CAR_Public/050113.mbx             C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

            Thursday, January 13, 2005, Vol. 7, No. 9


                           Headlines


ANTI-SPAM LITIGATION: FTC Sues Sexually Explicit Mail Spammers
CAMBRIDGE CREDIT: Reaches 1.2M Pact For NC AG Consumer Lawsuit
CELLULAR PHONES: NPRB Report Warns Against Kids' Cell Phone Use
COLORADO: Joins 48 States in $40 Mil Salvaged Cars Settlement
CROMPTON CORPORATION: Settles Rubber Products Suits For $97 Mil

CROWN ROOFING: LA Armorflex Lawsuit Given Class Certification
DAN NELSON: Iowa AG Miller Files Complaint Over Consumer Fraud
DELAWARE: To Join State Farm's $48 Million Nationwide Settlement
H&R BLOCK: Filing Fee Suit To Be Heard in Madison County Court
HPL TECHNOLOGIES: Suit Settlement Hearing Set February 24, 2005

IOWA: To Join 48 States In State Farm Nationwide Consumer Pact
JDS UNIPHASE: CA Judge Rejects Dismissal Motion For Fraud Suit
JOHNSON INTERNATIONAL: Reaches Settlement For EEOC Bias Lawsuit
KENTUCKY: To Join 48 States in State Farm Consumer Settlement
MARYLAND: To Join 48 States, DC in State Farm Consumer Agreement

MASSACHUSETTS: Housing Authority, Homeowners Reach Settlement
MISSOURI: Joins 48 States, DC in Nationwide Consumer Settlement
NEW JERSEY: Holocaust Lawyer Accused of Misusing Clients' Funds
NEW JERSEY: AG Harvey Sues Man Over Internet Consumer Fraud
NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Reaches Pact For EEOC ADA Violations Lawsuit

ORTEK INC.: Reaches Air Pollution Pact With IL AG Madigan
PARMALAT FINANZIARIA: Banks, Auditors Seek NY Suit's Dismissal
PENNSYLVANIA: Ex-Inmates Win $1.2M Suit V. Bucks County Prison
RIVIERA TRADING: Recalls 7,100 Bracelets Due To Lead Content
ROYAL AHOLD: SEC Settles Enforcement Action V. U.S. Executives

SHURFLO LLC: Recalls 6.1T Backpack Sprayers Due To Fire Hazard
SMYTH SANFORD: NY Court Notifies Parties of Claims Deadline
STATE FARM: Pays $135M To Settle CA Adjusters' Overtime Lawsuit
TOXIN RESEARCH: Ordered To Stop Sale of Raw Botulism Bacteria
TRANSFINANCIAL HOLDINGS: Settlement Hearing Set February 8, 2005

UNITED STATES: Senator Anticipates Litigation Bill's Passage
UNUMPROVIDENT: MA Court Rejects Motion To Transfer Case's Venue
WORLDCOM INC.: Directors' Settlement Challenged By Defendants


                   New Securities Fraud Cases

ATHEROGENICS INC.: Berman DeValerio Lodges Securities Suit in GA
CHINA AVIATION: Marc S. Henzel Files Securities Fraud Suit in NY
TASER INTERNATIONAL: Brodsky & Smith Files Securities Suit in AZ
TASER INTERNATIONAL: Charles J. Piven Lodges Stock Suit in AZ
TASER INTERNATIONAL: Lovell Stewart Lodges Securities Suit in NY

TASER INTERNATIONAL: Marc S. Henzel Lodges Securities Suit in AZ
TASER INTERNATIONAL: Schatz & Nobel Lodges Securities Suit in AZ
TASER INTERNATIONAL: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Stock Suit in AZ

                            *********

ANTI-SPAM LITIGATION: FTC Sues Sexually Explicit Mail Spammers
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged a network of
corporations and individuals with using spam to sell access to
online pornography.  The FTC alleges that the defendants, acting
as a single business enterprise, barraged consumers with e-mails
containing sexually-explicit content without the required
warning label.

Four of the individual defendants controlled a network of
corporations that own and operate the Web sites, payment
systems, and servers used to distribute and to sell sexually-
explicit content.  The network also marketed its sexually-
explicit content through an affiliate program that pays
commissions to third parties who drive traffic to the network's
Web sites.  Through this operation, the FTC alleges that the
defendants violated the Adult Labeling Rule, the CAN-SPAM Act,
and the FTC Act.  A federal district court has issued a
temporary restraining order (TRO) against the defendants.  The
TRO prohibits defendants from engaging in the deceptive
practices and freezes the defendants' assets, pending a
preliminary hearing.

The FTC's complaint names:

     (1) Global Net Solutions, based in Las Vegas, Nevada;

     (2) Global Net Ventures, Ltd., based in London, England;

     (3) Wedlake, Ltd, allegedly based in Riga, Latvia;

     (4) Open Space Enterprises, Inc., based in Las Vegas;

     (5) Southlake Group, Inc., based in Las Vegas;

     (6) WTFRC, Inc., doing business as Reflected Networks,
         Inc., based in Las Vegas;

     (7) Dustin Hamilton;

     (8) Tobin Banks;

     (9) Gregory Hamilton;

    (10) Philip Doroff; and

    (11) Paul Rose

"The law gives consumers a tool to control what comes into their
inboxes," Lydia Parnes, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of
Consumer Protection said in a statement.  "Spammers beware! We
are on the side of parents and kids to protect their ability to
filter out sexually-explicit e-mails."

According to the FTC, the defendants spammed hundreds of
thousands of unsuspecting consumers with sexually-explicit or
sexually-suggestive e-mails without their consent. The FTC
alleges that the defendants did not include the required
"SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT:" warning in the subject line of their
sexually oriented messages, or failed to exclude the sexually
oriented material from the initially-viewable content of the
messages. The defendants also failed to identify clearly all of
their messages as advertisements, instead misrepresenting, in
some instances, that their services are free. The FTC also
alleges that consumers were unable to stop the unwanted e-mail
messages because the defendants did not provide the required
"opt-out" notice.

The complaint charges that the defendants violated the Adult
Labeling Rule by sending sexually-explicit e-mails that: failed
to contain the required identifying mark; contained sexually-
explicit material within the initially-viewable areas; and
failed to include an opt-out before the sexually-explicit
material.

The complaint also charges that the defendants violated the CAN-
SPAM Act by sending e-mail or procuring third parties to send e-
mail that:

     (i) contained false or misleading transmission information;
         contained deceptive subject headings;

    (ii) failed to contain functioning opt-out mechanisms or did
         not contain any opt-out mechanisms;

   (iii) failed to identify the e-mail as an advertisement or
         solicitation; and

    (iv) failed to provide the sender's valid physical postal
         address.

In addition, the FTC alleges that the defendants violated the
FTC Act by falsely stating that membership to their Web sites
was free. According to the FTC, by the time consumers realized
that the defendants charged a fee for their Web sites, consumers
had already given them their e-mail addresses.  The FTC is
seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to halt the
illegal spam and redress for consumers.

The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint was
5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court,
District of Nevada, on January 3, 2005. This case was filed with
the invaluable assistance of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police
Department and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District
of Nevada, which is serving as local counsel.

For more details, contact the FTC's Consumer Response Center,
Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580
or visit the Website: http://www.ftc.gov. Also contact Claudia
Bourne Farrell or Brenda Mack, Office of Public Affairs by
Phone: 202-326-2180 or contact Lawrence Hodapp or Stephen L.
Cohen of the Bureau of Consumer Protection by Phone:
202-326-3105 or 202-326-3222


CAMBRIDGE CREDIT: Reaches 1.2M Pact For NC AG Consumer Lawsuit
--------------------------------------------------------------
A Massachusetts debt management company accused of illegally
charging people high fees to get out of debt must repay its
North Carolina customers $1.2 million, Attorney General Roy
Cooper announced in a statement.

"This company claimed it was a non-profit, then got rich by
taking advantage of people who were already in debt," AG Cooper
said.  "Consumers thought their payments were going to their
creditors, not to pay this company's fees."

Under the terms of a consent judgment entered Monday by Wake
County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr., Cambridge
Credit Counseling must begin repaying the money it owes
consumers immediately.  Cambridge will make payments to the
state over the course of 18 months, starting with a payment of
$500,000 made yesterday.  AG Cooper's office will contact
consumers who are eligible for refunds.

According to the judgment, those consumers who benefited least
because they were in a debt management plan for the shortest
period of time will receive priority in payment.  AG Cooper's
office estimates that at least 2,800 consumers will be eligible
for a refund, with an average amount of about $400.

The settlement also prevents Cambridge from doing business with
North Carolina consumers as long as the company charges a fee
for debt management services.  Under North Carolina law, debt
management companies cannot charge fees and may use a consumer's
money only to pay his or her creditors.

This judgment resolves a suit brought by Cooper and Wake County
District Attorney Colon Willoughby last April that alleged that
Cambridge deceived customers and engaged in illegal debt
adjusting, the practice of charging consumers fees to negotiate
with their creditors to pay off debts.  The company failed to
clearly advise consumers that the first month's payment under
the debt management plan was kept by Cambridge as an initial
fee.  Because of this upfront payment to Cambridge, consumers
wound up with extra interest and late charges on their
outstanding debts.

Cambridge's 2002 tax returns indicate that it generated revenues
nationwide in excess of $53 million that year, spending close to
$16 million on advertising alone and paying its founders,
brothers John and Richard Puccio, salaries of $624,000 each.
Cambridge also funneled money to for-profit subsidiaries
controlled by the Puccios.  Cambridge is one of the three
largest debt management organizations in the country.

"Consumers must be very careful when dealing with these credit
counseling groups," Cooper said.  "Just because one of these
operations claims to be a non-profit, don't take their word for
it.  Make sure the place you turn to for help offers real credit
counseling and doesn't drive you deeper into debt."

Cooper has directed his Consumer Protection Division to combat
unscrupulous debt relief companies.  In 2002, Cooper won a $1.7
million judgment against the Daly Law Centers.  Last November,
Cooper obtained a preliminary injunction against Knight Credit
Services, a Fayetteville-based debt management company.  In
addition, Cooper filed suit last April against another debt
adjustor, Debt Management Foundation Services, Inc. of Orlando,
Florida.  That suit is still pending.

Consumers who need help managing debts may contact a legitimate
local non-profit credit counseling agency for advice.  One
source of information and referrals is the National Foundation
for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227 or www.nfcc.org.

For more details, contact Noelle Talley, Public Information
Officer, N.C. Department of Justice, Phone: (919) 716-6484 or
(919) 716-6413 by Fax: (919) 716-0803 or by E-mail:
ntalley@ncdoj.com


CELLULAR PHONES: NPRB Report Warns Against Kids' Cell Phone Use
---------------------------------------------------------------
Parents should not give mobiles phones to children age 8 or
younger as a precaution against the potential harm of radiation
from the devices, the chairman of the National Radiological
Protection Board (NRPB) said Tuesday, according to the
Associated Press.

In a news conference, NRPB chairman Sir William Stewart
qualified that there's no conclusive evidence of a clear danger,
but asserted that a growing amount of research shows that mobile
phone use may have health implications.  He advised parents to
adopt a "precautionary approach," particularly with children.

The NRPB report cited recent Swedish and German studies
suggesting, suggesting a potential health risk, including brain
tumors.  The report also cited research showing that radio waves
can "interfere with biological systems" and a recent paper
suggesting "possible effects on brain function resulting from
the use of (next-generation) phones" which are becoming more
common.

"I don't think we can put our hands on our hearts and say mobile
phones are safe," Mr. Stewart told a news conference, AP
reports.  "When you come to giving mobile phones to a 3- to 8-
year-old, that can't possibly be right."

Many experts have dismissed those studies and other research
performed to date as very inconclusive, a fact that the NRPB
report acknowledged.  The report also stated that some of the
work cited has "limitations," and encouraged a large, proposed
international study.

Mr. Stewart also acknowledged the limitations, saying that there
is no hard evidence at present that the public health, in
general, is being affected adversely by the use of mobile phone
technologies.  However, he asserted that he was "more concerned"
about the implications for health than five years ago, when he
last reviewed the issue.  Studies showing the phones could
affect health "have yet to be replicated and are of varying
quality, but we can't dismiss them out of hand," Mr. Stewart
said, according to AP. "This is still a relatively new area and
the divergent views show how more research is needed."

Dr. Philip Stieg, chief of neurosurgery for New York-
Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, cautioned
against alarm.  "None of us would want children harmed by this
technology, but at this point there isn't any evidence that
would support the comments," Dr. Stieg said of Stewart's
remarks, according to AP.

He suggested that since most of the research done so far has
focused on adults, it may be time to do a clinical trial
focusing on cell phones and children.  "It's one of these things
where you hate to be wrong. Do I think it's good for a child to
be on a cell phone for hours at a time? For multiple reasons
it's not that good. They should be doing homework. They should
be getting exercise," he said.  "But I would rather have my
child have a cell phone and call me if they're in trouble or
needed my help."

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators
Association, also said the weight of scientific evidence so far
"does not suggest that mobile technologies operating within
international health and safety guidelines cause illness," AP
reports.

Britain's Department of Health said its advice to be cautious in
allowing mobile phones for youths under 16 remains in force.


COLORADO: Joins 48 States in $40 Mil Salvaged Cars Settlement
-------------------------------------------------------------
Colorado Interim Attorney General John W. Suthers's office
joined 48 other states in a $40 million settlement with State
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.  The settlement came
after an internal audit by State Farm revealed that it may have
failed to properly re-title thousands of total-loss vehicles
subsequently resold by State Farm.  The settlement covers cars,
motorcycles, motor homes and semi-trailers. It does not cover
trailers, ATV's, snowmobiles, or any watercraft.

"I commend State Farm for taking the initiative to correct a
problem that may affect tens of thousands of consumers across
the country," said Interim Attorney General Suthers.  "We won't
know the extent of this problem in Colorado, until State Farm
has completed its review of state motor vehicle records."

Attorney General Suthers concluded, ""I encourage other
insurance companies to review their titling practices to ensure
full compliance with this important consumer protection
provision of state law."

Colorado law requires vehicle titles to be branded as "salvage"
when a damaged vehicle is less than six years old and the cost
of repairing it to a roadworthy condition exceeds the vehicle's
retail fair value. A "salvage" designation on a vehicle's title
alerts consumers to any significant damage history with that
vehicle.

State Farm has 180 days to identify vehicles it has acquired
since June 1, 1997 that may not have been properly re-titled as
salvage vehicles. State Farm will pay all costs for this title
review. State Farm must then contact the current owner of any
vehicles with "unresolved" titles. Those consumers will be given
specific information about making a formal claim against the $40
million settlement fund. The amount of individual recoveries
will depend on the current average retail value of each vehicle
and the total of all eligible claims received by State Farm.

Consumers are advised not to file claims with State Farm or with
the Attorney General at this time. Further information about
this settlement, including a copy of the Assurance of Voluntary
Compliance, will be posted on the Attorney General's web site:
http://www.ago.state.co.us.


CROMPTON CORPORATION: Settles Rubber Products Suits For $97 Mil
---------------------------------------------------------------
Crompton Corporation recently revealed that it expects to settle
three class-action lawsuits regarding its rubber products for
$97 million, the Associated Press reports.

Crompton Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Robert
L. Wood told AP the settlement "while costly, is manageable." He
adds, the deal allows the company to avoid prolonged litigation
and possibly paying damages three times over.

The Company stated that it will include a $93.1 million reserve
in its 2004 financial report to pay the awards. Kenneth
Feinberg, the special master who oversaw the September 11
victims' compensation fund, will act as a mediator and help
determine how the funds will be distributed among the three
classes, the company said.


CROWN ROOFING: LA Armorflex Lawsuit Given Class Certification
-------------------------------------------------------------
A Louisiana lawsuit that was filed by teachers and students at
New Iberia Senior High School that addresses their exposure to a
roofing chemical, has been approved as a class action, opening
the case up to everyone who believes he or she were harmed after
inhaling the fumes, the Associated Press reports.

State Judge William Hunter is expected to sign a formal class-
action judgment this month but has already filed written reasons
for his approval.  At issue is exposure to fumes from ArmorFlex,
a product used by Crown Roofing during work on the roof of New
Iberia Senior High School in September 2003. Extensive exposure
to the chemicals in the product can lead to brain damage, cancer
and liver and kidney problems.

New Iberia attorney David Groner told AP most of the problems
reported so far are related to temporary breathing difficulty,
skin irritation and nose bleeds.

The lawsuit, filed against Crown Roofing and the Iberia Parish
School Board, is seeking unspecified damages for illness or
anxiety related to exposure to ArmorFlex. No trial date though
has been set.


DAN NELSON: Iowa AG Miller Files Complaint Over Consumer Fraud
--------------------------------------------------------------
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed a lawsuit alleging
consumer fraud violations by Dan Nelson and the Dan Nelson
Automotive Group, Inc., which does business as the Dan Nelson
Finance Super Center with dealerships in Des Moines and Council
Bluffs. Dan Nelson Automotive also has a separate dealership in
Sioux City.

"We allege that Dan Nelson Automotive targets vulnerable
consumers with marginal credit histories by promising them
reliable and safe transportation and the chance to build or
rebuild their credit," AG Miller said. "According to the
lawsuit, customers often find themselves much worse off, with
more debt, worse credit, and no working vehicle," he said.

"We allege the defendants use misleading advertising to induce
customers to come to their lot, where the defendants hide the
extremely high price of their cars," he said. In a typical
transaction, the suit states, the defendants charge purchase
prices far exceeding the value of vehicles, arrange a typical
interest rate of over 24%, and provide loan terms that are
likely to exceed the mechanical life of the vehicle.

"We allege this is a predatory system, aggravated by the poor
condition of the vehicles, in-house warranties offered by the
defendants that often are not honored in a timely manner, and
repair work that is substandard," he said.

"We allege that many consumers effectively become trapped by
these circumstances, forced to return to Dan Nelson Automotive
because inflated prices, extremely high interest rates and
vehicles in poor condition leave them with 'negative equity' --
preventing consumers from going on to other dealerships or
obtaining refinancing through other sources," Miller said.

"We allege the defendants use illegal and harassing debt
collection techniques designed to intimidate and embarrass
consumers, and that many consumers ultimately default on these
predatory loans, resulting in high repossession rates," he said.

"In sum, we allege Dan Nelson Automotive has harmed thousands of
Iowa consumers through this tightly-controlled system," Miller
said.

The suit alleges that the defendants have made more than one
hundred million dollars of sales and loans since beginning
operations in Iowa in 1996.

"Many consumers cite the so-called 'credit-reestablishment
program' as a significant reason for doing business with Dan
Nelson Automotive," Miller said. "They think it is a means for
improving their overall credit record. Unfortunately, we allege,
the so-called 'program' consists of nothing more than the
defendants extending credit and their promise to report
customers' payment history to the three major credit bureaus.
And, unfortunately, the report is often damaging. Many consumers
never realize the promise of rebuilt credit," he said.

"We allege this business represents itself as more than a car
dealership in that it emphasizes repairing consumers' credit.
The problem is that too few consumers find their financial
circumstances improved from having done business with
defendants. Instead, they find themselves trapped in a high-
interest car loan with little prospect of paying it off or
refinancing the loan elsewhere," he said.

"We allege that this dealership misleads vulnerable consumers
from start to finish," Miller said.

The suit was filed Friday morning in Polk County District Court
in Iowa. It asks the court to order reimbursement for consumers,
injunctive relief against future violations, civil penalties,
and costs and attorney fees for the state.

The suit alleges that the defendants violated the Iowa Consumer
Fraud Act and the Iowa Consumer Credit Code in their
advertisement and sales of used vehicles, in their extension of
credit regarding the vehicles, and in their debt collection
practices.

The suit alleges that Dan Nelson Automotive Group hides or fails
to disclose vehicle prices, going so far as to require detailed
financial information and a credit check from consumers before
revealing the price. It alleges that the defendants unfairly
restrict consumer choice by telling consumers which few vehicles
they may purchase, keeping consumers on dealership premises for
hours on end and, in some instances, steering consumers into
high-interest loans with terms less beneficial than those for
which consumers would actually qualify.

It alleges that vehicles often break down after purchase and
that the dealership sometimes fails to fully honor its warranty.
It alleges the dealership may also subject consumers to unlawful
debt collection tactics by calling their references and
disclosing their debts, or suing them in counties other than
where they live, which is illegal.

The suit also alleges that the defendants violated the Consumer
Fraud Act by advertising sales based on "lease elimination" and
"rental car company" bankruptcies, claims the lawsuit alleges
are simply untrue.

The suit also alleges the defendants misled banks and credit
bureaus regarding the true payment histories of their customers.

Defendants named in the suit:

     (1) DAN NELSON AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, INC., a South Dakota
         corporation, formerly known as South Dakota Auto Group,
         Inc., d/b/a Dan Nelson Finance Super Center, J.D.
         Byrider Sales, and Dan Nelson Auto Network. The
         corporation headquarters are at 2900 W. 12th St., Sioux
         Falls, SD.

     (2) SOUTH DAKOTA ACCEPTANCE CORPORATION, a South Dakota
         corporation, d/b/a Car Now Acceptance Company, CNAC.

     (3) DANIEL A. NELSON. Nelson is the President, Secretary,
         and 75% owner of both Dan Nelson Automative and CNAC.

     (4) CHRISTIAN J. TAPKEN. Tapken is the Vice-President,
         Treasurer, Chief Operating Officer and 25% owner of
         both Dan Nelson Automotive and CNAC.

     (5) VICTORY PROPERTIES, LLC (a land-holding company for
         other named defendants.)


DELAWARE: To Join State Farm's $48 Million Nationwide Settlement
----------------------------------------------------------------
Delaware and 48 other states plus the District of Columbia have
reached an innovative agreement with State Farm Mutual Insurance
Company which will result in $40 million in compensation to
thousands of car, SUV, and truck owners nationwide, state
Attorney General Jane Brady announced in a statement.

AG Brady said that after titling research is complete an
estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for
payments ranging from about $400 up to over $10,000, depending
primarily on the current average value of their vehicle, and the
number of consumers who participate in the compensation program.
The states believe most payments are likely to range from $800
to $1,850.

According to AG Brady, the agreement resulted after State Farm
approached the states and indicated that, after an internal
review, in a small percentage of cases, State Farm was unable to
confirm that it had properly titled vehicles it had taken
ownership of from policyholders due to damage or theft.

In most states, depending on factors such as vehicle age and
extent of damage, insurance companies taking ownership in such
situations must obtain "branded titles," indicating the vehicles
are "salvage," "damaged," "reconstructed" or similarly-named
titles. State Farm's records showed that although it had
properly titled approximately 2.4 million vehicles in recent
years, it could not confirm whether a much smaller number have
been properly titled. Payment will go to the current owners of
vehicles that may require branded titles.

Attorney General Brady called the settlement groundbreaking. "It
is rare that a company comes to us, discloses a problem, and
presents a very viable solution to correct the problem and help
consumers," she said.  "We hope this agreement will encourage
other companies to step forward when necessary, take
responsibility, improve practices, and compensate affected
consumers."

In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also
will pay the expense of identifying the vehicles, tracing the
current owners, contacting owners, taking claims from owners,
and making compensation payments. In the agreement with the
states, State Farm also makes assurances about its present and
future titling practices.

Under the agreement, State Farm will work with state departments
of motor vehicles in the coming months to determine in each
state the specific vehicles which require a branded title. The
owners of those vehicles will receive a letter with a claim form
to complete and return to an independent Claims Administrator to
administer the notification and compensation program. After all
claims are in, the amount each consumer will receive will be
finalized and checks mailed. Attorney General Brady said that
consumers who complete a claim form and are approved will
receive a compensation payment from State Farm later this year
or early 2006.

The final amounts received by consumers will depend on the
current value of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to
participate in the payment program. Payments will be made to the
owners of currently registered vehicles and will be based on the
current average retail value of the vehicle.  Attorney General
Brady said it is expected that current owners of eligible
vehicles will be contacted by Fall 2005, after the
identification process is completed.

State Farm also is making a payment of a total of $1 million to
all the participating states for consumer education, future
consumer litigation, public protection, local consumer aid
funds, and attorney fees and costs. Delaware's Consumer
Protection Fund expects to receive $15,000 as its share of this
payment.


H&R BLOCK: Filing Fee Suit To Be Heard in Madison County Court
--------------------------------------------------------------
A class action lawsuit against H&R Block over allegations it
unfairly charged a fee for electronically filing customers' tax
returns, will be in court in Granite City, the Madison County
Record reports.

Madison County resident Lorie Marshall told the Record she was
"victimized" by the company's deceptive practice because she
placed her trust in H&R Block's superior knowledge of tax
preparation.

Circuit Judge Philip Kardis will hear all pending motions in the
case that was originally filed May 2, 2003. Ms. Marshall's suit
claims that H&R Block, of Kansas City, Missouri, purported that
the fee covered the cost of filing while using the company's
computer terminals.

In the suit, Marshall claims the fee, which over time has ranged
from $10 to more than $30, is material and illusory.  The suit
further claims that "H&R Block fails to inform customers that
tax returns could be filed for free using an IRS program, or for
the mere price of a stamp. Instead, H&R Block deceptively sells
this free service under the guise that it is an exclusive and
unique service offered by H&R Block. H&R Block likewise attempts
to increase profits by cramming charges for electronic filing
fees onto the bills of unsuspecting clients."

Ms. Marshall, who is represented by The Lakin Law Firm of Wood
River, Freed & Weiss of Chicago and Macey Chern & Diab also of
Chicago, alleges H&R Block engages in these alleged deceptive
practices to improperly increase profits at the expense of its
clients. She further alleges that the acts and omissions by H&R
Block constitute breach of contract, unjust enrichment, breach
of fiduciary, and violates the Illinois Consumer Fraud and
Deceptive Business Act.

She and members of the class are seeking to rescind their
contracts and to be reimbursed from the profits and proceeds
generated from the charges.  H&R Block, which is represented by
the Edwardsville firm of Burroughs, Hepler, Broom, Macdonald,
Hebrank and True in the case, has over 11,200 tax offices
worldwide and reported $4.2 billion dollars in revenue in 2004.


HPL TECHNOLOGIES: Suit Settlement Hearing Set February 24, 2005
---------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Northern District of
California will hold a fairness hearing for proposed settlements
amounting to $17 million in cash (plus accrued interests) and
seven million shares of HPL common stock in the matter of In re:
HPL Technologies, Inc. Securities Litigation on behalf of all
persons and entities who purchased or otherwise acquired the
company's common stock during the period of July 31, 2001
through July 18, 2002.

The Court has scheduled a fairness hearing to approve the
proposed settlement that will be held on February 24, 2005, at
2:00 p.m., before the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker at the United
States District Courthouse, Courtroom 6, 17th floor, 450 Golden
Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102.

For more details, contact Claims Administrator, In re: HPL
Technologies, Inc. Securities Litigation, c/o Gilardi & Co. LLC
by Mail: P.O. Box 5100, Larkspur, CA 94977-5100 or visit their
Web site: http://www.gilardi.com.


IOWA: To Join 48 States In State Farm Nationwide Consumer Pact
--------------------------------------------------------------
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and 48 other states plus the
District of Columbia reached an innovative agreement with State
Farm Mutual Insurance Company that will result in $40 million in
compensation to thousands of car, SUV, and truck owners
nationwide.

AG Miller said that after titling research is complete an
estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for
payments ranging from about $400 up to over $10,000, depending
primarily on the current average value of their vehicle, and the
number of consumers who participate in the compensation program.
The states believe most payments are likely to range from $800
to $1850.

AG Miller said the agreement resulted after State Farm
approached the states and indicated that, after an internal
review, in a small percentage of cases it was unable to confirm
that it had properly titled vehicles it had taken ownership of
from policyholders due to damage or theft. Miller led the 8-
state executive committee of attorneys general who negotiated
the settlement.

In most states, depending on factors such as vehicle age and
extent of damage, insurance companies taking ownership in such
situations must obtain "branded titles," indicating the vehicles
are "salvage," "damaged," or similarly-named titles (states use
various nomenclature for such vehicles.) State Farm's records
showed that it had properly titled approximately 2.4 million
vehicles in recent years that may have required a "branded
title," but that it could not confirm whether a much smaller
number may not have been properly titled. Payment will go to the
current owners of vehicles that may require branded titles.

AG Miller said Iowa law requires a full disclosure statement of
prior salvage history, and that Iowans may have bought cars that
should have been previously titled and disclosed as salvage.
"This is a groundbreaking settlement," AG Miller said.  "It is
rare that a company comes to us, discloses a problem, and
presents a very viable solution to correct the problem and help
consumers. We hope this agreement will encourage other companies
to step forward when necessary, take responsibility, improve
practices, and make things right for consumers."

State Farm Vice President and Counsel Jeffrey W. Jackson added,
"Our cooperative effort with the state attorneys general
reflects a commitment to resolve salvage titling concerns in a
proactive manner, and demonstrates that State Farm is serious
about meeting our responsibilities under the various state
branded title laws. The agreement made by State Farm and the
attorneys general is the right thing to do for our policyholders
and the public."

In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also
will pay the expense for the major project of identifying the
vehicles, tracing the current owners, contacting owners, taking
claims from owners, and making compensation payments. In the
"Assurance of Voluntary Compliance," or agreement with the
states, State Farm also makes assurances about how it presently
conducts its practices, as well as in the future.

AG Miller said that consumers who complete a claim form and are
approved will receive a compensation payment from State Farm
later this year or early 2006. Under the agreement, State Farm
will work with state departments of motor vehicles in the coming
months to determine in each state the specific vehicles which
require a branded title. The owners of those vehicles will
receive a letter from the consumer's home state Attorney General
with a claim form to complete and return to an independent
Claims Administrator company already approved by the States to
administer the notification and compensation program. After all
claims are in, the amount each consumer will receive will be
finalized and checks mailed.

The final amounts received by consumers will depend on the
current value of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to
participate in the payment program. Payments will be made to the
owners of currently registered vehicles and will be based on the
current average retail value of the vehicle. For example, owners
of vehicles worth between $1,000 and $2,000 will receive $600;
owners of vehicles worth between $5,000 and $6000 will receive
$1400; owners of vehicles worth between $10,000 and $11,000 will
receive $3000.  AG Miller said it is expected that current
owners of eligible vehicles will be contacted by Fall 2005,
after the identification process is completed.

Attorneys General from 49 states plus the District of Columbia
have signed the agreement. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance
has been signed by all states but Indiana, which is working
under its own agreement with State Farm. State Farm also is
making a payment of a total of $1 million to all the state
participants for consumer education, future consumer litigation,
public protection, local consumer aid funds, and attorney fees
and costs. The Executive Committee working on this matter
consists of the Attorneys General of California, Florida,
Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, and Texas.


JDS UNIPHASE: CA Judge Rejects Dismissal Motion For Fraud Suit
--------------------------------------------------------------
A motion by JDS Uniphase Corporation to dismiss a class-action
lawsuit led by Connecticut state Treasurer Denise Nappier has
been rejected by a U.S. District Court judge in California, the
Hartford Courant reports.

According to experts, the ruling by Judge Claudia Wilken means
that the 2002 lawsuit, which alleges fraud against investors by
the once high-flying JDS, will move ahead to the phase in which
plaintiffs gain access to internal JDS files and sworn
statements by present and former JDS officials.

The Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, headed by Ms.
Nappier, is lead plaintiff in the case, which had lost $65
million in JDS stock after a 2001 crash.

Last year, JDS argued that the plaintiffs' allegations - that it
improperly manipulated revenue figures and knowingly made false
assertions about the company's strength - did not rise to the
level of fraud. However, according to Judge Wilkens in a January
6 ruling, "the only reasonable inference from the facts as
alleged is that JDS was recognizing revenue from the alleged
fraudulent practices."


JOHNSON INTERNATIONAL: Reaches Settlement For EEOC Bias Lawsuit
---------------------------------------------------------------
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has
settled, for $450,000, its lawsuit against Johnson
International, Inc., a global financial services company owned
by the S.C. Johnson family of Racine, Wisconsin in late December
2004.

The EEOC suit alleged that the company, now known as Johnson
Financial Group, a member of the "Johnson Family of Companies,"
discriminated against Rae Ann Good by withdrawing a job offer as
Executive Vice President after she disclosed that she was
pregnant.

Under a Consent Decree settling the suit, approved by U.S.
District Judge Thomas J. Curran on December 27, 2004, Johnson
International will pay $450,000 in lost wages to Ms. Good. The
company is also ordered not to discriminate on the basis of
pregnancy, and to report to the EEOC for the next two years
concerning female applicants for executive positions.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that Ms. Good applied to
Johnson Financial Group (which includes Johnson Bank, Johnson
Insurance, and Johnson Asset Management) in Racine, Wisc., for a
position as Executive Vice President in April 2002. After a
number of interviews and reference checks, she was offered a
written employment offer, which she accepted. She then disclosed
that she had recently learned that she was pregnant. The job
start date was then postponed and eventually canceled, the EEOC
says.

Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on
sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), race, color,
religion, or national origin, and protects employees from
retaliation for complaints based on those issues.

Chester V. Bailey, Director of the EEOC's Milwaukee District
Office, noted, "The problem of women advancing into top
executive positions is an ongoing concern of the EEOC. Certainly
one of the factors which may contribute to the low numbers of
women in such jobs is pregnancy discrimination, which we are
committed to combating."

Jean P. Kamp, Regional Attorney for the Milwaukee District
Office, added that Ms. Good's pregnancy was irrelevant to her
ability to perform the job. "All workers deserve the freedom to
compete and advance as far as their talent and ability will
allow without regard to discriminatory barriers," she said.

For more details, contact Jean P. Kamp, Regional Attorney, EEOC
- Milwaukee District Office by Phone: (414) 297-1860 or contact
Dennis R. McBride, Senior Trial Attorney by Phone: (414) 297-
1130 or (414) 297-1115, or visit the Website:
http://www.eeoc.gov.


KENTUCKY: To Join 48 States in State Farm Consumer Settlement
-------------------------------------------------------------
Kentucky and 48 other states plus the District of Columbia have
reached an innovative agreement with State Farm Mutual Insurance
Company which will result in $40 million in compensation to
thousands of car, SUV, and truck owners nationwide, state
Attorney General Greg Stumbo announced in a statement.

AG Stumbo said that after titling research is complete an
estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for
payments ranging from about $400 up to over $10,000, depending
primarily on the current average value of their vehicle, and the
number of consumers who participate in the compensation program.
The states believe most payments are likely to range from $800
to $1850.

Attorney General Stumbo said the agreement resulted after State
Farm approached the states and indicated that, after an internal
review, in a small percentage of cases it was unable to confirm
that it had properly titled vehicles it had taken ownership of
from policyholders due to damage or theft.

In Kentucky, a branded title is required if a vehicle has been
wrecked, destroyed or damaged such that repairs costing more
than 75% of its retail book value are required, or for water-
damaged or vehicles purchased from out of state with branded
titles. Most states have similar requirements depending on
factors such as vehicle age and extent of damage. Insurance
companies taking ownership in such situations must obtain
"branded titles," indicating the vehicles are "salvage,"
"damaged," or similarly-named titles. State Farm's records
showed that it had properly titled approximately 2.4 million
vehicles in recent years nationwide that may have required a
"branded title," but that it could not confirm whether a much
smaller number may not have been properly titled. Payment will
go to the current owners of vehicles that may require branded
titles.

AG Stumbo said the settlement was a good deal for affected
consumers in Kentucky, many of whom may not even know that their
cars were previously wrecked. "The company approached the
attorneys general to address this issue in a proactive manner,"
he added. "We encourage other companies to review their business
practices, take responsibility for lapses, and make things right
for consumers."

In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also
will pay the expense for the major project of identifying the
vehicles, tracing the current owners, contacting owners, taking
claims from owners, and making compensation payments. In the
"Assurance of Voluntary Compliance," or agreement with the
states, State Farm also makes assurances about how it presently
conducts its practices, as well as in the future.

AG Stumbo explained that consumers who complete a claim form and
are approved will receive a compensation payment from State Farm
later this year or early 2006. Under the agreement, State Farm
will work with state departments of motor vehicles in the coming
months to determine in each state the specific vehicles which
require a branded title. By law, these vehicles are required to
have branded titles. Kentucky owners of such vehicles will
receive a letter from the Attorney General with a claim form to
complete and return to an independent Claims Administrator
company already approved by the States to administer the
notification and compensation program. State Farm is required to
cover the costs and assist in acquiring new title. Each affected
consumer will have the opportunity to decide to file a claim or
to take other legal action. After all claims are in, the amount
each consumer will receive will be finalized and checks mailed.

The final amounts received by consumers will depend on the
current value of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to
participate in the payment program. Payments will be made to the
owners of currently registered vehicles and will be based on the
current average retail value of the vehicle. For example, owners
of vehicles worth between $1,000 and $2,000 will receive $600;
owners of vehicles worth between $5,000 and $6000 will receive
$1400; owners of vehicles worth between $10,000 and $11,000 will
receive $3000

Attorney General Stumbo said it is expected that current owners
of eligible vehicles will be contacted by Fall 2005, after the
identification process is completed.

State Farm also is making a payment of a total of $1 million to
all the state participants, 15,000 of which will be distributed
to Kentucky, for consumer education, future consumer litigation,
public protection, local consumer aid funds, and attorney fees
and costs.

For more information, please contact the Office of the Attorney
General by Mail: State Capitol, Suite 118, Frankfort, Kentucky
40601 or by Phone: (502) 696-5300.


MARYLAND: To Join 48 States, DC in State Farm Consumer Agreement
----------------------------------------------------------------
Maryland and 48 other states plus the District of Columbia have
reached an agreement with State Farm Mutual Insurance Company
which will result in $40 million in compensation to thousands of
car, SUV, and truck owners nationwide who unknowingly purchased
"salvaged" vehicles, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran
announces in a statement.

Attorney General Curran says the agreement resulted after State
Farm approached the states and indicated that after an internal
review it was unable to confirm that it had properly titled some
vehicles as "salvaged." In most states, depending on factors
such as vehicle age and extent of damage, insurance companies
taking ownership in such situations must obtain "branded
titles," indicating the vehicles are "salvage," "damaged," or
similarly-named titles.

AG Curran says that after titling research is complete, an
estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for
payments ranging from about $400 up to over $10,000, depending
primarily on the current average value of their vehicle, and the
number of consumers who participate in the compensation program.
The states believe most payments are likely to range from $800
to $1850.

In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also
will pay the expense for the major project of identifying the
vehicles, tracing the current owners, contacting owners, taking
claims from owners, and making compensation payments. "Consumers
who purchased these vehicles, which should have been labeled
`salvaged,' deserve restitution and I am glad we are helping
them receive it," said Attorney General Curran. "Those who are
entitled will be notified of their eligibility to participate in
this settlement after the vehicles involved have been
identified."

AG Curran said consumers who complete a claim form and are
approved will receive a compensation payment from State Farm
later this year or early 2006. Under the agreement, State Farm
will work with state departments of motor vehicles in the coming
months to determine in each state the specific vehicles which
require a branded title. The Maryland owners of those vehicles
will receive a letter from Attorney General Curran with a claim
form to complete and return to an independent Claims
Administrator. After all claims are in, the amount each consumer
will receive will be finalized and checks mailed. The final
amounts received by consumers will depend on the current value
of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to participate in
the $40 million payment program.

For more details, contact Kevin Enright by Phone: 410-576-6357.


MASSACHUSETTS: Housing Authority, Homeowners Reach Settlement
-------------------------------------------------------------
The Holyoke Housing Authority reached a financial settlement
with the owners of three Jackson Street apartments, located next
to the federal HOPE VI housing project, which the authority took
by eminent domain last year and had designated for first-time
homeowner houses, the Republican reports.

Attorney Priscilla F. Chesky, who represents the housing
authority told the Republican an agreement in principle had been
reached with the homeowners though she was still working on
financial details of the agreement, which must be approved by
the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Shawn P. Allyn, who represents the property owners, told the
Republican that he was still awaiting exact settlement offers
that would include interest from the date of the takings. The
settlement, according to him, was recently reached only after he
had threatened to file a federal class-action lawsuit against
the authority. He further stated that his lawsuit would have
challenged the authority's right to take such properties at all,
and the legality of offering what he said was half the appraised
value.

Mr. Allyn explains that under the settlement, John P. Moriarty,
of 127 Jackson St., would be given one of the new homes located
within the HOPE VI housing project, plus legal fees and costs.
He estimated his legal fees on Mr. Moriarty's behalf at about
$13,000.

Furthermore, the other residents will be getting cash
settlements that reflect recently conducted appraisals, legal
costs and fees, Mr. Allyn said. They are: Luis Morales, Alberto
Morales and Lori Garcia of 121 Jackson St., and Anastascio and
Luz Laureanos of 131 Jackson St.

The owners of three other apartments in the building have
previously settled with the housing authority, Ms. Chesky said.
Appraisals performed for the housing authority in 2000, she
said, valued all six apartments at about $25,000 to $30,000.
But she states that separate appraisals in 2003 valued the
apartments at about $35,000, while two others in 2004 estimated
the units' values at about $55,000 apiece, Ms. Chesky said.

The city currently assesses Mr. Moriarty's apartment at $35,000,
and the other two at about the same amount.

Mr. Allyn has said the housing authority underpaid the three
tenants who settled earlier, and was offering his clients about
half their units' market value before he got involved. "This is
the government taking their property for half the price," Mr.
Allyn said. He further states that the HOPE VI project's federal
authorization never included provisions to take the property of
tax-paying citizens, and certainly not at discount prices, just
to build new units for sale to third parties.

Ms. Chesky countered his statement by saying, "There was never
any malice. The ultimate goal of the Holyoke Housing Authority
was to give these property owners the fair market value of the
property."


MISSOURI: Joins 48 States, DC in Nationwide Consumer Settlement
---------------------------------------------------------------
Hundreds of vehicle owners in Missouri will be among the
estimated 30,000 consumers nationwide who may be eligible to
share in $40 million compensation from State Farm Mutual
Insurance Co., Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a statement.
Nixon and the Attorneys General of 48 other states and the
District of Columbia reached an innovative agreement with State
Farm to resolve a problem with thousands of cars, SUVs, and
trucks not being properly titled as salvage.

AG Nixon said the agreement resulted after State Farm approached
the states and indicated its own internal review showed that in
a small percentage of cases, it was unable to confirm that it
had properly titled vehicles it had taken ownership of from
policyholders due to damage or theft. In most states, depending
on factors such as vehicle age and extent of damage, insurance
companies taking ownership in such situations must obtain
"branded titles," indicating the vehicles are "salvage" or
"damaged."

State Farm's records showed that while it had properly titled
approximately 2.4 million vehicles in recent years that may have
required a branded title, the company could not confirm whether
a much smaller number may not have been properly titled.

Payment will go to the current owners of vehicles that may
require branded titles. The owners of those vehicles in Missouri
will receive a letter from Nixon's office with a claim form to
complete and return to an independent claims administrator
company already approved by the states to administer the
notification and compensation program.

"State Farm did the right thing in disclosing the problem and
presenting a viable solution," AG Nixon said. "This
groundbreaking agreement can serve as an example to other
companies to step forward when necessary, take responsibility,
improve practices, and make things right for consumers."

Nixon said titling research would determine which consumers may
be eligible for payments, which could range from about $400 up
to more than $10,000, depending on the current average value of
the vehicle, and the number of consumers who participate in the
compensation program. The states believe most payments are
likely to range from $800 to $1,850.

In addition to the $40 million for consumers, State Farm also
will pay the expense for the major project of identifying the
vehicles, tracing the current owners, contacting owners, taking
claims from owners, and making compensation payments. In the
agreement with the states, State Farm also makes assurances
about how it presently conducts its practices, as well as in the
future.

Nixon said that consumers who complete a claim form and are
approved will receive a compensation payment from State Farm
later this year or early 2006. Under the agreement, State Farm
will work with state departments of motor vehicles in the coming
months to determine the specific vehicles which require a
branded title.

The final amounts received by consumers will depend on the
current value of their vehicle and how many consumers elect to
participate in the payment program. Payments will be made to the
owners of currently registered vehicles and will be based on the
current average retail value of the vehicle.

Nixon said it is expected that current owners of eligible
vehicles will be contacted by this fall, after the
identification process is completed.

State Farm also is paying $1 million to be divided among the
states for consumer education, future consumer litigation,
public protection, local consumer aid funds, and attorney fees
and costs.


NEW JERSEY: Holocaust Lawyer Accused of Misusing Clients' Funds
---------------------------------------------------------------
Edward Fagan, a lawyer who helped win billions of dollars for
thousands of Holocaust victims and who gained worldwide
attention for his role in litigation against Swiss banks and
German corporations, has been accused by an attorney ethics
panel of misusing money from two of his clients, the Associated
Press reports.

Edward Fagan, who gained worldwide attention for his role in
litigation against Swiss banks and German corporations, could
face sanctions up to disbarment if the charges are upheld.

Gizella Weisshaus, 75, a survivor of Auschwitz, told AP "He
stabbed me right in the back. I supported him. He used me. He
used my money."

Efforts to reach Mr. Fagan for comment were unsuccessful,
according to AP.  He has until February to respond to the
charges brought by the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics or
else he could face sanctions up to disbarment if the charges are
upheld.

The ethics office, part of the state Supreme Court, had charged
that Mr. Fagan misused $400,000 from Estelle Sapir and
Weisshaus, of Brooklyn, New York, the initial plaintiff in the
1996 Swiss bank case, which went on to became a class-action
case that eventually resulted in $1.25 billion settlement in
1998.  Mr. Fagan later was among lawyers who won billions from
German corporations. He has since sued seeking money for
suffering under South African apartheid and American slavery.

The attorney ethics office accused Mr. Fagan of draining Ms.
Weisshaus' trust account, then seeking to replace the money with
funds from the settlement he had won for Ms. Sapir. The
complaint also charged that he wrote checks to cash on Ms.
Sapir's account and transferred the money to business accounts.


NEW JERSEY: AG Harvey Sues Man Over Internet Consumer Fraud
-----------------------------------------------------------
New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice obtained a guilty plea
from a Monmouth County man on charges that he stole more than
$50,000 from individuals who purchased various types of
electronic merchandise through Internet-based auction sites and
never received the items, state Attorney General Peter C. Harvey
announced in a statement.  The fraudulent scheme victimized 22
individuals from 17 states.

According to Vaughn L. McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal
Justice, Wayne J. DeVita, 26, Newman Springs Road, Lincroft,
Monmouth County, pleaded guilty today before Middlesex County
Superior Court Judge Frederick P. DeVesa to a criminal
Accusation which charged theft by deception (3rd degree). A
third degree crime is punishable by up to five years in state
prison, a fine of up to $15,000, and restitution. DeVita is
scheduled to be sentenced on April 22.

"Computer-related crime such as fraud and theft is a high
priority for the Attorney General's Office of Computer Crime
which includes state investigators from the Division of Criminal
Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit and detectives from
the State Police High Technology Crimes & Investigation Support
Unit," said Attorney General Harvey. "The Attorney General's
Office encourages the public to be extremely careful when
purchasing merchandise via the Internet. Always make certain you
are dealing with legitimate companies and that any financial
transaction is via a secure server. Never provide credit card or
social security numbers to unknown individuals or corporations.
If you suspect fraud, contact the Division of Criminal Justice
Computer Analysis & Technology Unit, the State Police High
Technology Crimes & Investigation Support Unit, the county
prosecutor's office or local police."

In pleading guilty, DeVita admitted that from August, 2000
through June, 2001, to using a home computer system to advertise
the availability and sale of electronic merchandise such as
computers, laptops, scanners and printers. The items were listed
for auction via the Internet through e-Bay and Yahoo. (Note:
Internet auctions allow a seller to list an item for sale at
some minimum price. The host web site gathers bids from
interested purchasers for as long as ten days after which time
the winning bidder sends payment to the seller who in turn ships
the purchased goods to the bidder.) DeVita admitted that on 22
separate occasions he sold or auctioned $50,833 worth of
merchandise he did not possess and could not obtain, collected
advance cash payments (generally through money orders or
PayPal), and failed to deliver the merchandise or return the
cash payments to the purchaser. The investigation determined
that DeVita used various names and/or organizations and various
E-Mail and Web addresses to receive and negotiate payments.

The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police
High Technology Crimes & Investigations Support Unit. The case
was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Mark Murtha assigned
to the Division of Criminal Justice - Computer Analysis &
Technology Unit.

Attorney General Harvey noted that the Attorney General's Office
of Computer Crime employs teams of specially-trained state
investigators and detectives who investigate, arrest and
prosecute individuals who use technology and computer systems to
commit criminal acts in New Jersey. As part of their continuing
responsibilities, investigators respond to complaints alleging
fraud and other Internet-based criminal activity, patrol various
chat rooms where potential sexual predators seek to engage
juveniles in conversation and to ultimately lure a targeted
juvenile to a sexual encounter, and conduct forensic analysis of
computer systems seized as part of criminal investigations.


NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Reaches Pact For EEOC ADA Violations Lawsuit
----------------------------------------------------------------
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and
Northwest Airlines, Inc. (Northwest) reached a settlement for a
lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in late
December 2004.

The EEOC's lawsuit, filed on April 25, 2001, alleged that the
Company excluded applicants for airport ramp equipment service
employee and cleaner positions if they had epilepsy or insulin-
dependent diabetes.  The Company specifically denies the
allegations and believes that its hiring processes are and were
proper, but is voluntarily entering into the settlement to avoid
protracted litigation.

A key element of the agreement is that Northwest will offer an
individualized assessment of the current ability of an airport
ramp position applicant with insulin-dependent diabetes or a
seizure disorder to safely perform, with or without reasonable
accommodation, the job's essential functions. Northwest also
will provide a settlement fund of $510,000 for distribution
among 28 individuals for whom the EEOC was seeking relief.

Northwest states it has a longstanding practice of providing an
individualized assessment for applicants applying for airport
ramp positions. Northwest is settling this case to expeditiously
resolve the matter and avoid protracted litigation, but also
because the procedures in the agreement reaffirm and are
consistent with its commitment to equal employment opportunity.

Chester V. Bailey, District Director of the Milwaukee District
Office, said "This lawsuit was an important reminder to
employers that the ADA requires that they give individualized
assessments to their employees with disabilities to determine
whether they could perform their jobs with or without reasonable
accommodation. We are pleased to have been able to work with
Northwest Airlines to reach settlement terms that assure that
applicants are getting the individualized attention that they
deserve."

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color,
religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against
individuals 40 years of age or older; sections of the Civil
Rights Act of 1991; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans
with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against
people with disabilities in the private sector and state and
local governments; and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions
against disability discrimination in the federal government.

For more details, contact Jean P. Kamp, Regional Attorney,
Milwaukee District Office, by Phone: 414-297-1860 or
414-297-1115 or contact Laurie Vasichek, Senior Trial Attorney,
Minneapolis Area Office by Phone: (612) 335-4061 or
(612) 335-4045.


ORTEK INC.: Reaches Air Pollution Pact With IL AG Madigan
---------------------------------------------------------
Following years of complaints from the community near a Cook
County oil recycling facility, Attorney General Lisa Madigan's
office has reached an agreement that requires that further steps
be taken to prevent sulfur-like odors from plaguing residential
neighbors.

Ortek, Inc., which owns and operates a used oil recycling plant
at 7601 W. 47th St. in McCook, also will pay a $50,000 penalty
as part of the settlement.

"Just because people happen to live near an industrial facility
doesn't mean they should be subjected to foul odors," AG Madigan
said.  "This settlement and the additional steps Ortek must take
to further clean up its act should improve air quality for
nearby residents."

In addition to the $50,000 civil penalty, the settlement
requires Ortek to:

     (1) Implement a comprehensive, facility-wide monitoring
         program aimed at detecting and preventing odor
         emissions and other leaks during the oil recycling
         process;

     (2) Undertake supplemental environmental projects valued at
         approximately $55,500, including installing a vapor
         recovery system on its wastewater treatment plant and a
         conservation vent on its oil recovery tank in the
         wastewater treatment plant; and

     (3) Cease and desist from any further violations of
         Illinois environmental protection laws.

Ortek's recycling process involves heating used oil in
distillation towers.  In 1998, the Illinois Environmental
Protection Agency (IEPA) granted Ortek a permit to construct an
air pollution control device known as an afterburner, which was
designed to reduce odors released into the air during the
distillation process.

The construction permit required the afterburner to achieve a
minimum temperature to be effective and to have a temperature
sensor and recorder to document its performance.  The
construction permit also required that Ortek use an approved
testing service to measure particulate matter, carbon monoxide
and volatile organic material emissions from its facility to
ensure that the afterburner effectively reduced emissions. A
180-day probation period for the afterburner was allowed under
the construction permit before an operating permit was required.

As part of the settlement, filed late yesterday afternoon,
January 10, in Cook County Circuit Court, Ortek admits that it
caused or allowed air pollution and violated several conditions
of its IEPA air pollution control equipment construction permit
by constructing and operating the afterburner for more than 180
days without the required temperature sensor and recorder and
without conducting the required testing. However, Ortek denies
allegations that it operated without an IEPA air pollution
control equipment operating permit or created a public nuisance.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Partee handled the case for
Madigan's Environmental Bureau in Chicago.

For more details, contact Melissa Merz by Phone: 312-814-3118 or
877-844-5461 or by E-mail: mmerz@atg.state.il.us.


PARMALAT FINANZIARIA: Banks, Auditors Seek NY Suit's Dismissal
--------------------------------------------------------------
Bank of America Corporation, Citigroup Inc. and other firms have
recently asked a U.S. federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by
investors in insolvent Italian food company Parmalat Finanziaria
SpA, who are seeking more than $8 billion in damages, the
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand reports.

Filed with the US District Court in Manhattan, the motions came
just less than three months after the plaintiffs filed their
class-action lawsuit. Court records show that other defendants
seeking dismissal include Credit Suisse Group Inc.'s Credit
Suisse First Boston and auditors Deloitte & Touche LLP and Grant
Thornton International.

The plaintiffs, who include British fund management firm Hermes
and institutional investors in Belgium, France and Italy, stated
that the banks and auditors played a central role in Parmalat's
accounting fraud, along with former Parmalat executives
including founder and ex-chairman Calisto Tanzi.

Parmalat collapsed in December 2003 under the weight of 14
billion euros ($18.46 million) of debt. Enrico Bondi, its
administrator, has separately sued Bank of America, Citigroup,
Deloitte and Grant Thornton to recover $10 billion.

According to Daniel McLaughlin, a lawyer for Sidley Austin Brown
& Wood LLP representing Bank of America, who wrote in a court
filing seeking to dismiss the investors' lawsuit, "Unsure of
their ability to recover their losses from Parmalat, whose
senior management masterminded and carried out the fraud,
plaintiffs have decided to round up third parties to try to
recover their losses, even though, like Bank of America, most
are innocent victims of Parmalat's fraud."

While Citigroup lawyer George Schieren, of the law firm Clifford
Chance US LLP, wrote that the investors were not entitled under
existing case law to state a claim against Citigroup, which "was
a victim of Parmalat's fraud and was itself defrauded out of
hundreds of millions of dollars."

Mark Willis, a partner at Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll PLLC
in Washington, who represents four of the five lead plaintiffs,
told the Stuff that he had not seen the motions and therefore
could not comment on them. Reply briefs from the plaintiffs are
due February 18, and a hearing is set for March 25, he said.

Italy's Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, another of the original
defendants in the suit has not filed a motion to dismiss,
according to the court's Web site. But an Industry Ministry
source said that the bank was considering settling a claim by
Parmalat out of court.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that "although Parmalat
itself was based in Italy this was hardly an Italian or even a
European fraud. . .. Much of the core infrastructure of the
scheme was built in the United States by American-based bankers,
auditors and lawyers."

The investors named Deutsche Bank AG, Morgan Stanley and UBS AG
as non-defendant third parties. Parmalat itself is also seeking
to recover more than 550 million euros it paid to Credit Suisse,
Deutsche Bank and UBS in the months leading up to its collapse.


PENNSYLVANIA: Ex-Inmates Win $1.2M Suit V. Bucks County Prison
--------------------------------------------------------------
Two former inmates of the Bucks County Prison have won $1.2
million in the first lawsuit to be resolved over the county's
handling of an outbreak of skin infections that began in 2001,
the Bucks County Courier Times reports.

According to Doylestown attorney Martha Sperling, who, along
with attorney Anita Alberts, represented the men in the trial
held in front of Federal Judge John P. Fullam, a federal court
jury returned the verdict. She added, "This is just the
beginning," noting that numerous other lawsuits against the
prison, including a class action one, are still active.

However, in a statement, Bucks County's head solicitor, Guy
Matthews, disputed the jury's verdict. "We don't think the
evidence supports the verdict for either plaintiff, in any
amount. We plan to appeal."

For now, Ms. Sperling and Ms. Alberts are celebrating a verdict
they said vindicates their long-standing criticism of the
physical conditions in and medical treatment given at the county
jail. Ms Sperling told the Bucks County Courier Times, "We
showed in this case that the roof on the prison had leaked for
at least 12 years before they fixed it. Water poured down the
walls of the cells where inmates were living. The mildew and
mold in the cells created by this leaky roof were horrible. We
had photographs of scum and pubic hairs in the shower that were
absolutely revolting. We showed them to the jury and the jury
said, 'You can't treat people like this.'"

Filed against the county in 2003, the suit alleges that former
inmates Kevin Keller and Benjamin Martin had developed
infections from an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus
aureus, or MRSA; that unsanitary conditions at the jail allowed
the bacteria to spread; and that the inmates were locked in
solitary confinement or given ibuprofen rather than the medical
care they needed. Treatment for the drug-resistant bacteria
often involved hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.

Mr. Keller first developed golf-ball-sized infections under his
armpits, which later went away but then reappeared elsewhere.
The suit claimed he had asked to see a doctor on Friday, Aug.
28, 2002, while locked in solitary confinement, but was told he
couldn't see one until the following Tuesday.

A few days later, when the infection had swelled to the size of
a grapefruit, Mr. Keller was taken to Doylestown Hospital, where
doctors operated to drain and cut out the infected tissue. He
was hospitalized for a month. The suit is claiming that though
the hospital had recommended clean bandages and access to hot
water to clean and soak his wound, the jail denied them. Mr.
Sperling said the jury awarded him $800,000.

On the other hand, Mr. Martin the other plaintiff in the case
developed an abscess on his leg in August 2001. The suit claimed
that the prison's medical staff told him it was a spider bite.
But, when he was taken to Doylestown Hospital, he was told the
delay had caused the infection to go up into his hip and he
might lose his leg. The suit further claimed that he now suffers
nerve damage in both legs. The jury awarded him $400,000.

The jail's battle with MRSA began as early as 2001, when female
inmates began developing boils, eye infections and other skin
infections that would not heal. They claimed the county was not
adequately treating them.


RIVIERA TRADING: Recalls 7,100 Bracelets Due To Lead Content
------------------------------------------------------------
Riviera Trading Inc., of New York, New York is cooperating with
the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission by
voluntarily recalling about 7,100 Metallic costume bracelets.

The bracelets contain high levels of lead and pose a lead
poisoning hazard to children.

The recalled bracelets have heart, oval, and rectangular shaped
charms that have the phrases; "I like sports," "I like movies,"
"I like shopping" and "I like music" printed on them. The
bracelet also contains various colored plastic trinkets.

Manufactured in China, the bracelets, Belk, Bloomingdales,
Carson Pirie Scott, Kohl's, Parisians and Proffitts Department
stores nationwide from October 2003 through November 2004 for
about $6.

Consumers should immediately take these bracelets away from
young children and contact the company to receive a refund.

Consumer Contact: Call Riviera toll-free at (800) 524-0110
between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.


ROYAL AHOLD: SEC Settles Enforcement Action V. U.S. Executives
--------------------------------------------------------------
The Securities and Exchange Commission settled an enforcement
action alleging fraud and other violations relating to the
financial fraud and insider trading at Royal Ahold's U.S.
Foodservice subsidiary with Timothy J. Lee and William Carter.

On July 27, 2004, the SEC filed a complaint in the United States
District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging
that Michael Resnick, Mark P. Kaiser, Lee and Carter engaged in
or substantially participated in a scheme to overstate Ahold's
income by $700 million or more in SEC filings and other public
announcements for at least fiscal years 200 1 and 2002.
Resnick, Kaiser, Lee, and Carter were top executives at
Columbia, Maryland based wholesale food distributor U.S.
Foodservice, a major subsidiary of Ahold. The complaint alleges
that they grossly inflated reported profits and induced numerous
suppliers to submit false confirmations to the company's
auditors in order to conceal their fraud. The Commission alleges
that Resnick, former CFO, Kaiser, former Chief Marketing
Officer, Lee, former Executive Vice President of Purchasing, and
Carter, former Vice President of Purchasing, violated the
antifraud provisions; aided and abetted violations of the
reporting provisions; and violated and aided and abetted
violations of the books and records provisions of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934.  The Commission also alleges that
Lee engaged in repeated instances of tipping material, nonpublic
information regarding Ahold's March 2000 tender offer for U.S.
Foodservice.

Lee and Carter settled the Commission's action, without
admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, by
consenting to permanent injunctions, officer and director bars,
and payments of $235,000 disgorgement and $96,567 disgorgement
and prejudgment interest, respectively. Lee was enjoined from
violating Sections 10(b), 13(b)(5), and 14(e) of the Exchange
Act and Rules 10b-5, 13b2-1, and 14e-3 thereunder, and from
aiding and abetting violations of Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A),
and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-
1, and 13b2-2 thereunder. Carter was enjoined from violating
Sections 10(b) and 13(b)(5) of the Exchange Act and Rules 10b-5
and 13b2-1 thereunder, and from aiding and abetting violations
of Sections 13(a), 13(b)(2)(A), and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange
Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, and 13b2-2 thereunder.

The Commission will continue to litigate against the non-
settling defendants. The Commission's investigation is
continuing. The Commission acknowledges the assistance and
cooperation of the Office of the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, the New York Office of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S Department of
Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration. The action is
titled, SEC v. Resnick, et al., Civil Action No. 1:04-cv-05824-
MGC, S.D.N.Y., July 27, 2004] (LR-19031).


SHURFLO LLC: Recalls 6.1T Backpack Sprayers Due To Fire Hazard
--------------------------------------------------------------
SHURflo LLC, of Cypress, California is cooperating with the
United States Consumer Product Safety Commission by voluntarily
recalling about 6,100 ProPack Rechargeable Electric Backpack
Sprayers.

The power plug can corrode after extensive exposure to water and
corrosive chemicals, posing a fire hazard to consumers. The firm
has received three reports of power plug failures and one report
of a minor fire. No injuries have been reported.

The recalled SHURflo ProPack Model SRS-540 rechargeable electric
backpack sprayers have manufacture dates before September 2004.
The model number and manufacture date are printed on a label
affixed to the motor bracket, which can found by removing the
battery pack. The sprayers have a clear or black hose, aluminum
spray lance, and a white body. The words "SHURflo" and "Pro
Pack" are printed on a label on the front of the unit.

Manufactured in the United States the sprayers were sold at all
pest control, turf care, sanitary maintenance and tool and
equipment distributors nationwide from July 2003 through August
2004 for between $170 and $215.

Consumers should stop using the backpack sprayers immediately
and contact SHURflo to receive a free repair kit.

Consumer Contact: Call SHURflo at (800) 854-3218 between 8 a.m.
and 4:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday or visit the SHURflo Web
site at http://www.shurflo.com.


SMYTH SANFORD: NY Court Notifies Parties of Claims Deadline
-----------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Southern District of
New York has issued a short form notice of deadline for
asserting claims against Smyth, Sanford & Gerard, Inc. to all
persons or entities holding a claim against or an interest in
the company.

The notice is reminding all parties that the court as appointed
a Receiver, who will basically recover assets of the company. It
is also reminding persons or entities involved in the litigation
that they will be barred, estopped and enjoined from taking any
recovery from the recovered assets, if they fail to file a claim
by February 15, 2005, the General Bar Date.

The court is also advising potential claimants that in order to
be eligible to receive any distribution from the recovered
assets, one must sign a Proof of Claim form, along with a any
supporting documentation to Thomas Fitzpatrick, Esq., 500 Fifth
Ave., 33rd Floor, New York, New York 10110-3398 on or before the
General Bar Date.


STATE FARM: Pays $135M To Settle CA Adjusters' Overtime Lawsuit
---------------------------------------------------------------
State Farm has agreed to pay $135 million to resolve a class-
action lawsuit brought by more than 2,600 adjusters in
California who alleged the company violated state wage and hour
laws by failing to pay them overtime compensation, the BestWire
Services reports.

The settlement, which recently was approved by Los Angeles
Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr, marks the end of the 5-
year-old lawsuit, said plaintiff attorney Louis Marlin of the
law firm Marlin & Saltzman, with offices in Anaheim and Agora
Hills, Calif.

The main allegation in the suit, filed in September 2000 on
behalf of 2,615 current and former State Farm auto and fire
claim adjusters in California, was that State Farm Mutual
Automobile Insurance Co. and State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.
misclassified the adjusters as exempt employees when they were,
in fact, nonexempt employees entitled to overtime compensation
under California laws, he said.

"Our investigation showed that on average, people were working
around 47 hours a week and were only getting paid for 40,"
Marlin said. State Farm required the adjusters to work long
hours on a daily basis, and often on weekends, without overtime
compensation, Marlin said.

State Farm had argued the claims adjusters were "administrative
employees" and therefore not entitled to overtime pay, but the
court rejected that position, Marlin said.

This lawsuit "represents both a financial and moral victory for
the class members," according to Marlin. Not only are the
adjusters entitled to overtime compensation, but as a result of
this lawsuit, State Farm changed its policies nationwide, in
that all of its claims adjusters, as of May 1, 2004, receive
overtime compensation.

"It is our position that after we won summary adjudication in
2003, several months later, (State Farm) announced that they
were changing their policies nationwide," Marlin explained. "We
feel that we have made a significant change in the lives of not
just the California adjusters, but adjusters throughout the
nation."

After court costs and $45 million in attorneys' fees, the
average payout per adjuster is about $34,000, Marlin said.
However, if an adjuster worked for State Farm during the entire
class period, the average payout is about $64,000, he said. The
class period is from September 1996 until April 30, 2004.

State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said the company "strives to
provide associates with competitive compensation, flexibility
and autonomy, and a positive environment."

State Farm, he said, agreed to the proposed settlement in the
case, known as Gutierrez vs. State Farm, because "California
courts have consistently ruled against federal wage and hour
laws in cases with insurers throughout California."

In September 2004, Farmers Insurance Exchange agreed to settle a
lawsuit brought by more than 2,000 California claims adjusters
for an expected $200 million, according to attorneys
representing the adjusters. Farmers is to pay $90 million in
damages ordered by a jury on July 10, 2001, and affirmed by the
Court of Appeal in February 2004, the law firm Rudy, Exelrod &
Zieff said. In addition, Farmers agreed to pay another $80
million in attorneys' fees and accumulated interest. The insurer
also agreed to pay as much as $40 million more for overtime pay
not included in the original judgment, mostly for hours worked
after the 2001 trial, the firm said (BestWire, Sept. 8, 2004).

Meanwhile, Marlin said that his firm has the "exact same
lawsuit" pending against Allstate, also in front of Judge Mohr.
"The judge has already ruled that Allstate adjusters are
entitled to overtime compensation," Marlin said. "The only thing
that hasn't yet been decided is the amount of damages that
Allstate owes to the class members." That issue is set for trial
on Feb. 28, he said.

The R. Rex Parris Firm of Lancaster, Calif., and Mazursky,
Schwartz, Daniels and Bradley of Los Angeles also represented
the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against State Farm.


TOXIN RESEARCH: Ordered To Stop Sale of Raw Botulism Bacteria
-------------------------------------------------------------
Tucson, Arizona-based Toxin Research International was ordered
to stop its distribution of raw botulism bacteria in place of
the wrinkle treatment Botox and to recall any of the roughly
3,000 vials that may still be in circulation, the Associated
Press reports.

List Biological Laboratories, a Campbell, Ca.-based maker of
bulk research-grade botulism and other toxins, allegedly
prepared a low-dose batch of botulism, supposedly equivalent to
the injectable cosmetic drug Botox, and sold it to Toxin
Research for about $30,000.  An osteopath, Bach McComb, first
obtained botulism from Toxin Research - and then direct from
List in a strength 20,000 times higher.  Witnesses say McComb
injected the List botulism that paralyzed himself and three
others in November.  The four are still being treated, AP
reports.

Company founder, Chad Livdahl, and the Company allegedly pitched
the bacteria for sale to 15,000 dermatologists, plastic surgeons
and other doctors nationally in 2003, government evidence
indicates.  One Livdahl e-mail on a promotional seminar was
titled "Proposal to make cash."  Mr. Livdahl, a microbiologist
and company owner, testified repeatedly that his sales were
intended for research only and not for human use in place of
Botox.

United States District Judge James Cohn granted the government's
request for an injunction to close the Company and its botulism
sales to doctors, saying it used misleading and deceptive
practices that are "likely to result in tragic consequences to
the unsuspecting consumer."

Robert Gehrke, Livdahl's attorney, said his client "was not
aware that some customers were using it on human beings," AP
reports.

A federal prosecutor told the judge that Toxin Research compared
Livdahl's unlicensed product to Botox to get around federal
regulations.


TRANSFINANCIAL HOLDINGS: Settlement Hearing Set February 8, 2005
----------------------------------------------------------------
The United States District Court for the Northern District of
California will hold a fairness hearing for a proposed
settlement amounting to $2.5 million in the TransFinancial
Stockholders Litigation on behalf of all persons who owned
publicly traded common stock issued by TransFinancial Holdings,
Inc. at any time from June 21, 1999 to the close of business on
April 29, 2002.

The Court has scheduled a fairness hearing to approve the
proposed settlement that will be held on February 8, 2005, at
9:00 a.m., before the Honrable Julie A. Robinson, United States
District Judge, at the United States Courthouse, District of
Kansas, 500 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas 66101.

For more details, contact the Settlement Administrator,
TransFinancial Stockholders Litigation, c/o Berdon Claims
Administration, LLC by Mail: P.O. Box 9014, Jericho, New York
11753-8914 by Phone: (800) 766-3330 by Fax: (516) 931-0810 or
visit their Web site: http://www.berdonllp.com/claims.


UNITED STATES: Senator Anticipates Litigation Bill's Passage
------------------------------------------------------------
Not long after congressional Republicans declared there would be
driving effort to pass a class-action litigation bill this year,
a key Democratic senator has said that such a bill may reach the
President's desk as early as late March, the BestWire Services
reports.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said this week that the bill, an
insurer-backed measure that would greatly reduce the number of
class actions filed in the United States, could sail through the
Senate if compromises hammered out during the last Congress were
retained in the current bill.

The Class Action Fairness Act stalled in the Senate last year,
where much of the GOP's legal-reform agenda faltered. The class-
action bill died in July after a 44-43 vote along party lines on
a procedural question; Republicans needed 60 yes votes on that
question to block a threatened Democratic filibuster but failed.
The Senate GOP leadership then declared the bill dead for the
year (BestWire, July 9. 2004).

But now, with a four-vote majority in the Senate, President Bush
and the GOP have aggressively been pursuing the party's legal-
reform agenda during the past two weeks. Bush has made public
appearances across the country in support of legislation capping
medical-malpractice jury awards and bringing an end to asbestos
lawsuits, the other two measures backed by insurers, business
interests and the GOP (BestWire, Jan. 5, 2005 and Jan. 7, 2005).

Dodd's announcement comes just after Senate Majority Leader Bill
Frist, R-Tenn., said the class-action bill will come to the
floor by the first week of February (BestWire, Jan. 7, 2005).

As drafted, the Class Action Fairness Act, S. 2062, moves large
class-action suits into federal courts with the goal of stopping
attorneys from "forum shopping" -- the practice of picking state
venues with a reputation for huge jury awards. The bill's
critics, mostly Democrats -- who historically are allied with
trial lawyers -- contend that moving cases into federal court
would make it far harder for victims to seek legitimate redress.
Neither opponents nor supporters dispute that the effect of the
law would be to greatly cut down on the number of class actions
filed in the United States.

The bill died amid partisan bickering in July. The House had
easily passed its version of the bill, and Senate Democratic and
Republican leaders hashed out a compromise in early 2004 that
garnered 62 votes for the bill. But the measure came up shortly
before Congress' summer break, and a number of lawmakers loaded
it down with non-germane amendments that eventually doomed its
passage.


UNUMPROVIDENT: MA Court Rejects Motion To Transfer Case's Venue
---------------------------------------------------------------
In one of the class actions pending against UnumProvident
(NYSE:UNM), a Federal Court in Massachusetts rejected a last-
minute tactical maneuver by UnumProvident that sought to avoid a
class certification hearing in the State's Superior Court. In an
extensive emergency Memorandum Opinion, Judge F. Dennis Saylor
rejected UnumProvident's attempt to transfer the case out of the
State's Superior Court and into the federal system just 45
minutes before a critical hearing on class certification. (Jewel
v. UnumProvident, No. CV 04-40262) UnumProvident also tried to
transfer the class action to Tennessee, where other class
actions were previously transferred in September 2003.

"UnumProvident must now face the hearing on class
certification," said Richard J. Quadrino, one of the attorneys
representing Plaintiffs and the class members in the suit. "The
federal court acted on an emergency basis because Plaintiffs and
the class members are also seeking emergency relief in the
Massachusetts Superior Court regarding the notices that are
being sent to disabled claimants under UnumProvident's recent
Regulatory Settlement Agreement ('RSA')." That Agreement between
UnumProvident, most of the States, and the U.S. Department of
Labor requires notices to be sent to all UnumProvident claimants
whose claims were denied or terminated in the last four years.
In the Massachusetts class action, known as Jewel et al.
UnumProvident et al., No. 03-2391-B, the Plaintiffs are seeking
a court order requiring UnumProvident to send additional notices
to the claimants, who are potential members of the Jewel class
action, letting them know of the existence of the case. These
additional Notices will enable the claimants to make an informed
choice as to whether to participate in the RSA or wait to see if
they can obtain more effective and comprehensive relief in the
Jewel class action.

A hearing in the Massachusetts Superior Court is now scheduled
for Wednesday, January 12, 2005 to address the requests for
relief on behalf of Plaintiffs and the class members.

The law firms of Mansfield Tanick & Cohen of Minneapolis,
Minnesota, Gilman & Pastor of Saugus, Massachusetts, Sandals &
Associates of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Quadrino & Schwartz
of Garden City, New York represent plaintiffs and the class
members in the case.

For more details, contact Carolyn Lau of Quadrino & Schwartz,
LLP by Phone: (516) 745-1122 by E-mail: cjl@quadrinoschwartz.com
or visit their Web site: www.unumprovidentclassaction.net or
http://www.disabilityinsurancelawyers.com.


WORLDCOM INC.: Directors' Settlement Challenged By Defendants
-------------------------------------------------------------
Banks involved in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over WorldCom
Inc.'s accounting fraud have expressed concerns about a proposed
settlement between investors and 10 former company directors,
according to court papers filed recently, Reuters reports.

Outlined in a letter by J.P. Morgan Chase and other defendants
who are not part of the settlement, the concerns center on
whether a jury could fairly decide the case if directors are not
involved in the trial.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who is overseeing the sprawling
class-action case, has yet to set a date to consider approval of
the settlement, but an objection by the banks could potentially
derail the agreement.

According to Judge Cote at a recently concluded hearing, if
preliminary approval of the settlement is not given, the former
company directors, who have agreed to pay $54 million, including
$18 million from personal funds, to end their involvement in the
lawsuit would have to stand trial starting on February 28.

The hearing came on the heels of a letter submitted by a group
of banks including J.P. Morgan (Research) and Deutsche Bank AG
in which they said they would be "severely prejudiced" if forced
to proceed to trial without the directors.

John Coffey, an attorney representing lead the plaintiff, the
New York State Common Retirement Fund, told Reuters he expected
the judge to move quickly to approve the settlement, which would
keep the former directors out of the trial. According to Mr.
Coffey, "The judge is being cautious and careful. We are
optimistic that the settlement will be preliminarily approved
and, ultimately, finally approved."

WorldCom, a star of the late 1990s telecommunications boom,
collapsed in 2002 in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history,
facing $41 billion in debt and an $11 billion accounting
scandal.

The class-action lawsuit, which now represents thousands of
investors, centers on WorldCom's accounting fraud as well as $17
billion in bond sales before the company's collapse. The
plaintiffs contend the underwriters of the bonds were aware of
financial problems at WorldCom, but hid that information from
investors.

The suit named 12 former WorldCom board members, accounting firm
Arthur Andersen and a group of banks involved with underwriting
the company's bond offerings.

WorldCom changed its name to MCI Inc. and emerged from
bankruptcy last year.


                   New Securities Fraud Cases


ATHEROGENICS INC.: Berman DeValerio Lodges Securities Suit in GA
----------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Berman DeValerio Pease Tabacco Burt & Pucillo
(www.bermanesq.com) initiated a class action lawsuit in the U.S.
District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta
Division against the AtheroGenics, Inc. ("AtheroGenics" or the
"Company") (Nasdaq:AGIX), claiming the pharmaceutical company
misled the public about the effectiveness of a new drug. The
lawsuit seeks damages for violations of federal securities laws
on behalf of all investors who bought AtheroGenics securities
from after hours trading on September 27, 2004 through and
including December 31, 2004 (the "Class Period").

The lawsuit claims that the defendants violated Sections 10(b)
and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the rules
and regulations promulgated thereunder, including U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") Rule 10b-5.

The complaint names as defendants: AtheroGenics; Russell
Medford, M.D., who was at all relevant times the Company's
President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director; Mark
Colonnese, who at all relevant times served as AtheroGenics'
Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President of Finance and
Administration, and Secretary; and Robert Scott, who at all
relevant times served as Senior Vice President of Clinical
Development and Regulatory Affairs and Chief Medical Officer.

The complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period,
AtheroGenics issued materially false and misleading statements
regarding the results of its CART-2 Phase IIb clinical trial for
its drug AGI-1067. Specifically, the Company materially
overstated AGI-1067's effect on plaque volume in atherosclerosis
patients, the lawsuit says.

On November 22, 2004, AtheroGenics stunned the public when it
announced that results from a clinical trial indicated that AGI-
1067 reduced plaque volume by only slightly more than half of
what the Company previously reported. The Company further
reported that the Phase IIb trial results indicated that the
difference in the regression of plaque in arteries between
treatment with AGI-1067 and Standard of Care regime was not
statistically significant.

As a result of the announcement, shares of the Company's stock
fell $4.87, or 15%, to close at $26.50 per share.

Then, on January 3, 2005, AtheroGenics further shocked investors
by announcing that the Company would have to increase enrollment
in its Phase III testing of AGI-1067 by 50%, from 4000 to 6000
patients, which would result in delays in completion of testing.

On this news, shares of AtheroGenics' stock fell an additional
$4.84, or 20.5%, to close at $18.72.

Finally, on January 5, 2005, AtheroGenics announced that the SEC
and NASD had commenced informal inquiries into the Company's
September 27, 2004 disclosures of results from the CART-2 trial
of AGI-1067.

For more details, contact Nicole R. Starr, Esq. or Jeffrey C.
Block, Esq. by Mail: One Liberty Square, Boston, MA 02109 by
Phone: (800) 516-9926 by E-mail: law@bermanesq.com or visit
their Web site:
http://www.bermanesq.com/pdf/AtheroGenics-Cplt.pdf.


CHINA AVIATION: Marc S. Henzel Files Securities Fraud Suit in NY
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices of Marc S. Henzel initiated a class action
lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York on behalf of purchasers of China Aviation
Oil (Singapore) Corporation Ltd. (Pink Sheets: CAOLF) publicly
traded securities during the period between February 5, 2004 and
November 30, 2004 (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges China Aviation and certain of its officers
and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. China Aviation trades in petroleum products, including jet
fuel, gas oil, fuel oil, crude oil, plastics and oil
derivatives.

The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, defendants
issued false and misleading statements regarding the Company's
business and prospects. As a result of the defendants' false
statements, China Aviation shares traded at inflated levels
during the Class Period, whereby the Company's top officers and
directors assisted the Company's parent company/controlling
shareholder in the sale of $120 million worth of its own shares.
The true facts, which were known by each of the defendants but
concealed from the investing public during the Class Period,
were as follows:

     (1) that contrary to the Company's prospectus, the Company
         did not have the necessary risk management controls in
         place for hedging and trading;

     (2) that contrary to the private placement offering
         documents, the funds raised were not to fund an
         acquisition of the controlling shareholders but rather
         to meet margin calls for massive derivative losses; and

     (3) that the Company's financial statements were grossly
         overstated or the Company was hiding liabilities
         totaling in excess of $550 million in derivative
         trading losses.

On November 30, 2004, Bloomberg reported that China Aviation was
seeking court protection after losing $550 million from bad bets
on oil prices. On this news, trading in the Company's shares was
suspended after the shares dropped to below $.60 per share.

For more details, contact the Law Offices of 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.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Brodsky & Smith Files Securities Suit in AZ
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices of Brodsky & Smith, LLC initiated a securities
class action lawsuit on behalf of shareholders who purchased the
common stock and other securities of TASER International, Inc.
("TASER" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:TASR), between November 4,
2004 and January 6, 2005 inclusive (the "Class Period"). The
class action lawsuit was filed in the United States District
Court for the District of Arizona.

The Complaint alleges that defendants violated federal
securities laws by issuing a series of material
misrepresentations to the market during the Class Period,
thereby artificially inflating the price of TASER securities. No
class has yet been certified in the above action.

For more details, contact Marc L. Ackerman, Esq. or Evan J.
Smith, Esq. of Brodsky & Smith, LLC by Phone: Two Bala Plaza,
Suite 602, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 by Phone: 877-LEGAL-90 by E-
mail: clients@brodsky-smith.com.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Charles J. Piven Lodges Stock Suit in AZ
-------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices Of Charles J. Piven, P.A. initiated a securities
class action on behalf of shareholders who purchased, converted,
exchanged or otherwise acquired the common stock of TASER
International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR) between November 4, 2004 and
January 6, 2005, inclusive (the "Class Period").

The case is pending in the United States District Court for the
District of Arizona against defendant TASER and one or more of
its officers and/or directors. 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. No class has yet been certified in the above action.

For more details, contact the Law Offices Of 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.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Lovell Stewart Lodges Securities Suit in NY
----------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Lovell Stewart Halebian LLP initiated a class
action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York on January 11, 2005 on behalf of
all persons who purchased, converted, exchanged, or otherwise
acquired the common stock of Taser International, Inc. ("Taser"
or the "Company") (NASDAQ: TASR) between May 29, 2003 and
January 6, 2005, inclusive, (the "Class Period") against
defendants Taser and certain officers and directors of the
Company.

The action, Casale v. Taser, International, Inc., et. al. is
pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of
New York (500 Pearl Street, New York, New York), Docket No. 05-
CV-00236 and has been assigned to the Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin,
U.S. District Judge.

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 May 29, 2003 and
January 6, 2005, thereby artificially inflating the price of
Taser securities. Throughout the Class Period, as alleged in the
Complaint, defendants issued numerous statements, which
described the Company's statements on the safety of its
products. The Complaint alleges that these 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 Taser M26 and X26 are unsafe,

     (2) that defendants knew or recklessly disregarded the fact
         that the Company's Taser M26 and X26 have safety
         concerns,

     (3) that defendants knew or recklessly disregarded the fact
         that the Company's M26's and X26's severe safety
         concerns were likely to limit the long term
         marketability of the Taser M26 and X26, and

     (4) that the defendants failed to warn the public of the
         potential harm of the Company's M26 and X26, in order
         to preserve the Company's profits from the "stun" guns.

On January 6, 2005, after the market closed, the Company issued
a press release entitled "Taser International, Inc. Cooperates
with SEC Informal Inquiry." In the press release, the Company
announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission is
beginning an inquiry into claims and statements made by Taser on
the safety of its stun guns. Further, as stated in the press
release, the SEC is also looking into an end of year order
totaling $1.5 million.

For more details, contact Christopher Lovell of Lovell Stewart
Halebian, LLP by Phone: 212-608-1900 or visit their Web site:
http://www.lshllp.com.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Marc S. Henzel Lodges Securities Suit in AZ
----------------------------------------------------------------
The Law Offices of Marc S. Henzel initiated a class action
lawsuit in the United States District Court for the United
States District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of
purchasers of TASER International, Inc. (NASDAQ: TASR) common
stock during the period between November 4, 2004 and January 6,
2005 (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges TASER and certain of its officers and
directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934. TASER purports to provide advanced non-lethal devices for
use in the law enforcement, military, private security and
personal defense markets.

The complaint alleges that, throughout the Class Period,
defendants issued numerous statements concerning the increasing
demand for the Company's Taser devices and the positive results
of studies that were conducted regarding the safety of the
Company's products. As alleged in the complaint, these
statements were materially false and misleading because they
failed to disclose:

     (1) that, contrary to defendants' representations, the
         studies conducted on the Company's Taser devices were
         inconclusive as to the safety of the devices;

     (2) that the Company's revenues and earnings would be
         negatively impacted once the truth of these studies
         became known;

     (3) that the "last minute" order of Taser devices the
         Company had received from one of its distributors was
         done to help the Company meet its sales goals for the
         quarter and was not indicative of the true demand for
         the Company's products; and

     (4) based on the foregoing, defendants had no reasonable
         basis for their positive statements regarding the
         safety of, and demand for, the Company's products.

On January 6, 2005, after the close of the market, defendants
disclosed that they were in receipt of an informal inquiry
letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the
Company's statements about the safety of its products and a
recent order received from one of its distributors. Market
reaction to this announcement was swift and severe. On January
7, 2005, shares of TASER common stock closed at $22.72 per
share, a decline of $4.90 per share, or 18%, from the previous
day's close.

For more details, contact the Law Offices of 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.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Schatz & Nobel Lodges Securities Suit in AZ
----------------------------------------------------------------
The law firm of Schatz & Nobel, P.C., initiated a lawsuit
seeking class action status in the United States District Court
for the District of Arizona on behalf of all persons who
purchased the publicly traded securities of TASER International,
Inc. (NasdaqNM: TASR) ("TASER") between November 4, 2004 and
January 6, 2005 (the "Class Period").

The Complaint alleges that TASER violated federal securities
laws by issuing false or misleading public statements.
Specifically the complaint alleges that TASER issued statements
concerning the increasing demand for Taser devices and positive
results from studies on their safety. However, as alleged in the
Complaint, these statements were materially false and misleading
because they failed to disclose the fact that the studies were
inconclusive as to safety and because a "last minute" order of
Taser devices was done to help TASER meet its sales goals and
was not indicative of the true demand for its products. On
January 6, 2005, TASER disclosed it was in receipt of an
informal inquiry letter from the Securities and Exchange
Commission in regard to these statements. On January 7, 2005,
shares of TASER common stock closed at $22.72 per share, down
from a close of $27.62 per share the previous day.

For more details, contact Wayne T. Boulton by Phone:
(800) 797-5499 by E-mail: sn06106@aol.com or visit their Web
site: http://www.snlaw.net.


TASER INTERNATIONAL: Schiffrin & Barroway Files Stock Suit in AZ
----------------------------------------------------------------
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 securities purchasers of
TASER International, Inc. (Nasdaq: TASR) ("TASER" or the
"Company") between October 19, 2004 and January 10, 2005
inclusive (the "Class Period").

The complaint charges TASER, Phillips Smith, Patrick Smith, and
Thomas Smith with violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated
thereunder. More specifically, the complaint alleges that the
Company failed to disclose and misrepresented the following
material adverse facts known to defendants or recklessly
disregarded by them:

     (1) that the Company actively and continually obscured the
         truth about the safety of its TASERs;

     (2) that even after it was revealed that more than 70
         people had died in North America in TASER-related
         incidents, the Company vehemently asserted that its
         weapons were safe, in order to maintain profitability;

     (3) that the Defendants accelerated the Davidson's deal in
         the fourth quarter of 2004, in order to book the
         revenue, so TASER did not have to report its first
         quarter-to-quarter revenue decline in nearly two years;
         and

     (4) as a result, the Company lacked any reasonable basis
         for any statements it made regarding profitability and
         safety.

On January 6, 2005, just before midnight, TASER announced that
it was cooperating with an informal inquiry letter from the SEC
regarding the safety of TASER(R) products and a recent order
received from Davidson's, Inc. This news shocked the market.
Shares of TASER fell $4.90 per share, or 17.74 percent, on
January 7, 2005, to close at 22.72 per share. Then on Monday,
January 10, 2005, TASER shares tumbled another $2.67 per share
or 11.75 percent, to close at $20.05 per share. On January 11,
2005, TASER released a letter to its shareholders and customers
regarding the SEC investigation and the general state of the
Company. Following the announcement, shares of TASER were down
another $5.95 per share or 29.68 percent on January 11, 2005,
and last traded at $14.10 per share.

For more details, contact Marc A. Topaz, Esq. or Darren J.
Check, Esq. of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP by Mail: Three Bala
Plaza East, Suite 400, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 by Phone:
1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706 or by E-mail:
info@sbclasslaw.com.


                            *********


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

Each Friday's edition of the CAR includes a section featuring
news on asbestos-related litigation and profiles of target
asbestos defendants that, according to independent researches,
collectively face billions of dollars in asbestos-related
liabilities.

                            *********


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Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by
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Copyright 2005.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1525-2272.

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