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ING unit settles kickback charge
A unit of Dutch financial services firm ING Group last week agreed to pay $33 million to settle litigation in New York and New Hampshire for allegedly accepting kickbacks to promote certain funds as part of retirement plans. Under the settlement, New York teachers and former teachers are eligible for $30 million in restitution, while New Hampshire state employees are eligible to receive a total of $3 million. ING did not admit or deny any wrongdoing.
UnitedHealth loses bid to block probe
Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch has the right to investigate UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s executive compensation practices, a court ruling affirmed. The ruling follows a motion by UnitedHealth, which sought a protective order to block Mr. Hatch's requests for documents relating to his probe. Mr. Hatch previously withdrew the state's participation in a shareholder lawsuit against UnitedHealth in order to conduct a separate probe into the company's stock-option granting practices. UnitedHealth said it plans to appeal the ruling. UnitedHealth is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and other authorities over their timing and accounting for stock options granted to executives.
Wal-Mart loses suit over forced work time
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lost a class action suit last week in state court in Philadelphia where the retailer was charged with forcing employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock. According to plaintiff attorney Gerald L. Bader Jr. of Baker & Associates Inc. in Denver, the jury award totalled $78.5 million in compensatory damages. However, the judge may also still award additional statutory damages. The suit alleged that Wal-Mart made workers skip more than 33 million rest breaks from 1998 to 2001.
Crawford settles overbilling allegations
Crawford & Co. has agreed to pay nearly $1.4 million to resolve allegations that it submitted inflated invoices for providing federal employees with workers compensation services, the U.S. Department of Justice announced. Between 1992 and 2002, Crawford allegedly billed the government for services at rates set by its managers rather than billing the actual time spent performing services. In addition, the company allegedly billed the entire time spent on one activity to multiple clients files and attempted to pass along overhead expenses, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Aetna to take charge related to layoffs
Aetna Inc. plans to cut its administrative expenses and take a related fourth-quarter, after-tax earnings charge of $20 million. The charge is related to severance costs as the company plans to lay off about 650 employees, about 2% of its workforce. The insurer said that the changes will result in increased flexibility, more efficient business operations and a commitment of resources to areas with a greater potential for future growth.
Hershey to close DB plan for new workers
Hershey Co. will close off its defined benefit pension plan to new employees, beef up its 401(k) plan for current and future employees and reduce future benefit accruals to current pension plan participants. A sweetened 401(k) plan will be the sole retirement savings plan offered to employees hired as of Jan. 1, 2007. Hershey will match 75% of employees' salary deferrals, up to 6% of pay. Additionally, Hershey will make an automatic 401(k) plan contribution on the first 3% of salary. Hershey will reduce future benefit accruals for employees in the defined benefit plan, which is a cash balance plan. However, Hershey will improve its 401(k) match.
Benefit filing extended for Katrina-hit companies
The Labor Department is giving more time to employers and plan administrators affected by Hurricane Katrina to file federally required benefit plan reports. Filers who need additional time beyond the Oct. 16 deadline to file 2005 reports in the Form 5500 series, such as pension plan annual financial reports, can request an extension to the end of 2006. The filing extension is available to plan administrators, employers and other entities affected by Hurricane Katrina and located in one or more parishes or counties identified earlier in an Internal Revenue Service notice. An extension also is available to employers outside the affected areas who are unable to obtain the necessary information from service providers, banks or insurance companies located in the areas specified by the IRS.