlement, which provides all parties with a beneficial
resolution to the cases."

The Court noted that although the settlement does not provide
the Class with money damages, it does provide "other valuable
benefits not measured in terms of monetary recovery." In
particular, the Court noted the benefit of having a definite and
certain contract term so "the Class Members will no longer be
subject to the risk of premature operational failure of any
measuring satellite and will have an initial term that is
significantly longer than that which the engineers believe is
the best case scenario for the contractual life of DBS-1."

Pursuant to the settlement, DIRECTV and the NRTC have agreed
that the term of the DBS Distribution Agreement, which entitles
the NRTC to distribute DIRECTV programming, will end on the
later of the date when the DBS-1 satellite (also called DIRECTV
1) reaches the end of its contractual life or June 30, 2008.
DIRECTV and the NRTC have also agreed to a fixed successor term,
to run until June 30, 2011, during which DIRECTV, the NRTC and
the settling Class Members will continue their relationship on
the current terms. After that date, DIRECTV has no further
obligation to provide services to the NRTC or any NRTC member or
affiliate.

This settlement does not resolve certain related pending
litigation between DIRECTV and Pegasus. The Court has set a
status hearing on that litigation for Jan. 8, 2004. In a
separate action, the Court previously set March 23, 2004, as the
trial date on DIRECTV's claim for approximately $60 million owed
it by Pegasus under the parties' prior marketing agreement.

DIRECTV is the nation's leading digital multichannel television
service provider with more than 12 million customers. DIRECTV
and the Cyclone Design logo are registered trademarks of
DIRECTV, Inc., a unit of Hughes Electronics Corp. Hughes is a
world-leading provider of digital multichannel television
entertainment, broadband satellite networks and services, and
global video and data broadcasting. Hughes is 34 percent owned
by Fox Entertainment Group, which is approximately 82 percent
owned by News Corporation Ltd.


ENRON: Ex-Executive Andrew Fastow Entering Plea Bargain Talks
-------------------------------------------------------------
Sources close to the case on Wednesday said that Andrew Fastow,
former Enron Corporation financial mastermind, is negotiating a
plea bargain and another former Enron executive is expected to
face charges soon, Reuters reports.

As prosecutors work their way up the management hierarchy at the
bankrupt energy trader in a massive fraud case now two years
old, the sources said former Enron chief accountant Richard
Causey was expected to be charged soon.  However, timing and
details of any action to be brought against Mr. Causey depend
partly on the Fastow case, the sources said.

Scheduled to go to trial in April, Mr. Fastow is negotiating a
plea bargain deal that could send him to prison for 10 years,
said sources familiar with the matter.  He is accused of
engineering complex financial deals that hid Enron's debt and
boosted its stock price.  He has pleaded not guilty to 98 counts
of fraud, money laundering, insider trading and falsification of
accounting records.

A federal judge in Houston has rejected a proposed plea bargain
that would have resulted in a five-month prison sentence for
Fastow's wife, Lea Fastow, who was once Enron's assistant
treasurer, the sources told Reuters.  Both Fastows have been
accused of playing roles in the financial chicanery that led to
the downfall of Houston-based Enron, once America's seventh-
largest company and the first in a series of corporate scandals
that have rocked world markets.

Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay and former chief executive
Jeffrey Skilling have not been charged in the two-year-old case,
although several mid-level executives have pleaded guilty,
agreed to cooperate or face trial.

If Fastow cuts a plea deal, it is unclear if he would agree to
cooperate with investigators.  If he does, some lawyers said,
his former superiors would have immediate cause to worry about
what he might tell authorities.

"If I were Skilling or even Lay, I would be sweating bullets"
over the possibility of Fastow agreeing to talk, a lawyer close
to the case who asked not to be named, told Reuters.  Plea
bargain talks with Andrew Fastow could still falter, as those
for his wife did today, the sources said.

Craig Smyser, a Houston attorney who is defending Andrew Fastow
in civil litigation, declined to comment on the talks.  He told
Reuters civil proceedings against his client were on hold
pending resolution of the criminal case.  John Keker, Andrew
Fastow's attorney in the criminal case against him, could not be
reached for comment.  Lawyers for Mr. Causey and Mr. Skilling
could not be reached.

Michael Ramsey, one of Lay's lawyers, told Reuters he was not
concerned about Fastow possibly cooperating.  "As long as the
guy tells the truth, then it's no threat to us. Because the
truth is Ken didn't commit a crime," Ramsey said. "We've
cooperated as fully as we know how" with government
investigators over the past few months, he said.

Lea Fastow has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts,
including false tax reporting and conspiracy in her husband's
dealings. She is scheduled to go to trial next month.


MARTHA STEWART: Legal Analysts Say Fans Could Be Foes As Jurors
---------------------------------------------------------------
Martha Stewart's fans may decorate their homes with tips from
her lifestyle magazine and cook her recipes, but that devotion
is no guarantee they would acquit the trendsetter if picked to
serve on her jury, say say legal consultants who, as jury
selection for the Stewart trial got under way, predict that
jurors' attitudes, personal experiences and values will play a
much greater role in Stewart's fate than gender, profession or
economic background, Reuters reports.

"You might think a woman who enjoys Martha Stewart's products
might be favorable, but you can't bank on it.  Demographics
don't make a material difference in this type of case," Philip
Anthony, chief executive of Los Angeles-based trial consulting
firm Bowne DecisionQuest, told Reuters.

Karen Jo Koonan, senior trial consultant at the National Jury
Project of Oakland, California, agreed.  She said some might
think a successful businesswoman would be an ideal juror for
Stewart, but that view could easily backfire.  "One professional
woman might feel that women are picked on in the business world,
while another might believe 'I behave differently than that,"'
she said.

Ms. Stewart, who became a household name as she built up a media
and lifestyle empire, is charged with crimes stemming from her
2001 sale of almost 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems Inc.
for $227,000. Prosecutors say she made the trade based
on an inside tip that negative news about the company was
imminent.  She denies wrongdoing.

Jury selection began on Tuesday when hundreds of potential
jurors arrived at a federal courthouse to answer questionnaires.
Oral questioning of potential jurors is set to begin January 20
with opening statements in the trial expected at the end of the
month.

Several prominent consultants who advise lawyers on jury
selection said that demographics and stereotypes of potential
panelists may have little bearing in this case because of some
unique elements - among them that Ms. Stewart is not actually
charged with insider trading.  Instead, she faces trial for
obstruction of justice and securities fraud based on accusations
that she lied to regulators and the public about her trading.

Because the core crime is inferred, consultants say how jurors
judge Ms. Stewart will greatly depend on how they view the
world, not whether they like her Kmart sheets or recipes.  In
particular, they agreed that defense lawyers should try to
eliminate potential jurors who are rigid in their beliefs.

Jeffrey Frederick, director of Jury Research for the National
Legal Research Group in Charlottesville, Virgina, told Reuters
an ideal juror for prosecutors will be a person who thinks in
"black and white terms" and who would convict a defendant for
"violating the letter of the law" regardless of the situation.  

"For those types, there's not a great distinction," agreed Bowne
DecisionQuest's Anthony.

Ms. Koonan said she would also advise the defense to eliminate
potential jurors who have attitudes that suggest they think "you
create your own problems in this world" and so might be
predisposed to thinking she brought her woes upon herself rather
than being victimized for being a celebrity.

Another dangerous type of juror for Stewart is one who believes
"no one ever did anything for me . why should she get special
treatment," added Mr. Anthony.  He said that jurors who might be
in her camp would be those who faced adversity in their own
lives and succeeded.  "They've persevered and done well.  
Subconsciously they believe, She did what I did and she's a hero
to me."

The consultants said the defense team should also seek jurors
who feel they have been singled out for mistreatment or know
anyone who was wrongfully accused of a crime.  Mr. Frederick
said that although Stewart's demeanor often generates negative
publicity, her celebrity may work in her favor.  He said some
jurors may see it as the reason for her prosecution because
"other people who have committed greater wrongdoing are not
facing the same type of situation," Reuters stated.


MAYO CLINIC: Workers Commence Lawsuit Over Withheld Back Pay
------------------------------------------------------------
James V. Budziszek, a Mayo Clinic senior salary administrative
specialist has filed suit in Minnesota claiming his employer has
been stiffing salaried workers by one day's pay annually, The
Arizona Republic reports.

The suit, for which the worker is seeking class-action status,
would cost the Rochester, Minnesota-based hospital, with 3,600
Scottsdale employees, more than $18 million in back pay.  The
suit asks for pay as far back as three years for 6,000 salaried
employees in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona.  Mr. Budziszek
alleges that he and other workers complained and asked Mayo to
change its policy.

Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation pays salaried workers 26 times a
year. However they should be paid 26.1 times a year, which means
eight hours of wages were lost for each of them, the lawsuit
says.  In essence, each salaried worker should get one extra
paycheck a year for one day's pay.

Don Nichols, Mr. Budziszek's lawyer, says salaried employees
receive an extra paycheck every 12 years to make up for those
lost hours.  They will receive the next extra check in 2008, he
said, yet Mr. Nichols argues that few people work there long
enough to receive the pay.

Lee Aase, a Mayo spokesman, declined to discuss the lawsuit's
specific points, the Arizona Republic states.  "Mayo Clinic is
committed to fair and appropriate compensation for all
employees," he said.  "We have reviewed concerns raised by this
individual, and we are confident that Mayo Clinic's practices
comply with the law. We will strongly defend our position."


MITSHUBISHI MOTOR: Camden Law Firm Settles 'Brake Defect' Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Lemon Law firm of Kimmel & Silverman on Monday announced
that it has resolved a class action against Mitsubishi Motor
Manufacturing of America, Inc. and Mitsubishi Motor Sales of
America, Inc., over brake defects in 1999 Mitsubishi Galant
Models, the Courier-Post reports.  Kimmel & Silverman, along
with the law firms of Sheller Ludwig & Badey and Cyrus Mehri,
represented Jersey City resident Isam Haddadin, the lead
plaintiff of the class action.

According to documents filed in Superior Court in November 2000,
the 1999 Galant was manufactured with a brake defect, resulting
in premature wear and continuous replacement of the brake pads
and rotors.

Mr. Haddadin alleged that his 1999 Galant had been returned to
the dealership repeatedly to remedy the braking problem.  The
suit claimed the same defects exist in all 1999 Galants and that
the problem stood to affect several thousand Galants in New
Jersey, and tens of thousands nationally.

"We have seen the 1999 Galant brake problem with alarming
regularity,' said co-counsel Craig Thor Kimmel.  "The cases
share a nearly identical fact pattern of brake rotor repairs
being performed every 3,000-5,000 miles. Rotors will normally
last 50,000 miles or more. When rotors reach the point of
replacement, the ability to stop the car is diminished.'

Under the settlement, owners and lessees of 1999 Mitsubishi
Galants models who purchased or leased their car new are
entitled to one or more of the following remedies:

     (1) Reimbursement for qualifying brake repairs

     (2) Free brake inspection and repair under certain
         conditions

     (3) A voucher for $25 in future service if owners have not
         and are not experiencing brake-related problems.

Consumers will be notified by mail.


MOHAWK INDUSTRIES: Suit Alleges Use Of "Illegals" To Limit Pay
--------------------------------------------------------------
Four workers at Mohawk Industries Inc. filed a lawsuit, in the
United States District Court in Rome, Georgia, accusing the
carpet-making giant of suppressing wages by hiring illegal
immigrants, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.  They made
a novel legal argument that seeks to hold companies accountable
for violating immigration laws.

According to the lawsuit Mohawk recruits and hires illegal
immigrants and accepts identity documents it knows to be
fraudulent.  They alleged a pattern of illegal activity that
violates the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations statute (RICO), a law more commonly used to target
mobsters and tax evaders.

Bobby Lee Cook, the defense attorney, is one of several lawyers
representing the three former, and one current, employees.  He
said Mohawk has hired "hundreds and hundreds of illegal
immigrants" because it can pay them less than U.S. citizens and
legal immigrants and because illegal immigrants are unlikely to
pursue worker's compensation claims if they are hurt on the job.
"The government is not making sufficient efforts to enforce the
immigration laws," he told the Journal-Constitution.  "There's a
flood of illegal immigrants all over northwest Georgia with
little or no significant efforts to regulate it."

Sal Perillo, Mohawk's general counsel, said the company obeys
the law. "I've read the charges, and they're preposterous . The
allegations are totally unfounded," he said.  "We are going to
vigorously defend ourselves."

Mohawk is the nation's second largest carpet manufacturer.  It
employs about 31,800 workers and reported $4.5 billion in
revenue last year.  The suit is the fifth initiated nationally
by Howard Foster, a Chicago attorney who specializes in class
action racketeering lawsuits.  He has alleged that companies
broke racketeering laws by hiring illegal immigrants in suits
against a cleaning company in White Plains, N.Y.; an apple
grower in Yakima, Wash.; a meatpacking plant in Joslin, Ill. and
Tyson Foods Inc., the poultry processing giant based in
Springdale, Ark.

Federal judges dismissed all four suits, but appellate courts
reinstated two and will decide soon on whether to reinstate the
other two, Mr. Foster said.  The parties have settled one of the
reinstated suits, but an agreement prevents them from discussing
the terms.

It's a crime to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant, but the
federal government has been criticized for not enforcing the
law.  Immigration authorities began to tread lightly in the late
1990s amid a booming economy that had companies scrambling to
find workers. A focus on national security after the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, also led to less scrutiny of
companies accused of employing illegal immigrants.

Foster bases his argument on the racketeering law, which allows
private lawsuits against people or organizations with a pattern
of violating certain federal statutes, including immigration
laws. Successful racketeering suits call for damages three times
higher than normal.

The suit filed Tuesday was welcomed by the Federation for
American Immigration Reform, a Washington organization to which
Foster belongs. It favors stricter immigration controls and
backed Foster financially in one of his first immigrant-
racketeering suits.


NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR: Court Refuses Medical Monitoring Class
--------------------------------------------------------------
The California Superior Court refused to certify a medical
monitoring class for the lawsuit filed against the National
Semiconductor Corporation and its chemical suppliers by former
and present employees claiming damages for personal injuries.

The complaint alleges that cancer and/or reproductive harm were
caused to employees as a result of alleged exposure to toxic
chemicals while working at the company.  Plaintiffs claim to
have worked at sites in Santa Clara and/or in Greenock,
Scotland, an earlier Class Action Reporter story (July 25,2003)
states.  

In addition, one plaintiff claims to represent a class of
children of company employees who allegedly sustained   
developmental harm as a result of alleged in utero exposure to
toxic chemicals while their mothers worked at the company.

Although no specific amount of monetary damages is claimed,
plaintiffs seek damages on behalf of the classes for personal
injuries, nervous shock, physical and mental pain, fear of
future illness, medical expenses and loss of earnings and
earnings capacity.  


NATIONAL SEMICONDUCTOR: Discovery Starts in Derivative Lawsuit
--------------------------------------------------------------
Discovery is proceeding in the shareholder derivative lawsuit
filed against National Semiconductor Corporation and other
defendants by a shareholder of Fairchild Semiconductor
International, Inc.

Plaintiff seeks recovery of alleged "short-swing" profits under
section 16(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from the
sale by the defendants in January 2000 of Fairchild common
stock.  The complaint alleges that Fairchild's conversion of
preferred stock held by the defendants at the time of
Fairchild's initial public offering in August 1999 constitutes a
"purchase" that must be matched with the January 2000 sale for
purposes of computing the "short-swing" profits.  Plaintiff
seeks from National alleged recoverable profits of $14.1
million.  

In February 2002, the judge in the case granted the motion to
dismiss filed by the Company and its co-defendants and dismissed
the case, ruling that the conversion was done pursuant to a
reclassification, which is exempt from the scope of Section
16(b).  Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of the case and upon
appeal, the appeals court reversed the lower court's dismissal.  
The Company's petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of
certiorari was denied in October 2003.  The case is now in
discovery in the trial court, where the Company intends to
contest it through available means.


NEW YORK: Atty. Gen. Spitzer Asked To Recoup NYSE Chairman's Pay
----------------------------------------------------------------
A person familiar with the situation on Wednesday said that New
York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may try to force former New
York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso to return part of
his multimillion-dollar pay package, Reuters reports.

Interim NYSE Chairman John Reed met with AG Spitzer at his
office on Monday and asked him to get involved with efforts to
recoup some of Grasso's compensation, according to the person.
Mr. Reed discussed with AG Spitzer the findings of a recent
internal NYSE report on the pay package, the person said.

Mr. Grasso, whose compensation totaled $188 million in
compensation and deferred benefits under a contract signed in
1999, was forced to resign under public pressure four months
ago.

"It may be true that some laws were broken, and if that's the
case, then the proper entities to go after that money are law
enforcement agencies like Mr. Spitzer," Patrick McGurn, special
counsel with corporate governance watchdog Institutional
Shareholder Services, told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for AG Spitzer's office would not comment on the
meeting, but said the New York Attorney General's office would
not get involved unless the NYSE made a formal referral to them.
No such referral has been made, she said.  A spokesman at the
NYSE had no comment.  Mr. Grasso did not return repeated calls
seeking comment.

Under New York law, the attorney general's office has the power
to regulate not-for-profit corporations like the NYSE.  Non-
profit corporations are subject to more stringent regulations
concerning the wasting of assets.  However, legal analysts said
the attorney general's office typically focuses on charitable
institutions like universities or hospitals, which receive tax
deductions on contributions from the public.

AG Spitzer, who became a regulatory force after orchestrating a
$1.4 billion settlement with brokerages for biased research
charges and uncovering illegal trading practices within the
mutual fund industry, has so far stayed out of the NYSE pay
controversy.  Last March, before the pay scandal erupted, AG
Spitzer blocked Mr. Grasso's attempt to appoint Citigroup,
Inc. Chairman Sandy Weill to the NYSE board as an
independent director.

One reason that Mr. Reed may be turning to AG Spitzer, Mr.
McGurn said, is to turn up the pressure on Mr. Grasso to reach
an out-of-court settlement.  Mr. Reed, the former co-CEO of
Citigroup, Inc., has made no secret of his desire to return to
retirement, but he is under pressure to first clean up the rest
of the Grasso scandal.  Appointed to the interim position just
over three months ago, Mr. Reed has already proposed a new board
structure, found a new CEO and singled out candidates for
chairman.  A legal fight with Mr. Grasso, however, could be a
long and messy affair, and rope in the NYSE directors who
approved Grasso's controversial pay package, legal analysts say.

The NYSE's former chairman and CEO was paid $140 million in
August, and may still claim another $48 million that he offered
to give up before the board forced him to resign in September.
Grasso received $140 million in a one-time payment last August.
Later, at the height of the controversy, he said he would forgo
an additional $48 million owed to him.  In recent interviews
with The New York Times, Mr. Reed said the NYSE may take legal
action, and added that Mr. Grasso should try to negotiate a
settlement.

The NYSE's board is set to meet on Thursday to consider a report
on an internal inquiry of how Mr. Grasso's pay package was
approved.  The board is also expected to name Richard Ketchum,
the general counsel of Citigroup, Inc.'s investment bank, to the
role of chief regulatory officer.


OXYCONTIN LITIGATION: CT Atty. General Vows Drug Investigation
--------------------------------------------------------------
Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal will ask other
states to join in investigating whether the maker of the
powerful painkiller OxyContin blocked the development of cheaper
generic alternatives, the Associated Press reports.

The planned antitrust probe came a day after a federal judge
found that Stamford-based Purdue Pharma's patents protecting its
painkiller were invalid because the company deliberately misled
the U.S. Patent Office.

Purdue Pharma also was hit with a federal lawsuit in New Haven
Tuesday alleging violations of antitrust laws. The lawsuit,
which seeks class-action status, was filed by the Connecticut
Citizen Action Group and others and alleges the company
unlawfully obtained and enforced a monopoly for OxyContin
through misrepresentations to the Patent Office, forcing users
of the painkiller to pay higher prices.

AG Blumenthal told AP Monday's ruling offers strong evidence
that the company may have deprived consumers of more affordable
alternatives.  Purdue Pharma officials have said they will
appeal the decision.


PARMALAT FINANZIARIA: Ex-Exec Reveals "Bank Links" Amid Probe
-------------------------------------------------------------
Former Parmalat Finanziaria SpA finance chief Fausto Tonna told
prosecutors about the crippled food firm's relations with banks,
as Citigroup and auditing firms faced mounting U.S. legal action
over the scandal, Reuters reports.

Mr. Tonna gave investigators new information, prosecutor
Antonella Ioffredi said, after a second day of morning-to-night
interrogation.  "He talked about all the banks linked to the
group," Mr. Ioffredi told reporters in Parma, near the home base
of the insolvent multinational whose multibillion-euro
accounting hole has become one of the world's biggest-ever
corporate scandals.  A judicial source said Mr. Tonna had "given
information for the partial recovery of the money," but gave no
more details.

Mr. Tonna was a confidant of disgraced Parmalat founder Calisto
Tanzi, who is also under arrest.  Investigators accuse Mr. Tonna
of helping to devise a web of offshore firms to hold fake
accounts and nonexistent assets, which fooled investors and
regulators for more than a decade.  On Tuesday, he reiterated he
had only obeyed orders from Mr. Tanzi.  Mr. Tanzi, 65, has
admitted to diverting some 500 million euros (350 million
pounds) from the listed company into family firms but said he
did not know how the misappropriation was carried out.  

The accounting hole could top 10 billion euros, prosecutors say,
on a par with the collapse of U.S. telephone services group
WorldCom.  A judicial source said prosecutors in Milan, who are
also investigating Parmalat, were considering whether to call in
representatives of U.S. and Italian banks as they tried to
establish whether there were grounds for an insider trading
probe.

Parmalat's spectacular slump from investment grade into
bankruptcy protection in less than a month has attracted U.S.
class action lawyers, and by Tuesday at least three firms said
they had filed or commenced lawsuits against the group.  
Targeted in two of the suits are Citigroup Inc. and auditing
firms Deloitte & Touche Tohmatsu and Grant Thornton.  Parmalat's
bonds are trading at 20 percent of face value, and its nearly
worthless stock is suspended indefinitely from trade.

Representatives of Citigroup, Deloitte & Touche USA and Grant
Thornton International said they had not seen the suits and
could not comment, Reuters states.  No one was available at
Parmalat.  Mentioned in at least two of the suits was special
purpose vehicle "Buconero" - Italian for "Black Hole" - created
by Citigroup and used for loans among units in the Parmalat
group.

The Italian affiliate of Deloitte audited Parmalat's group
accounts, while Grant Thornton's Italian affiliate certified the
Cayman Islands unit at the centre of the scandal.  Deloitte has
said it drew attention to concerns over Parmalat in its 2003
mid-year report and it had to rely on Grant Thornton SpA for the
offshore units.  Among eight arrested so far are the chairman
and a partner of Grant Thornton SpA, the Italian unit.  They
deny allegations of involvement in fraud.  No charges have been
filed in the case.

In Milan, veteran turnaround specialist Enrico Bondi, now
running Parmalat as an administrator, met for a second day with
advisers at the headquarters of bank Mediobanca.  Mr. Bondi is
expected to ask creditor banks for loans, reportedly worth 50
million to 100 million euros, later this week, Reuters reports.

As well as the U.S. and Italian banks, investigators want to
hear from some of Europe's biggest financial institutions.
A Deutsche Bank spokesman told Reuters officials from the German
bank would meet the Italian prosecutors on Wednesday for "a
voluntary meeting purely for information purposes."  In Spain, a
spokesman for bank Santander Central Hispano declined to comment
on media reports that investigators believed some of the money
missing from Parmalat passed through an account of an SCH unit
in the Cayman Islands.

Meanwhile, Parmalat has shelved a plan to sell its U.S. cookie
business until it determines the scope of its mounting financial
scandal, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.  
Parmalat hired Deutsche Bank early last month to sell its
Archway and Mother's brands, which together rank as the third-
largest U.S. cookie business.


PARMALAT: Deloitte & Touche Expects To Be Called In Stock Probe
---------------------------------------------------------------
A spokeswoman for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu on Wednesday said the
firm is expecting to be called to answer questions from Italian
prosecutors investigating food and dairy conglomerate Parmalat
Finanziaria SpA, Dow Jones Business News reports.

Deloitte & Touche audited a number of Parmalat Finanziaria units
as well as the holding company itself.  Grant Thornton SpA was
responsible for auditing a number of other subsidiaries, and two
of its executives have been arrested as part of the
investigation.  "We would be surprised if we were not called
because it's necessary for a thorough examination," the
spokeswoman said.

In its mid-year review report of the holding company, dated
October 31, 2003, Deloitte drew attention to a Parmalat
subsidiary's interest in an overseas mutual investment fund on
which it had insufficient information to carry out a
satisfactory valuation.  The auditor's spokeswoman said it was
the limitations on this review that drew initial attention to
Parmalat.

However, Deloitte, which has already been named as one of the
defendants in a New York class-action lawsuit filed by the
Southern Alaska Carpenters Pension Fund against Parmalat
Finanziaria, its officers and advisers, says it acted properly
throughout and will vigorously defend the action.

"We are monitoring the situation at Parmalat very closely. Our
Italian practice issued a very carefully considered mid-year
review report on 31st October, drawing attention to certain
issues.  We believe we behaved properly throughout and in
accordance with the relevant standards in force at the time," a
second spokesman said.


PENSION FUNDS: Joining Securities Suits At Fast Pace, Says Study
----------------------------------------------------------------
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study slated to be
published next week, public pension funds are joining class
action suits at a snowballing pace, and helping win bigger
settlements for plaintiffs, Dow Jones Business News reports.
The accounting firm tracks securities litigation and produces a
report once a year on its findings.

Huge awards won by pension funds - a trend that started with a
landmark case in 1999 against Cendant Corporation - are
prompting more funds to join suits, and courts now appoint
pension funds as lead plaintiffs more often, because of a 1995
federal law.

"There's been quite a remarkable increase, and the plaintiffs'
bar has come to appreciate that pension funds are a good source
of clients," Steven Skalak, lead partner in
PricewaterhouseCoopers' corporate investigations practice, told
Dow Jones.

Two-thirds of all cases with public pension funds as lead
plaintiffs have been filed in the past three years, according to
Mr. Skalak, who told Dow Jones Newswires that although the
growth trend may not continue apace, "the feature of pension
funds as lead plaintiffs won't be going away."

According to the study, 18 cases had public pension funds as
lead plaintiffs in 1999: the number rose to 19 in 2000, and
jumped to 31 and 56 in 2001 and 2002, respectively.  The
phenomenon grew swiftly after the California Public Employees'
Retirement System and the New York State Retirement Fund
announced a record $2.8 billion settlement with Cendant in 1999,
the study concludes.  The multibillion award was more than 10
times larger than the previous record settlement.

However, the groundwork was laid in 1995, when the federal
Private Securities Litigation Reform Act became law.  Intended
to curb abusive practices in securities class actions, the law
directs courts to name as lead plaintiff the entity with the
biggest financial interest in a class action.

"The intent of the 1995 reform act was to get larger and more
serious plaintiffs involved in these cases," said Mr. Skalak.  
"I don't think anyone foresaw that pension funds would come to
the fore as they have. Everyone expected it would more likely be
other large institutional investors such as mutual funds."
Skalak attributed the rise of the pension-fund plaintiff to
funds' broad investment in large U.S. companies, which have been
subject to accounting troubles that have lead to financial
restatements and litigation. But pensions have also been
involved because of their concern with corporate governance
issues, he said.

The pension-fund push into class-action suits is helping to
change the settlement landscape, according to the study. Bigger
settlements are emerging when funds serve as lead plaintiffs.
That is partly because pension funds are serious plaintiffs that
are legitimately concerned about winning big settlements.
However, pension funds are only one of several factors leading
to the larger settlements, according to Mr. Skalak.  Another is
that larger companies are being sued, he said.

Since the securities reform law was passed, more than 50 class
actions with public pension-fund plaintiffs have been settled.
The average settlement was greater than $87 million, as compared
with the $13 million won in class-action suits without pensions
as lead plaintiffs.  In 2003, 16 settlements averaging more than
$113 million were reached in cases where a public pension fund
served as lead plaintiff.  The awards were more than 15 times
the $7.5 million average settlement reached in 2003, when the
lead plaintiff wasn't a public pension.

Settlements in 2003 included a $517 million award against Lucent
Technologies (LU), with Teamsters Local 175 & 505 D&P Pension
Trust Fund as lead plaintiff, and a $300 million award against
DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX), with the Florida State Board of
Administration, the Denver Employees' Retirement Plan, the
Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago and the Chicago
Municipal Retirement System as lead plaintiffs, according to
PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Accounting fraud allegations have played a big role in suits
with pension plaintiffs, and have helped them reap bigger
settlements, according to PwC. Of settled cases, 88% involved
allegations of the fraud, as do 80% of the more than 100 active
cases.


PILLOWTEX: Three Workers Commence Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
--------------------------------------------------------------
Three former Pillowtex employees have filed a class action on
behalf of 500 non-union workers of the bankrupt mill charging
they were terminated without cause and in violation of federal
worker protection laws, Home Textiles Today reports.

The action seeks recovery of 60 days' pay and Employee
Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) benefits allegedly
because the company failed to provide adequate notice of the
firings or adequate severance under the federal Worker
Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) Act.  The suit
was filed on the workers' behalf by The NLG Maurice and Jane
Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.


PURDUE PHARMA: Faces Antitrust Suit, Probe By CT Atty. General
--------------------------------------------------------------
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday
invited other states to join in an antitrust probe into whether
the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin blocked the
development of cheaper generic alternatives, AP news/ Dow Jones
Business News reports.

The planned probe came a day after a federal judge found that
Stamford-based Purdue Pharma's patents protecting its painkiller
were invalid because the company deliberately misled the U.S.
Patent Office.  Purdue Pharma officials have said they will
appeal the ruling.

Separately Tuesday, Purdue Pharma was hit with a federal lawsuit
in New Haven alleging violations of antitrust laws.  The
lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed by the
Connecticut Citizen Action Group and others and alleges the
company unlawfully obtained and enforced a monopoly for
OxyContin through misrepresentations to the Patent Office,
forcing users of the painkiller to pay higher prices.

Mr. Blumenthal said Monday's ruling offers strong evidence that
the company may have deprived consumers of more affordable
alternatives.  "We will investigate aggressively and vigorously
possible legal action seeking antitrust remedies and we've
already begun organizing other states to do so with us," Mr.
Blumenthal told AP.  "The court's decision provides a very clear
road map for claims based on its dramatic findings of
anticompetitive and possibly deceptive conduct . There are few
investigations that begin with such a powerful and compelling
federal court finding about anticompetitive conduct as we seem
to have here."

Howard Udell, chief legal officer for Purdue Pharma, told AP the
company will cooperate with any investigation and will show
Purdue Pharma didn't mislead the patent office or engage in
anticompetitive behavior.

Monday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein would
allow Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. (ENDP) to put its own
version of OxyContin on the shelves.  That could substantially
affect Purdue, a privately held company whose revenue is largely
derived from sales of OxyContin.  Last year, about seven million
OxyContin prescriptions were written for about $1.27 billion in
sales, Purdue Pharma said.


RITETIME AIRWAYS: Stranded Passengers Consider Filing Lawsuit
-------------------------------------------------------------
Stranded passengers of Rite-time World Airways have threatened
to institute a 'class action' against the management of Ritetime
World Airways for the unfair deal they had been subjected to in
their bid to return to their base in the United States of
America after their Christmas festivities in Nigeria, Africa
News Services reports.

World Airways is an American carrier which is into a contractual
agreement with Ritetime Aviation, another American-based company
owned by a Nigerian, Dr. Peter Obafemi, to operate direct
flights between Nigeria and the United States.  The agreement
led into the commencement of direct flights between both
countries on May 29, 2003 with an MD-11 aircraft.  The current
situation which resulted in passengers being stranded is
reportedly occasioned by the inability of Ritetime Aviation to
meet its financial obligations to the American Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA).  

The passengers, many of whom had been unable to return to their
base since Saturday told newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed
International Airport, Lagos yesterday that the airline had
failed to airlift them and at the same time put them
incommunicado, threatening a class action against the airline.

They alleged that the management of the airline had left a
notice at their office at the airport that passengers with
problems should reach them on certain telephone numbers, adding
that efforts to get through such numbers were not successful.


SHELL CANADA: Agrees To Settlement Payouts Of Fuel Additive Suit
----------------------------------------------------------------
Shell Canada will compensate motorists across the country whose
fuel pumps or gauges were gummed up by a gasoline additive which
provoked class actions, the Associated Press reports.

The settlement deals with an additive that Shell used in its
gasoline between March 2001 and April 2002.  The proprietary
additive package, whose formulation Shell did not disclose, was
in the company's fuel nationwide during that period.  The class
actions were filed by plaintiffs in British Columbia and
Ontario, but Shell said the settlement applies in all provinces
except Quebec, where separate litigation remains unsettled.

"As soon as we understood the problem, we moved quickly to
change the additive and address customer concerns," Terry
Blaney, Shell's marketing vice-president, stated Wednesday,
according to AP.  "We've worked very hard since then to fully
resolve the issues related to using this additive."

Shell said the amount it will end up paying in claims is not
known, but is not expected to have a material impact on the
company.  "They've narrowed who's eligible pretty
substantially," Wilf Gobert, an energy analyst with Peters & Co.
in Calgary, told AP.  "You have to have bought gas in that
certain period, and you have to have a (repair shop) receipt,"
he said. "It's more of an embarrassment than anything."

Douglas Lennox, a lawyer for the Ontario lead plaintiff, said
"it's an open-ended settlement, which means that they'll
compensate as many people as come forward . and we don't know
how many people that is."  He said an earlier ad hoc voluntary
compensation program when Shell first withdrew the fuel additive
resulted in payments totalling $5 million to 14,000 people. "We
didn't feel that program went far enough."

The class-action settlement covers three classes of claims and
compensation, depending on vehicle model and year.  People who
owned or leased 1996-2002 Chrysler vehicles, except Jeeps, will
be fully reimbursed for fuel pump and fuel sensor repairs and
for out-of-pocket expenses.   "The Chrysler system was
particularly vulnerable to this fuel additive, so that was our
strongest case," Mr. Lennox said.

People who owned or leased other 1996-2002 vehicles and can
establish that malfunctioning fuel pumps or fuel gauge sensors
had a brownish residue will be reimbursed for repairs and other
costs to a maximum of $175.  Owners of pre-1996 vehicles whose
malfunctioning fuel pumps or sensor units had a brown residue
will be reimbursed up to $100.

"Fuel gauges go out on vehicles for lots of different reasons,
and for other makes and model years it would have been quite
difficult to have proven causation," Mr. Lennox said.  "It's
possible those people would have got nothing if the case had
gone forward."

He added for many people $100 or $175 may be full compensation.  
Repairs initially tended to be costly, he said, until mechanics
learned that relatively inexpensive cleaning with methyl alcohol
would clear off the residue - "the technical term is BGS, which
stands for brown gooey stuff."

The Canadian subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell group said it
stands behind its products.  "We have a reputation that goes
back 100 years for quality," spokeswoman Simone Marler told AP.
"So this was a challenge to that commitment that we have."

Petro-Canada also had a situation last summer where sulphur in
some of its gasoline, primarily in the Toronto area, was causing
problems with the fuel gauges of GM vehicles.  "This wasn't
related to anything put into the fuel, this was something that
was picked up by the fuel line and how that interacted with the
silver content in some vehicles," said spokesman Jon Hamilton.
"That was an isolated incident and was behind us as of last
summer."


ST. JUDE MEDICAL: Judge Allows Silzone Valve Lawsuit To Proceed
---------------------------------------------------------------
U.S. District Court Judge John Tunheim in Minnesota denied St.
Jude Medical Inc.'s request for an early ruling in a long-
standing class action case involving patients treated with a
heart valve that contained Silzone, a silver compound, Reuters
reports.

According to Judge Tunheim's decision, St. Jude had argued
claims against the company were preempted because the device had
been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  Judge
Tunheim in court documents said he was persuaded the device was
no longer FDA-approved and denied St. Jude's request to rule on
the case before it was tried.

In January 2000, St. Jude voluntarily recalled all mechanical
heart valves coated with Silzone after a study found patients
were susceptible to a serious complication requiring removal of
the valve.

Plaintiffs' attorney J. Gordon Rudd Jr. said in a statement the
ruling means patients injured by the valves will now have the
chance to have their cases heard before a jury.

St. Jude spokesman Peter Gove told Reuters, "My sense is that
it's just another step in the road.  It's a very complicated
case. Judge Tunheim has made several rulings in the case. I
can't comment on the merits of it. We'll address it in an 8-K
filing later today or tomorrow," he said.

Thomas Gunderson, an analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, said
the court case is minor from a financial point of view.
"Obviously, it's a major issue if you have one of these valves,
but Wall Street is not really that concerned from a financial
standpoint," he said.


TOBACCO LITIGATION: Shares Fall On Missouri Suit Certification
--------------------------------------------------------------
Shares of cigarette makers Altria and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco
finished lower after a report said two Missouri lawsuits
involving so-called light cigarettes had received class action
certification, The Street.com reports.

Judge Michael David certified the lawsuits, which allege that
the tobacco companies misled smokers about the health risks of
"light" cigarettes, according to Bloomberg.  The news follows a
decision by a Florida court last week to toss out a class action
suit over "lights," in addition to other legal victories for the
industry last year.

"This certification clearly runs counter to recent court actions
maintaining that the difference in the plaintiffs predominate
over the similarities in these cases and thus they are not
appropriate for class action," said Ellen Matthews, a spokewoman
for RJR, in comments on Bloomberg.

Altria fell 41 cents, or 0.8%, to $53.83, while RJR lost 91
cents, or 1.6%, to $57.79.


TYCO INTERNATIONAL: Ex-Chief's Compensation Questioned in Trial
---------------------------------------------------------------
Frank E. Walsh Jr., the former Tyco International Ltd.
compensation chief who took the stand Wednesday, testified that
former CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski may not have been entitled to
some of the lavish compensation he took, the Associated Press
reports.

Mr. Walsh is considered a key witness in the corruption trial of
Mr. Kozlowski and co-defendant Mark Swartz, Tyco's former chief
financial officer.  Through Mr. Walsh's testimony, the
prosecution sought to show that the two acted without company
approval in taking millions from Tyco.

Mr. Walsh, 62, of Jupiter, Florida, testified that the board
never gave Mr. Kozlowski or Mr. Swartz control over their own
compensation.  Nor, he said, was he aware that the board of
directors ever allowed compensation beyond what was authorized
by his committee.  Mr. Kozlowski and Mr. Swartz are on trial on
larceny and enterprise corruption charges in state Supreme Court
in Manhattan.  They face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors contend the two stole $170 million from Tyco by
hiding unauthorized pay and forgiven loans in major Tyco
transactions and made $430 million on their Tyco shares by lying
about the conglomerate's financial condition from 1995 into
2002.

On Wednesday, prosecutors sought to make the point in specific
terms.  Prosecutor Mark Scholl asked Mr. Walsh, for example,
"Did you ask the compensation committee to authorize for Dennis
Kozlowski $25 million in loan forgiveness?"  Mr. Walsh replied
that he had not.  Defense lawyers have argued that Mr. Kozlowski
and Mr. Swartz were entitled to the compensation they took and
that it had all been properly approved.

Mr. Walsh's own unauthorized $20 million payment helped lead to
the investigation of senior executives' activities.  He pleaded
guilty to a felony in 2002, but the jury did not hear of the
plea on Wednesday.  At the urging of the defense, Justice
Michael Obus ruled that the prosecution could not ask Mr. Walsh
about the plea.  To do so, the judge said, would impeach the
credibility of the prosecution's own witness.

Mr. Walsh joined the board of directors in 1992, at Mr.
Kozlowski's urging, and served for 10 years.  The two met
through Mr. Kozlowski's alma mater, Seton Hall University, where
Mr. Walsh was on the board of trustees.  It was Mr. Walsh's
questionable $20 million finder's fee for brokering a $9 billion
deal in which Tyco acquired CIT Group, a commercial lender, that
contributed to the unraveling of the executives' financial
activities.  He said the investment banking finder's fee was
first mentioned by Mr. Kozlowski.  He said the CEO later
approved the payment, but the board was not aware of it.  The
Tyco board subsequently hired a law firm to get the $20 million
from Mr. Walsh and investigate the senior executives' activities
at Tyco.

Mr. Walsh testified that he refused to return the money because,
"I believed I had fully earned it."  He said he explained his
position at a meeting of the board of directors, left the room
and never returned to Tyco.  Under questioning by prosecutors,
Walsh said he had paid $22.25 million in connection with the fee
dispute.  He was not called on to explain that the additional
$2.25 million was a court-imposed fine after he pleaded guilty
to securities fraud.

Meanwhile, shareholders have filed class action lawsuits against
the directors, alleging that they violated their duty.  Mr.
Walsh said the lawsuits also allege that he and the dispute over
the $20 million fee caused the plunge in Tyco's stock price.

Tyco, which has about 270,000 employees and $36 billion in
annual revenue, makes electronics and medical supplies and owns
the ADT home security business.  It is nominally based in
Bermuda but has its operations headquarters in Portsmouth, N.H.


UNITED STATES: Judge Allows Resumption Of Anthrax Vaccinations
--------------------------------------------------------------
U.S. District Judge Emmit Sullivan allowed the military to
resume anthrax inoculations, although he questioned the timing
of a government announcement declaring the vaccine safe, the
Associated Press reports.

Judge Sullivan announced his decision from the bench and then
issued a two-page order, which ended the injunction he imposed
December 22 to halt the vaccinations.  The Pentagon has not said
whether it will resume the vaccinations.  Eight days after the
injunction, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the
vaccine was safe and effective for use against inhaled anthrax.

"Although the timing of the issuance of the rule is arguably
highly suspicious, nevertheless, the rule has been issued and
the principal reason for the issuance of the injunction has been
addressed by the government," the judge's written order said.
The order still banned forced vaccination for six military
personnel who filed a class action to stop the mandatory
vaccinations that started in 1998.

A lawyer for the six could not immediately be reached for
comment Wednesday, AP reports.  The Justice Department, citing
the FDA order, had asked Judge Sullivan to set aside his
preliminary ban, except for the plaintiffs.

Judge Sullivan's action stayed, or halted, the class action part
of the suit.  He said in his original order that he was
convinced by the plaintiffs that the vaccine was experimental
and being "used for an unapproved purpose" - that is, for
exposure to airborne anthrax as well as exposure through the
skin.

The federal government has long maintained that the licensed
vaccine is safe, is not experimental and can be used for
protection against anthrax inhaled or absorbed.  More than
900,000 servicemen and women have received the shots, among the
millions of doses of various vaccines administered annually to
protect troops against disease and bioterror threats. Hundreds
of service members have been punished or discharged for refusing
them, according to the Pentagon.


US LIQUIDS: Court To Hear Arguments on Summary Judgment Appeal
--------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
Texas, Houston Division will hear oral arguments on US Liquids,
Inc.'s appeal of summary judgment granted to its insurer, over
its right to defend the Company and certain of its current and
former officers and directors in the consolidated securities
class action filed against them.

The suit, styled "In re: U S Liquids Securities Litigation, Case
No. H-99-2785," alleges violations of Sections 11, 12(a)(2) and
15 of the Securities Act of 1933 on behalf of purchasers of the
Company's common stock in its March 1999 public offering and
violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder on
behalf of purchasers of the Company's common stock during the
period beginning on May 12, 1998 and ending on August 25, 1999.

The plaintiffs generally allege that the defendants made false
and misleading statements and failed to disclose allegedly
material information regarding the operations of the Company's
Detroit facility and the Company's financial condition in the
prospectus relating to its March 1999 stock offering and in
certain other public filings and announcements made by the
Company.  The remedies sought by the plaintiffs include
designation of the action as a class action, unspecified
damages, attorneys' and experts' fees and costs, rescission to
the extent any members of the class still hold common stock, and
such other relief as the court deems proper.

In January 2001, the court dismissed the claims asserted by the
plaintiffs under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) and Rule 10b-5 of the
Exchange Act and in April 2002 the court dismissed the claims
asserted by the plaintiffs under Section 12(a)(2) of the
Securities Act.  Accordingly, the lawsuit is proceeding only
with respect to the claims asserted under Sections 11 and 15 of
the Securities Act.

In June 2002, the court determined that two individuals
designated by the plaintiffs are adequate class representatives
for plaintiffs' claim under Section 11 of the Securities Act.  
In August 2002, the court entered an order defining the
plaintiff class as all persons who purchased or otherwise
acquired Company common stock pursuant or traceable to the
Company's March 1999 stock offering.  Further proceedings and
discovery of the lawsuit have been suspended pending the
resolution of the Company's litigation with its insurance
carrier over whether insurance coverage exists for the claims
asserted by the plaintiffs.

In addition, one stockholder of the Company has filed a lawsuit
against certain of the current and former officers and directors
of the Company in connection with the operation of the Company's
Detroit facility and the securities class action described
above.  "Benn Carmicia v. U S Liquids Inc., et al.," was filed
in the United States District Court for the Southern District of
Texas, Houston Division, on September 15, 1999 and was
subsequently consolidated with the claims asserted in the
securities class action.  

The plaintiff purports to allege derivative claims on behalf of
the Company against the officers and directors for alleged
breaches of fiduciary duty resulting from their oversight of the
Company's affairs.  The lawsuit names the Company as a nominal
defendant and seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf
of the Company, interest, equitable and/or injunctive relief,
costs and such other relief as the court deems proper.

The company believes that the stockholder derivative action was
not properly brought and has filed a motion to dismiss the
action.  As of the date of this report, no ruling has been made
by the court on the motion to dismiss.  Since this lawsuit has
been consolidated with the securities class action, further
proceedings in this lawsuit have been suspended pending the
resolution of the Company's litigation with its insurance
carrier.

After the filing of the securities class action lawsuits and the
shareholder derivative action described above, the Company made
demand on its insurance carrier, National Union Fire Insurance
Company of Pittsburgh, PA, to defend the Company and our named
representatives.  National Union declined to defend the Company
and its named representatives and filed a declaratory action in
the United States District Court for the Southern District of
Texas, Houston Division to determine its legal rights under the
Company's insurance policy.  The Company and National Union
subsequently filed motions for summary judgment to determine
whether coverage is available under the insurance policy.  
During the second quarter of 2003, the court granted National
Union's motion for summary judgment that it is not obligated to
defend or indemnify the Company or its named representatives in
the consolidated action.  The Company has appealed the court's
ruling.  All parties have filed briefs in the appeal and oral
argument is currently scheduled for January 5, 2004.  As noted
above, proceedings in the consolidated action will continue to
be suspended pending the outcome of the litigation.


VIVENDI-UNIVERSAL: Ex-CEO Fined $1M In Wake Of Fraud Probe
----------------------------------------------------------
The Securities & Exchange Commission has closed the door on
Jean-Marie Messier, accusing the former Vivendi chief executive
of fraud, fining him $1 million (UKpound 560,000, E790,000) and
barring him from holding directorships of quoted US companies,  
Knight-Ridder/ Tribune Business News reports.

In a negotiated settlement of the SEC's fraud probe, announced
on 23 December, Mr. Messier was also forced to give up his
golden parachute claim for E20.5 million and to pay a symbolic
$1 of his salary.  However, Mr. Messier is still not clear of
other investigations and lawsuits in France and the US attacking
his stewardship of Vivendi, which he brought to the brink of
bankruptcy in 2002.

Under the U.S. settlement, Mr. Messier and the other defendants
in the inquiry, Vivendi Universal and the former finance
director, Guillaume Hannezo, did not admit fault.  The SEC
ordered Vivendi to pay $50 million in penalties and a symbolic
$1, but it will not have to restate its accounts, despite
accusations of false and misleading reporting.  The fines will
be paid into a special account created under the Sarbanes-Oxley
Act and distributed to shareholders hurt by the alleged fraud,
the SEC said.  Mr. Messier played down the severity of the SEC
accusations, contained in a 29-page "complaint" and said in an
interview with Liberation on 27 December that his reputation was
intact.

The SEC accused Vivendi of issuing misleading press releases
that falsely portrayed the company's cashflow as excellent or
strong and meeting its future liquidity needs.  These misled
because Vivendi was unable to get access to the cash generated
by two of its most profitable subsidiaries, Cegetel and Maroc
Telecom.  The releases were authorised by Mr. Messier, Mr.
Hannezo and other senior executives, the SEC said.

Vivendi, under direction by senior executives, allegedly
inflated its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortisation (ebitda) by about E59 million in the second quarter
2001 and at least E10 million in the third quarter 2001, to meet
ambitious earnings targets it had set, the SEC said.

The company failed to disclose important financial commitments
for two of its subsidiaries in regulatory filings and to ratings
agencies, for fear these pledges raised doubts about its ability
to meet cash needs, the US report said. Finally, Vivendi failed
to reveal in a timely manner the material facts about its
investment in a fund that bought a 2 percent stake in Elektrim
Telekomunikacja, a Polish telecoms operator, in which the French
company already held 49 percent.  The ban on Mr. Messier holding
US company directorship is for 10 years, while Mr. Hannezo is
under a five-year ban, and must pay a penalty of $120,000 and
repay $148,149 of his salary.

The French regulator, Commission des Operations de Bourse, has
sent its report on Vivendi to the public prosecutor's office.  
Leaked extracts of the report say Vivendi's financial reporting
was not exact, precise and sincere.  A class action brought by
shareholders is still pending in the US, to which the Federal
Court of the Southern district of New York has joined.


WORLDCOM INC.: Klayman & Toskes Pursues Individual Stock Claim
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Firm of Klayman & Toskes, P.A. is pursuing an individual
securities arbitration claim seeking more than $11.1 million in
damages against a major Wall Street brokerage firm, on behalf of
a high net worth investor who held a concentrated, margined
position in WordCom stock.  Because of the significant losses,
the investor will opt out of the class action federal lawsuit
pending in the Southern District of New York.  The deadline for
opting out of the class action is February 20, 2004, leaving
investors only 44 days to make a decision.

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.nasdlaw.com.


                        Asbestos Alert


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Developer Loses Appeal in Asbestos Lawsuit
---------------------------------------------------------------
A company hails a ruling of a state Administrative Law Judge
that upheld the finding that a well-known Berkeley construction
company "willfully" exposed both workers and the public to
asbestos during a Hayward building demolition last year as a
partial victory, according to a report in Berkeley Daily Planet.

The lawyer for Kimes Morris Construction - jointly owned by
Berkeley builders Andrew Kimes and James Morris - says that the
Cal-OSHA judge's ruling actually favors the builders in some
respects because he specifically found no evidence of an
"intentional" violation, the article says.

Fred Walter of the occupational health and safety law experts
Walter Law Firm of Healdsburg, told Berkeley Daily Planet that
"while the ruling is against the employer [Kimes Morris],
actually it is a vindication of the argument the employer [Kimes
Morris] was making all along."

According to the article, Cal-OSHA Associate Industrial
Hygienist Garrett Brown, who brought the original charges
against the firm, greeted Walter's assertion of victory with a
succinct "Ha!" The Oakland-based inspector added, "I don't see
how he [the Kimes Morris attorney] could say that. The only
issue under contention was whether the classification of
"willful" would be sustained or not, and that's what the judge
sustained. It goes on their record as a willful violation. Their
[Kimes Morris'] contention was that it wasn't a willful
violation. They conceded they had violated the law, but they
said it was not done willfully. [Cal-OSHA] felt otherwise, and
on the basis of the three day hearing, so did the Administrative
Law Judge."

The hearing was held in Oakland in early October.

In a ruling issued last week, Judge Manuel M. Melgoza fined
Kimes Morris $10,000 for the single charge remaining before him.
Cal-OSHA inspectors had originally cited the company for 17
violations stemming from the Hayward demolition project,
assessing fines of nearly $36,000. Kimes Morris appealed all of
the citations to Cal-OSHA's Appeals Board, later dropping all
but the single "willful" citation appeal after negotiations with
Cal-OSHA, the article says.

The judge's ruling, along with some adjustments to the charges
by Cal-OSHA, reduced Kimes Morris' total fine to $20,800.

The citations and the hearing stemmed from a December, 2001-
January, 2002 incident during Kimes Morris Company's renovations
of a Hayward commercial building co-owned by the company. After
Kimes Morris employees were discovered dumping unprotected
asbestos waste into an open bin behind the building, Cal-OSHA
temporarily suspended the demolition.

Among the 17 citations later listed against Kimes Morris were
the facts that cancer-causing asbestos fibers were being loosed
into the air and that workers were handling the material without
proper protection. Many of the workers involved were Latino
immigrant laborers.

In its defense, Kimes Morris said they were unaware that
asbestos was present on the site and unfamiliar with the
regulations governing asbestos removal. Kimes Morris officials
say that they are primarily constructors of buildings, and have
been involved in only one other major demolition project - the
Artech Building in Berkeley. That project also involved asbestos
removal, but Kimes Morris, the Berkeley Daily Planet reports,
subcontracted the removal out to another company.

To show what he said indicated the company's moral "if not
legal" lack of blame, Kimes Morris' attorney Walter noted a
sentence near the end of Judge Melgoza's decision, which read:
"The record does not warrant a finding that [Kimes Morris]
intentionally exposed employees to a known asbestos hazard, but
that is not required to prove the willful classification."

"Given the nature of the allegations made by Garrett Brown and
other people at Cal-OSHA in Oakland," Walter said, "I thought
that this paragraph was especially valuable, even though we lost
the case. The judge said that there is no evidence of any intent
to expose employees to asbestos with some sort of cruel and
callous disregard of their safety. That's not necessary to prove
OSHA's definition of willful."

While Walter contended that willful ought to mean intentional in
all instances, he added that "it's coming to mean something
different when you deal with state agencies that write their own
definitions."

But Cal-OSHA inspector Brown said the judge's rejection of the
Kimes Morris appeal is all that matters. He notes that the
Hayward asbestos citations were the fourth time Cal-OSHA has
been called in to inspect Kimes Morris building projects in the
past three years. The first three inspections resulted in
"serious" citations, which he described as violations of safety
procedures that have the "substantial possibility of serious
injury or death."

Besides the $20,000 fine, Brown said, there might be other
consequences for the company. "It might have some affect on
their Workers Compensation insurance premiums if their workers
comp carrier learns that they were cited by Cal-OSHA for
willfully violating the law. It might make it more difficult for
them to win bids if they have a record."

Brown added that someone might take note of the number of
citations against a single company in a short a period of time.
"That's unusual," he told Berkeley Daily Planet. "It doesn't
happen very often."


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Chamber Hopeful for Asbestos Bill Approval
---------------------------------------------------------------
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive
officer is 'somewhat optimistic' that asbestos litigation reform
legislation will become law this year, according to a report
from Business Insurance.

The article says that passing the bill requires getting the
support of organized labor, defendant companies in asbestos-
related suits and their insurers, Thomas J. Donohue, head of the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce said during a luncheon briefing held
recently. But all the interested parties are fighting "about who
the hell's going to pay for it," Donohue said. He said that the
Chamber "will continue to play a major role in brokering an
acceptable approach among all parties."

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would
replace the current litigation-based system for compensating
victims of asbestos-related diseases last year, but the measure
has yet to come to a full Senate vote, Business Insurance said.

Donohue sounded more optimistic about the chances for enactment
of the Class Action Reform Act, which would allow the removal of
certain interstate class actions to federal courts from state
courts. The House has already passed its version of the act, and
although Senate supporters initially failed by one vote to block
a potential filibuster against the measure, some opponents later
agreed to support an amended version of the bill.

"We have a commitment from more than enough people to move this
bill forward," Donohue said. He added, though, that even with
such commitments, passage of an acceptable measure is not
guaranteed, and that his organization will continue working hard
to achieve the reform.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Timber Giant Settles Asbestos Liabilities
--------------------------------------------------------------
The world's largest lumber company has paid millions of dollars
to more than 400 employees and retirees of its paper mill in
Plymouth who developed permanent health problems after decades
of exposure to asbestos, according to an AP report.

The article says that the workers' compensation settlements,
completed last month and among the largest in state history, end
years of struggle in the N.C. Industrial Commission between
Weyerhaeuser Co. and the workers.

Some of the workers spent as many as 40 years at the Plymouth
factory, located about 100 miles east of Raleigh, AP reports.

The workers learned through the litigation that the Federal Way-
based company knew decades ago that the mill, on the banks of
the Roanoke River in Washington County, had dangerous levels of
asbestos but never informed them or made them wear respiratory
gear.

When sealed, asbestos is harmless. But if its microscopic fibers
can escape, they can hang in the air for hours and sink deep
into the lungs when inhaled. Exposure over years can lead to a
host of illnesses, including cancer.

In their claims, the Plymouth workers said they worked through
"snowstorms" of asbestos fibers as they cleaned or operated
papermaking machines every day. Pipes and walls were covered
with asbestos that often flaked off.

While the timber giant did monitor some employees with chest X-
rays, many workers have said they were not told that their lungs
were showing changes typical of heavy asbestos exposure.

Weyerhaeuser also has settled a civil lawsuit in Martin County
filed in 2002 by five wives of Plymouth workers who said they
developed health problems after exposure to asbestos fibers that
their husbands brought home from the mill on their clothes.

In the workers' compensation cases, settlement checks were
distributed two days before Christmas. Many workers and retirees
contacted Tuesday declined to comment, as did the women who
filed the civil suit.

But Irving Spruill, 77, of Plymouth, who worked for 20 years at
the mill as a pipe fitter and then as a maintenance supervisor,
said he was glad the battle was over.

"They compensated us, I thought, pretty well," he told AP. "It
doesn't give us back the things they took from us. I was a main
foreman, and I should have been telling my 21 guys, `Hey, wear a
mask.' Hey, I didn't know any better."

Spruill told AP he suffers from asbestosis, a chronic, often
progressive ailment of the lungs that comes after decades of
exposure to asbestos. He said he still can do anything he wants,
including helping a friend Tuesday restore an old house, but "my
days are shorter, and my respiratory system is not like it was
yesterday."

When a worker is injured on the job in North Carolina, he or she
can file a claim for compensation with the Industrial
Commission, an agency of the Department of Commerce.

Commission Chairman Buck Lattimore recently said that he thinks
the only settlement larger than Weyerhaeuser's is one with Duke
Energy Co., which closed about 600 cases. In 1999, while those
cases were being litigated, Duke Energy pledged $800,000,000 to
cover asbestos claims in all legal venues.

Weyerhaeuser spokeswoman Susan Larkin said negotiations on the
settlement opened in September. She declined to comment further
but said, "We are pleased that we have reached a resolution to
all current litigation involving claims of asbestos exposure by
some employees in North Carolina. This solution provides for the
welfare of our employees and allows us to contribute to the
North Carolina economy by safely making products that meet the
needs of our customers."

By law, settlements in workers' compensation cases are not
public records, and Lattimore and other Industrial Commission
officials refused to release details.

But the full commission had already granted awards in about 75
cases, ranging from about $36,000 to more than $200,000,
including penalties and interest. If the around 425 total cases
at Plymouth settled for similar amounts, a conservative estimate
of the total approaches $20,000,000.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Claimants Okays Congoleum Bankruptcy Plan
--------------------------------------------------------------
A flooring maker recently said asbestos claimants voted to
approve its pre-packaged bankruptcy plan and that it has
proceeded with its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New
Jersey, Reuters reports.

Congoleum Corporation has been negotiating settlements with most
of the asbestos claimants. The company filed for bankruptcy in
Newark, N.J., and listed $187,100,000 in assets and $205,900,000
in debts in court papers.

When the plan is confirmed, Congoleum will contribute certain
insurance rights and a note for about $2,700,000 to a trust for
the benefit of asbestos personal injury claimants, Reuters
reports.

The plan also calls for Congoleum's other creditors to be paid
in full and its shareholders to keep their stake in the company.  
Congoleum said it expects to record a $3,700,000 fourth-quarter
charge to boost its reserve for estimated costs required to
complete its reorganization.  The Trenton, New Jersey-based
Company reports in its latest regulatory filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission that 10,472 new lawsuits were
filed against it last year over asbestos-containing products.
The company was named in 16,156 asbestos lawsuits by the end of
December 2002.

The company said more than 25 percent of its $1,000,000,000 in
insurance coverage was placed with companies that are now
insolvent and solvent carriers that have disputed the claims,
the filing said.

Congoleum Corporation, whose shares have fallen 62 percent in
the past year, pursues a pre-packaged bankruptcy proceeding as a
means to resolve claims asserted against it related to the use
of asbestos in its products decades ago.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Hanson Notes Lower Number of New Claimants
---------------------------------------------------------------
Hanson plc reports in its latest regulatory filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission that the number of new
asbestos-related claimants filed during the second half of 2003
are lower compared to the numbers in the first half.

Hanson announced that around 2,000 claimants have been resolved
in the second half, 70% of which were dismissed. As a
result, the number of outstanding claimants at the end of
November was roughly 123,000.

The gross cost of resolving asbestos claims, excluding
associated insurance recoveries and tax benefit, for the 11
months to the end of November was $39,500,000. About half of
this cost relates to legal fees. The 2003 net cash cost to
Hanson after insurance is forecast to be around $5,000,000,
equivalent to GBP1,700,000 after tax.

According to the report, $20,000,000, around $12,000,000 net of
exceptional tax credit, will be added for the second half to the
group's asbestos provision via a non-operating exceptional
charge.  Hanson remains supportive, but cautious, with regard to
attempts at a Federal level to reform what is widely
acknowledged to be a broken asbestos legislative system.  The
total cash impact of second half exceptional items, including
asbestos, is expected to be about GBP5,000,000.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Ohio Asbestos Victims Call for Reform Bill
---------------------------------------------------------------
Victims of asbestos-related illnesses are not being protected by
the current lawsuit climate of the Buckeye State and Ohio
lawmakers want to do something about it, reports The
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register.

A bill already passed by the Ohio House would set medical
standards for those filing lawsuits related to asbestos
exposure. In effect, it would give priority to those who have
suffered and are suffering most, the article says.

About 40,000 lawsuits involving asbestos are clogging the
state's court system. Action can take many years, during which
time Ohioans who have contracted serious asbestos-related
diseases get no help at all. Critics of the system - including
some unabashed advocates for victims - have pointed out that
delays mean many people die before receiving help.

As usual, the trial lawyers' lobby opposes reform. Clearly,
however, the attorneys' interests lie in a virtually
unrestrained lawsuit climate. Meanwhile, many of their clients
most in need of help get none.

Safeguards for those whose health has been affected most by
exposure to asbestos are built into the reform bill. Ohio state
senators should make passing it a priority for the new year,
reports The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Legislator Drafts Another Asbestos Bill
------------------------------------------------------------
A Norfolk state legislator plans to introduce a bill this month
that would close what industry officials call a gaping loophole
that allows asbestos companies to keep working in Virginia for
months "and sometimes years" after pleading guilty to asbestos-
related crimes, reports The Virginia-Pilot.

Norfolk Del. Thelma Drake drafts a bill that would enable the
agency that regulates asbestos removal companies and workers to
suspend licenses immediately after the licensees plead guilty, a
process that can take a year or more.

In one case, a University of North Carolina professor and cancer
researcher kept his state license for two and a half years after
an August 2000 asbestos-fraud guilty plea in Norfolk. The
removal of asbestos, a known carcinogen, is heavily regulated by
state and federal agencies.

Two companies that entered guilty pleas in September, both of
which perform abatement work in Hampton Roads, hold state
licenses that are valid until next summer, according to state
records, the reports says.

The state Department of Professional and Occupational
Regulation, which issues asbestos licenses, acknowledges that
current law prevents the agency from taking quick action against
license holders, even when "public health and safety may be an
issue," Drake told The Virginia-Pilot.

Under the bill, the board that regulates the removal of asbestos
and lead products could suspend a license via telephone
conference call if a quorum cannot be quickly assembled. The
suspended license holder could argue its case at a later
hearing.

"If you plead guilty, we want to be able to pull your license
and do it quickly," Drake told the Virginia-based paper. "This
issue has been in the public eye recently, with companies
pleading guilty that had conducted work in public schools. That
raises serious concerns. We want the public to be safe."

A Virginia Beach company that monitored dozens of asbestos
removal jobs at local schools, Environmental Testing and
Monitoring Services Inc., was fined $40,000 in Alexandria
federal court last week for fraud. Its two top officials were
fined $25,000 each.

One industry official who lobbied for the change was David L.
Spinazzolo, owner of Metropolitan Laboratories, a Portsmouth
environmental consulting company.

"If an occupation is important enough to require a license, it's
important enough to ensure the integrity of that license,''
Spinazzolo told The Virginia-Pilot. "It gets to the basic issue
of protecting the health and safety of the public."

Drake said the law would be similar to one that allows the state
Housing and Community Development Board to remove a building
product that has been shown to be defective, allowing the
product's manufacturer to argue for its reinstatement at a later
hearing.

Drake said she met in November with asbestos regulators and
industry officials, including Spinazzolo, who expressed concerns
about rampant abuses within the asbestos industry in Virginia.

Since 2001, at least seven companies and 10 individuals have
been indicted for asbestos crimes in Virginia, and most of them
have pleaded guilty.

Three of the six asbestos testing laboratories that have
operated in Hampton Roads in recent years have been indicted.

Among the individuals who have pleaded guilty was the former
asbestos control program manager at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard,
whose job included ensuring that asbestos products were removed
safely.

An ongoing investigation by federal authorities could result in
additional charges. Many of the violators used workers who had
received state licenses based on bogus training certificates,
according to a report from The Virginia Plot.

Those certificates were provided by F&M Environmental Technology
Inc. of Virginia Beach, which federal authorities say provided
hundreds of fraudulent certificates from 1995 to 2000. The
company and its president pleaded guilty to felonies in
Alexandria in 2001. The use of improperly licensed workers on
asbestos jobs has been widespread in Hampton Roads.

About two-thirds of the 1,016 abatement projects in Chesapeake,
Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach between Jan. 1, 1998, and
April 30, 2001, were performed by companies using fraudulently
licensed workers, according to documents obtained by The
Virginian-Pilot.

While the state has been hamstrung in its efforts to move
quickly against violators, industry officials say they believe
stiff fines by federal judges may help staunch abuse.

Marcor Remediation Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md., which has performed
abatement jobs in Hampton Roads, was fined $200,000 by an
Alexandria judge in September after entering a guilty plea to
making fraudulent statements. Yet the company's state asbestos
license is valid through July 31, according to state records.  
Macsons Inc. of Norfolk, which also pleaded guilty in September,
holds a license that does not expire until August 31.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Upcoming Article Lashes at Asbestos Claims
---------------------------------------------------------------
An upcoming law-review article inked by a law professor suggests
that most of the thousands of asbestos-related injury claims
being filed each year are bogus, reports Stuart Taylor Jr. of
Atlanta Online.

"Asbestos litigation has become a malignant enterprise which
mostly consists of a massive client-recruitment effort that
accounts for as much as 90 percent of all claims currently being
generated, supported by baseless medical evidence which is not
generated by good-faith medical practice, but rather is
primarily a function of the compensation paid, and by claimant
testimony scripted by lawyers to identify exposure to certain
defendants' products," Atlanta Online quotes Lester Brickman.

The leading scholarly critic of the 50,000 to 100,000 asbestos-
related injury claims being filed each year by people who, 90
percent of the time, Brickman says, "have no discernable illness
or impairment." Rather, they and their lawyers "have cashed in
on this national tragedy" by filing claims based on "specious
medical evidence."

The 137-page article will be published this month in The
Pepperdine Law Review. They suggest at least the possibility of
ongoing corruption of the civil justice system on a staggering
scale by powerful plaintiffs lawyers, with the help of
complaisant judges - many of whom are politically indebted to
the lawyers - while the U.S. Supreme Court primly averts its
eyes, says the report.

Brickman's view is disputed by most of the plaintiffs bar. The
courts and other academics have largely ignored the evidence
that he cites. And those who profit from asbestos lawsuits will
be quick to point out that Brickman, a professor at the Cardozo
Law School of Yeshiva University, has done paid consulting work
for asbestos defendants.

According to the report, Brickman's empirical research is so
massive, his scholarship so meticulous, and his 526 footnotes so
crammed with compelling evidence, that his article "together
with the work of a handful of investigative reporters" should
shift the burden of proof in public debate to those who defend
the legitimacy of the asbestos-claims industry.

This is not to disparage the claims of the many thousands of
workers who have been injured and killed by lung diseases caused
by inhaling large quantities of asbestos dust over long periods
of time in their workplaces. Almost all of these injuries
originated before 1973, when use of asbestos in its most
dangerous forms was widely discontinued. Some victims have
suffered from lung cancer or mesothelioma, a virulent, asbestos-
induced cancer that kills about 2,000 people a year. Most have
had asbestosis, a nonmalignant scarring of lung tissue that can
cause shortness of breath ranging from almost undetectable to
very severe. Two big manufacturers of asbestos who conspired to
suppress information about its dangers were deservedly held
liable and driven into bankruptcy long ago joined more recently
by dozens of other companies that were far less culpable, if
they were culpable at all, says the Atlanta Online article.

The current asbestos-litigation crisis is rooted in well-
intentioned efforts by judges to rewrite legal rules to
compensate asbestos victims despite the absence of proof as to
who caused their illnesses. Courts created a body of "special
asbestos law," as Brickman calls it, under which claimants,
without proving that they have suffered any real harm, can win
tens of thousands of dollars or more from multiple defendants.

In many jurisdictions, claimants can win by proving just that
they worked near asbestos-containing products; that their chest
X-rays, in the opinion of experts hired by plaintiffs' lawyers,
are "consistent with" asbestosis (even though that does not
prove actual illness or injury); and that pulmonary function
tests show reduced lung capacity (which is easily faked). Courts
have also severely bent procedural rules to aggregate thousands
of dissimilar claims into gigantic lawsuits that coerce
defendants to settle by making it impossible to defend against
bogus claims. And they have subjected to unlimited liability
corporate purchasers of companies that had long since stopped
using asbestos.

The inevitable consequence has been to open the floodgates to
what Brickman calls "massive specious claiming" by plaintiffs
with no real injuries. No longer is the norm for people with
illnesses possibly caused by asbestos to seek medical care and
then perhaps legal counsel. Rather, since the 1980s, law firms
and attorney-sponsored screening companies have signed up
hundreds of thousands of current and former workers who
typically have no symptoms of impairment. The recruiters solicit
by word of mouth and advertising. ("Find out if YOU have
MILLION-DOLLAR LUNGS!" was the pitch used in one mass Internet
mailing.) Screening companies deploy trailer trucks equipped to
provide free X-rays and pulmonary tests. Among the perverse
workings of this asbestos litigation industry:

* While "almost no new actual cases of asbestosis have
manifested in the past 10 years" - because few people have
inhaled harmful quantities of asbestos since 1973 - the number
of asbestosis legal claims has continued to soar. Ninety percent
of current claimants, Brickman asserts, have no real evidence
that their lungs are any worse than those of much of the U.S.
adult male population of similar age.

* More than 475,000 "meritless asbestos claims" have won an
average of at least $60,000 each from defendants so far,
Brickman estimates, for a total of more than $28,500,000,000 in
unwarranted recoveries - and counting. More than $10,000,000,000
of this has gone to plaintiffs' lawyers. This is on top of the
many billions in legitimate awards. The litigation has driven
nearly 70 companies into bankruptcy, costing more than 50,000
employees their jobs and eliminating an estimated 500,000 more
jobs that would otherwise have been created.

* The evidence suggests strongly that "a cadre of plaintiffs'
doctors ... regularly and systematically misdiagnose asbestos-
related conditions" for profit, Brickman asserts. He details
"huge and consistent discrepancies" between these doctors' X-ray
readings and those of neutral doctors. The mass screening
enterprises typically find the tests of 40 to 65 percent or more
of those screened to be "consistent with asbestosis," Brickman
estimates. Neutral doctors diagnose asbestosis in fewer than 5
percent of people with similar histories of exposure.

* The screening companies "realize tens of millions of dollars
of repeat business from finding evidence of asbestosis." Some
charge lawyers much more for claimants whose tests are
"consistent with asbestosis" than for others; many generate huge
numbers of false positives by using substandard X-ray equipment
and rushing through pulmonary tests in as little as three to 15
minutes, despite an expert consensus that it takes at least 45
minutes to separate false positives from cases of real
impairment. There is evidence of widespread fraud in pulmonary
testing.

* Many claimants testify according to law firm scripts that
coach them to fabricate nonexistent impairments; to "create
memories irrespective of the underlying facts" as to which
asbestos-containing products they saw in their workplaces more
than 30 years ago; and to deny seeing warning labels, whether
they saw them or not. Over the years, as asbestos lawyers have
sued more than 6,000 companies in their search for still-solvent
deep pockets, their clients' testimony as to which asbestos-
containing products they saw at specific work sites during
specific periods has changed markedly. This pattern suggests
that the testimony "has been orchestrated by plaintiff lawyers"
to maximize recoveries against still-solvent companies, Brickman
writes, according to the Atlanta Online article.

* Plaintiffs' lawyers have become fabulously wealthy by charging
contingent fees as high as 40 percent, plus litigation expenses,
even for mass-produced claims that take as little as 10 minutes
of paralegal time to prepare. Brickman estimates that these fees
bring lawyers several thousand dollars per hour of actual work
done.

* Forum-shopping lawyers have filed most of the hundreds of
thousands of claims generated over the past 15 years in a
handful of jurisdictions in Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia,
and Illinois. "What I call the 'magic jurisdiction,' "
billionaire plaintiffs lawyer Dickie Scruggs of Mississippi once
explained with stunning candor (as quoted in The Wall Street
Journal), is "where the judiciary is elected with verdict money.
The trial lawyers have established relationships with the
judges.... They've got large populations of voters who are in on
the deal.... It's almost impossible to get a fair trial if
you're a defendant in some of these places, [no] matter what the
evidence or the law is."

Taylor's Atlanta Online report ends by quoting Brickman saying,
traditional civil justice reform and the current congressional
push to orchestrate a grand asbestos settlement have little
chance of overcoming the awesome power of some plaintiffs'
lawyers to coerce settlements, bankrupt defendants, and
intimidate critics. Nor will many judges or scholars confront
"the possibility that the civil justice system has been
corrupted." The only way to expose the asbestos litigation
industry's inner workings, Brickman says in his article, would
be a sweeping grand jury investigation. Good idea.


ASBESTOS LITIGATION: Victims Continue Their Battle, Firms Duck
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Hide-and-Seek between multinational firms and former
mineworkers who are ill or dying because of exposure to asbestos
dust and fibers goes on, according to South-African paper,
Business Report.

For years, the litigation initiated by 7,500 South Africans
against British firm Cape plc see-sawed through the courts,
which had to determine if the damages action could be brought in
the UK, where the claimants at least had legal aid, or whether
South African courts should be used, the report says.

In the end, Cape agreed to settle out of court and pay
GBP11,000,000 in cash into the Hendrik Afrika Trust and an
annual sum of GBP1,000,000 for the next 10 years.

After several extensions, Cape eventually paid GBP7,500,000,
from which Leigh Day and Company, the London law firm for the
claimants, paid out compensation claims.

Gencor, the now dormant investment holding company, agreed to
settle out of court and paid a final settlement of R460,500,000
after miners lodged individual claims for damages and in
November 2001 they brought an application in the Johannesburg
high court to stop Gencor from disposing of its R18,000,000,000
stake in Impala Platinum until it had made adequate provision
for present and future asbestos injury damages claims. The
company denied any liability.

As part of the settlement, the Griqualand Exploration & Finance
Company and Msauli Asbes Beperk, both asbestos mining companies
in which Gencor had an interest, also made a contribution.

Last year, according to the Business Report article, Richard
Spoor, a Nelspruit occupational health specialist attorney,
turned his attention to Xstrata Coal, previously known as Duiker
Exploration, which controlled and managed the asbestos mines and
mills of Wandrag Asbestos Mining Company in the Kuruman area in
the Northern Cape.

Before Xstrata took ownership these companies were owned and
controlled by Lonrho, now Lonmin, the world's third-largest
producer of the platinum group of metals.

Spoor said Xstrata had a legal and moral obligation to
contribute to a fund to assist former miners who were dying or
who would become ill because of exposure to asbestos dust and
fibers.

Spoor issued a summons against Duiker for damages of R1,200,000
on behalf of 39-year-old Isaac Manchonyane who was dying then of
mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused
exclusively by blue asbestos dust and fibers.  

With bottled oxygen at his side, Manchonyane gave evidence
before a senior magistrate at Mothibastad near Kuruman.

Manchonyane, who worked at the Wandrag asbestos mine for six
months between 1982 and 1983, finally succumbed to the disease
on Nov. 2, 2003 but his evidence will form the basis of his
claim against Duiker.

The mine was previously owned and operated by Duiker Mining
(then known as Duiker Exploration), which owned two blue
asbestos mines in the Northern Cape - Wandrag and Emmarentia -
employing about 300 workers.

Spoor said Xstrata was not willing to enter into settlement
negotiations and a long legal battle would rage this year.

"I am appalled that a huge multinational company does not want
to take responsibility for the actions of companies it owned. A
significant number of people are ill as a result of exposure to
asbestos dust and fibers."

Spoor said many claimants were coming forward and his firm was
looking at processing individual claims in excess of R150
million.

He was also negotiating with Swiss multinational Eternit, now
renamed Anova, and indications are that a settlement of about
$40,000,000 could be reached within months.

The Asbestos Relief Trust, set up with the Gencor settlement,
had made interim payments to seven people who are suffering from
mesothelioma.

The trustees were processing an additional three claims, Spoor
said. His office had prepared and finalized 160 asbestos is
claims.

But all is not gloom and doom as far as compensation for
occupational lung diseases is concerned. In late November,
Xstrata, which owns Vantech, a vanadium producing mine,
concluded a landmark agreement with the National Union of
Mineworkers to pay R2,200,000 in compensation to 75 workers who
became ill with chemical bronchitis.

The agreement followed an inquiry by the department of minerals
and energy affairs in September 2001 to investigate the high
number of workers who contracted pulmonary diseases after being
exposed to high doses of vanadium pentoxide fumes.

By then, 160 workers had been dismissed without compensation
after being found medically unfit to work at the company's
vanadium processing plant.

The compensation would be paid to workers suffering from
permanent asthma or bronchitis, as well as to the widow of one
deceased worker and five others who became ill but have
recovered.

But it costs money to litigate and many claimants are among the
poorest of the poor. Spoor said he had support from British
sources. Should the claimants lose the litigation, the lawyers
would not get a cent, he told the Business Report.

Many former mineworkers live in Malawi, Lesotho and the former
Transkei and unless they can be identified and medically
diagnosed, they will not be compensated for occupational lung
diseases, the Business Report article says.


ASBESTOS ALERT: Deere Mentions Asbestos Woes, Does Not Elaborate
----------------------------------------------------------------
Deere & Co. reports in its latest regulatory filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission that it faces various
unresolved legal actions, which arise in the normal course of
its business including asbestos-related liability.

The company did not specify the number of claims filed against
it.  

COMPANY PROFILE
Deere & Company (NYSE: DE)
1 John Deere Place
Moline, IL 61265
Phone: 309-765-8000
Fax: 309-765-5671
http://www.deere.com

Employees    :          43,200
Revenue      : $13,349,100,000
Net Income   :    $643,100,000
Assets       : $26,258,000,000
Liabilities  : $22,255,900,000
(As of Oct. 31, 2003)

Description: Deere & Company is one of the world's two largest
makers of farm equipment. The company is a leading producer of
industrial, forestry, and lawn-care equipment. Its farm
equipment includes tractors, tillers, harvesting machinery, and
soil-preparation machinery. The construction equipment includes
backhoes and excavators. Deere also makes drivetrain components,
diesel engines, chain saws, and leaf- and snowblowers. To
further consolidate its business operations and increase sales,
Deere increased its ownership in Nortrax (a John Deere dealer
for construction, forestry, earthmoving, and material handling
equipment) to around 85%.


                   New Securities Fraud Cases

AEROSONIC CORPORATION: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in FL
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, P.A. initiated a securities
class action in the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Florida against Aerosonic Corporation and certain of
its officers and/or directors, on behalf of shareholders who
purchased, converted, exchanged or otherwise acquired the common
stock of the Company between May 3, 1999 and March 17, 2003,
inclusive.

The action charges that defendants violated 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.

For more information, contact Charles J. Piven, by Mail: The
World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt Street, Suite 2525,
Baltimore, Maryland 21202, by Phone: 410/986-0036, or by E-mail:
hoffman@pivenlaw.com.


AEROSONIC CORPORATION: Lasky & Rifkind Files FL Securities Suit
---------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Lasky & Rifkind, Ltd., initiated a class action
lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle
District of Florida against Aerosonic and certain officers and
directors, on behalf of persons who purchased or otherwise
acquired publicly traded securities of Aerosonic Corporation
between November 13, 1998 to March 17, 2003, inclusive.

The complaint alleges that Defendants artificially inflated the
price of Aerosonic shares during the Class Period.  
Specifically, on March 17, 2003 Defendants revealed that what
appeared to be certain discrepancies in previously reported
financial information concerning inventory accounting and
revenue recognition.  The market reacted negatively to this
news, sending the share price of Aerosonic 24% lower to $3.32
per share.

For more information, call: (800) 495-1868 to speak with an
advisor.

AMERICAN PHARMACEUTICALS: Charles Piven Files Stock Suit in IL
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, initiated a securities
class action in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, on behalf of shareholders who
purchased, converted, exchanged or otherwise acquired the common
stock of American Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc. between February
19, 2002 and September 24, 2003, inclusive.

The action charges that defendants violated 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.

For more information, contact Charles J. Piven, by Mail:  The
World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt Street, Suite 2525,
Baltimore, Maryland 21202, by Phone: 410/986-0036, or by E-mail:
hoffman@pivenlaw.com.


AMERICAN PHYSICIANS: Lasky & Rifkind Lodges MI Securities Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Lasky & Rifkind, Ltd., initiated a lawsuit in
the United States District Court for the Western District of
Michigan, on behalf of persons who purchased or otherwise
acquired publicly traded securities of American Physicians
Capital Inc. between February 13, 2003 and November 6, 2003,
inclusive, against American Physicians Capital Inc., William B.
Cheeseman, and Frank H. Freund.

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.  Specifically, the Complaint alleges
that Defendants failed to disclose that the Company's provisions
for its loss reserves were inadequate and that they failed to
increase the reserves adequately to compensate for adverse
conditions.

On November 12, 2003, the company shocked the market when pre-
announced that the Company expected a "substantial net loss" for
the quarter due to significant adjustments in reserves for
policy losses. The additional reserves were expected to
approximate $43 million pre-tax. In addition, as a result of the
loss, the Company expects that it would not be able to report
the deferred tax asset that results from its accumulated net
operating losses and other timing differences. This resulted in
a $50 million non-cash charge to establish a valuation allowance
to eliminate the deferred tax asset. This news sent the share
prices of American Physicans lower by approximately 37%, or
$10.34 per share to $17.41 per share on very heavy volume.

For more information, call (800) 495-1868 to speak with an
advisor.


AMERICAN PHYSICIANS: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in MI
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, P.A. initiated a securities
class action, in the United States District Court for the
Western District of Michigan (Grand Rapids), on behalf of
shareholders who purchased, converted, exchanged or otherwise
acquired the common stock of American Physicians Capital, Inc.  
between February 13, 2003 and November 6, 2003, inclusive,
against American Physicians Capital, Inc., William B. Cheeseman,
and Frank H. Freund

The action charges that defendants violated 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.

For more information, contact Charles J. Piven, by Mail: The
World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt Street, Suite 2525,
Baltimore, Maryland 21202, by Phone: 410/986-0036, or by E-mail:
hoffman@pivenlaw.com.


BEST BUY: Charles Piven Commences Securities Fraud Lawsuit in MN
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, P.A. initiated a securities
class action in the United States District Court for the
District of Minnesota against Best Buy Co., Inc. and certain of
its officers and directors, on behalf of shareholders who
purchased, converted, exchanged or otherwise acquired the common
stock of the Company's between January 9, 2002 and August 7,
2002, inclusive.

The action charges that defendants violated 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.

For more information, contact Charles J. Piven, P.A., by Mail:  
The World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt Street, Suite
2525, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, by Phone: 410/986-0036, or by
E-mail: hoffman@pivenlaw.com.


BOSTON COMMUNICATIONS: Charles Piven Files Securities Suit in MA
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, initiated a securities
class action in the United States District Court for the
District of Massachusetts The case is pending against defendant
Boston Communications and certain of its officers, on behalf of
shareholders who purchased, converted, exchanged or otherwise
acquired the common stock of Boston Communications Group, Inc.
between June 12, 2003 and July 16, 2003, inclusive.

The action charges that defendants violated 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.

For more information, contact Charles J. Piven, by Mail: The
World Trade Center-Baltimore, 401 East Pratt Street, Suite 2525,
Baltimore, Maryland 21202, by Phone: 410/986-0036, or by E-mail:
hoffman@pivenlaw.com.


FRED ALGER: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Securities Suit in NY
------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP initiated a class
action in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York on behalf of all purchasers, redeemers and
holders of shares of Alger Capital Appreciation Institutional
Fund (NASDAQ: ALARX) (NASDAQ: ACARX), Alger Balanced
Institutional Fund (NASDAQ: ABLRX) (NASDAQ: ABIRX), Alger
Socially Responsible Growth Institutional Fund (NASDAQ: ASRGX)
(NASDAQ: ASRRX), Spectra Fund (NASDAQ: SPEAX) (NASDAQ: SPECX),
and other Fred Alger Mutual Funds from November 1, 1998 through
September 3, 2003, inclusive.

The following funds are subject to the above class action
lawsuit:

     (1) Alger SmallCap Portfolio (NASDAQ: ALSAX) (NASDAQ:
         ALSCX) (NASDAQ: AGSCX)

     (2) Alger SmallCap and MidCap Portfolio (NASDAQ: ALMAX)
         (NASDAQ: ALMBX) (NASDAQ: ALMCX)

     (3) Alger MidCap Growth Portfolio (NASDAQ: AMGAX) (NASDAQ:
         AMCGX) (NASDAQ: AMGCX)

     (4) Alger LargeCap Growth Portfolio (NASDAQ: ALGAX)
         (NASDAQ: AFGPX) (NASDAQ: ALGCX)

     (5) Alger Capital Appreciation Portfolio (NASDAQ: ACAAX)
         (NASDAQ: ACAPX)(NASDAQ: ALCCX)

     (6) Alger Health Sciences Portfolio (NASDAQ: AHSAX)
         (NASDAQ: AHSBX) (NASDAQ: AHSCX)

     (7) Alger Balanced Portfolio (NASDAQ: ALBAX) (NASDAQ:
         ALGBX)(NASDAQ:ALBCX)

     (8) Alger Small Cap Institutional Fund (NASDAQ: ALSRX)
         (NASDAQ: ASIRX)

     (9) Alger MidCap Institutional Fund (NASDAQ: ALMRX)
         (NASDAQ: AGIRX)

    (10) Alger LargeCap Growth Institutional Fund (NASDAQ:
         ALGRX)(NASDAQ:ALGIX)

    (11) Alger Capital Appreciation Institutional Fund (NASDAQ:
         ALARX) (NASDAQ: ACARX)

    (12) Alger Balanced Institutional Fund (NASDAQ: ABLRX)
         (NASDAQ: ABIRX)

    (13) Alger Socially Responsible Growth Institutional Fund
         (NASDAQ: ASRGX)(NASDAQ: ASRRX)

    (14) Spectra Fund (NASDAQ: SPEAX) (NASDAQ: SPECX)

The complaint charges Fred Alger Management Inc., the Alger
Fund, James Patrick Connelly Jr., the Fred Alger Funds, Veras
Investment Partners, LLP, and Doe Defendants with violations of
the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934,
the Investment Company Act of 1940, and for common law breach of
fiduciary duties.

The Complaint alleges that during the Class Period the Fred
Alger Funds and the other defendants engaged in illegal and
improper trading practices, in concert with certain
institutional traders, which caused financial injury to the
shareholders of the Fred Alger Funds.

According to the Complaint, the Defendants surreptitiously
permitted certain favored investors to illegally engage in
"timing" of the Fred Alger Funds whereby these favored investors
were permitted to conduct short-term, "in and out" trading of
mutual fund shares, despite explicit restrictions on such
activity in the Fred Alger Funds' prospectuses.

For more information, contact Marc A. Topaz, or Stuart L.
Berman, by Phone: toll free at 1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706,
or by E-mail at info@sbclasslaw.com.


FRIEDMAN'S INC: Goodkind Labaton Launches Securities Suit in GA
---------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Goodkind Labaton Rudoff & Sucharow LLP initiated
an amended securities class action on December 5, 2003 in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of
Georgia, on behalf of persons who purchased or otherwise
acquired publicly traded securities of Friedman's Inc. between
January 26, 2000 and November 17, 2003, inclusive, against the
Company and:

     (1) Victor M. Suglia, and

     (2) Bradley J. Stinn

The complaint alleges that Defendants issued false and
misleading statements with respect to the company's results and
business model, resulting in the company's materially
overstating its earnings for the fiscal years 2000 through 2002
and the first three quarters of 2003.

Specifically the complaint alleges that the Company's allowance
for doubtful accounts was woefully inadequate, that the
company's credit losses were significantly higher than its
reserves and higher than the Company represented, and that the
Company failed to properly write off uncollectable receivables.

On November 17, 2003, Friedman's stunned the market by warning
about its future performance, and the material adverse impact of
"increasing its allowance for doubtful accounts."  In addition
it announced that it would be restating results for the fiscal
years 2000 through 2002.

The Company also revealed it had placed its Chief Financial
Officer, Victor Suglia on administrative leave.  He has since
resigned.  Shares of Friedman's fell approximately 40% on very
heavy volume.

For more information, contact Christopher Keller, by Phone:
800-321-0476, or by E-mail: investorrelations@glrslaw.com.


GOODYEAR TIRE: Marc Henzel Commences Securities Suit in N.D. OH
---------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices of Marc S. Henzel initiated a securities class
action in the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Ohio on behalf of all purchasers of the common stock
of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. from October 22, 1998 through
October 22, 2003, inclusive.

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, by issuing a series of material
misrepresentations to the market between October 22, 1998 and
October 22, 2003, thereby artificially inflating the price of
Goodyear's publicly traded securities.

The Complaint alleges the statements were materially false and
misleading because they failed to disclose and/or misrepresented
the following adverse facts, among others:

     (1) that the Company's implantation of an enterprise
         resource planning accounting system in 1999 caused
         Goodyear to materially overstate its net income and
         earnings by up to $100 million;

     (2) that the Company's financial statements were not
         prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted
         Accounting Principles;

     (3) that the Company lacked adequate internal controls and
         was therefore unable to ascertain the true financial
         condition of the Company; and

     (4) that as a result, the value of the Company's net income
         and financial results were materially overstated at all
         relevant times.

On October 22, 2003, after the market had closed, Goodyear
announced that it would restate its financial results for the
years 1998-2002 and for the first and second quarters of 2003,
and that the restatement would result in a decrease in net
income over the restatement period by up to $100 million. Market
reaction to this news was swift and fast. Shares of Goodyear
fell more than 10 percent during inter-day trading and traded as
low as $5.55 per share on extremely heavy volume.

For more information, contact Marc S. Henzel, by Mail: 273
Montgomery Ave, Suite 202 Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004-2808, by Phone:
(888) 643-6735 or (610) 660-8000, by Fax: (610) 660-8080, by E-
mail: Mhenzel182@aol.com, or visit the firm's Website:
http://members.aol.com/mhenzel182.


GOODYEAR TIRE: Schatz & Nobel Commences Securities Suit in OH
-------------------------------------------------------------
Schatz & Nobel, PC initiated a securities class action in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
on behalf of all persons who purchased the publicly traded
securities of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (NYSE:GT) from
October 23, 1998 through October 22, 2003, inclusive.

The complaint alleges that Goodyear and certain of its officers
and directors issued materially false and misleading statements
during the class period.  According to the Complaint, between
1998 and 2002, while the Company's securities were trading at
artificially inflated levels, Goodyear issued $1.5 billion worth
of public debt in offerings.

On October 22, 2003, Goodyear announced that it would restate
its financial results for the years 1998-2002 and for the first
two quarters of 2003 to eliminate revenue which had been
improperly recorded.  Goodyear said it had detected errors while
reviewing "various accounts, including ERP-impacted balance
sheet accounts."  ERP is the computerized accounting system
adopted by Goodyear in 1999.  On this news, shares of Goodyear
fell 9%.

For more information, contact Andrew M. Schatz, or Nancy A.
Kulesa, by Phone: (800) 797-5499, by E-mail: sn06106@aol.com, or
visit the firm's Website: www.snlaw.net.


IBIS TEHCNOLOGY: Bernard Gross Files Securities Suit in MA
-----------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Bernard M. Gross, P.C. initiated a class action
lawsuit, in the United States District Court for the District of
Massachusetts, on behalf of all persons who purchased the common
stock of Ibis Technology Corporation between October 2, 2003 and
December 12, 2003, seeking remedies under the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934, against Ibis Technology Corporation and
Martin J. Reid

The Complaint alleges that defendants violated the Exchange Act
by issuing material misrepresentations between October 2, 2003
and December 12, 2003 concerning Ibis' new generation SIMOX-SOI
implanter, including that Ibis had orders from Japanese wafer
manufacturers which would close prior to December 31, 2003.
Defendants also misrepresented the carrying value of the smaller
size wafers production line on Ibis' financial statements.

On December 15, 2003, defendants filed a Form 8-K with the SEC
admitting that there would be no sales of i2000 implanters in Q4
2003 from the Japanese wafer manufacturers and that they now
expected to receive order(s) for one to three i2000 implanters
sometime in 2004 but that the timing of the orders "is very
difficult to predict because the sales require the purchaser to
enter into a license agreement with a third party." Defendants
further admitted that Ibis would record a "material charge" due
to the impairment of its smaller size production equipment. In
reaction to the announcement, the price of Ibis' common stock
fell from a $15.40 per share close on December 12, 2003 to a
close of $13.20 per share on December 15, 2003 and a closing
price of $10.37 on December 16, 2003, on extraordinary high
combined volume of 4.4 million shares, almost 50% of the
outstanding shares of Ibis common stock.

For more information, contact Susan R. Gross, or Deborah R.
Gross, by Mail: 1515 Locust Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA
19102, by Phone: (866) 561-3600 toll free, or (215) 561-3600, or
visit the firm's Website: http://www.bernardmgross.com.


INVESCO FUNDS: Spector Roseman Launches Securities Suit in CO
----------------------------------------------------------------
Spector, Roseman & Kodroff, P.C. initiated a securities class
action in the United States District Court for the District of
Colorado on behalf of purchasers, redeemers and holders of
shares of the INVESCO Mutual Funds set forth below between
December 5, 1998 and November 24, 2003, inclusive.

The Funds that are the subject of this suit and their symbols
are:

     (1) INVESCO Advantage Health Sciences Fund (Nasdaq: IAGHX,
         IGHBX, IGHCX)

     (2) INVESCO Core Equity Fund (Nasdaq: ICEAX, ICEBX, IINCX,
         FIIIX, IEIKX)

     (3) INVESCO Dynamics Fund (Nasdaq: IDYAX, IDYBX, IFDCX,
         FIDYX, IDYKX, IDICX)

     (4) INVESCO Energy Fund (Nasdaq: IENAX, IENBX, IEFCX,
         FSTEX, IENKX)

     (5) INVESCO Financial Services Fund (Nasdaq: IFSAX, IFSBX,
         IFSCX, FSFSX, FSFKX)

     (6) INVESCO Gold & Precious Metals Fund (Nasdaq: IGDAX,
         IGDBX, IGDCX, FGLDX)

     (7) INVESCO Health Sciences Fund (Nasdaq: IAHSX, IBHSX,
         IHSCX, FHLSX, IHSKX)

     (8) INVESCO Leisure Fund (Nasdaq: ILSAX, ILSBX, IVLCX,
         FLISX, ILEKX)

     (9) INVESCO Mid-Cap Growth Fund (Nasdaq: IMGAX, IMGBX,
         IMGCX, IVMIX, PRMIX)

    (10) INVESCO Multi-Sector Fund (Nasdaq: IAMSX, IBMSX, ICMSX)

    (11) AIM INVESCO S&P 500 Index Fund (Nasdaq: ISPIX)

    (12) INVESCO Small Company Growth Fund (Nasdaq: ISGAX,
         ISGBX, ISGCX, FIEGX, ISCKX)

    (13) INVESCO Technology Fund (Nasdaq: ITYAX, ITYBX, ITHCX,
         FTCHX, ITHKX, FTPIX)

    (14) INVESCO Total Return Fund (Nasdaq: IATRX, IBTRX, ITRCX,
         FSFLX)

    (15) INVESCO Utilities Fund (Nasdaq: IAUTX, IBUTX, IUTCX,
         FSTUX)

    (16) INVESCO Advantage Fund (Nasdaq: IADAX, IADBX, IADCX)

    (17) INVESCO Balanced Fund (Nasdaq: IBLAX, IBLBX, IBFIX,
         IMABX, IBLKX)

    (18) INVESCO European Fund (Nasdaq: IEUAX, IEUBX, IEUCX,
         FEURX, IEUKX)

    (19) INVESCO Growth Fund (Nasdaq: IAGWX, IBGWX, IBGCX,
         FLRFX, IGWKX)

    (20) INVESCO High-Yield Fund (Nasdaq: IAHYX, IBHYX, IHYCX,
         FHYPX, IHYKX)

    (21) INVESCO Growth & Income Fund, (Nasdaq: IGIAX, IGIBX,
         IGRCX, IVGIX, IGIKX)

    (22) INVESCO International Blue Chip Value Fund (Nasdaq:
         IBVAX, IBVBX, IBVCX, IIBCX)

    (23) INVESCO Real Estate Opportunity Fund (Nasdaq: IAREX,
         IBREX, IRECX, IVSRX)

    (24) INVESCO Select Income Fund (Nasdaq: IASIX, IBSIX,
         ISICX, FBDSX, ISIKX)

    (25) INVESCO Tax-Free Bond Fund (Nasdaq: IXBAX, IXBBX,
         ITFCX, FTIFX, IVTIX)

    (26) INVESCO Telecommunications Fund (Nasdaq: ITLAX, ITLBX,
         INTCX, ISWCX, ITEKX)

    (27) INVESCO U.S. Government Securities Fund (Nasdaq: IGVAX,
         IGVBX, IUGCX, FBDGX)

    (28) INVESCO Value Fund (Nasdaq: IAVEX, IBVEX, IVACX, FSEQX)

The Complaint charges Invesco, Amvescap, AIM Management Group,
Inc., AIM Stock Funds, AIM Stock Funds, Inc., Invesco Stock
Funds, Inc., Edward Stern, Canary Investment Management, LLC,
Canary Partners Ltd., Canary Partners, LLC, and Doe Defendants
with violating the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Company Act of 1940, and
with common law breach of fiduciary duties.

Specifically, it is alleged that during the Class Period,
defendants failed to disclose that they improperly allowed
certain favored investors, including Canary and the Doe
defendants, to engage in the "market timing" of their
transactions in the Funds.  According to the Complaint, favored
investors were allowed to market time their transactions despite
specific restrictions on these practices in the prospectuses of
the Funds.

For more information, contact Robert M. Roseman, by Phone:
888-844-5862 (toll free), by E-mail: classaction@srk-law.com, or
visit the firm's Website: http://www.srk-law.com.


LEAPFROG ENTERPRISES: Gold Bennett Files Securities Suit in CA
----------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Gold Bennett Cera & Sidener LLP initiated a
class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California, on behalf of purchasers of
LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. securities during the period July 24,
2003 through October 21, 2003.

The Complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period, the
defendants violated the federal securities laws, specifically
Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The
Complaint alleges that the defendants made false and misleading
statements regarding LeapFrog's "strong growth" in sales for Q2
2003, sales and income guidance for Q3 and Q4 2003 and
LeapFrog's rising inventory levels.

The Complaint alleges that the defendants' statements were
knowingly, or recklessly, materially false and misleading
because:

     (1) LeapFrog's "strong growth" in sales for Q2 2003
         resulted from the defendants' practice of shipping to
         retailers goods that they had not ordered;

     (2) demand for LeapFrog products was not increasing and, in
         fact, retailers were heavily discounting LeapFrog
         product to move it off their shelves; and

     (3) LeapFrog's inventory for Q2 2003 had risen by 55% from
         the same period in the prior year.

For more information, contact Gwendolyn R. Giblin, by Mail: 595
Market Street, Suite 2300, San Francisco, California 94105, by
Phone: (800) 778-1822 or (415) 777-2230, by Fax: (415) 777-5189,
or by E-mail: GGiblin@gbcslaw.com.


PRICESMART INC: Scott + Scott Lodges Securities Suit in S.D. CA
---------------------------------------------------------------
Scott + Scott, LLC initiated a securities fraud action in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of
California on behalf of purchasers of PriceSmart, Inc. publicly
traded securities during the period between December 20, 2001
and November 17, 2003.

The complaint charges PriceSmart and certain of its officers and
directors with violations of the U.S. securities laws
(Securities Exchange Act of 1934).  PriceSmart owns and operates
membership shopping warehouses operating in Latin America, the
Caribbean and Asia under the trade name PriceSmart.

The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants
made or approved false statements about the business and
economic future of the Company.  The complaint further alleges
that defendants knew or recklessly disregarded statements that
were materially false and misleading.

PriceSmart has admitted that it inappropriately recorded
transactions included in its 2002 to 2003 results, and will have
to restate those results to remove millions in improperly
reported revenues.  Therefore, these accounting/financial
statements were not a fair presentation of PriceSmart's results
in violation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and SEC
rules.

On November 10, 2003, the Company issued a press release
entitled "PriceSmart to Restate Financial Statements for Fiscal
2002 and the First Three Quarters of Fiscal 2003."  The press
release stated in part: "PriceSmart, Inc. today announced that
it will restate its financial statements for fiscal year 2002
and the first three quarters of fiscal year 2003 . Regarding the
fourth quarter and fiscal year 2003 results, the Company is
expecting to report a significant loss in the fourth quarter.
The anticipated fourth quarter loss could exceed $20 million."

The stock dropped below $8 per share on this news, an 80%
decline from its Class Period high of more than $42.00 per
share. Today, trading in PriceSmart common stock opened at $5.85
per share.

For more information, contact Neil Rothstein, or David Scott,
Esq., by Mail: 108 Norwich Avenue, Colchester, Connecticut
06415, by Phone: 800/404-7770, or Fax: 860/537-4432.


SECURITY TRUST: Schiffrin & Barroway Lodges AZ Securities Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP initiated a class
action lawsuit, in the United States District Court for the
District of Arizona, on behalf of all who purchased or otherwise
acquired shares or other ownership units of Janus Worldwide
Fund, American Funds EuroPacific Fund, MFS Emerging Growth Fund,
Legg Mason Value Trust Fund, Artisan International Fund, AXP
International Y Fund, SEI International Equity A Fund, SEI
Emerging Markets I Fund or other mutual funds between May 22,
2000 and July 3, 2003, inclusive, against the Company, and:

     (1) Capital Management Investors Holdings, Inc.,

     (2) Grant Seeger,

     (3) Nicole McDermott, and

     (4) William Kenyon

According to the lawsuit, Defendants violated Sections 10(b) and
20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5
promulgated thereunder, and aided and abetted in the breach of
fiduciary duties. More specifically, the complaint alleges that
defendants STC an unregistered financial intermediary, Seeger,
STC's former Chief Executive Officer, Kenyon, STC's former
president, and McDermott, STC's former Senior Vice President for
Corporate Services, facilitated and participated in fraudulent
late trading and market timing schemes by a group of related
hedge funds. From May 2000 to July 2003, defendants facilitated
hundreds of trades by the hedge funds in nearly 400 different
mutual funds. Approximately 99% of these trades were transmitted
to STC after the 4:00 p.m. EST market close; 82% of the trades
were sent to STC between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. EST. The hedge
funds' late trading was effected by defendants through STC's
electronic trading platform, which was designed primarily for
processing trades by third party administrators for retirement
plans. STC repeatedly misrepresented to mutual funds that the
hedge funds were a retirement plan account, even though STC's
employees and senior management, including Seeger, Kenyon, and
McDermott, knew that the hedge funds were not a TPA or a
retirement plan account. The mutual funds expected that
retirement plans and their TPAs required several hours after the
market closed to process trades submitted by thousands of plan
participants before market close, but the hedge funds had no
such business purpose for submitting their own trades as late as
five hours after market close.

In addition to late trading, defendants also assisted the hedge
funds in various strategies -- some devised by Seeger -- to
conceal their market-timing activities from mutual funds,
including misrepresenting that the hedge funds were retirement
accounts, allowing the hedge funds to trade in accounts marked
with STC's tax identification number, and "piggybacking" the
hedge funds' timing trades on the trades of other STC clients
without their knowledge. Late trading allowed the hedge funds to
trade mutual fund shares at the established 4:00 p.m. EST market
close price based upon events reported after close of the market
or perceived market momentum caused by after-hours trading.
Market timing allowed the hedge funds to engage in short-term
trading that exploited inefficiencies in mutual fund pricing. As
a result of the late trading and market timing activities
facilitated by defendants, the hedge funds realized a profit of
approximately $85 million. STC had a compensation arrangement
with the hedge funds that included a custodial fee as large as
1% (STC charged most of its TPA clients a custodial fee of just
.10%) and a 4% profit sharing arrangement with respect to most
of the hedge funds' trades. STC received over $5.8 million in
direct compensation from the hedge funds. Late trading and
market timing harmed mutual fund shareholders who did not
participate in the scheme between STC and the hedge funds.

As a result of "late trading" and "timing" of mutual funds, the
hedge funds and defendants and their intermediaries profited
handsomely. The losers were unsuspecting long-term mutual fund
investors. Defendants' profits came dollar-for-dollar out of
their pockets.

On November 25, 2003, the SEC announced that it had brought
civil charges against the STC Defendants based on the
allegations set forth above; the New York State Attorney General
announced that it had charged the STC Defendants with grand
larceny, fraud and falsifying business records; and the Office
of the Comptroller of the Currency, the federal bank regulator,
ordered STC to dissolve itself by March 31, 2004.

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


SONICWALL INC.: Milberg Weiss Lodges Securities Suit in N.D. CA
---------------------------------------------------------------
Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP initiated a class
action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California on behalf of purchasers of
SonicWALL, Inc. common stock during the period between October
17, 2000 and April 3, 2002.

The complaint charges SonicWALL and certain of its officers and
directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. SonicWALL provides Internet security solutions designed
for broadband access customers in the small to medium
enterprise, branch office, telecommuter, and education markets.
The Company's Internet security appliance is marketed under the
SonicWALL name.

The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants
knowingly shipped unassembled electronic components even though
they were aware that the components would not and could not meet
the specifications, requirements and warranties of agreements
entered into with SonicWALL's clients. The complaint further
alleges that defendants knowingly caused SonicWALL to enter into
these agreements with its clients knowing that it would be
unable to provide products that would meet the specifications,
requirements and warranties of the agreements. Moreover,
defendants caused SonicWALL to enter into these agreements only
to improve the Company's financial status for these quarters as
part of a fraudulent plan to manipulate its financial earnings
reports and artificially inflate its share price, while actually
having no intention of delivering product conforming with the
agreements. According to the complaint there were substantial
deficiencies in the Company's products, including, among other
things, circuit boards that had not been programmed and that did
not have connector ports that were necessary to perform the
tests required under the warranties and agreements.

As a result of defendants' issuance of false and misleading
financial statements during the Class Period, SonicWALL's shares
traded at artificially inflated levels, allowing defendants to
sell $34 million worth of their own SonicWALL shares.

For more information, contact William Lerach or Darren Robbins,
by Phone: 800/449-4900, or by E-mail: wsl@milberg.com.


VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS: Marc Henzel Lodges Securities Suit in MA
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices of Marc S. Henzel initiated a securities class
action in the United States District Court for the District of
Massachusetts on behalf of purchasers of Vertex Pharmaceuticals
Inc. (NASDAQ: VRTX) publicly traded securities during the period
between March 27, 2000 and September 24, 2001.

The complaint charges Vertex and certain of its officers and
directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. Vertex is a global biotechnology company focused on the
discovery, development and commercialization of breakthrough
drugs for a range of serious diseases.  The complaint alleges
that during the Class Period, defendants artificially inflated
the price of Vertex stock by concealing critical material
information regarding its p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase
(MAPK) program, for Vertex development compound VX-745.

The following facts which were known by each of the defendants
during the Class Period, but were concealed from the investing
public, were:

     (1) That p38 MAPK has a varied tissue distribution and is
         implicated not only in inflammation and arthritis, but
         also in cellular models for neuronal differentiation
         and effects, presenting multiple targets and
         significant drug design challenges, which defendants
         knew from well before the beginning of the Class
         Period;

     (2) That small, highly lipophilic molecules designed as
         inhibitors of p38 MAPK are at great risk of crossing
         the blood-brain barrier and of causing neuronal
         effects;

     (3) That defendants already knew or should have known what
         constituted an acceptable absorption, distribution,
         metabolism and excretion ("ADME") profile for p38 MAPK
         inhibitors targeting inflammation and arthritis, as
         opposed to inhibitor targets for neuronal effects,
         particularly the desired molecular weight and
         lipophilicity, as well as the correlation of
         lipophilicity with the potential for p38 MAPK related
         neuronal effects;

     (4) That defendants knew or should have known, as early as
         1998, of the importance of lipophilicity in the design
         of p38 MAPK inhibitors, since they had designed at
         least one other class of potential inhibitory molecules
         targeting p38 MAPK, possessing significantly lower
         lipophilicity;

     (5) That VX-745, a potential p38 MAPK inhibitor intended to
         target inflammatory disease, asthma, crohn's disease
         and rheumatoid arthritis, was exceptionally lipophilic
         and thus would be predicted to cross the blood-brain
         barrier and thus to cause neuronal effects;

     (6) That once clinical testing of VX-745 had commenced,
         defendants quietly continued the preclinical testing of
         VX-745 in secret, despite public assurances that they
         would not commence clinical development until all
         preclinical studies were completed;

     (7) That defendants purposefully delayed the announcement
         of renewed long-term preclinical studies of VX-745 in
         animals until announcement of study results to avoid
         connection of the need for the renewed studies with the
         October 2000 disclosure of defendants' problems with
         the Vertex first-generation drug candidate selection
         process;

     (8) That the announcement of the unsuitability of VX-745 as
         a drug candidate was similarly delayed until two months
         after completion of the merger with Aurora Biosciences
         Corp.; and

     (9) That the failure to disclose the defective nature of
         the VX-745 program, including but not limited to
         physical and chemical properties, ADME profile, tests,
         experiments and preclinical and clinical studies, would
         prevent investors and Aurora Biosciences Corp.
         shareholders from learning the extent of the
         misrepresentations made to them during the Class
         Period.

The announcement on Sept. 24, 2001 of the termination of the VX-
745 drug development program caused Vertex's stock price to drop
to as low as $17.74 from its Class Period high of $97.25, on
record volume of over 9.8 million shares, causing hundreds of
millions of dollars in damages to members of the Class.

For more details, contact Marc S. Henzel by Mail: 273 Montgomery
Ave., Suite 202, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 by Phone: 610-660-8000 or
888-643-6735 by Fax: 610-660-8080 or by E-Mail:
mhenzel182@aol.com.



                           *********

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Wednesday's edition of the Class Action Reporter. Submissions
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Each Friday's edition of the CAR includes a section featuring
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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

                        *********


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