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Chicago's CNA shows its colors in light display

CNA Financial Corp. is rooting for the Chicago Bears to win next week's Super Bowl and it wants all of Chicago to know it.

Using its red 44-story corporate headquarters as its canvass during two playoff weekends, the Chicago-based insurer lit up the upper half of all four sides of its South Loop building with either "Go Bears" or the NFL team's bear head logo.

And the insurer again will light the Chicago skyline with a message for its beloved football team during Super Bowl weekend Feb. 3 and 4.

To make its message clear, every window and floor are numbered and plugged into a computer for a design team to figure out which blinds to close and which ones to keep open, he explained.

"Everyone thinks we have an Easy Button to push and (the blinds) all kind of close at one time," he said in referring to Staples' longtime ad campaign. "That's in Hollywood. We're in Chicago and we're an insurance company, so it's a little more labor-intensive."

A five-person facilities team then spends four hours to make sure the right window blinds are open and closed, he said.

CNA first used the system about 10 years ago with the Chicago Bulls, the spokesman said. Since then, it has rooted on the Chicago White Sox and donned ribbons for Christmas as well as breast cancer and AIDS awareness. CNA even welcomed those attending the 2003 Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. conference with a lit "RIMS."

"I'm sure everybody who was not in the insurance industry really didn't know what it meant," the spokesman said. "They probably thought it was for the Bulls again with basketball."

UnitedHealth ranks among biggest business blunderers

UnitedHealth Group Inc. and its former chief executive officer, Dr. William W. McGuire, made headlines again last week in connection with alleged backdating of stock options.

This time, though, it was as part of's "101 Dumbest Moments in Business" during 2006. Now in its seventh year, the list ranks "the year's biggest boors, buffoons and blunderers."

Other top risk management disasters of 2006, according to the Web site, included the nationwide spinach recall triggered by E. coli-contaminated salad bags from San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based supplier Natural Selection Foods, and casino mogul Steve Wynn's careless handling of Pablo Picasso's work "Le Reve," which cut the painting's value by millions and landed him in the middle of a legal battle with underwriters at Lloyd's of London.

Oh, baby! Maternity stores settle bias suit over pregnancy A retailer that caters to expectant mothers has settled a lawsuit accusing it of discrimination and retaliation in firing an employee who was pregnant.

Philadelphia-based Mothers Work Inc. recently agreed to pay $375,000 to settle a suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Miami EEOC office had accused the retailer of illegally disciplining and firing an assistant manager because the chain believed she was pregnant, and in retaliation for her complaints.

The settlement will be shared among the assistant manager, her attorney and three women denied jobs because of their pregnancy, according to the EEOC.

Rebecca Matthias, president of Mothers Work Inc.--which includes specialty brands A Pea in the Pod, Mimi Maternity and Motherhood--said the settlement avoided the high cost of litigation.

"I was shocked and upset at the allegations raised in this lawsuit and we vehemently deny the implication that as a company we have a policy to discriminate against pregnant women," Ms. Matthias said in a statement.

"Our business revolves around serving the apparel needs of pregnant women and we encourage having team members who are also pregnant and can provide firsthand product knowledge to our customers," she said. "It is ridiculous to think we would discriminate against pregnant women."

Mothers Work also said it will retrain its staff nationwide and use "secret applicant" interviews to monitor compliance.

Intimate knowledge of investing underlies Berkshire lingerie deal

Warren Buffett, the chairman of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., earned the sobriquet "Oracle of Omaha" for his investment expertise.

But while Mr. Buffett's well-known for his insurance and reinsurance operations, the Berkshire Hathaway family of businesses also includes Fruit of the Loom Inc. Last week, Greensboro, N.C.-based VF Corp. announced that it was selling its global intimate apparel business to Fruit of the Loom for $350 million in cash. Fruit of the Loom intends to operate the seven U.S. and European intimate apparel lines under the Vanity Fair Brands banner, VF said.

Mr. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway also includes building materials, candy and jewelry. But with the acquisition of the VF business, the Oracle of Omaha appears to be demonstrating that no matter what your insurance or intimate apparel needs might be, he's quite willing to provide underlying coverage.

Contributing: Contributing: Mark A. Hofmann, Rupal Parekh, Sally Roberts, Joanne Wojcik