/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/000703.MBX                  C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

                  Monday, July 3, 2000, Vol. 2, No. 128


ACXIOM CORP: Contests Consolidated Securities Lawsuit in Arkansas
AETNA LIFE: James, Hoyer File Suit over Deceptive Sales Practices
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: W.R. Grace Denies Allegations Re Attic Insulation
AZTEC CATALYST: Judge OKs $21.5M Settlement against Ohio Chemical Plant
BRANCH DAVIDIAN SIEGE: Ex-Reporter Testifies in Waco Case

CITY OF PA: Rersidents Paying for Trash Removal Sue over Dwelling Tax
COCA-COLA: Lawyers in Settlement Negotiation over Racial Bias Squabble
FEDERAL-MOGUL: Wolf Haldenstein Files Securities Suit in Michigan
FORD MOTOR: Texas App. Ct. Affirms Class Cert. in Seat Belt Case
FULTON SHELTER: GA Suit Alleges of Rushing Stray Pets to Their Death

GREAT AMERICAN: Agrees to Settle GALIC Policyholders' Suit in Ohio
HARMONIC INC: Barrack Rodos Files Securities Lawsuit in California
HARMONIC INC: Wolf Popper Charges of Securities Violations
HMOs: Herdrich Survives Charge against Physician Incentive in High Ct
HMOs: Senate OKs Patients' Restricted Right to Sue

LASERVUE EYE: Eye Surgery Patients Angry at Company's Letter
LEND LEASE: Prepared to Pay for Thredbo Landslide; Govt Makes Offer
RELIANCE GROUP: Wolf Haldenstein Files Securities Suit in New York
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Internal Dissension Erupts As Both Sides in FL Rest
VITAMIN PRICE-FIXING: Australian Subsidiaries Face $100 Mil Case

WAR VICTIMS: Chinese sue Japanese Firms in CA Court over WW II Labor
WESTERN RESERVE: Insurer Alleged of Deceptive Sales Practices in Ohio


ACXIOM CORP: Contests Consolidated Securities Lawsuit in Arkansas
On September 20, 1999 Acxiom and certain of its directors and officers
were sued by an individual shareholder in a purported class action filed
in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas. The action alleges that the defendants violated Section 11 of
the Securities Act of 1933 in connection with the July 23, 1999 public
offering of 5,421,000 shares of our common stock. In addition, the
action seeks to assert liability against Company Leader Charles Morgan
pursuant to Section 15 of the Securities Act of 1933. The action seeks
to have a class certified of all purchasers of the stock sold in the
public offering. Two additional suits were subsequently filed in the
same venue against the same defendants and asserting the same
allegations. The plaintiffs have now filed a consolidated complaint. The
cases are still in the initial phase of litigation, with the defendants
having filed their initial response to the lawsuit. We believe the
allegations are without merit and the defendants intend to vigorously
contest the cases, and at the appropriate time, seek their dismissal.

AETNA LIFE: James, Hoyer File Suit over Deceptive Sales Practices
Lawsuit filed by James, Hoyer alleging that Aetna Life Insurance and
Annuity Company engaged in deceptive and misleading sales practices;
Richard and Helen Reese, Villere Bergeron, and Allan Eckert on Behalf of
Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, vs. Aetna Life Insurance
and Annuity Company; Case No. 8:00-CV-1343-T-23F.

The law firm of James, Hoyer, Newcomer and Smiljanich, P.A. has filed a
class action lawsuit on behalf of four former policyholders of Aetna
Life Insurance and Annuity Company. The lawsuit was filed in Tampa,
Florida on June 30, 2000, based upon deceptive and misleading insurance
sales practices in the sale of life insurance policies.

Former policyholders Villere Bergeron and Allan Eckert allege in the
lawsuit that Aetna induced them to replace cash-rich interest-paying
Aetna whole life insurance policies with Aetna flexible premium
adjustable policies on which they would pay a limited number of
premiums. They were told that after the limited number of premiums that
the premiums would "vanish" and the policies would be "paid up."

Former policyholders Richard and Helen Reese each purchased universal
life contracts on the promise that their premiums would never increase
and that, after regular payments for a certain number of years, their
paid up policies would fund their retirement. The policyholders were led
to believe that the cash balances in the old policies, in conjunction
with the high illustrated interest that would accrue on the Aetna
policies, would eliminate the need for further "out-of-pocket" premium
payments. Aetna also miscast the nature of the insurance products as

When the policies did not perform as promised, Aetna then informed the
policyholders that the premium obligations would continue, possibly for
the duration of their lifetimes. The policyholders were then forced to
choose among paying continued unanticipated premiums, having the cash
value of their policies eaten up by loans on the policies to pay the
premiums, or canceling their policies and looking for new insurance at
higher rates for retirees. It is further alleged in the complaint that
when making the sale of the products to the policyholders, the Aetna
agents intentionally failed to disclose that high commissions and
administrative charges would be assessed from the funds removed from the
older policies, that the interest rates upon which the promises were
based were not guaranteed, that the cost of insurance would be higher
because of the policyholders' increased ages, and that premiums were due
for the life of the policyholder. The complaint also alleges that Aetna
knew that it could not sustain the interest rates illustrated and that
it was a certainty that additional significant premium outlays would be

The complaint alleges counts of: breach of fiduciary duty, negligent
misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, common law fraudulent
concealment and deceit, and negligent supervision.

The class action plaintiffs are residents of Florida who seek to
represent all persons nationwide who were victimized by the fraudulent,
overreaching, and misleading sales practices of Aetna.

John Yanchunis, an attorney with James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich,
P.A., a Tampa firm that represents victims of corporate fraud, stated:
"We filed this class action suit not only for the named plaintiffs but
to seek a remedy for all policyholders who were victims of the deceptive
and fraudulent activities."

Contact: John Yanchunis, jyanchunis@jameshoyer.com or Mike Peacock,
mpeacock@jameshoyer.com, both of James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich,
P.A., 813-286-4100

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: W.R. Grace Denies Allegations Re Attic Insulation
W.R. Grace & Co. has answered a complaint filed in Massachusetts federal
court on behalf of homeowners nationwide who purchased Zonolite attic
insulation and say that the company knew that the product was hazardous.
Lindholm v. W.R. Grace & Co., No 00 CV 10323 PBS (D. Mass., Apr. 20,
2000); see Asbestos LR, March 3, 2000, P. 5.

The complaint alleges that the company aggressively promoted and sold
hundreds of millions of cubic feet of Zonolite from 1963 through 1984,
even though it secretly possessed information indicating that the
insulation contained tremolite asbestos.

Homeowner Edward M. Lindholm asserts claims of fraud, negligence, breach
of implied warranties, violations of deceptive trade practices statutes,
nuisance, strict liability for ultra-hazardous activities, and unjust

He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, including prejudgment
interest. In addition, the plaintiff seeks equitable relief, asking the
court to order Grace to remove and abate existing Zonolite from all
residences containing the insulation.

Lindholm contends that in 1973, Washington state health officials
advised the company to place a warning label on the Zonolite product,
but Grace refused. He also says that Grace secretly considered halting
Zonolite sales in March 1977, but the company decided not to pull the
insulation from the market due to concerns about the dangers associated
with Zonolite and the substantial exposure to legal liability.

Lindholm also asserts that a vice president in the company's Cambridge
Construction Products Division drafted an internal memorandum in May
1977, which was circulated to Grace's top man agement. The memorandum
allegedly acknowledged the high mortality rates of employees at the
company's Montana facility and the severe risks of lung disease among
workers. Despite this knowledge, Grace continued to refuse to place
warning labels on products because the company con cluded that a warning
label would result in substantial sales losses, the complaint states.

The plaintiff says that Grace acknowledged the health risks associated
with Zonolite when it established a medical monitoring program to screen
residents who lived near its Lincoln County, Mont., vermiculite mine.

In its answer, the defendant says that a company memo explained that
Grace decided not to affix warning labels on products that did not
expose customers to fiber levels above those permitted by the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Grace also says that it
admits it stopped selling Zonolite Attic Insulation in 1984, but denies
that it did anything to conceal any alleged health risks to homeowners
using the product.

Grace asserts 23 affirmative defenses in its answer, including the
failure of the complaint to allege physical harm, which is required for
recovery in tort. Grace asks that the suit be dismissed with prejudice.

Grace is represented by Robert A. Murphy and Douglas K. Mansfield of
Casner & Edwards in Boston. Lindholm is represented by Kenneth G. Gilman
of Gilman & Pastor in Boston. (Asbestos Litigation Reporter, June 22,

AZTEC CATALYST: Judge OKs $21.5M Settlement against Ohio Chemical Plant
A judge approved a $21.5 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit
against a chemical plant for explosions that spread hydrochloric acid
fumes over the city in 1993.

About 6,000 people were evacuated from their homes 25 miles west of
Cleveland after two explosions at Aztec Catalyst Co., which made
chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics. Many complained of eye
and respiratory irritation after the explosions, which destroyed two

In the agreement approved last Thursday June 29, Aztec denies that
residents suffered any damage. The company settled with several
residents outside of this case, some weeks after the explosions

The five main plaintiffs in the lawsuit will receive at least $15,000
each. Others can receive up to $62,500 or two times their medical bills,
depending on how many people file for claims. Anyone seeking a claim has
two years to file.(The Associated Press, June 30, 2000)

BASF: Tomato Growers Seek Refund from Herbicide Maker
A lawsuit against the maker of an herbicide seeks reimbursement for
losses incurred by 250 tomato growers who say their crops were damaged.
The group of south Arkansas farmers filed a federal class-action suit in
Little Rock against BASF AG, maker of Facet. The lawsuit also seeks
unspecified punitive damages. A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this
year against BASF and a number of cropduster companies.

Facet often is sprayed on rice fields to control barnyard grass, but the
spray sometimes drifts. Commercial tomato growers have tried since 1996
to get the state Plant Board to ban the chemical. In addition to
tomatoes, the herbicide damages watermelon, cantaloupe and other crops,
said Ples Bradley, a pesticide assessment specialist at the Cooperative
Extension Service. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire, June 30,

BRANCH DAVIDIAN SIEGE: Ex-Reporter Testifies in Waco Case
A former television news reporter who witnessed most of the gun battle
between Branch Davidians and federal agents during a failed raid Feb.
28, 1993, testified that the shooting erupted as soon as he arrived.
''It just seemed to all start at once. I saw some of the law enforcement
officers ... they were running for cover ... as they were running they
appeared to be returning fire at the building,'' testified John
McLemore, a former reporter for Waco television station KWTX.

Taking cover behind a bus on the property, McLemore watched the gun
battle between agents and the Davidians. He saw agents run toward the
building with a ladder, climb onto the roof and enter the complex by
smashing through a window on an upper floor. ''After three of the agents
had gone in the window, there was one agent left on the outside there,
and I saw gunfire come through the building wall and one or two shots
came up through the roof at the agent,'' McLemore said.

McLemore's testimony came as the second week of trial came to close in
the $675 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians and
family members against the federal government. McLemore, who was on the
property for the entire 21/2-hour ordeal, called for help from his news
vehicle. Three of the injured agents were carried off the compound in
the media vehicle. ''We were the last ones off the property,'' said

Plaintiffs' attorneys wrapped up their case last Thursday June 29, and
government lawyers began presenting their case.

Four agents were killed and 16 were wounded during the gunfight, which
broke out as Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to
serve search and arrest warrants on sect leader David Koresh. Six
Davidians also died as a 51-day standoff began. Koresh and about 80
followers perished as a fire destroyed the compound near Waco on April
19, 1993.

Plaintiffs say the agents, who raided the complex to search for illegal
weapons and arrest Koresh, fired indiscriminately into the building.
Government attorneys say the agents were ambushed by sect members and
were defending their lives.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Michael Caddell asked McLemore if he ever saw
any guns or Davidians at the compound, to which he answered no. McLemore
also said he never heard anyone yell ''police'' or ''ATF'' until after
the gunfire already had started.

Plaintiffs also claim federal agents violated an approved plan on the
standoff's final day, when they used tanks to punch holes in the
building, contributed to or caused at least some of the three fires that
engulfed the compound, and failed to have firefighting equipment at the

A five-member jury will act only as an advisory panel to U.S. District
Judge Walter Smith, who will deliver the verdict in the case.
Separately, Smith will consider the question of whether federal agents
shot at Davidians during the siege's fiery end. (AP Online, June 30,

CITY OF PA: Rersidents Paying for Trash Removal Sue over Dwelling Tax
Class action challenges new city 'dwelling tax' and lack of trash
pick-up. Forced to pay for their own trash removal, a coalition of
apartment and condominium owners has filed a class action civil rights
suit against the City of Philadelphia claiming that multi-family
dwellings are unfairly denied city services.

The suit also challenges the city's recently enacted "dwelling tax" that
imposes a licensing fee of $ 25 per unit on all buildings with more than
two dwelling units, up to a maximum of $ 10,000 per building. Attorneys
Gary A. Krimstock of Fineman & Bach and Robert D. Greenbaum of Robert D.
Greenbaum & Associates filed the suit in U.S. District Court claiming
that the city's policies violate both the Equal Protection Clause of the
U.S. Constitution and the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania

The lead plaintiffs in the suit are The Philadelphian Owners
Association, the governing body of the 776-unit "Philadelphian"
condominium across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Welsh Walnut
Associates, the owners of the 132-unit Manchester Apartments on Welsh
Road. They seek to represent a class of apartment and condominium owners
with more than six units in their buildings who are subject to the
city's policy of not providing waste removal.

The members of the first class are also included in a second, larger
class that challenges the dwelling tax. Krimstock said the city's
refusal to pick up trash at condos and apartments can be very costly to
owners. For example, he said, Society Hill Towers pays more than $
50,000 per year for its trash removal. Since all property owners pay
real estate taxes, Krimstock argues, they should get equal services for
their tax dollars.But condo and apartment owners get nothing, Krimstock
says, and have now been forced to pay an added tax on top of the
existing real estate tax bill.

The state of New Jersey recently rectified a similar unfairness toward
its apartment and condo owners by passing a state law the Municipal
Services and Tax Fairness Act that required local governments to refund
significant sums, Krimstock said.Krimstock said the Philadelphia owners
are challenging the dwelling tax on equal protection grounds as well as
arguing that it violates a long-standing state law that limits such fees
to an aggregate of just $ 2 for buildings with less than 10 units or up
to $ 5 for buildings with more than 10 units.Under that law, Krimstock
says, the Philadelphia dwelling tax is grossly excessive and must be
declared invalid. The case, Philadelphian Owners Association et al v.
City of Philadelphia, 00-cv-3181, has been assigned to U.S. District
Judge Jay C. Waldman. (The Legal Intelligencer, June 27, 2000)

COCA-COLA: Lawyers in Settlement Negotiation over Racial Bias Squabble
One group of plaintiffs' attorneys in the Coca-Cola discrimination case
is accusing another of illegal conduct. Regardless of who is right, the
issue highlights a serious division that has festered on the plaintiffs'
side of the case. Lawyers representing the class of 2,000 current and
former Coke employees alleged last Thursday June 29 that prominent
attorney Willie Gary is soliciting fee agreements from class members in
violation of a local federal court rule.

Gary and his Stuart, Fla., law firm do not represent the class, but they
do represent at least eight individual members of the class. "The Gary
firm is soliciting fee contracts that require class members to fork over
25 percent of their settlement shares for nothing," said the motion,
which seeks to stop Gary's firm from continuing the practice.

The motion, filed by the legal team headed by Cyrus Mehri, also asks
U.S. District Judge Richard Story to invalidate any agreements that
already have been reached between Gary's firm and individual class

But Gary's firm said it has not done anything wrong. "We did not
solicit. We were asked to come and talk to people," said F. Shields
McManus, one of the attorneys in Gary's office. What's more, McManus
said, his firm is not trying to take any money received by a class
member as a result of work performed by Mehri's team. "That's not true,"
he said. "Our contract has nothing to do with what Cyrus Mehri is doing.
It only has to do with individual actions we file or with actions where
our clients are the representative of the class. We do not have a
contract for fees for this class action."

McManus said Gary's firm will file a formal response to the allegations.

The dispute comes only two weeks after Mehri's team reached an agreement
in principle with Coca-Cola to settle the suit, which alleged that the
company has discriminated against African-Americans in pay, promotions
and performance evaluations.

Gary's firm did not participate in the settlement talks. Instead, he and
noted attorney Johnnie Cochran represent four of the eight plaintiffs in
the case. Those four plaintiffs hired Gary's firm in April, about a year
after the suit was filed. Gary and Cochran also represent at least four
class members who recently filed a separate lawsuit against Coke,
alleging that the company created a hostile and discriminatory work
environment. Before Gary entered the picture, Mehri's team represented
all of the plaintiffs, as well as all of the class members.

Mehri's team is now alleging that Gary has a "glaring conflict of
interest" that prevents him from representing the class. The alleged
conflict centers on Gary's majority ownership of Major Broadcasting
Cable, an Atlanta-based network focusing on African-American family
entertainment. The cable network recently signed a multiyear advertising
agreement with Coca-Cola. "There can be no doubt that Mr. Gary's
business dealings with Coca-Cola constitute a conflict of interest in
any action he purports to prosecute against the company," Mehri's team
contended in its motion.

But McManus said Gary's firm disclosed the advertising deal to its
prospective clients. "It's certainly an apparent conflict, and that's
why we disclosed it," McManus said. "We don't think it's a real

In the motion, Mehri's team accused Gary's firm of actually helping
Coca- Cola by soliciting individual class members. That is allegedly
because Coke stands a better chance of defeating individual claims than
one involving an entire class of employees, the motion said. "Indeed,
the desire to pick off employees' claims one by one is the reason
employers oppose class certification," the motion said.

Again, McManus disagreed. "That's their opinion," he said. "Coke
apparently wants this settlement. If they want it, why would individual
suits benefit Coke?" (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, June 30,

FEDERAL-MOGUL: Wolf Haldenstein Files Securities Suit in Michigan
Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP announces that a class action
lawsuit has been commenced in the United States District Court for the
District of Michigan on behalf of purchasers of the securities of
Federal-Mogul Corp. (NYSE: FMO) between October 22, 1998, through and
including May 25, 2000, inclusive (the "Class Period"). A copy of the
complaint filed in this action is available from the Court, or can be
viewed on the Wolf Haldenstein website at http://www.whafh.com.

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 May 25, 2000. For example, as
alleged in the complaint, on October 22, 1998, Federal-Mogul issued a
press release announcing solid third quarter results and praised the
Company's continued progress in its acquisitions. This statement was
materially false and misleading because it did not disclose that the
Company's rapid expansion was causing serious operational difficulties
in that the numerous smaller companies acquired by Federal-Mogul were
proving much more difficult to integrate into Federal-Mogul's ongoing
concern. These acquisition integration problems were negatively
impacting earnings margins and caused the Company to miss revenue
expectations. On May 25, 2000, after the market closed, Federal-Mogul
announced that its second quarter 2000 and full-year 2000 financial
results would be dramatically lower than the market had been led to
believe. The next trading day, May 26, 2000, the price of Federal-Mogul
plummeted by more than 20%.

Contact: Fred Taylor Isquith, Esq., Gregory M. Nespole, Esq., Brian S.
Cohen, Esq., or Michael Miske, all of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman &
Herz LLP, 800-575-0735, whafh@aol.com, nespole@whafh.com,

FORD MOTOR: Texas App. Ct. Affirms Class Cert. in Seat Belt Case
A Texas state appellate panel has affirmed a lower court's grant of
class certification to plaintiffs in an economic damages case involving
alleged seat belt defects in 1987--1995 Nissan vehicles. Nissan Motor
Co. Ltd. et al. v. Fry et al., No. 13-99-199-CV (Tex. Ct. App., 13th
Dist., May 25, 2000).

The plaintiffs sued Nissan Motor Co. in the 138th District Court,
Cameron County, citing defects in certain two-point motorized seat belt
systems. They claimed the systems were unfit for the ordinary purpose
intended, were defective and inadequate, and violated the implied
warranty of merchantability. Specifically, the plaintiffs said Nissan
failed to warn that the separate manual lap belt must be used to avoid
injury in an accident. Unless the lap belt is properly engaged, the
plaintiffs alleged, the restraint system will not perform its intended
function of protecting occupants from injury and can, in itself, cause
serious injury to the occupant it is intended to protect.

The plaintiffs also contended that the snugness of the automatic
shoulder belt creates an express warranty that the user is safely
restrained without engagement of the lap belt, leading to a sense of
false security, and that the accompanying warnings and instructions are
inadequate to overcome this problem.

The suit seeks monetary compensation for all actual, special and
consequential damages, and pecuniary losses including, but not limited
to, repair and/or replacement costs, the cost of alternative
transportation during repairs and the value of the loss of use of each
vehicle during this process.

Cameron County District Court Judge Robert Garza said the claims were
based on an alleged common course of conduct of manufacturing and
selling a defective product, which was allegedly marketed through a
common course of similar misrepresentation. The judge ordered
certification of a class consisting of "all residents in the State of
Texas who own a Nissan vehicle equipped with a two-point passive
restraint system equipped with a separate manual lap belt."

This system was installed in various Nissan vehicles manufactured
between 1987 and 1995, with more than 153,000 such vehicles currently
registered in Texas.

                    The Appeals Court Affirmance

The 13th District Texas Court of Appeals found the requisite commonality
in the claims, noting:

-- Plaintiffs stated a viable breach of warranty claim;
-- The trial court will be able to create subclasses for purchasers of
    and used Nissan vehicles;
-- The warnings and instructions received by all plaintiffs were
    substantially similar;
-- The express warranty claim, while "novel," was lodged by all
    plaintiffs; and
-- The misrepresentation claim was also lodged by all plaintiffs.

The appeals court next considered whether common issues predominated
over individual allegations, and concluded that common issues of
substantive law control the case. Further, the panel held, class counsel
is not required to submit a plan for dealing with individually
determined issues at the initial certification stage. The appeals court
also noted that evidence on common issues was disputed by the parties,
but that a trial court does not abuse its discretion when it bases a
decision on conflicting evidence.

On typicality, the panel found a "critical nexus" between the interests
and injuries of the class representatives and those of the purported

Finally, the appeals court said a class action was the superior method
of adjudicating the dispute, rejecting Nissan's argument for a recall by
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "This matter has
already been rejected by that agency," the opinion states. "All monetary
damages would not necessarily be eliminated by a NHTSA-ordered recall,
and NHTSA is not empowered to grant monetary damages."

The plaintiffs are represented by Andrew C. Schirrmeister III of
Schirrmeister Ajamie in Houston; Norman Jolly of Houston; and Tony
Martinez of Martinez, Barrera & Robles in Brownsville, Texas.

Nissan is represented by S. Vance Wittie and W. Richard Davis of
Strasburger & Price in Dallas; Mark Bradley Blackburn of Strasburger &
Price in Austin, Texas; and Eduardo R. Rodriguez and Allison Kennamer of
Rodriguez, Colvin & Chaney in Brownsville. (Automotive Litigation
Reporter, June 20, 2000)

FULTON SHELTER: GA Suit Alleges of Rushing Stray Pets to Their Death
The people who should be protecting Fulton County's stray pets are
instead conspiring to kill them faster than the law allows, a federal
lawsuit filed last Thursday June 29 alleges. The suit, filed in U.S.
District Court in Atlanta, claims that employees of the county's animal
shelter not only kill pets without waiting the three days required by
law, but forge owners' signatures to skip the waiting period. "They do
this all the time to healthy dogs," said Atlanta lawyer Ralph Goldberg,
who filed the suit. "I've heard explanations, but none of them satisfies
me. I really don't know why."

The suit is filed on behalf of Kathy Hawkins of southeast Atlanta. She
alleges an animal control officer twice came to her home on Hutchins
Road in February and seized three small mixed breed dogs --- Max, Ashley
and Y2K. The dogs were not leashed. Hawkins went to the shelter two days
later to retrieve them and found they already had been killed, Goldberg

The lawyer said after Hawkins complained to him he sent an investigator
to the shelter on Marietta Boulevard and found routine violations of the
county- required three-day holding period. Many of the signatures
approving the killings were in the same handwriting, he said. Goldberg
also said the seizure violated Hawkins' right for protection from
unlawful search.

The suit is filed as a class action and seeks others who may have had
similar complaints. It seeks $ 6,000 in damage per class member. "This
isn't about making a lot of money," Goldberg said. "It's about stopping
them killing pets."

Bill Garrett, director of the Humane Society, which operates the
shelter, said animals are killed in less than three days only with the
owner's permission or upon approval by a veterinarian.

He denied employees falsify documents to kill dogs more quickly at the
chronically crowded shelter. "We have accusations all the time," Garrett
said. "False swearing is a felony. If anyone's doing that, we want to

Hawkins said she was traumatized by the capture and loss of her beloved
dogs. "I thought if your dog was walking down the street or they bite
somebody, they could pick them up," Hawkins said. "I didn't know they
could come into your yard and pick them up."

The Atlanta Humane Society operates two shelters under a contract with
Fulton County. The facility on Marietta Boulevard is used to hold
animals that are picked up as strays, running loose or by owner's
request. An adoption center is nearby on Howell Mill Drive.

Shirley Jenkins, staff administrator, said the population on Marietta
Boulevard is about 146 dogs a day. She estimated 70 percent of those
brought in are put to sleep. Only those sick or injured are euthanized
on arrival and only then with a veterinarian's permission, she said.
(The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, June 30, 2000)

GREAT AMERICAN: Agrees to Settle GALIC Policyholders' Suit in Ohio
Great American Financial Resources, Inc. (NYSE: GFR) announced on June
29 that it has reached a preliminary agreement to settle a class action
lawsuit brought against the Company's subsidiary, Great American Life
Insurance Company. In the action, which was filed in state court in
Cincinnati in February 1999, the plaintiffs alleged on behalf of a group
of current and former GALIC policyholders, that GALIC had not properly
administered the annuitization feature on a group of policies by not
permitting the tax-free transfer of the annuity value of such annuities
to other product providers, without the imposition of a surrender
charge, and had credited interest on policies in a manner not consistent
with the terms of the policies and the marketing materials. The Company
has denied that it failed to abide by any terms of its policies.

In the proposed settlement, GALIC has agreed (i) to create a fund
against which certain former policyowners who were not permitted to
annuitize their policies can submit claims for all or a portion of their
surrender charges and payment of additional interest, (ii) to make a
one-time lump-sum credit of additional interest to existing
policyholders holding fixed rate annuities (with certain minor
exceptions) whose policies remain in force one year after the effective
date of the settlement, and (iii) to make a one-time offer to certain
annuity holders to allow the transfer of all or a portion of their
existing two-tier annuity to a single-tier market based annuity issued
by GALIC or another of the Company's subsidiaries (subject to
proration).  The Company expects that the total cost of the settlement
will be $22 - $25 million. The settlement is subject to the parties
reaching a definitive agreement and Court approval of the terms of the
settlement. Policyholders will be provided with notice of the proposed
settlement within the next several months.

S. Craig Lindner, President and CEO of GAFRI, commented, "Although we
continue to believe that GALIC's actions have consistently been in
accordance with the terms of its policies and applicable law, we
recognized that defending this type of action would require us to devote
significant resources. We are pleased that in this settlement we are
able to provide value to our policyholders through increased credits to
their current annuities and through a conversion program."

The Company's earnings for the second quarter will include a charge of
up to $0.50 per share after tax for liabilities related to various
litigation in which the Company is a defendant, most significant of
which is the settlement of the above mentioned class action. The balance
of the charge is for other litigation matters, including an adverse jury
verdict rendered in a case in Dallas County, Texas which the Company
intends to appeal. The charge represents amounts that the Company has
already agreed to pay and estimates of the ultimate liability in cases
not yet finalized.

Through its subsidiaries, GAFRI markets traditional fixed,
equity-indexed and variable annuities and a variety of life,
supplemental health and long- term care insurance.

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 encourages
corporations to provide investors with information about the Company's
anticipated performance and provides protection from liability if future
results are not the same as management's expectations. This document
contains certain forward-looking statements that are based on
assumptions which management believes are reasonable but, by their
nature, inherently uncertain. Future results could differ materially
from those projected. Factors that could cause such differences include,
but are not limited to: changes in economic conditions, regulatory
actions and competitive pressures. GAFRI undertakes no obligation to
update any forward-looking statements.

HARMONIC INC: Barrack Rodos Files Securities Lawsuit in California
A class action has been commenced in the United States District Court
for the Northern District of California on behalf of all persons who
purchased the common stock of Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) between March
27, 2000 and June 26, 2000, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges Harmonic and certain of its officers and directors
with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint
alleges that defendants' false and misleading statements concerning the
revenues to be derived from Harmonic's largest customer, AT&T, and from
its newly acquired C-Cube division (DiviCom), which would result in
earnings per share of more than $1.19 in 2000, artificially inflated the
price of Harmonic stock to a Class Period high of $102. According to the
complaint, the false and misleading statements enabled Harmonic to
complete the $1.7 billion acquisition of C-Cube's DiviCom business using
Harmonic's overpriced stock. On June 26, 2000, after the acquisition was
completed, Harmonic revealed that it was in fact suffering a huge drop
in revenues and exposed the problems it had been experiencing during the
Class Period in attempting to grow its business. This announcement
caused Harmonic's stock price to drop to as low as $22-11/16 on record
volume of 21.9 million shares on June 27, causing hundreds of millions
of dollars in damages to members of the Class.

Contact: Counsel for Class Plaintiffs, Barrack, Rodos & Bacine,
Shareholder Relations Manager, 800-417-7305, or 215-963-0600, or fax
888-417-7306, or 215-963-0838, or e-mail, msgoldman@barrack.com

HARMONIC INC: Wolf Popper Charges of Securities Violations
Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and certain of its senior officers have
been charged with committing securities fraud by Wolf Popper LLP in a
class action lawsuit brought on behalf of all persons who acquired
Harmonic Inc. common stock on May 3, 2000 in exchange for shares of
C-Cube Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: CUBE) common stock, or who otherwise
purchased or acquired Harmonic common stock during the period March 27,
2000 through June 26, 2000.

The complaint charges that Harmonic and certain of its officers
manipulated Harmonic's share price by issuing materially false and
misleading statements concerning revenues to be derived from Harmonic's
largest and most important customer, AT&T, and from the DiviCom business
being acquired from C-Cube Microsystems. This series of materially false
and misleading statements artificially inflated the price of Harmonic
stock during the class period, enabling Harmonic to use its inflated
stock as the currency to purchase DiviCom from C-Cube. Defendants made
these materially false and misleading statements, among other things, to
induce C-Cube's shareholders to approve the exchange of C-Cube common
stock for Harmonic common stock.

On June 26, 2000, Harmonic shocked the investment community by
announcing that it was, in reality, experiencing a huge drop in
revenues, revealing the problems Harmonic was encountering at the time
of the exchange of C-Cube common stock for Harmonic common stock. This
shocking announcement caused the stock of Harmonic to drop to as low as
$22 11/16 per share on June 27, 2000. Harmonic common stock had traded
at approximately $72 per share on May 3, 2000 -- the day of the exchange
of C-Cube common stock - resulting in a dramatic $50 per share decline
in the value of Harmonic shares acquired by the former C-Cube common

Contact: Robert C. Finkel Esq. or Douglas Rotela, Investor Relations
Representative of Wolf Popper LLP, 212.451.9620

HMOs: Herdrich Survives Charge against Physician Incentive in High Ct
With the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to restrict the right of
patients to sue health plans, attention has turned to Congress and legal
actions pending in the states.

The nation's high court found that HMOs could not be sued over the use
of physician financial incentives to limit care. "No HMO organization
could survive without some incentive connecting physician reward with
treatment rationing," wrote Justice Souter for the court.

In the case, Pegram v. Herdrich (98-1949), patient Cynthia Herdrich
suffered a ruptured appendix after being told to wait eight days for an
ultrasound to investigate abdominal pain. She won a state malpractice
case, but sued her HMO under ERISA, alleging that the plan's use of
physician bonuses constituted a breach of fiduciary duty

The decision puts the ball in Congress' court. "For over 27 years the
Congress of the United States has promoted the formation of HMO
practices," Souter wrote. "If Congress wishes to restrict its approval
of HMO practice to certain preferred forms, it may do so."

Consumer and provider groups echoed that call. "The Supreme Court's
decision is a very timely reminder that we need federal patients' rights
legislation," said Families USA's Ron Pollack.

Now, the industry hopes the Supreme Court's decision will take the wind
from the sails of pending class-action lawsuits, some of which are based
on ERISA claims. Calling it a "victory" for insurers, the American Assn.
of Health Plans' Karen Ignagni said, "It is an equally resounding defeat
for suit-happy trial lawyers."

But the class-action bar disagreed. "The statement has been made that
this is a death knell to class actions, or somehow it will adversely
affect the litigation that's pending. I don't think that's the case at
all," said Steven Lane, an attorney with Herman Middleton Casey Kitchens
LLP, a firm active in class-action suits against HMOs. (Managed Care
Week, June 19, 2000)

HMOs: Senate OKs Patients' Restricted Right to Sue
The Republican-controlled Senate voted last Thursday night June 29 for
limited new patient protections, including a restricted right to sue
HMOs, overriding Democratic protests that the plan was an election-year

The vote was 51-47, largely along party lines, and capped two weeks of
intense partisanship in both the House and Senate over health care
issues expected to resonate in the fall campaign.

Senate GOP Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla., said the proposal marked a
"significant concession" over legislation that Republicans approved last
year that barred lawsuits. He also said the proposal had built on
progress made in months of closed-door negotiations with Democrats on
the issue of patients' rights.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., countered that the bill had been
"drafted solely by Republicans," and fell short of covering all 161
million insured Americans who would be covered under a rival plan backed
by Democrats and the White House.

The vote did little to clarify the future of patients' rights
legislation, one of two major health-related measures that Congress is

The other, a bill to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare
recipients, cleared the House under political circumstances akin to the
Senate's vote on patients' rights. On that issue, it was House
Republicans exercising their majority muscle to advance a bill that
Democrats said would do little to address the needs of Americans.

The vote came on an amendment to a spending bill for federal agencies.
The overall bill was expected to clear the Senate.

The Republican plan provides several guarantees, including access to
emergency room care, out-of-network physicians and specialists for an
estimated 56 million insured individuals.

Democrats said that wasn't nearly enough, and instead pushed a proposal
requiring that any protection apply to all Americans with insurance, a
group more than three times larger than the one Republicans proposed
covering. The proposal was rejected 51-47.

Republicans said patients would be permitted to file suit in federal
court against HMOs that improperly denied care, as determined by an
independent reviewer.

They said the lawsuit provision would apply to 131 million insured
people, who could seek unlimited economic damages and up to $ 350,000 in
compensatory damages. Punitive damages and class-action lawsuits would
be barred.

In addition to the patient protections, the GOP measure includes several
tax breaks designed to make health care more affordable. They include
full deductibility for Americans who purchase their own insurance, as
well as those who are self-employed. (Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale,
FL), June 30, 2000)

LASERVUE EYE: Eye Surgery Patients Angry at Company's Letter
Although tests have shown no evidence of infectious disease being
transmitted, many of the 2,700 former patients of LaserVue Eye Centers
in Santa Rosa and San Francisco are angry at the company and the tone of
its letter acknowledging the same cornea-cutting blades were used on
multiple patients.

LaserVue began sending letters in mid-May under prompting from a class
action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court filed by eye surgery
patients. The patients said they fear transmission of infectious
diseases such as HIV or hepatitis because blades were reused on patients
during eyesight correction procedures.

"It was a bland letter and there should have been an apology," said
Peter Brett, a Sebastopol an oncologist who had his eyes done at
LaserVue, as did his wife. "I blame those doctors for going against all
known practices just to save $40 or $50 bucks on blades."

LaserVue officials referred comment about the lawsuit and the letters to
their attorneys in San Francisco.

Richard Abbey, the Santa Rosa attorney for Jay Bansal, a San Francisco
opthalmologist and owner of several LaserVue centers including the Santa
Rosa one, said LaserVue sent notices based on the recommendation of
state health officials. Abbey said he and the San Francisco law firm
defending LaserVue had lengthy discussions about wording the letter so
as to reflect prevailing medical opinion about the low health risk to
patients, including both Bansal's medical opinion and the state health
department's view about whether tests were necessary.

Two weeks ago, a San Francisco Superior Court judge allowed the class
action suit to proceed, but LaserVue attorneys appealed that decision.
The appeals court granted a stay of the proceedings during which both
sides could file briefs on whether the plaintiffs can form a group
legally eligible to sue LaserVue.

Kevin Holl, attorney for the plaintiffs, said "scores of patients" had
called his firm's San Francisco office to discuss their experience at
LaserVue. He said two people had developed hepatitis after the surgery.
"We are not sure yet whether it was related to the surgery," he added.
"Many of them were not satisfied with the content or tone of the 'Dear
Patient' letter they received," Holl said. "They felt it was a really
soft sell of the severity of what occurred."

Cristi McMahan of Santa Rosa, an employee for a major Sonoma County
high-tech company, said she was furious when she received the letter
because LaserVue's "sense of responsibility was not forthcoming." She
said she had corrective surgery on both eyes in January 1999 and they
had to be redone five months later. "It was simply amazing to me that
they did not change blades between patients," McMahan said. "If I knew
that was happening, I certainly would not have had it done, the first
time nor the second."

The LaserVue letter says the blade reuse practice was discontinued on
May 28, 1999. It notes that the California Department of Health Services
concluded the practice did not comply with infection control
recommendations, and that the risk of disease transmission was low. "The
practice was to reuse a blade on a second patient if that blade proved
satisfactory on the first patient and if the LaserVue surgeon felt that
it was safe and appropriate to do so," the letter said.

Many patients said they got tested for infectious disease, but none
reported that tests turned up positive.

Bansal said in court documents that the procedure carries no risk of
infectious transmission. He has said he and other center surgeons
sterilized equipment, including blades, and that antibiotics were
applied during and after procedures.

The Lasik procedure used by LaserVue is one of several methods used for
corrective surgery by opthalmologists and is patented by the VISX
company of Santa Clara, which estimates its surgeons have performed it
on more than 1 million people in the world.

In recent years, vision correction surgery has become phenomenally
popular among adults. Laser vision correction generally costs from
$1,800 to $2,500 per eye.

According to court documents, reuse of blades was a practice from March
1, 1996, to May 27, 1999, at the Santa Rosa center and from July 1997 to
May 27, 1999, at the San Francisco center. (The Press Democrat, June 17,

LEND LEASE: Prepared to Pay for Thredbo Landslide; Govt Makes Offer
Angry locals abused National Parks and Wildlife Service workers after
June 29's damning report into the Thredbo landslide disaster. The
service said a number of staff had been verbally abused after the report
named the NPWS as partly responsible for the 1997 landslide which killed
18 people. A NPWS spokesman said it was important Thredbo locals
remember NPWS staff in the area were part of the mountain community.
"Many of them were part of the rescue effort, and many lost friends in
the tragedy," the NPWS spokesman said.

There was better news for the grieving families of those killed,
however, as the New South Wales government announced it would do
everything in its power to settle common law compensation cases brought
by families through negotiation rather than litigation.

Eight families have joined a class action against the NPWS, the Roads
and Traffic Authority (RTA), Lend Lease and Kosciuszko Thredbo Pty Ltd,
which is currently before the NSW Supreme Court.

Thredbo developer Lend Lease said it was prepared to contribute to a
compensation payout, even though liability had not been determined by
the coroner. However, the other party in the law suit, Kosciuszko
Thredbo, which subleases Thredbo from the NPWS, said it did not believe
it was liable to pay any damages.

Coroner Derrick Hand blamed 40 years of government inaction,
particularly on the part of the NPWS and RTA, for the disaster. Emotions
spilled over as news of the scathing report reached the alpine village
of Thredbo, with several National Parks and Wildlife Staff targeted by
distressed locals, it was revealed.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the families in their battle for
compensation, Bernard Collaery, welcomed the government's offer of a
negotiated settlement. "This is a very welcome development," Mr Collaery
said. "We are prepared to meet the challenge and sit down with all
parties as soon as possible. "It would be great if this issue could be
put away with in the next three months," Mr Collaery said.

Environment Minister Bob Debus had earlier said the government would "do
everything possible to reduce continuing distress to the families
involved". "We are now determined to approach the legal representatives
of families with offers of negotiation," he said In other developments:
Kosciuszko Thredbo said it did not believe it was liable to pay
compensation and would wait and see if any legal action proceeded in the
courts. The government announced Bret Walker, SC, would head its inquiry
into the NPWS, which will assess the ability and appropriateness of the
NPWS remaining in control of urban communities and road maintenance
inside national parks. The NSW Opposition slammed the terms of reference
of the inquiry and said it should be extended to other NPWS issues such
as sewerage disposal, feral animal reduction and the role of the RTA in
planning issues. (AAP Newsfeed, June 30, 2000)

RELIANCE GROUP: Wolf Haldenstein Files Securities Suit in New York
Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP has filed a class action
lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of the securities of Reliance Group
Holdings Inc. (NYSE:REL) between Feb. 8, 1999, and May 10, 2000,

The action is pending in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York, located at 500 Pearl St., New York, N.Y.,
10007 against defendants Reliance Group, Saul P. Steinberg (Chief
Executive Officer and Director), Robert M. Steinberg (President and
Chief Operating Officer), Howard E. Steinberg (Chief of Corporate
Operations) and Lowell C. Freiberg (Chief Financial Officer and

The complaint charges 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 Feb. 8, 1999, and May 10, 2000.

For example, as alleged in the complaint, on March 31, 1999, defendants,
in their financial statement filed with the SEC for its fiscal 1998
operations, stated that the Company's reinsurance contracts were valid,
and that it expects to recover the full amount of such coverage. This
statement was false and misleading, and defendants knew, or recklessly
disregarded its falsity, because the Company was notified, prior to
making the statement, that several reinsurance companies terminated
their obligations to the Company. Because the Company's obligations to
its insureds remained intact, the Company's expected losses exceeded
$150 million. Furthermore, this$150 million loss should have been
reflected as a charge to income, under Generally Accepted Accounting
principles, and was not, thereby masking the Company's true, and
impaired, financial condition and prospects.

On May 10, 2000, the Company reported that its first fiscal 2000 quarter
would see an operating loss of $.31 per diluted share, which represented
a greater loss than the comparable 1999 quarter. That day the price of
Reliance Group stock closed at $2.625- a decline of over 400% from the
class period high of $11 per share.

Contact: Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP Gregory M. Nespole,
Esq. Fred T. Isquith, Esq. Michael Miske George Peters (800)

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Internal Dissension Erupts As Both Sides in FL Rest
Both sides rested last Friday June 30 in a landmark court fight over
punitive damages for 300,000 to 700,000 sick Florida smokers as a lawyer
disclosed internal feuding among the nation's five biggest cigarette

Philip Morris Inc. attorney Dan Webb cited the opposing defense views as
he asked for as much time as possible for closing arguments in the
pivotal money fight, which could set a national record. "There's been a
lot of dissension over here, and I'm trying to be a peacemaker," said
Webb, the lead tobacco attorney. "I don't know quite know how to say
this. There's a lot of disagreement among these five companies as we go
into it."

For decades, the industry spoke with a single voice denying smoking
caused disease. When the trial opened two years ago, Liggett Group Ltd.
had broken ranks. Now, it's every Marlboro Man for himself. The industry
is coming off its best financial year in history, but each company
offered testimony about its money worries and told of recent changes
made to discourage youth smoking.

Lorillard Tobacco Co. announced for the first time that it has changed
company policy to say smoking causes disease and is addictive.

Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s falling market share was offered as a
sign it could easily go under.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and industry-leading Philip Morris have not
acknowledged any causal link between smoking and disease.

"If there's ever been a trial where these tobacco companies have had
different issues to address to the jury, you've seen it," Webb told
Circuit Judge Robert Kaye. The six-member jury serving for nearly two
years was told to return July 10 for closing arguments, which could take
four days.

The lawsuit seeks a record-breaking $200 billion, and smokers' witnesses
have said the industry can afford to pay $150 billion to $157 billion.
But the smokers' attorney can adjust the figure, and he hasn't yet told
jurors exactly what he wants.

Smokers want to penalize the industry for decades of misconduct, but the
companies argue their $254 billion commitment to state lawsuit
settlements is enough to pay. The national record for a jury's punitive
damage verdict was $4.8 billion awarded last year against General Motors
in a fiery California crash that seriously burned six people. Smokers
had planned a brief rebuttal case using part of a videotaped deposition
by Dr. David Burns, a public health expert, but the judge excluded it as

The six-member jury hearing the landmark smokers' class-action trial
already has decided the industry makes a deadly, defective product and
awarded $12.7 million in compensatory damages to three smokers with
cancer. (The Associated Press, une 30, 2000)

VITAMIN PRICE-FIXING: Australian Subsidiaries Face $100 Mil Case
The Australian subsidiaries of three multinational pharmaceutical
companies face a $100 million class action over an alleged worldwide
price-fixing conspiracy. The right to join the Asian and Australian arms
of Roche Vitamins, Avantis Animal Nutrition and BASF in the class action
was won by Law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman. The decision follows a
S1.2 billion (2 billion) settlement in the United States last year by
seven vitamin makers, accused of a nine-year conspiracy that caused
hundreds of food and beverage companies to pay artificially high prices
for vitamins A, B, C and E. The higher prices were alleged passed on to
consumers of products ranging from breakfast cereal to peanut butter, a
spokesman for the law firm said. (AAP Newsfeed, June 30, 2000)

WAR VICTIMS: Chinese sue Japanese Firms in CA Court over WW II Labor
Two Chinese nationals have filed a class-action suit with a U.S. court
against Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsui & Co. and their U.S. affiliates,
seeking compensation for alleged torture and enslavement during World
War II, their lawyers confirmed.

The case, which was filed on May 19 at the Superior Court of California
in Orange County, is the first time in which Chinese nationals have sued
Japanese firms over wartime labor, said Patrick Daniels, one of the

The former laborers and their heirs are seeking damages under a
California law that extends the statute of limitations on such cases to
2010. Plaintiffs may bring cases to court even if they are not citizens,
as long as the companies they are suing operate in the state.

The plaintiffs, Aizhu Su and Yongcai Ye, were captured in China by the
Japanese when they were teenagers and later transported to work in
Japanese mines, according to the suit.

The Japanese abducted other Chinese for the purpose of putting them to
work in Japanese companies, during their occupation of China from

Su was interned at a Mitsubishi mine in Akita Prefecture, northern
Japan, and Ye was taken to Kyushu, southern Japan, where he worked at a
Mitsui coal mine. Su, Ye and other plaintiffs allege they were often
starved, beaten and tortured in Japan, according to the lawsuit.

The class-action suit comes on the heels of two other suits, which were
filed on behalf of former Filipino and Korean laborers.

Daniels expects more class-action suits to be filed against Japanese
firms and plans to represent Thai and Vietnamese laborers in the near
future. (Asian Political News, May 29, 2000)

WESTERN RESERVE: Insurer Alleged of Deceptive Sales Practices in Ohio
Two couples allege deceptive sales practices by Western Reserve Life
Assurance Co. of Ohio, says Law Firm of James, Hoyer; Robert & Cleo
Kocher and Nicolas & Thelma Maragos, on behalf of themselves and all
others similarly situated, vs. Western Reserve Assurance Co. of Ohio;
Case No. 8:00-CV-1344-T-17F.

The law firm of James, Hoyer, Newcomer and Smiljanich, P.A. has filed a
class action lawsuit on behalf of four former policyholders of Western
Reserve Assurance Co. of Ohio. The lawsuit alleges deceptive insurance
sales practices in the sale of life insurance policies. The lawsuit was
filed in Tampa, Florida, on June 30, 2000. Western Reserve is a
subsidiary of AEGON, USA, and ultimately of AEGON N.V., the Dutch
financial services conglomerate (NYSE: AEG).

Two couples, Robert and Cleo Kocher, and Nicolas and Thelma Maragos, are
the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It is alleged that Western Reserve
induced the Maragoses to replace cash-rich policies issued by other
companies with Western Reserve policies using the single premium payment
or vanishing premium concepts. The Kochers were induced to invest the
proceeds of a real estate transaction in what they believed to be a
high-yield investment. The policyholders were fraudulently led to
believe that their initial investment, coupled with the high illustrated
interest that would accrue on the Western Reserve policies, would
eliminate the need for further "out-of-pocket" premium payments after a
single payment. Western Reserve led the policyholders to believe that
what they were purchasing were primarily investment products rather than
mere life insurance policies.

The Western Reserve agents intentionally failed to disclose that high
commissions and administrative charges would be assessed from the funds
initially paid as premiums, that the high illustrated interest rates
upon which the promises were based were not guaranteed, that the cost of
insurance would increase with the policyholders' ages, and that premiums
were due for the life of the policyholder. Neither of the couples
anticipated that additional premiums would become due in the future.
However, the complaint also alleges that Western Reserve knew that it
could not sustain the interest rates illustrated and that it was a
certainty that additional significant premium outlays would be required
after the Kochers' and Maragoses' anticipated single premium.

The class action plaintiffs are residents of Florida who seek to
represent all persons nationwide who were victimized by the fraudulent
and misleading sales practices of Western Reserve.

Mike Peacock, an attorney with James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich,
P.A., a Tampa firm specializing in class actions and representing
victims of corporate fraud, stated: "The Western Reserve policyholders
made what they believed to be investments requiring a one time payment
based upon the promises made to them by Western Reserve. Rather than
making an investment for their future they had merely purchased life
insurance with an obligation to continue paying premiums for life."

Contact: Mike Peacock, e-mail mpeacock@jameshoyer.com or John Yanchunis,
e-mail jyanchunis@jameshoyer.com, both of James, Hoyer, Newcomer &
Smiljanich, P.A., 813-286-4100


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

Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by Bankruptcy
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Copyright 1999.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

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