/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/991125.MBX                 C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

                Thursday, November 25, 1999, Vol. 1, No. 207


AGRIBIOTECH INC: Will Defend Consolidated Securities Suit in Nevada
ASBESTOS LITIGATION: NJLJ Says Lawyers in Southdown Case Stir up Dust
ASBESTOS TOBACCO: Trust Of Bankrupt Asb. Maker Can't Sue Tob. Concerns
BENCHMARK ELECTRONICS: Schiffrin & Barroway File Securities Suit in TX
CENTOCOR INC: Abbey, Gardy Announces Dismissal of Penn. Securities Case

COCA-COLA BOTTLER: LA Company Sued Over OT Pay for Account Managers
CYPRUS AMAX: Judge Will Not Bar Asarco Merger But Criticizes Pact
EMPLOYERS INS.: Must Defend Parts Of Kent Suit over Burial Misconduct
FEN-PHEN: AHP's Diet Drug Settlement Receives Preliminary Approval
FORD MOTOR: Illinois Suit Claims That Paint Jobs On Vehicles Are Faulty

HMO: REPAIR Team Files National RICO & ERISA Suits v. 5 Giant Operators
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Heirs in LA Settle with Assicurazioni Generali
HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Porsche Joins Companies In Compensation Fund
INMATES LITIGATION: Fd Judge Bans Use of Chair for Restraint in Ventura
JOHN HANCOCK: Boston Insurer Settles Deceptive-Sales Suits for $713 Mil

METRO GLOBAL: Rabin & Peckel File Securities Suit in Rhode Island
MICROSOFT CORP: Recapture of Antitrust Suits; Commentaries; Projections
MICROSOFT CORP: The Washington Times Says Lawsuit Helps Bankroll Gore
NAVIGANT CONSULTING: Kirby McInerney Files Securities Suit in Illinois
PHILLIPS PETROLEUM: Settles for 1987 Rail-Car Fire in New Orleans

PHOENIX INT'L: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in Florida
PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE: Fl Ins Commissioner Tells Fd Judge of New Charges
RIBOZYME PHARMACEUTICALS: Nationwide Securities Suit Filed in Colorado
SAFETY COMPONENTS: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in New Jersey
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Can. Report Says Documents Show Targeting of Kids

UPS: Responds to Reports on Ohio Suit; Denies Charges on Insurance Fees
VITAFORT INT'L: CA Appellant Ct Affirms Dismissal of Investor's Suit

* A Brief Review Of the Asbestos Issue Since The 50s
* Atlanta Y2K hotline: 404-521-2000


AGRIBIOTECH INC: Will Defend Consolidated Securities Suit in Nevada
Between January 14, 1999 and March 19, 1999, a number of securities
class action complaints were filed against ABT and certain of its former
directors and current and former officers in federal courts in New
Mexico, New York and Nevada. All cases have been transferred to the
United States District Court for the District of Nevada and consolidated
into one action. On July 6, 1999, a consolidated amended complaint was
filed by plaintiffs purporting to represent a class of purchasers of ABT
common stock from September 24, 1997 through February 16, 1999. The
complaint alleges, among other things, that ABT's financial statements,
including the accounting treatment for acquisitions completed in 1997
and 1998, and certain statements made by ABT concerning its efforts to
find a strategic equity investor in late 1998 and early 1999 and other
topics were false and misleading and caused an artificial rise in ABT's
common stock price in violation of federal securities law. On August 18,
1999, ABT filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiffs have
filed a brief in response to ABT's motion and ABT has responded to that
brief. ABT believes it has meritorious defenses to this action and
intends to defend itself vigorously. However, due to the risks of
litigation, a prediction of the final outcome of these proceedings
cannot be made with certainty, and an unfavorable result in this action
could have a material adverse impact.

ASBESTOS LITIGATION: NJLJ Says Lawyers in Southdown Case Stir up Dust
Until Oct. 26, the battle between a group of homeowners in Sparta and
the nearby limestone quarry was low-key: just a few neighbors
complaining about noise, night lights, smells and dust emanating from
the site, which had been recently taken over by a giant cement
manufacturer. True, the organized group had put pressure on the township
and the company, turning out strong at council meetings and holding a
July rally, with vows to petition for a change of the form of government
to kick the mayor and council out. Even when the town fathers formed a
study committee in response, they remained sympathetic to Houston-based
Southdown Inc., which had bought the quarry in 1998 in a $1 billion
stock deal.

All bets were off on Oct. 26, when Southdown announced the results of an
air-quality study, done in September under the auspices of the state
Department of Environmental Protection. It confirmed that tiny fibers
generated from the pulverizing and grinding of limestone into powder
were indeed being emitted from the quarry.

The current battle line has the residents and now the township saying
shut the quarry down now to be safe, while Southdown says it shouldn't
be punished in any way absent a show of some problem, or regulatory
violation. Southdown said that it was "unlikely" that any facet of the
operation would liberate, or release into the air, "asbestiform
amphibole (fibrous tremolite.)."

The DEP, in a companion statement, said it would review and analyze the
results and make "a determination of what action, if anything, needs to
be taken." The analysis, said DEP officials, would take 60 to 90 days.
That was too long a wait for Donna Rubin, the homeowner leader, and her
neighbors. In July, Rubin and the others had brought in their own
expert, California geologist and physician Mark Germine, who issued a
report saying that he found a sample of at least 1,000 tremolite
asbestos fibers per square inch in an air-conditioning unit of a house
in Sparta's Sussex Mills section, where the quarry is located. Germine
said such levels could be dangerous for children, who could be at
increased risk for developing lung cancer from the exposure.

Rubin and others contacted Michael Gordon, of West Orange's Gordon &
Gordon, and within 10 days, on Nov. 5, he notified the DEP, the state
attorney general, Sparta, and Southdown of his intention to sue all
parties "for the discharge of hazardous and toxic substances" under the
state's Environmental Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:35A-1 et seq. The act
requires a 30-day notice prior to plaintiffs' filing individually or as
a class.

Gordon immediately brought into the case the country's biggest asbestos
class-action plaintiffs' firm: 80-lawyer Ness, Motley, Loadhoalt,
Richardson & Poole, of Charleston, S.C. For Gordon, it was an
opportunity to capitalize on a relationship already cultivated with
Ness, Motley, which was lead counsel for New Jersey in its 1996 suit
against the big tobacco companies, and was involved in the
representation of 24 other states in the coordinated state actions
against the industry. Those 46 suits -- four states had previously
settled independently -- ended with a $206 billion settlement last fall.
New Jersey is set to receive $7.6 billion.

Gordon & Gordon was among the six New Jersey firms that served as local
counsel on the state team. The lawyers, including Gordon's brother and
partner, Harrison Gordon, were all top officials with the Association of
Trial Lawyers-New Jersey. In fact, five of the lawyers on the contract
were former ATLA-NJ presidents. *See, "A $350M Boardwalk Bonanza," 157
N.J.L.J. 1277, Sept. 27, 1999.*

The lead lawyer in the New Jersey tobacco litigation, Ness, Motley
partner Susan Nial, has signed on with Gordon & Gordon, according to
Michael Gordon, who says that his firm had done some mass-tort work and
therefore reviewed many of the pleadings before Nial submitted them in
Superior Court in New Brunswick.

Through name partner Ronald Motley, the South Carolina firm has and
continues to represent plaintiff classes and building owners in suits
against the major asbestos manufacturers in about a dozen states. The
major defendants include the former Johns- Manville Co., W.R. Grace,
Pittsburgh Corning Corp., GAF Corp. and National Gypsum.
Gordon himself has been involved in mass-tort litigation since
representing residents of the Ironbound section of Newark in the Dioxin
case against Diamond Shamrock in the 1970s.

                        Township Jumps Into Fray

As if facing Ness, Motley wasn't enough, Southdown is now battling
Sparta Township, whose officials had been defending the quarry against
its resident critics for most of the past year. Following the company's
Oct. 26 press release admitting that fibers are being emitted from the
operation, and with some 70 residents showing up to demand action at a
township council meeting that night, council members instructed township
attorney Brian Laddey to try to shut the quarry down pending the DEP's
final report. Laddey went to court last Tuesday, but Superior Court
Judge Reginald Stanton refused to grant a temporary restraining order
absent any proof there is a problem.

Southdown outside counsel, Sy Gruza of the multistate firm of Beveridge
& Diamond, cited a line of cases that he said argued against such action
just based upon speculation. Gruza, with the firm's New York office,
said that the quarry, which has been in operation since 1918, has all
its state and federal environmental permits, and believes that the
air-quality analysis being conducted by the DEP will not show any danger
to the neighborhood.

Laddey, a name partner with Sparta's Laddey, Clark & Ryan, had raised
questions about whether all the permits had been secured.

Stanton, though, declined to rule on any substantive matter, saying that
he first needed to determine what permits are in fact required to
operate the quarry, and then, whether Southdown had them.

To that end, he said he would sign an order to show cause for both the
company and the DEP, returnable Nov. 24, saying that he will ask DEP
officials to explain "whether permits for discharging ... are necessary
under the state and federal regulatory schemes, and if permits are
required, does Southdown have them."

Laddey noticed the DEP's Office of Legal Affairs, saying in his court
papers he had let Michael Marotta, a lawyer with that office, know that
the judge wanted the DEP represented at the hearing. But no one showed
for the DEP. A call to Marotta was not returned.

Stanton said further, that in light of the claims of a potential health
hazard in Laddey's motion papers, he would also push the DEP on why the
analysis will take up to 90 days. He said, though, that if any required
permits are not in place, he would shut the quarry down.

Laddey, like plaintiff lawyer Gordon, says the township now fears that
release of tremolite fibers "may have the characteristics of respirable
asbestos which may be carcinogenic...."

And Gordon, who attended the hearing with his main client, homeowner
Rubin, and two other neighbors, said following the session that he
believes a permit is required to emit tremolite fibers, "and I suspect
that Southdown doesn't have them." He also chided the DEP for not
showing up at the hearing.

Gruza, Southdown's council, reiterated the position taken by the company
for the last year. The quarry has been operating without problems for
more than eight decades, with no reported health problems from air- or
water-quality violations.

But Laddey and Gordon say that after the longtime local owner, Paul
Viall, sold the quarry to Medusa Corp. in 1997, the quarry expanded
operations. This expansion accelerated after Medusa was acquired in
March 1998 by Southdown, a publicly traded company with sales above $1
billion this year. Specifically, they say Southdown began a new process
known as "pelletizing" limestone, and though the quarry under local
ownership also worked 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, the operation
got bigger in late 1998.

Still, to date there is no proof anyone is sick -- Gordon says initial
testing suggests some neighbors may have respiratory problems but he
won't say who or what -- or that any fibers have even reached any
households. In its Oct. 26 statement, Southdown said that a January 1999
random sampling conducted by federal mine and health officials found no
fibers in any of the quarry workers examined. It also said that the
state's chief geologist Richard Volkert examined the operation in 1998
and concluded there was little likelihood of any harm to anyone from
"the extremely small amount of tremolite present in the marble ... at
the quarry." Among the remedies Gordon says he may seek in his notice of
intent is medical monitoring, which he has done, as do other plaintiffs'
counsel in other mass-tort cases. And, of course, attorneys' fees. (New
Jersey Law Journal, 158 N.J.L.J. 561, Nov-15-1999)

ASBESTOS TOBACCO: Trust Of Bankrupt Asb. Maker Can't Sue Tob. Concerns
The Trust arising from the settlement in Manville asbestos litigation
brought suit against defendant tobacco companies on the ground that the
tobacco companies "hid the direct effects of smoking" and the
"synergetic effects of simultaneous exposure to tobacco smoke and
asbestos." The issue involved the jurisdiction of the court, sitting in
bankruptcy, to hear the case. In dismissing the claim, the court noted
that it did not "relate to" any provision in the Bankruptcy Code, the
debtor is not a party to the tobacco case and the language creating the
settlement plan did not give post-confirmation jurisdiction over a case
of this type. It added that the continuing jurisdiction of federal
courts over litigation involving a long-established trust is limited to
such "relatively minor" matters as interpreting prior orders and
regulating the processing of claims.

Judge Weinstein
Falise V. The American Tobacco Company QDS:03761794.

Plaintiffs represent a Trust established in 1988 as a result of the
bankruptcy of Johns-Manville Corporation (Manville), a producer of
asbestos products. Defendants are the major tobacco product
manufacturers and related entities (Tobacco). The Trust seeks recovery
for Tobacco's role in contributing to asbestos related injuries. Among
other theories, the Trust argues that had it been aware of the malign
synergistic medical effect of smoking on those claiming compensation
because of exposure to Manville's asbestos, either it or Manville would
have sued Tobacco years ago for contribution.

All of plaintiffs' claims are based upon state law. They nonetheless
allege federal subject matter jurisdiction (competence of the district
court) predicated upon the federal courts' role in establishing the
Trust in the bankruptcy proceeding and its continuing power over Trust.
The action was assigned to the judge of the Eastern District of New York
sitting by designation in the district court for the Southern District
of New York.

Defendants move to dismiss on the ground that the federal courts lack
competence to adjudicate the case. The motion must be granted. It is,
therefore, unnecessary to address defendants' summary judgment motion
arguing that the evidence cannot support a recovery predicated on the
Trust's substantive theory.

Dismissal is mandated because bankruptcy courts possess only limited
competence. This deficiency is particularly apparent where, as in the
instant case, the plan of reorganization has already been confirmed, and
the bankruptcy proceeding terminated. Continuing jurisdiction of federal
courts over litigation affecting a long-established trust such as this
one is limited to relatively minor matters such as interpreting prior
orders and regulating the processing of claims. It does not extend to a
major suit brought by the Trust against those not a party to the
bankruptcy or to any closely related proceeding.

                        Analysis of the Four Factors

* Debtor

The debtor, Manville, is not a party to this litigation - and has been
freed of any connection to all asbestos litigation by both the
termination of the bankruptcy proceedings and a special Congressional
statute providing a safe harbor, see 11 U.S.C. @ 524(g), (h). Instead,
an entity that was a product of the bankruptcy proceeding, the Trust,
has sued a third party for money allegedly owed to it.

* Administration of the Bankruptcy Case

The bankruptcy case was terminated in 1988. 'See Kane, 843 F.2d 636.
While it is true that jurisdiction can continue to ensure that the plan
is complied with, this is a limited grant:

[A] court may retain jurisdiction, after confirmation, to guarantee that
the plan of reorganization is complied with, but it may not keep the
[debtor] corporation in 'perpetual tutelage' by exercising control over
all aspects of the corporate conduct or by assuming jurisdiction over
controversies between the reorganized corporation and third parties.

Claybrook Drilling Co. v. Divanco, Inc. (In re Divanco, Inc.), 336 F.2d
697, 701 (10th Cir. 1964).

A court's jurisdiction is limited under such circumstances "to 'protect
its confirmation decree, to prevent interference with the execution of
the plan and to aid otherwise in its operation.'" Pennsylvania Cos. Inc.
v. Stone (In re Greenley Energy Holdings, Inc.), 110 B.R. 173, 180
(Bankr. E.D. Pa. 1990) (quoting In re Dilbert's Quality Supermarkets,
Inc., 368 F.2d 922, 924 (2d Cir. 1966)). The instant litigation,
however, is not brought to further these purposes. While plaintiffs
contend that the Plan is interfered with because of the limited funds
that the Trust possesses, this is an insufficient basis for
jurisdiction. See infra Subparts IV.A.2-4.

* Bankruptcy Estate

Litigation to which the debtor is not a party can also fall within the
"related to" jurisdictional grant as long as it has an impact on the
bankruptcy estate. See, e.g., National Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Titan
Energy, Inc. (In re Titan Energy, Inc.), 837 F.2d 325, 330 (8th Cir.
1988); In re Pan Am. Sch. of Travel, Inc., 47 B.R. 242 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y.
1985); Collier, supra, P 3.01[4][c][ii], at 3-23 to 3-24, 3-31; see also
North Am. Car Corp. v. Peerless Weighing & Vending Mach. Corp., 143 F.2d
938, 940 (2d Cir. 1944) (pre-Code decision discussing limited
post-confirmation involvement of bankruptcy court).

A bankruptcy estate is created when a bankruptcy case is commenced, see
id. @ 541(a), and includes a wide range of property interests, see id.
The confirmation of the plan in a Chapter 11 reorganization generally
terminates the debtor's estate. See 11 U.S.C. @ 1141(b) (except as
otherwise provided in the plan or the order confirming the plan, the
confirmation of a plan vests all of the property of the estate of the
debtor); Hillis Motors, Inc. v. Hawaii Auto. Dealers' Ass'n, 997 F.2d
581, 587 (9th Cir. 1993); United States v. Unger, 949 F.2d 231, 233 (8th
Cir. 1991); Portfolio Lease Funding Corp. v. Seagate Tech., Inc. (In re
Atlantic Computer Sys., Inc.), 163 B.R. 704 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1994)
("confirmation and substantial consummation of the Debtor's Joint Plan
means that this Debtor's estate no longer exists").

As Judge Lifland has held, "confirmation and substantial consummation of
the Debtor's Joint Plan means that this Debtor's estate no longer
exists. Thus, this adversary proceeding, while it might affect the
post-confirmation, liquidated [debtor] or its parent corporation (holder
of the residue interest in the remaining undistributed cash held by the
Trusts), cannot affect the Debtor's non-existent estate." In re Atlantic
Computer Sys., Inc., 163 B.R. 704, 706 (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. 1994) (internal
citations omitted). Because there is presently no bankruptcy estate,
there can be no continuing jurisdiction over that nonexistent estate.

* Distribution to Creditors

The claimants to the Trust's assets were and are - in a sense -
creditors of Manville. This litigation might impact the distribution of
the Trust by increasing assets available to the claimants. This impact,
however, is only relevant to the issue of bankruptcy jurisdiction when
it affects the pre-confirmation estate. For reasons discussed in more
detail below, see infra Subparts IV.A.2-4, the mere possibility of
increasing the size of the Trust's assets post -confirmation is
insufficient to create jurisdiction.

The claimants are not creditors of the estate. They are claimants
entitled to rights under a fixed matrix and procedures against the
Trust. They can not, therefore, claim that jurisdiction is proper under
such a theory.


As the analysis of these four factors makes clear, bankruptcy
jurisdiction is extremely limited after a plan has been confirmed. Once
confirmation has taken place, the estate is usually terminated, and any
impact affects the parties who were involved in the bankruptcy
proceedings but not the proceedings themselves. (New York Law Journal

BENCHMARK ELECTRONICS: Schiffrin & Barroway File Securities Suit in TX
The following statement was issued on November 23, 1999 by the law firm
of Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP:

Notice is hereby given that a class action lawsuit was filed in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas on
behalf of all purchasers of the common stock of Benchmark Electronics,
Inc. (NYSE: BHE) from August 10, 1999 through October 21, 1999 inclusive
(the "Class Period").

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this
notice or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please
contact Schiffrin & Barroway, LLP (Stuart L. Berman, Esq.) toll free at
1-888-299-7706 or 1-610-667-7706, or via e-mail at info@sbclasslaw.com.

The complaint charges Benchmark Electronics and certain of its officers
and directors with issuing false and misleading statements concerning
the Company's financial condition.

If you are a member of the class described above, you may, not later
than January 18, 2000, move the Court to serve as lead plaintiff of the
class, if you so choose. In order to serve as lead plaintiff, however,
you must meet certain legal requirements. Contact: Schiffrin & Barroway,
LLP Stuart L. Berman, Esq., 888/299-7706 or 610/667-7706 or by e-mail
at: info@sbclasslaw.com

CENTOCOR INC: Abbey, Gardy Announces Dismissal of Penn. Securities Case
Abbey, Gardy & Squitieri announced on November 24, 1999 the following:





TO: All Purchasers of common stock of Centocor, Inc. ("CNTO") during the
period from December 2, 1997 through and including December 16, 1997
(the "class period") who sustained damage as a result of a such

YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED, pursuant to an Order of this Court and Rules
23(e) and 41(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, that the
above-captioned consolidated litigation will be dismissed with


Over the past several months, plaintiffs' counsel have reviewed
thousands of pages of documents produced by defendants and various
non-parties and conducted seven depositions in this matter. Based on
their analysis, it is the view of plaintiffs' counsel that the discovery
conducted does not sufficiently support plaintiffs' claims such that
plaintiffs would be able to withstand a motion for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

As a result, plaintiffs have sought the Court's permission to dismiss
this case against the defendants with prejudice. "With prejudice" means
without the ability to institute the same claims against the same
defendants in the future. You have thirty days from the date of this
Notice to communicate any inquiries or objections to this dismissal.
Your communications should be directed to co-lead counsel.


There is no agreement or understanding of any kind between plaintiffs'
counsel and defendants and/or their counsel that is any way associated
with this litigation or the pending dismissal.

All pleadings and papers filed in this litigation are available for
inspection during normal business hours at the offices of the Clerk of
the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
United States Courthouse, 601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

All inquiries regarding this case should be addressed to Plaintiffs'
Lead Counsel designated by the Court to represent the Class in this

Deborah R. Gross, Esquire   Jill Abrams, Esquire LAW OFFICES ABBEY,
GARDY & SQUITIERI, LLP BERNARD M. GROSS PC    212 East 39th Street 1600
Walnut Street, Sixth Floor New York, NY 10016 Philadelphia, PA 19102
jabrams@a-g-s.com debbie@bernardmgross.com



If you purchased CNTO common stock from December 2, 1997 through and
including December 16, 1997 for beneficial holders or are acting as an
administrator or executor for any entities that purchased CNTO common
stock during the Class Period, you are requested either to send a copy
of this Notice immediately by first-class mail to any beneficial
owner(s) of such securities or any heir(s) or other person(s) to whom
you previously sent copies of the March 19, 1999 Notice of Proposed
Pendency of Class Action in this matter. STOCKHOLDERS HAVE THIRTY (30)
DISMISSAL. You may obtain additional copies of this Notice of Dismissal
by writing to either of the above addresses. Please direct requests for
reimbursement of reasonable expenses incurred in connection with
providing notice to beneficial owners via a sworn statement to
Plaintiffs' Lead Counsel.

Dated: September , 1999


Contact: Jill Abrams, Esquire of Abbey, Gardy & Squitieri, LLP,
212-889-3700 or jabrams@a-g-s.com; or Deborah R. Gross, Esquire of Law
Offices of Bernard M. Gross PC, debbie@bernardmgross.com

COCA-COLA BOTTLER: LA Company Sued Over OT Pay for Account Managers
BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles is being sued for allegedly
failing to pay overtime benefits to account managers. The suit, filed in
Los Angeles County Superior Court by nine past and current account
managers, contends that the company improperly classified them as exempt
employees so it didn't have to pay them overtime. The lawsuit, which is
seeking class-action status, could potentially affect 5,000 past and
current Coke employees in California, according to the plaintiffs' law
firm, Stewart, Estes & McDonnell of Nashville. A spokesman for the
bottler did not immediately return a call seeking comment. (Los Angeles
Times Nov-24-1999)

CYPRUS AMAX: Judge Will Not Bar Asarco Merger But Criticizes Pact
Although he refused to stop the marriage of Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. and
Asarco Inc., Chancellor William Chandler said that even the decision to
not negotiate with other potential suitors must be an informed one. The
ruling might make corporate boards think twice about agreeing to the
more restrictive versions of "no-talk" pacts with their prospective
merger mates. Phelps Dodge Corp. v. Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. (Corporate
Officers and Directors Liability Litigation Reporter,Vol. 14; No. 24,

EMPLOYERS INS.: Must Defend Parts Of Kent Suit over Burial Misconduct
An appellate panel in Kentucky has ordered an insurer to defend parts of
a class action lawsuit stemming from allegedly tortious and criminal
misconduct by a cemetery corporation and three of its officials.
Martinez et al. v. Employers Insurance of Wausau et al., No.
97-CA-001931-MR (KY Ct. App., Oct. 8, 1999).

The dismissal of criminal charges against the officials and company
means the insurer cannot deny coverage on the basis of a policy
exclusion for willful violation of a criminal statute.

In 1989, the Kentucky Attorney General sued Louisville Crematory and
Cemeteries Co. Inc. and three of its officials for unfair and deceptive
practices. The suit alleged the intentional overburial of bodies,
failure to comply with a perpetual care trust fund statute, and other
violations. Claims by individuals were consolidated with the state's
civil action. In addition, the company and the individuals were
indicted, but all criminal charges were dismissed under a pre-trial
diversion agreement.

The company's insurer, Employers Insurance of Wausau, intervened seeking
a declaratory judgment on the coverage issue and won summary judgment in
Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The court of appeals modified, finding some of the underlying claims
were covered under the policy's cemetery professional liability

As to bodily injury coverage and the allegations of intentional
infliction of emotional distress, the exclusion for willful violation of
a penal statute is inapplicable because the corporation and its
officials are presumed innocent of any crimes, the panel said. The fact
they were charged in an indictment is of no consequence because the
charges were dismissed, it said.

Second, it found coverage of claims based on property damage to the
bodies, saying no policy exclusions apply.

However, it found no coverage under the corporation's multi-peril
policies because they deal only with unintended acts, accidents, and
property damage during the policy periods. They do not cover contractual
or commercial losses or intentional actions, such as the deliberate
overburial of graves for more than 75 years.

Cecil Davenport, J. Leonard Rosenberg, Laura L. Spaulding, and David S.
Davis of Louisville, KY, represented the plaintiffs.

Elizabeth Ullmer Mendel of Woodward, Hobson & Fulton in Louisville
argued for the insurer. Gary R. Hillerich of Louisville appeared for the
individual defendants. (Corporate Officers and Directors Liability
Litigation Reporter, Vol. 14; No. 24; Pg. 9, Oct-25-1999)

FEN-PHEN: AHP's Diet Drug Settlement Receives Preliminary Approval
A federal judge has given preliminary approval to American Home
Product's national settlement with people who took the fen-phen diet
drug combination, the company said Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Louis
Bechtle, who approved the proposed $3.75 billion settlement, will hold a
hearing on the settlement's fairness during the week of May 1.

American Home made fenfluramine - the "fen" in fen-phen. It sold that
drug under the brand name Pondimin, along with a similar drug called
Redux. The two drugs were recalled two years ago after they were linked
to heart and lung damage. Phentermine, the other half of the fen-phen
mix, hasn't been linked to problems when taken alone. It is made by
another company and is still on the market.

The proposed settlement includes $1 billion for a medical-monitoring
program for people who used the drugs but have suffered no apparent ill
effects, and $ 2.55 billion for payments to people with significant
heart-valve disease. Up to $429 million would go to the plaintiffs'
attorneys. The class-action settlement is open to anyone in the United
States who used the drugs regardless of whether they have lawsuits
pending against the drugmaker.

About 6 million people used the drugs. The company says it has been sued
by 11,000 fen-phen users, although some attorneys believe the number is
considerably higher.

American Home can terminate the deal if it decides too many people
refuse to participate. A 120-day public notice period will begin
December 1 and end March 30. (The Associated Press Nov-23-1999)

FORD MOTOR: Illinois Suit Claims That Paint Jobs On Vehicles Are Faulty
A Wood River law firm that sued Chrysler over its paint jobs has filed a
class-action claim against Ford over the same issue. The suit was filed
in circuit court in Madison County on behalf of Joyce Elaine Phillips of
Bethalto, who had complaints about her 1990 Ford Taurus. The complaint
alleges that Ford has known for years that a process begun in 1983 led
to defective paint jobs and failed to inform consumers.

Brad Lakin of the Lakin law firm, which filed the suit last month on
behalf of Phillips and others, said his firm filed suit in 1997 against
Chrysler over the same process, which goes by the commercial brand name
of Ecoat.

Jim Cain, a Ford spokesman specializing in suits, responded, "Paint
class actions like this lawsuit have been around for years. It's an
attempt by plaintiff's attorneys to cash in on a defect that doesn't

Phillips' suit alleges that when Ford eliminated an epoxy primer as the
first step in the painting process, it allowed ultraviolet light to
destroy paint jobs and that by not telling consumers, Ford committed
fraud and deceptive practices. The suit seeks for Ford to pay the cost
of new paint jobs, typically up to $ 5,000 per car.

Cain countered that the Ecoat process was done to improve protection
against corrosion to benefit consumers.

Lakin said the merits of the suit against Chrysler, filed in 1997, have
not been argued as the two sides have fought over where the suit should
be heard - state or federal court. Cain said other class-action suits
have be en dismissed for jurisdictional reasons and because plaintiffs
must prove that only the Ecoat process is responsible.

"There are a lot of different reasons why paint peels that have nothing
to do with how the car was built," Cain said. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch

HMO: REPAIR Team Files National RICO & ERISA Suits v. 5 Giant Operators
Seeking to change an entire industry's practice of putting profits
before patient care, the REPAIR Legal Team announced on November 23,
1999 it has filed national class action lawsuits against five of the
country's largest HMO operators, collectively providing health care to
approximately 32 million people.

The five lawsuits charge Cigna Corporation, Foundation Health Systems,
Inc., Humana Inc., PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc., and The Prudential
Insurance Company of America (acquired by Aetna recently) with
violations of the Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations
Act (RICO) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). On
October 7, the REPAIR Team filed a similar lawsuit against the nation's
largest HMO operator, Aetna.

"We're acting today to fix the broken promises the HMO industry has made
to the people who entrust their very lives to these companies," said
REPAIR Team attorney Richard Scruggs. "We will ensure that M.D.s -- not
M.B.A.s or C.P.A.s -- will determine patient treatment," Scruggs said.
"But we will also insist that these changes go beyond the window
dressing of the UnitedHealth Group and ensure that doctors actually get
true final say. That means an end to all interference in the
doctor-patient relationship -- both before and after the fact. It means
an end to doctor 'profiling.' And it means bringing their compensation
policies, disease definitions, covered benefits and treatment guidelines
in line with what is best for patient care, not market share."

"The plague of HMOs telling enrollees their physical health matters most
while putting corporate financial health first has infected all these
companies," Scruggs said. "Our lawsuits will heal this industry through
a simple prescription: Do what you say and say what you do."

"These class actions, combined with the critical mass of public opinion
created by people with first-hand experience of the horrors of HMO care,
will force permanent change on this industry and restore to the American
people the world-class health care they deserve," Scruggs added. "The
class action lawsuits are designed to level the playing field for
America's patients and doctors. Over and over we have heard patients
agonize that someone has to figure out a legal way to stand up to HMOs
and to break the stranglehold they have on the American medical system.
HMOs, as we know them, have woven a wide pattern of pain and tragedy
across the entire country and it's time for it to stop," Scruggs said.

The lawsuits charge the defendants with engaging "in a nationwide
fraudulent scheme." This includes misrepresenting that "coverage and
treatment decisions are made on the basis of 'medical necessity' when,
in fact ... (they have) aggressively engaged in implementing systemic
internal fraudulent and extortionate policies and practices designed to
deny (or limit) claims and medical services." These practices include
discouraging doctors from delivering needed medical services, limiting
or denying care based on cost or other arbitrary criteria that have
nothing to do with "medical necessity," and interfering with the medical
judgment of their doctors.

The complaints accuse the defendants of a "pattern of fraudulent and
heavy-handed extortionate conduct" by exploiting physician fear of
economical loss of business to unlawfully influence and interfere with
the delivery of honest healthcare services. These practices -- not
disclosed to HMO enrollees -- include:

* Establishing financial incentives that induce both doctors and claims
  reviewers to limit treatment;
* Imposing "gag" clauses and "gag" conditions that penalize doctors who
  discuss certain treatment alternatives with their patients;
* Making "medical necessity" determinations differing from those made
  by doctors and driven by profit considerations; and
* Limiting patient access to specialists.

The five lawsuits, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of Mississippi, Hattiesburg Division, seek:

* Compensatory damages, subject to tripling under the RICO statute;
* Punitive damages;
* An injunction enjoining the defendants from pursuing the fraudulent
  and extortionate policies and practices cited in the complaints; and
* Creation of a cy pres trust, to be administered by the Courts and
  funded by "the ill-gotten, wrongful revenues obtained by (the

Cigna, based in Philadelphia, has 6.4 million HMO and 2.9 million PPO
subscribers in 45 states across the country. Foundation Health Systems,
with six million members in 15 states, is the fourth largest publicly
traded managed care company in the U.S., headquartered in Woodland
Hills, Calif. Humana, based in Louisville, serves 6.2 million enrollees.
PacifiCare, headquartered in Santa Ana, Calif., has 3.7 million members
in nine states and Guam. Prudential, based in Newark, N.J. has 6.6
million HMO, PPO and point-of- service plan members in 40 major
metropolitan areas throughout America. The REPAIR Team -- which stands
for RICO and ERISA Prosecutors Advocating for Insurance industry Reform
-- consists of Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom of Scruggs, Millette,
Bozeman and Dent, Pascagoula, Miss.; John E. Williams, Jr., and Herbert
Schwartz of the Williams Bailey Law Firm, Houston; Hiram Eastland of the
Eastland Law Offices, Greenwood, Miss.; Walter Umphrey and Keith
Kebodeaux of the Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Beaumont, Texas; Blair Hahn
and Hoyt Rowell III of Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole,
Charleston, S.C.; Joey Langston of Langston, Langston, Michael Bowen &
Tucker, Booneville, Miss.; Paul S. Minor of Minor & Associates, Biloxi,
Miss.; Fred Furth of Furth, Fahner and Mason; and Harry Potter, Austin,
Texas. Contact: Dick Scruggs of Scruggs, Millette, Bozeman & Dent,
228-762-6068; or David White, 202-328-5400, for Scruggs, Millette,
Bozeman & Dent

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Heirs in LA Settle with Assicurazioni Generali
Family of man who died in Auschwitz resolves first such individual
action against a European firm in what lawyer calls a major
breakthrough. Neither side discloses terms. A Jewish family has settled
the first individual lawsuit filed against a European insurer stemming
from failure to pay a claim based on a policy issued during the
Holocaust era.

On Monday night, William Shernoff, a Claremont attorney who represents
the heirs of a wealthy Czech winemaker, sent a letter to Los Angeles
Superior Court Judge S. James Otero informing him that the Stern
family's suit against Assicurazioni Generali of Trieste, Italy, had been

Neither Shernoff nor any members of the family, who live in Los Angeles,
New York, Miami, Israel and London, would disclose the size of the
settlement. But Adolf Stern, 82, of Queens, N.Y., said it was far less
than the $ 135 million the seven plaintiffs had asked for in the suit.

"They're not doing me a favor; they're doing themselves a favor," Stern
said of Generali's decision to settle. "I have had a heart attack. I
don't want to be aggravated all my life."

Shernoff and Stern family members called the agreement a landmark
development. This settlement is a major breakthrough for the Holocaust
insurance cases," said Shernoff, particularly because the Stern
litigation was the lead case of eight filed against Generali in

Shernoff's co-counsel Lisa Stern, whose husband is the grandson of the
family patriarch, who died in the Holocaust, said, "It's gratifying that
after a long, hard battle, the members of this family can have a small
measure of justice."

Peter Simshauser, a Los Angeles attorney representing Generali, would
not comment on the significance of the case but confirmed that it had
been settled. He said the settlement is in line with the company's
efforts to resolve Holocaust-era matters. Much of that effort, he said,
comes through participation in the work of a recently formed
international commission headed by former U.S. Secretary of State
Laurence Eagleburger.

Another source close to Generali said the company has already made
offers to pay 230 Holocaust-related claims of individuals throughout the
United States and in Israel. The source said Generali has "made payments
as high as $ 75,000" in claims not filed in court.

Shernoff predicted that seven other court cases against Generali would
be settled by the end of the year. He also said that, because of the
efforts of California Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, Generali
will make public by the end of the year a list of 66,000 insurance
policies that the company issued during the Holocaust era. Shernoff said
this would provide critical information that could enable many other
Holocaust survivors and the heirs of people murdered in German death
camps to file claims on those policies.

Quackenbush has been very supportive of the Stern suit, and hired a
special outside counsel to assist the family in a portion of the case.

Generali and seven other insurers are scheduled to appear under state
subpoena at hearings Dec. 1 and 2 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The
companies are "to report on their readiness to provide detailed
policyholder information" for a Holocaust insurance registry that is to
go into effect in April under a bill by Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los
Angeles). The measure was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature and
signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis. The other companies include
Firemen's Fund Insurance Co., whose subsidiary Allianz AG is a defendant
in several class-action suits involving Holocaust-era claims.

Additionally, after Quackenbush subpoenaed the eight companies, four
others--Aegon, AXA, Swiss Reinsurance and Zurich--volunteered to appear
at the hearings, according to Quackenbush spokeswoman Dana Spurrier.

The Stern family sued Generali in February 1998, claiming that the
company acted in bad faith when it refused requests to pay off on
policies that family patriarch Moshe "Mor" Stern purchased starting in
1929. Stern and three of his sons died in the Auschwitz concentration
camp. The family asked for $ 10 million in insurance claims and $ 125
million in punitive damages.

Stern's descendants said they have made about half a dozen attempts to
collect--starting in 1945 after the end of World War II. Adolf Stern,
another of Moshe's sons, said he had been unceremoniously thrown out of
Generali's offices in Prague when he went to make the first claim
shortly after he was released from Auschwitz.

Generali, founded in 1831, is the largest insurer in Israel. The company
has consistently contended that it owed the Sterns nothing, in part
because their policies were among those nationalized when Communists
took control of the Czech government after World War II. (Los Angeles
Times Nov-24-1999)

HOLOCAUST VICTIMS: Porsche Joins Companies In Compensation Fund
Sports car maker Porsche said Wednesday it would join the German
industry's fund to compensate Nazi-era slave and forced laborers,
bringing to 20 the total number of firms publicly involved in the
foundation. Porsche's announcement came as a regional court rejected a
lawsuit by a Polish former slave worker. Still, the automaker said it
will make immediate payments of 10,000 marks ($ 5,235) to forced
laborers who worked in its design department.

Judge Dieter Hendel rejected the 74-year-old former slave worker's
demand for 98,500 marks ($ 51,570) in compensation for work between 1942
and 1945, saying the statute of limitations in the case had expired.

Earlier, Porsche had rejected the court's suggestion that it pay 15,000
marks ($ 7,850), saying the company didn't want to establish a legal
precedent. Porsche said it was making the payments of 10,000 marks
following a similar move by Volkswagen, which has also paid some of its
Nazi-era forced laborers 10,000 marks each.

During World War II, between 50 and 100 people each year worked in
Porsche's design office, which at the time was mainly producing plans
for Volkswagen, the company said.

Last week in Bonn, the companies in the fund and class-action lawyers
narrowed their differences over the total amount the firms should pay
their Nazi-era forced and slave laborers.

German industry has offered 8 billion marks ($ 4.2 billion) in exchange
for legal protection against class-action lawsuits, but lawyers
representing the victims are demanding at least 10 billion marks ($ 5.3
billion). The German envoy to the talks gave negotiators a Dec. 8
deadline to think over their positions. (AP Worldstream Nov-24-1999)

INMATES LITIGATION: Fd Judge Bans Use of Chair for Restraint in Ventura
Finding that Ventura County jailers have misused a special chair, a
federal judge has ordered the Sheriff's Department to employ other means
to restrain belligerent inmates while they are being booked into County

U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird in Los Angeles sided with attorneys
for four former inmates from Ventura and Oxnard who claim they were
tortured for nothing worse than their bad attitudes by being strapped
and shackled into the narrow, high-backed chair for five to seven hours.

The judge ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to win their civil
rights lawsuit. Ventura County may have violated inmate rights, she
said, because it has no clear policies on when the "Pro-Straint" chair
should be used and for how long. "Data . . . shows that the Sheriff's
Department's misuse of that chair flows from a practice of restraining
nonviolent arrestees for extended periods of time in violation of the
arrestees' 14th Amendment rights," she wrote in a 50-page decision. "The
policy allows deputies to require restrained arrestees to either urinate
or defecate on themselves and be forced to sit in their own feces or
'hold it.' "

She did not, however, ban use of the chair at other institutions. Such
restraint chairs are used in 48 of 58 California counties and in state
and federal prisons, officials said.

In response to the order, the Sheriff's Department is now using
different ways to restrain combative inmates during booking, officials
said. One man arrested during the weekend was placed in belly chains and
shackles as an alternative, they said. The chair had been used as a
humane alternative to more forceful means, they said. "What the judge
did was take us back 15 years in how we restrain violent inmates," said
Cmdr. Mark Ball, a jail administrator. "This chair is absolutely the
most humane method of restraining a violent individual.
"Yes, they are uncomfortable," he added. "But I liken it to spending
five hours in a coach seat flying back to the East Coast. The only
difference is that the Pro-Straint chair reclines more."

County attorney Alan Wisotsky said he expects to file an appeal with the
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking immediate relief. A decision
could come within two weeks, he said. "I'm confident that when this case
goes to trial in January, the jury will conclude there was not a
constitutional violation in any of these cases," he said.

Despite Baird's finding that Ventura County's guidelines give jail
supervisors too much discretion, Wisotsky said the county follows almost
exactly a set of rules written by the state. "We have not abused the use
of that chair," Wisotsky said.

Chief Deputy Kenneth Kipp, who oversees jail operations, said that while
it is true jail supervisors use their own judgment of when the chair is
needed, there are myriad rules on how it should be used.

A deputy checks on a restrained inmate's condition every 15 minutes, a
sergeant checks in every two hours, and a nurse evaluates an inmate's
condition initially and every two hours thereafter.

The lawsuit notes that one inmate was left in the chair for 32 hours,
but Kipp said that was the extreme case. The average time is about two
hours, he said. What are we asking a person to do?" Kipp said. "We're
asking a person to sit down. We only use this for people that truly
represent a threat to themselves, to other inmates or to staff."

But lawyer Sam Paz, who represents the four former inmates, said his
study of County Jail bookings during an 18-month period in 1996-97
revealed 377 cases where inmates were strapped in the chair. It is
clear, he said, that Ventura County used the chair improperly for
punishment. "And I think this ruling sends an important message to many
of these jails and prisons that are using new technology," he said, "and
the message is that you still have to be very careful about avoiding
torture in dealing with prisoners. . . . Many detainees were recorded
crying and begging to be let out of this torturous chair."

Paz cites the case of John Von Colln, 40, of Oxnard, who was strapped
naked in the chair for five hours--until he defecated and urinated on
himself. "He was then forced to clean up after himself with his bare
hands," Paz said. Kipp said Von Colln, who was drunk and admits no
memory of the incident, took off his own clothes. "We don't put naked
people in the chair," Kipp said.

Paz said one woman inmate--whom he now represents because the judge
expanded the suit to a class action for all affected inmates--was placed
in the chair naked and forced to suffer the taunting and ridicule of
male officers for hours. When she cried and complained to be released a
hood was placed on her head, he said.

Kipp said he could not comment on the woman's case. He said that the 377
chair uses cited by Paz represent just a tiny fraction of the 45,000
inmates booked into the jail during the period studied.

The Pro-Straint chair, manufactured for a decade by an Oregon firm,
faces a spate of court challenges nationwide. Lawsuits tell of mentally
ill jail and prison inmates strapped in the chair for hours at a time.
Tennessee inmates filed suit in 1994 alleging that the chair damaged
their blood vessels. One Utah inmate died in March 1997 after being
strapped in the chair.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its own legal actions in
Louisiana and Arizona to stop the use of the chair because they allege
it has been used for punishment. "In those situations it was abundantly
clear there were abuses," said the county's Wisotsky. "But that is not
the case here." (Los Angeles Times, Nov-23-1999)

JOHN HANCOCK: Boston Insurer Settles Deceptive-Sales Suits for $713 Mil
John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. will spend a total of $ 713
million, at least one-third more than originally anticipated, to settle
a landmark 1995 class-action lawsuit over deceptive insurance sales

The sum is more than twice the $ 350 million in benefits that the Boston
insurer agreed in 1997 to pay to nearly 4 million policyholders
nationwide to settle the case. That smaller figure, used by both Hancock
and state officials in the past to characterize the minimum financial
burden that Hancock would shoulder from the case, did not include
administrative expenses and underestimated total costs, Hancock said on
November 23, 1999.

Citing an unanticipated and costly rise in the number of aggrieved
policyholders seeking special compensation, the insurer said it would
pay out $ 471 million in pretax dollars -- $ 121 million more than the
original $ 350 million, or one-third more overall -- in benefits to 3.8
million policyholders affected by the settlement.

The nation's sixth-largest mutual life insurer will also spend a
whopping $ 242 million on administration and paperwork. Hancock's chief
financial officer, Thomas E. Moloney, who provided the new figures,
could not say how much the company had originally budgeted for such

Hancock, which will conduct an initial public offering in January, said
its costs had risen because twice as many policyholders as expected, or
around 120,000 people holding 135,000 policies, had filed claims through
an "alternative dispute resolution" process that was a key feature of
the settlement. The process entitles policyholders to opt out of general
relief and to seek separate benefits from Hancock. A source familiar
with the matter said alternative claims were three times the number
Hancock had expected.

Hancock could not provide a breakdown for compensation through general
relief and alternative dispute resolution, although the latter appears
to account for a good chunk of the settlement's cost.

Hancock's court-approved settlement, one of many in the tarnished
insurance industry, stemmed from customers who alleged they were misled
by company sales agents about policies they purchased from 1979 to 1996.
Policyholders charged that agents tricked them into buying policies with
premiums, or regular payments, that were supposed to vanish but never
did, and sold them souped-up policies they did not need. The settlement
covers every single whole, universal, and variable life insurance policy
Hancock sold over 17 years -- the insurer's core business. Despite the
settlement, Hancock has denied any wrongdoing.

The alternative resolution process takes longer and costs more than
general relief because Hancock must wade through scores of paper
documents to determine how much each policyholder is entitled to
receive. The process even involves questioning Hancock agents who sold
policies more than two decades ago. The insurer has 1,000 staffers
working to process settlement claims.

The backlog means that the settlement process, which was supposed to end
this year, will drag out well into next year, company officials said. So
far, about one in 10 aggrieved policyholders had received compensation,
Moloney said, declining to provide an average figure. The total
settlement kitty works out to an average $ 123 per policyholder, but
that figure is not a useful indicator because each policy is unique,
Moloney said.

The total $ 713 million that Hancock will spend to close out the case
does not include approximately $ 40 million in compensation that the
insurer must pay to approximately 290,000 Massachusetts policyholders
under a 1997 agreement with the state in connection with the broader
settlement, according to company officials. And it does not include the
low-interest loans and premium reductions that Hancock also agreed to

But Moloney said the total does include $ 39 million in legal fees to
Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, the New York law firm that
represented policyholders in the lawsuit.

Separately, a filing to securities regulators late Monday showed that
Hancock executives have increased their personal wealth. Hancock
chairman and chief executive Stephen L. Brown was granted equity rights
in 1999 worth up to $ 9.9 million. Brown earned a $ 1 million salary, $
1 million bonus, and $ 899,941 in performance-based incentive awards
last year, about even with 1997.

David D'Alessandro, the number two executive and chief executive-elect,
was granted performance-related equity rights worth up to $ 6 million
and a $ 2 million retention bonus, payable in 2002. He earned a $
600,000 salary, $ 420,000 bonus, and $ 554,605 in performance-based
incentive awards last year, up from 1997 levels.

Also separately from the lawsuit settlement, Hancock told state
insurance regulators that it had hired a company to search Census
Bureau, voter registration, Social Security, and Division of Motor
Vehicle records nationwide for some 400,000 missing policyholders.
Hancock is under fire for originally losing track of twice that number,
or one-quarter of its total customer base, as it prepares to go public.
Most policyholders are eligible for compensation in the new company.

A Hancock critic, Boston lawyer Jason Adkins, questioned why Hancock had
not searched those databases when it first discovered it had lost
shareholders earlier this year. (Boston Globe Nov-24-1999)

METRO GLOBAL: Rabin & Peckel File Securities Suit in Rhode Island
The following is an announcement by the law firm of Rabin & Peckel LLP
on November 23, 1999:

A class action complaint has been filed in the United States District
Court for the District of Rhode Island on behalf of all persons or
entities who purchased or otherwise acquired the securities of Metro
Global Media, Inc. ("Metro Global" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:MGMA)
between September 13, 1996 and September 13, 1999, inclusive (the "Class

The lawsuit against Metro Global and certain of its present and former
officers and directors for violations of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934 arises out of a series of false and misleading statements
concerning the Company's reported financial results made during the
Class Period.

These reported financial results were materially inflated as a result of
Metro Global's failure to properly record embedded interest related to
its convertible preferred stock and debentures, improper amortization of
its film library, and improper classification of a related party
transaction, all in violation of generally accepted accounting
principles ("GAAP"), contrary to the Company's representation in its
financial statements. On September 14, 1999, the Company announced that
these accounting improprieties required a restatement of its financial
statements for fiscal years 1996, 1997, and 1998, which would reduce the
earnings reported for these years.

The Complaint alleges that as a result of these false and misleading
statements the price of Metro Global securities were artificially
inflated throughout the Class Period causing plaintiffs and the other
members of the Class to suffer damages. Trading in the Company's stock
has been suspended since September 14, 1999. During the Class Period, it
is alleged, defendants were motivated to artificially inflate the price
of its securities because of the Company's reliance on its common stock
to raise substantial sums of money and to pay its debts. The Company
frequently used its stock as currency, including to raise over $2
million and to pay debts of$230,000 in fiscal year 1998, and to raise
over $10.7 million in fiscal year 1999.

If you purchased or otherwise acquired Unisys securities during the
Class Period described above, you may, no later than sixty (60) days
from November 23, 1999, move the Court to serve as lead plaintiff. To
serve as lead plaintiff, however, you must meet certain legal
requirements. If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions
concerning this announcement, or your rights or interests, please
contact plaintiff's counsel, Elana M. Bourkoff, Rabin & Peckel LLP, 275
Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, by telephone at (800) 497-8076 or
(212) 682-1818, by facsimile at (212) 682-1892, by e-mail at
email@rabinlaw.com, or via the firm's website www.rabinlaw.com

MICROSOFT CORP: Recapture of Antitrust Suits; Commentaries; Projections
According to the New York Times, at least seven suits, including one
filed on November 22, 1999 in a state court in San Francisco, have been
filed on behalf of computer users in response to a judge's finding on
Nov. 5 that Microsoft was a software monopolist that routinely bullied
high-technology rivals. The finding provided grist for contentions by
computer users that Microsoft's monopoly gave it substantial leeway to
overcharge for its Windows software program.

So far, consumers have filed three cases in San Francisco, one in Orange
County, California, and one each in New York, New Orleans and
Birmingham, Ala. They all seek class-action status, potentially on
behalf of millions of consumers.

The suits in Alabama and Louisiana are federal cases, while the ones in
New York and California are in state courts. New York and California are
among more than a dozen states that make it easier for consumers to sue
if they think they were overcharged for products.

Microsoft is viewed as rich enough and legally deft enough to weather a
continued onslaught of private actions, which may be consolidated anyway
into a federal suit. Microsoft has about $19 billion in cash and no

But legal experts say the state and federal lawsuits, filed so far in
Alabama, California, Louisiana and New York, could create a short-term
coordination challenge at Microsoft as it tries to ensure that its legal
arguments and trial maneuvers are consistent across different

Moreover, the suits are likely to reinforce pressure on the software
company to reach an out-of-court settlement with the Justice Department,
particularly after the judge in the trial appointed a mediator last
Friday to oversee voluntary negotiations. A settlement would make it far
more difficult for private plaintiffs to use the judge's findings to
build a foundation for a case against Microsoft.

"As more of these lawsuits are filed, you have to assume that Microsoft
will look for some way to try to prevent the trial from going to
conclusion," said Richard Thomas Delamarter, an expert on corporate
monopolies who teaches antitrust history and technology at Yale
University. "These private cases only add to the pressure."

Indeed, the appointment of a mediator and a prospect for a Microsoft
settlement offset any concern by investors that Microsoft might get
swamped by lawsuits. Shares of the company's stock rose 4.9 percent, or
$4.1875, to $90.1875, as of the 4 p.m. close of trading on the Nasdaq
stock market.

The paper also says that Microsoft faces a potentially huge liability.
The plaintiffs' lawyers are charging that Microsoft used its monopoly in
operating systems software to overcharge buyers of Windows 95 and
Windows 98. Microsoft charged $89 for a Windows upgrade when, the
Justice Department's antitrust suit shows, it also considered a price of

Thus, lawyers will surely claim that Windows was overpriced by at least
$40. Because damages are officially tripled in antitrust cases,
Microsoft would have to pay $120 for every copy sold. Even if you're
Bill Gates, that can get very expensive very fast.

Defenders of the class-action lawsuit industry will be sure to insist
that all this wrangling is great for consumers. But when lawyers
recently sued the makers of Pokemon trading cards, charging that they
were an unlawful form of gambling, no one asked most parents, let alone
children, what they thought of the idea. Likewise, class-action lawyers
do not need to pay the slightest heed to the views of the average user
of Microsoft Windows.

Are consumers likely to receive a huge rebate from Microsoft? Don't
count on it. Instead, they could well benefit from the latest trend in
the class-action world: the coupon. A defendant settles a lawsuit by
agreeing to give consumers, oh, let's say, a $50 coupon toward some
future purchase. But how would the same product have been priced in the
absence of the coupon? Perhaps at quite a bit less. Coupon settlements
allow lawyers to claim large benefits for the consumers, thus justifying
their high fees. But many coupons go unredeemed, especially when
consumers must fill out complicated paperwork. If coupons were really
worth their face value, wouldn't a Sunday newspaper containing $50 in
grocery coupons sell for $50?

Earlier this year, lawyers settled a class-action lawsuit against
tobacco companies that had been filed in Florida by flight attendants
exposed to secondhand smoke. The attendants received no money at all --
some of the money went to a nonprofit foundation to research
smoking-related diseases, while lawyers took away $49 million.

You can love Microsoft or hate it. But should we really cheer a process
whose only sure winners are the lawyers themselves? (The New York Times

According to the Christian Science the findings of fact also discuss
other alleged flaws in the operating system, from security problems to
its frustrating tendency to crash. The judge's implication is that
Windows might have been better if it faced true competition.
"Microsoft's product itself was kind of a war against consumers," says
Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology and a
longtime critic of the firm.

Microsoft officials insist their firm did nothing wrong. The
class-action lawsuits are "baseless," according to a company release.
"We believe our actions have been pro-competitive and fully legal," says
Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

And other experts point out that the civil suits are far from slam-dunk
sure winners.

To begin with, most users buy Windows only indirectly, when they
purchase it preloaded on a PC. And in 1977, the US Supreme Court ruled
that indirect purchasers of a product could not recover damages as part
of a class-action lawsuit. That limits the cases' possible venue to the
18 states that have passed laws giving indirect purchasers standing to
sue in state court. As direct purchasers, PC firms such as Dell could
sue Microsoft anywhere - but that's unlikely, given their continued
dependence on Microsoft's goodwill.

Furthermore, Jackson's findings did not flat out state that Microsoft
overcharged for its product. Given that Windows software hasn't actually
risen in price, while it has had numerous new features added over the
years, state judges might not agree that consumers have been harmed.
"Proof of damages is never easy," says Steven Salop, antitrust professor
at Georgetown University Law Center here.

Still, the money at stake could be considerable. Considering the number
of consumers involved, damages could be inthe hundreds of millions of
dollars. That sum could drive Microsoft to settle the pending anti-trust
case, as such an action could doom many of the civil actions against the

Absent a final ruling in the federal case, civil attorneys would have to
prove on their own that Microsoft is a monopolist. They would also have
to prove that Microsoft used its monopoly power illegally - something
Jackson appears all but certain to rule.

                    Following a US road map

Mr. Hawker uses the analogy of a map. Right now, the government has
drawn class-action lawyers a map to their hoped-for destination. If it
wins its case, the government will even bring the class-action cases
along to its destination, victory.

But if a settlement halts the antitrust suit before it finishes, the map
turns to dust. Class-action attorneys would have to trudge to victory on
their own, and few private lawyers or plaintiffs have the time and money
to pursue Microsoft in that manner.

Jackson appears to be pushing hard for a settlement. He has brought a
mediator into the case - partly because he fears the US government and
its state partners in the antitrust suit will squabble about what should
happen to Microsoft if the firm is found in violation of antitrust laws,
according to court transcripts. (The Christian Science Monitor

According to USA Today, Microsoft already faces several lawsuits from
software and other companies that claim the Redmond, Wash., corporation
stifled their ability to compete. "Plaintiffs are trying to carry the
judge's findings as batons in their parade to the courthouse," says
Hillard Sterling, a Chicago antitrust attorney. Industry watchers
expected a torrent of lawsuits to follow Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's
findings of fact in the federal antitrust action against Microsoft.
Jackson concluded the company behaved in an anti-competitive manner by
curtailing innovation and harming consumers.

But don't expect a fat check from Microsoft anytime soon. While the
findings damaged Microsoft's reputation, they are not conclusions of law
and could only be used as supporting evidence in a lawsuit. Plaintiffs
still must prove Microsoft violated the law and harmed buyers by
charging more than was reasonable. "The problem, of course, is that they
didn't have to buy the product," says Joe Sims, an antitrust attorney.

Industry watchers said the lawsuits' chances would go up if Jackson, in
the second stage of his decision due early next year, rules Microsoft is
an illegal monopoly.  "This is why the company needs to settle," says
Brian Goodstadt, an analyst with S&P Equity Group. "If they don't settle
and are found guilty, it could open the floodgates" for additional
lawsuits. Settlement talks gained momentum last week, when Jackson
appointed a mediator to help reach a deal.

Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla says the lawsuits are groundless because
the company "has driven prices down and delivered great value." (USA
Today Nov-23-1999)

Asked at the conference at the National Convention Centre what he
thought about Microsoft being labelled "a relentless and predatory
monopolist" by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, executive vice-president
and chief operating officer of Microsoft Corporation, Bob Herbold said
the judge's findings only marked the first step in what was expected to
be a long process of interaction "between the software giant and the US
Department of Justice. We're confident that when it is over we will end
up in the same position as after the first he said. We will have
protected the right to constantly innovate our product based on what we
believe consumers want."

Mr Herbold said all that had emerged from the case so far were findings
of fact, as opposed to conclusions of law, and until the full process,
including appeals, had been exhausted, any case based on those initial
findings would be groundless.

Experts concede that it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly how much
Microsoft profited by using unfair market power. But if a judge put all
of the class-action suits under one umbrella - as was done in the
litigation against the US tobacco industry - it could wind up costing
Microsoft billions in compensatory and punitive damages. (The Canberra
Times Nov-24-1999)

According to AFX News, the action by the three lawyers on Monday does
not specify how much money Microsoft should be forced to pay in damages,
but Attorney Terry Gross, one of the three lawyers who brought the suit
believes at least 10 mln computer users in California may be represented
by the action. Gross said Monday's filing is intended to include people
who bought Windows from 1995 to the present. (AFX News Nov-23-1999)

The Ventura County Star says that regardless of the eventual outcome of
the antitrust case, the broadened legal assault could compel Microsoft
to tone down its aggressive behavior in the computer industry.

Consider the long-running antitrust case against International Business
Machines Corp., another famous computer industry monopoly. IBM had to
defend itself not only against a Justice Department suit, but also
against competitors and private individuals whom the government's action
prompted to file similar complaints

Although the government eventually dropped its case in 1982, and
although most of the private lawsuits were decided in IBM's favor, the
combined weight of the litigation compelled IBM to play it safe in the
computer business, allowing rivals to move in on the company's long-held
markets and leading to a protracted decline at the world's largest
computer company.

"You'll end up with a better behaved Microsoft," said Delamarter, also
the author of "Big Blue: IBM's Use and Abuse of Power." "It's the
analogy -- you drive more carefully when you have a police car behind

The reverberations in the Microsoft case, though, might take some time
to reach Wall Street. Even though the private lawsuits may seek billions
of dollars in damages to compensate for Microsoft's alleged overcharges,
investors for the time being remain focused on the company's robust
profits. "The stock is in the midst of a bull market," said Brian
Belski, chief investment strategist at George K. Baum & Co., in Kansas
City, Mo. "It's just too much of a risk not to own the stock." (Ventura
County Star Nov-23-1999)

The Washington Post says that representatives of Microsoft, the Justice
Department and state attorneys general will meet in Chicago to begin
negotiating a possible settlement in the landmark antitrust suit against
the software giant. Richard A. Posner, the Chicago federal judge
assigned last week to mediate the dispute, will oversee the meeting. A
source familiar with the matter said the first meeting is likely to
focus on procedural issues, such as the timing and structure of future

Microsoft is being sued in federal and state courts in Ohio by Stanley
Chesley, a class-action lawyer who was involved in the Big Tobacco
litigation. (The Washington Post Nov-24-1999)

MICROSOFT CORP: The Washington Times Says Lawsuit Helps Bankroll Gore
The government's antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. is helping to
fill Vice President Al Gore's campaign coffers with generous
contributions from lawyers and Microsoft's high-tech rivals in Silicon
Valley, a review of public records shows.

The case has opened a cornucopia of work for attorneys in state and
class-action suits, many of whom already are doing a humming business in
suits spawned by the government's campaign against tobacco companies,
managed care businesses and gun manufacturers. Now Microsoft, one of the
world's wealthiest corporations, has become the litigation world's most
enticing target.

Three California class-action lawyers filed suit against Microsoft
Corp., accusing the world's largest software maker of using its monopoly
position to overcharge consumers for its software. One of those
attorneys, Francis Scarpulla, has given the maximum amount allowed by
law to Mr. Gore's primary campaign: $1,000.

Contributions to the vice president from 5,746 lawyers nationwide
totaled more than $4.2 million by Sept. 30, representing by far the
largest source of money for the presidential aspirant, according to
Public Disclosure Inc., a group that tracks campaign finances.

Major law firms that number prominently among the vice president's top
50 contributors include Patton Boggs, which represents the Association
of Trial Lawyers of America; Arnold & Porter, which represents various
Silicon Valley interests; and Akin Gump et al, which represents
Microsoft foe America Online.

Also among the top 50 corporate contributors is Mayer, Brown & Platt,
attorneys for Technology Network, a Silicon Valley political action
committee (PAC) that has become a major bankroller of federal election
campaigns and is directed by Microsoft's high-tech adversaries.
"TechNet" has funneled $40,000 into Mr. Gore's campaign so far this
year, Federal Election Commission records show.

California - with money flowing out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood -
leads all other states in giving to Mr. Gore. He scooped up as much as
$400,000 at one high-tech fund-raiser this summer and had accrued more
than $3 million in contributions from the state as of Sept. 30, the
latest reporting period, the records show.

John Doerr - a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who heads the "TechNet"
PAC and is one of the nation's biggest political donors and a major Gore
backer - once lauded the vice president as the only national political
leader who understands technology.

"This is a political leader who uses the Net, uses the Web, understands
what an Adobe Acrobat is all about. When you walk into a meeting with
him, his first question is, 'Just what exactly is going to be the future
of Java?' And he knows it's not a cup of coffee," Mr. Doerr told the Los
Angeles Times in 1997.

Java, a product of Microsoft archrival Sun Microsystems Inc., competes
with Microsoft's dominant computer operating system, Windows, a central
issue in the antitrust suit.

Marc L. Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape Communications Corp. who
invented an Internet browser that competes with Microsoft's and figures
prominently in the lawsuit, recently has contributed more than $15,000
to Mr. Gore and other Democratic causes.

Mr. Doerr and Mr. Andreessen, whose testimony was pivotal in the
government's case against Microsoft, are members of an advisory panel of
high-tech executives Mr. Gore set up to make recommendations on federal
technology policy, dubbed "Gore-Tech."

The 28-year-old Mr. Andreessen, who has attended state dinners and
watched movies at the White House with President Clinton, let the Gore
campaign use his $1.5 million colonial mansion in Northern Virginia for
fund raising until the vice president started using the estate of
America Online President Bob Pittman.

"Every administration chooses its targets very politically," said Tom
Hazlett, economist with the American Enterprise Institute who was chief
economist of the Federal Communications Commission during the Bush
administration and participated in a decision not to prosecute the
high-tech Goliath at the time.
"Microsoft is a very successful company that's attracted attention for
10 years from antitrust authorities," he said.

But previous administrations concluded that the company's Windows
monopoly was not unlawful and actually was a boon to consumers because
it created a standard language for computer users that helped to get the
budding computer industry off the ground.

The Clinton administration darkly views the company's aggressive
marketing tactics and predatory pricing policies. It persuaded U.S.
District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to rule Nov. 5 that
Microsoft used its monopoly to kill off the competition. His ruling has
given impetus to several class-action suits against Microsoft. "It's a
great issue for the Gore folks. They've got this anti-Micro-soft
contingency in California and that's a key state, you know, for a
Democrat," Mr. Hazlett said. "To win the 2000 presidential election they
have to do well out there and have a pro-business constituency of some
sort." Officials from Mr. Gore's presidential campaign did not return
calls seeking comment.

The Clinton administration has mined Silicon Valley for years as a major
source of campaign contributions. Analysts widely view the Microsoft
lawsuit partly as a payoff to the smaller computer software and Internet
technology companies there that compete against the Redmond, Wash.,
giant. Dozens of Silicon Valley executives, venture capitalists and
lawyers have contributed the maximum allowed to Mr. Gore. They include
Michael H. Morris, vice president of Sun Microsystems; John Gage, Sun's
chief scientist and a "GoreTech" adviser; and Lawrence J. Ellison,
founder of Oracle Corp., another Microsoft competitor, according to
Public Disclosure.

Since Judge Jackson's ruling, key Microsoft competitors have hardly hid
their glee as their stocks soared and Microsoft's stock sank. Mr.
Ellison of Oracle came out in favor of breaking up the company into
three separate pieces, the harshest possible remedy. That almost
certainly would not occur if Republicans retake the White House in 2000,
Mr. Hazlett said. "Gore wants to use this as a campaign thing, saying,
'Vote for me or I'll throw you to the Republicans,' " he said.

The administration also may be pursuing Microsoft partly out of
"embarrassment" that it has sat by passively and not moved against most
of the huge corporate mega-mergers seen during Mr. Clinton's term, he

The largest proposed merger in history, under review by the
administration now, is a proposed $129 billion takeover of Sprint Corp.
by MCI WorldCom Inc. MCI WorldCom and its employees are among the
biggest givers to Mr. Gore's campaign in the last year.

The Microsoft suit by the government and 19 states was filed as Mr.
Clinton's and Mr. Gore's popularity was waning in the California
high-tech community last year after the administration took the side of
trial lawyers in opposing Republican bills to curb securities lawsuits
and year-2000 litigation against technology firms.

To show their disenchantment with Mr. Gore, James Barksdale, co-founder
of Netscape, and 54 other prominent high-tech executives last year -
during one of Mr. Gore's frequent visits to Silicon Valley - sponsored a
full-page newspaper ad calling on Texas Gov. George W. Bush to enter the
presidential race. The ad praised Mr. Bush, the current Republican
front-runner, for "creating an environment that stresses personal
responsibility over government intervention, and innovation over

In an irony that shows how major corporations usually hedge their bets
against election outcomes, Microsoft itself is among Mr. Gore's top 50
contributors, with $12,250 in contributions from various company

Microsoft started a major lobbying drive after the antitrust case began
last year, and has spent tens of millions of dollars trying to influence
friends and foes alike. But by far the most of its largesse has gone to
Republicans in Congress.

Many Republican legislators and think tanks oppose the case and are
studying ways to curb the increase in litigation undertaken by the
Clinton administration in recent years as it has pursued a more
sympathetic forum than Congress for its crusades against smoking, guns
and other perceived social ills.

Microsoft, mindful of the clout Mr. Gore wields in deciding whether the
Justice Department should press the case against it or settle, on Monday
entertained the vice president at a campaign stop at its Redmond campus.

Mr. Gore jousted with company employees over the merits of the suit,
with several Microsoft workers stating the company's case that
competition is stiff in the computer software industry and that is why
Microsoft uses the aggressive marketing practices that have agitated its
competitors. But Mr. Gore took the government's position, saying the
antitrust laws were designed to root out "unhealthy concentrations of
power." It is "wrong" for a company to use its dominance in one area to
prevent competition in another, he said. The government says that
Microsoft through coercive pricing policies forced computer
manufacturers to buy its Internet Explorer along with Windows in an
effort to force Netscape's browser out of the market.

After the encounter, Mr. Gore said in an article for Microsoft's Slate
magazine that the Justice Department "makes its own independent
decisions in such matters without input from the White House," though he
acknowledged that antitrust chief Joel Klein and other top officials of
the department "are appointees of the current administration."

In a hint that he does not favor harsh punishment of Microsoft in the
case, he added: "I did make clear that there is a fundamental American
value in making sure that neither heavy-handed government nor unfair
business practices stamp out competition."

Some of the high-tech executives who are helping Vice President Al
Gore's presidential campaign are:

* Bob Pittman
  America Online president
  A generous contributor to Democrats, he lets Mr. Gore use his
  Northern Virginia estate to raise campaign funds.

* Marc Andreessen
  Netscape founder
  A member of the "GoreTech" advisory group, he lets the vice president
  use his colonial mansion in Virginia for fundraisers.

* Lawrence Ellison
  Oracle chief executive
  He is calling for the break-up of Microsoft into three separate
  pieces and has contributed the maximum amount to the campaign.
(The Washington Times Nov-23-1999)

NAVIGANT CONSULTING: Kirby McInerney Files Securities Suit in Illinois
The following is an announcement by the law firm of Kirby McInerney &
Squire, LLP on November 23, 1999:

Please take notice that a class action lawsuit has been commenced in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on
behalf of all purchasers of Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI) common
stock between May 6, 1999 and Nov. 22, 1999 (the "Class Period"). The
action asserts a claim against Navigant and certain of its officers for
violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934 by reason of material misrepresentations and omissions.

On Nov. 22, 1999, the company announced: (i) that several senior
officers and directors, including the CEO and Chairman, had been
dismissed or had resigned; (ii) that these and other officers had
managed during the third quarter of 1999 to obtain loans from the
company totaling $17 million; and (iii) that the company's method for
accounting for business combinations was being examined by its auditor
and might require significant restatement. As a result, Navigant's stock
price declined over 70% from its class period high.

If you are a member of the class described above, you may, not later
than sixty days from Nov. 23, 1999, move the Court to serve as lead
plaintiff of the class, if you so choose. In order to serve as lead
plaintiff, however, you must meet certain legal requirements. If you
wish to discuss this action, or have any questions concerning this
notice or your rights, please contact:
Ira M. Press, Esq. Robert Feinstein, Paralegal KIRBY McINERNEY & SQUIRE,
LLP 830 Third Avenue 10th Floor New York, New York 10022 Telephone:
(212) 317-2300 or Toll Free (888) 529-4787 E-mail: kms@kmslaw.com

PHILLIPS PETROLEUM: Settles for 1987 Rail-Car Fire in New Orleans
Bartlesville-based Phillips Petroleum Co. has agreed to pay $ 62.5
million to settle a class-action lawsuit over a 1987 rail-car fire in
New Orleans. Phillips said Tuesday the settlement doesn't include an
admission of guilt or liability. Insurance proceeds will make the
settlement's effect on fourth-quarter earnings "insignificant," the
company said.

In September 1987, a rail car leaked chemicals and started a fire that
burned for 36 hours, Phillips said. While there were no fatalities,
about 8,000 people, including residents, property owners and employees,
filed claims for personal injury or property damage.

Phillips, the nation's eighth largest oil company, said it was named in
the lawsuit because it had sold the rail car to General American
Transportation Corp. a year earlier. General American and four other
defendants name in the suit settled separately for a total of $ 152.5
million. (Tulsa World Nov-24-1999)

PHOENIX INT'L: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in Florida
The following is an announcement by the law firm of Milberg Weiss
Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP:

Notice is hereby given that a class action lawsuit was filed on November
23, 1999, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of
Florida, on behalf of all persons who purchased the common stock of
Phoenix International Ltd., Inc. ("Phoenix" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:
PHXX) between May 4, 1998, and April 15, 1999, inclusive (the "Class

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this
notice or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please
contact, at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach ("Milberg Weiss"),
Steven G. Schulman or Samuel H. Rudman at One Pennsylvania Plaza, 49th
Floor, New York, New York 10119-0165, by telephone 1-800-320-5081 or via
e-mail: endfraud@mwbhlny.com or visit our website at www.milberg.com.

The complaint charges Phoenix and its chief executive officer with
violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of
1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. The complaint alleges that
defendants issued a series of materially false and misleading statements
concerning the Company's operations, revenues and earnings which
artificially inflated the price of Phoenix common stock during the Class

If you are a member of the class described above you may, not later than
sixty days from November 23, 1999, move the Court to serve as lead
plaintiff of the class, if you so choose. In order to serve as lead
plaintiff, however, you must meet certain legal requirements.

Contact: Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP BOCA RATON OFFICE NEW
YORK OFFICE Kenneth Vianale Shareholder Relations Dept. The Plaza
E-Mail: endfraud@mwbhlny.com 5335 Town Center Road 1-800/320-5081 Suite
900 Boca Raton, Fla. 561/361-5000

PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE: Fl Ins Commissioner Tells Fd Judge of New Charges
State Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson has notified a New Jersey
federal judge of new allegations in Florida that Prudential Insurance
Co. cheated customers seeking restitution for past sales abuses and hid
their practices from regulators.

In a letter delivered November 24 to U.S. District Judge Alfred W.
Wolin, Nelson urged the judge to include the Florida allegations in an
investigation already underway into similar allegations stemming from
job-discrimination lawsuits in Minnesota. In that state, a number of
current and former Prudential employees alleged that company managers
encouraged and trained them to shortchange customers in settling claims
involving "churning" and other deceptive sales practices.

Nelson wrote Wolin that the similar Florida allegations must be
investigated and suggested that the state Department of Insurance be
allowed to participate if the federal investigation is expanded to
include those allegations.

"Prudential used deception in the past to take money from mostly elderly
policyholders in Florida," Nelson said. "If any of these same people
have been cheated again, we will deal with Prudential accordingly."

Florida and Minnesota are two of several states where Prudential
established centers responsible for reviewing and scoring claims from
nearly 650,000 policyholders across the nation. The new allegations of
widespread scoring abuses in the Jacksonville center and efforts to keep
them secret surfaced last week when a former Prudential employee
involved in the claims scoring contacted Nelson's office. Attorneys for
Nelson questioned the former employee last Thursday and again on Monday.
Nelson said a summary of the interviews will be turned over to Judge
Wolin, who is overseeing a $2.5 billion national settlement of a
class-action lawsuit alleging that Prudential routinely engaged in
deceptive sales practices, including churning.

In the churning scheme, agents preyed mostly on the elderly who had
purchased policies in the past. In effect, consumers were told they
could buy another policy and it wouldn't cost them anything. Actually,
however, the cash values of their older policies were being drained to
cover premiums on the new, larger policies.

Prudential was in the final stages of settling the churning and other
claims when Judge Wolin last week ordered an inquiry into allegations
made by past and current Prudential employees in lawsuits filed in a
federal court in Minnesota. While the some two dozen lawsuits mostly
allege racial, gender or other discrimination by Prudential, many of
them also contain allegations that Prudential managers rewarded scorers
for hasty reviews and trained them to deny policyholders scores that
would result in the highest compensation.

Nelson wrote Wolin that the similar Florida allegations, if
substantiated, could constitute a "serious violation" of state law and a
1997 order settling charges of deceptive sales practices by Prudential
in Florida. In that settlement, Nelson and Attorney General Bob
Butterworth imposed the state's largest-ever life insurance industry
penalty of $15 million against Prudential and ordered the company to
make restitution to its Florida policyholders.

The Florida settlement with Prudential included key provisions designed
to help the victims of churning and other sales abuses recover their
losses. Since then, some 49,000 Prudential policyholders have gone
through the restitution process. About 5,600 of them have taken
advantage of an independent appeals process established by Nelson and
Butterworth, apart from the national settlement, for Florida
policyholders dissatisfied with Prudential's scoring of their claims.

Among the states, Florida had one of the highest percentages of customer
claims largely because of its large population of older policyholders
and a massive outreach program conducted by the Department of Insurance
to alert and assist those who had been deceived. So far, Florida
customers have received $ 234 million in restitution in cash or
adjustments to their life insurance policies.

A copy of the letter delivered on the morning of November 24 to U.S.
District Judge Alfred W. Wolin is as follows:

November 24, 1999

The Honorable Alfred M. Wolin
United States District Court
Martin Luther King Blvd
50 Walnut Street
Newark, NJ 07101

RE: Prudential Class Action, Master Docket No. 95-4704 (AMW)
    MDL No. 1061

Dear Judge Wolin:

I am aware of your Order of November 17, 1999, directing an
investigation into allegations of improper class action ADR claim
scoring practices in Prudential's Plymouth, Minnesota, facilities, and
I'm writing to inform you of a new development here in Florida.

On November 18, 1999 this Department was contacted by a former
Prudential ADR claim scoring staff member, who worked at Prudential's
Jacksonville, Florida facility, and alleges that improper claim scoring
procedures were widespread in the Jacksonville facility. Staff of this
Department have spent several hours interviewing this person. We are
forwarding to you under separate cover a summary of the interviews.

These allegations, if substantiated, may constitute a serious violation
of the Florida Insurance Code and this Department's February 21, 1997
Order to Prudential. Therefore these allegations must be investigated.
Because similar allegations are pending before the Court, we are
promptly reporting this matter to you.

Since the Court, under your November 17 Order, has already set up a
mechanism for investigation of the allegations in Minnesota, I
respectfully request that you direct similar procedures regarding these
Florida allegations, and that you specify that the Florida Department of
Insurance shall be allowed to participate fully in all aspects of the
Court's investigation arising from or related to the Florida

By copy of this letter to Class Counsel and Prudential, we are apprising
them of this matter. Inasmuch as inquiry into these allegations is
essentially in the nature of an investigation, as opposed to civil
discovery, it is requested that the Court order that Prudential not be
present or represented at interviews or depositions during the

If the above suggestions meet with the Court's approval, we urge that
you issue an Order to such effect and direct Class Counsel to contact
the Department to facilitate the Department's participation.


Bill Nelson

cc: Melvyn Weiss, Esquire, Class Counsel
    Rick Meade, Prudential Law Department

SOURCE Florida Department of Insurance
Contact: Don Pride or Nina Bottcher, both of Florida Department of
Insurance, 850-413-2842

RIBOZYME PHARMACEUTICALS: Nationwide Securities Suit Filed in Colorado
If you acquired shares of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: RZYM)
between the close of trading on November 15, 1999 and November 17, 1999,
we are required, by federal law (Section 21D(a)(3)(A) of the Private
Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995) to inform you of the

On November 19, 1999, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in
Colorado against Ribozyme and its CEO and President Ralph E.
Christoffersen. The lawsuit, which seeks nation wide class action
status, was filed on behalf of investors who acquired Ribozyme common
stock between the close of trading on November 15, 1999 and November 17,
1999 (the "Class Period").

The lawsuit alleges that defendants misled investors by issuing a false
press release on November 15 headlined "Colorado Pharmaceutical Co.
Makes Cancer Drug History," stating that Angiozyme, one of the Company's
drugs in development, "has taken an important step forward... making
both clinical history and industry news" and that a press conference
will be held on November 17 at which the Company's "CEO and President,
Ralph E. Christoffersen, Ph.D. ...will explain Angiozyme and its recent
history-making leap, an achievement which may be of great significance
to cancer patients everywhere." As a result, Ribozyme common stock
increased from $10 5/8 to as high as $22 per share. Ultimately,
investors discovered the Company had no "history-making progress" to
report but was merely announcing that Angiozyme had entered Phase I/II
testing a development the Company had twice previously indicated would
occur before the end of 1999. Ribozyme shares then declined to close at
$9-5/16 per share on November 17, 1999. The lawsuit seeks to recover
damages suffered by Ribozyme investors as a result of defendants'
improper conduct.

Plaintiff is represented by the law firm of Beatie and Osborn LLP. If
you acquired Ribozyme shares during the Class Period, you may, no later
than January 21, 2000, seek to join this lawsuit as a named plaintiff.
In order to serve as a named plaintiff, however, you must met certain
legal requirements.

A copy of the complaint filed with the court detailing the
above-described allegations, as well as documents necessary to
participate as a named plaintiff are available by contacting the law
firm of Beatie and Osborn LLP (http://www.bandolaw.com).

If you have questions concerning your rights or interests with respect
to this matter, please contact:
Eduard Korsinsky, Esq.
Beatie and Osborn LLP
599 Lexington Avenue, 42nd Floor
New York, New York 10022
Toll Free: 800-891-6305
Telephone: 212-888-9000
E-mail: Bandolaw@aol.com
Internet: http://www.bandolaw.com

SAFETY COMPONENTS: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in New Jersey
The following is an announcement by the law firm of Milberg Weiss
Bershad Hynes & Lerach:

Notice is hereby given that a class action lawsuit was filed on November
23, 1999, in the United States District Court for the District of New
Jersey, on behalf of all persons who purchased the common stock of
Safety Components International, Inc. ("SCII" or the "Company") (Nasdaq:
ABAGE or ABAG) between August 14, 1997, and November 9, 1999, inclusive
(the "Class Period").

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this
notice or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please
contact, at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach ("Milberg Weiss"),
Steven G. Schulman or Samuel H. Rudman at One Pennsylvania Plaza, 49th
Floor, New York, New York 10119-0165, by telephone 1-800-320-5081 or via
e-mail: endfraud@mwbhlny.com or visit our website at www.milberg.com.

The complaint charges SCII and certain of its officers and directors
with violations of Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange
Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder. The complaint alleges
that defendants issued a series of materially false and misleading
statements concerning the Company's financial results which artificially
inflated the price of SCII common stock during the Class period.

If you are a member of the class described above you may, not later than
sixty days from November 23, 1999, move the Court to serve as lead
plaintiff of the class, if you so choose. In order to serve as lead
plaintiff, however, you must meet certain legal requirements. Contact:
Shareholder Relations Dept. E-Mail: endfraud@mwbhlny.com 1-800-320-5081

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Can. Report Says Documents Show Targeting of Kids
Canadian kids as young as 11 were targeted by tobacco giants to start
puffing, the industry's own documents show. Documents released by the
federal government also prove that cigarettes were spiked with
addictively high levels of nicotine to force smokers to keep lighting

This mirrors information released in the U.S. where lawsuits have smoked
out shady advertising strategies, which unveiled that the tobacco
industry knew of the health consequences of cigarettes and just how
addictive they are.

The Canadian document shows how the industry secretly supported
campaigns against tobacco tax in Canada to bring the retail price down
and hike sales, especially among youth. "Since younger smokers represent
the recruitment market, and female smokers are clearly a growth segment,
in-depth motivational studies of both groups are strongly indicated,"
says another.

The documents come from the Guildford Depository in England, which
houses six million pages of tobacco industry files -- some highly
classified -- by order of a Minnesota court.

Health Minister Allan Rock said the federal government is reviewing the
information. "We haven't ruled out any options at all," Rock said,
alluding to recovering smoking related health-care costs through a
lawsuit. Rock said he first wants to make sure that smokers have all the
facts so they can make an informed decision when they light up.

Cynthia Callard, spokeswoman for Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada,
said she hopes provincial health departments follow B.C.'s lead and
launch lawsuits. "This is absolutely the most solid evidence of what
tobacco companies are doing," she said. Collard called on the federal
government to use the new information to regulate the tobacco industry
by changing the way cigarettes are made and sold.

Toronto lawyer Andreas Siebert said the documents will come in handy as
he represents four plaintiffs in an Ontario class action suit against
Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Benson and Hedges, RJR MacDonald and British
American Tobacco Company. (The Calgary Sun Nov-23-1999)

UPS: Responds to Reports on Ohio Suit; Denies Charges on Insurance Fees
United Parcel Service Inc. has denied allegations by customers that it
charged them unfairly for insurance coverage and said it would fight the
charges in court. "We have not been served with this lawsuit and have
not seen it,'' said Norman Black, a UPS spokesman. "Based on press
reports, and our understanding of what the press is saying, these
allegations are totally without merit and we will fight them with every
resource we have in court,'' he added.

Atlanta-based UPS was sued in state court in Dayton, Ohio, on Nov. 18 in
a class action brought by what the suit describes as ""many thousands of
individuals'' in Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky seeking damages of
some $42 billion.

The suit alleges that around Jan. 1, 1984, UPS and other defendants
developed a scheme and began charging UPS customers a fee that UPS was
to use to purchase shippers' property insurance to cover the declared
value of parcels of $100. It alleges that UPS did not purchase the
insurance but instead deposited the fees into UPS accounts and shared
the profit with and/or invested them in an enterprise directed and
controlled by UPS and the other defendants.

"The defendants were motivated by an intent to deprive the plaintiffs
and other (customers) of UPS of moneys under the false promise and
representations that such moneys would be spent on insurance premiums,
to conceal the fact that UPS was illegally operating as a self-insurer,
and to maximize the profit from this illegal and fraudulent conduct by
concealing their operations and by transferring the money out of the
United States to avoid reporting requirements and taxation,'' the
lawsuit claimed.

Also named in the suit are Overseas Partners Ltd., spun off by UPS in
1984, and insurer Aon Group (Bermuda) Ltd., both of Hamilton, Bermuda.
Other defendants include Pittsburgh, Pa.-based National Union Fire
Insurance Co., a unit of American International Group Inc. of New York.
Joe Norton, a spokesman for AIG, said the company "does not comment on
matters that are being litigated.'' (Journal of Commerce Nov-24-1999)

VITAFORT INT'L: CA Appellant Ct Affirms Dismissal of Investor's Suit
In December 1994, Lloyd Gauntt, who invested an aggregate of $75,000 in
certain of the Company's private placements, initiated an action in
Superior Court, Orange County, California against his stockbroker, two
national brokerage firms, several companies in which he had invested;
and, certain of those company's officers. Included among the defendants
were the Company and its then Chief Executive Officer, Steve Westlund.
The complaint seeks damages in an unspecified amount in excess of
$500,000 and punitive damages in an unspecified amount in excess of

The Court dismissed the class action claims as to the Company and
granted a motion that the claims against the brokerage firms and
associated persons must be submitted to arbitration. The Plaintiff
appealed that ruling and the appellate court affirmed the lower court

The Company denies any liability to the plaintiff and intends to
vigorously defend this action in the event the plaintiff seeks to pursue
the arbitration. The Company notes that the plaintiff sold a portion of
the securities he purchased from the Company, realizing a profit; that
the balance of the securities became salable under Rule 144; and that,
if sold, the Plaintiff `s losses might be as little as $15,000.

* A Brief Review Of the Asbestos Issue Since The 50s
The vermiculite mine has been part of the Libby landscape since 1919
when it was started by Edgar Alley in the upper reaches of Rainey Creek.
Ore mined by an open-cut method was first shipped in 1925, and by 1936
the Universal Insulation Co. began to mine the site. Three years later,
Universal merged with Zonolite Co. and adopted the Zonolite name.

W.R. Grace took over the mine in 1963 and operated it until it closed in
1990. When the company acquired the mine, it legally assumed any prior
liability the mine might have incurred.

Vermiculite is a mineral that exfoliates, or expands many times its
original size when heated, and the popcorn-like black insulation that
resulted was called Zonolite. In addition to the mine and mill, the
company operated a research lab at the site and an expanding plant near
the railroad tracks in downtown Libby.
Many lifelong residents remember scooping up leftover Zonolite to use in
their gardens and as insulation. "It's the warmest house I ever had,"
said one woman who used the insulation in her home.

Another long-time resident said she and her friends would jump into the
piles of vermiculite ore stored near the expanding plant. They brought
it to school for use in science projects. Children went sledding down
Zonolite Hill because the shiny ore was slippery.

And so it was in Libby 30 or 40 years ago. The vermiculite products were
part of the landscape, and the mine provided good-paying jobs for up to
150 people at any given time. "Those were the jobs people wanted. You
had it made if you worked at the mine," one resident said.

Asbestos - a fibrous, incombustible form of magnesium and calcium
silicate that was used to make insulating materials - was actually an
impurity removed from the vermiculite milling process at the Libby mine,
according to court documents. Long before it was found to be harmful,
the company considered it a nuisance mineral in the mill because it
generated dust and clogged up the screens in the machinery.

It was also clogging lungs. Asbestosis, the resulting disease from
breathing asbestos, doesn't show up until 15 to 30 years after the
exposure. The toxicity of asbestos first came to light nationally in the
1930s, when animal experiments at Saranac Laboratory in New York linked
asbestos with cancer, said Al Smith, director of the Montana Trial
Lawyers Association. The Saranac findings weren't published until 1951,
however, and neglected to include the information about the connection
between asbestos and disease.

At the Libby mine, company officials were told about the toxicity of
asbestos in 1956 after an inspection by the state Board of Health.
Kalispell attorney Jon Heberling, who represented Lester and Norita
Skramstad in their jury trial two years ago against W.R. Grace,
maintained during the trial that the 1956 state report noted that the
exhaust capacity was not sufficient, but it was 1964 before the company
added another exhaust fan.

An inspection in 1958 revealed that on the fifth and sixth floors of the
dry mill, the concentration of asbestos particles exceeded the maximum.
By 1959 more than a third of the mine workers had abnormal chest X-rays,
court records state. Yet a report that same year from the industrial
hygiene inspector that mandated mine improvements was stamped
confidential and wasn't shown to workers. Another pivotal event in 1959
that went unnoticed by most was the illness of Glen Taylor, who had
worked at the mine for 18 years. He was diagnosed with asbestosis in
February 1959.

All of this happened unbeknownst to Lester Skramstad, who started work
at the mine that same year. Sometime in the early 1950s, about the same
time a wet mill was built in 1954 to cut down on the amount of asbestos
in the air, respirators became a required item to be worn in the dry
mill. Even so, the use of respirators was not enforced, the numerous
plaintiffs claim. And although the wet mill was added in 1954, the dry
mill continued to be used for coarse material and for screening until

During Skramstad's trial, mine manager Earl Lovick testified that he
believed the workers knew the dust was unhealthy. Lovick, who was named
as a defendant in many of the lawsuits, died this year. Grace's attorney
maintained during Skramstad's trial that Lovick and the company were
"concerned about the employees and their health and took what steps they
believed were reasonable and appropriate at the time."

Graham alleged it wasn't until the late 1970s that Grace began to
suspect that the asbestos dust was becoming a health problem. In the
early 1970s, Grace started gathering death certificates to determine the
effects of the asbestos exposure, according to the transcript of
Skramstad's case.

Lovick had discussed the problem with Libby doctors, but they couldn't
conclude the dust posed a serious health problem, the company

The Skramstads prevailed in their case against Grace. The jury found
Grace guilty of negligence and failure to provide a safe work place and
awarded Lester $625,000 and Norita $35,000. No punitive damages were
awarded. Skramstad declined to talk about his case.

His wife's deposition, however, is indicative of the scenario so many
wives encountered in earlier years. "The stuff (asbestos dust) was so
fine it would be inside his billfold," she testified. "You would wash
clothes and in them days we didn't have automatic washers and that stuff
was so icky I would complain about it." When asked how she handled her
husband's diagnosis, her stoic reply was: "I guess like anything else. I
can't change it. I guess that I will have to learn to live with it same
as he does."

Most Libby residents seem to take the unnerving matter in stride. The
community is keenly aware of its fate, said county environmental health
director Ron Anderson, a lifelong Libby resident. "There are so many
variables involved, though," he said. "In order to put any validity to
the number of cases, you'd need an epidemiology study. With the current
upswell of concern, it's hard to say exactly how things will proceed."

Anderson worked summers at the mine while he was going to college.
Michael Ray, who operates a civil engineering firm in Libby, said his
information about the issue has come from whatever has been published in
the local newspaper. It's not something people talk about every day over
coffee. "It's not like we get together and ask 'who died today?' " he
said. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire Nov-16-1999)

* Atlanta Y2K hotline: 404-521-2000
The city of Atlanta has established a Y2K hotline to answer questions
about the city's preparedness. City officials say all essential services
are Y2K compliant, and contingency plans are in effect for all systems.
The hotline will be operational through early January and has been
established to alleviate "undue fears and concerns." The number is
404-521-2000. (The Atlanta Journal and Constitution Nov-24-1999)


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

Class Action Reporter is a daily newsletter, co-published by Bankruptcy
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Washington, DC.  Theresa Cheuk and Peter A. Chapman, editors.

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

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