Business Briefs

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2003

Execs charged in connection with Enron scandal

HOUSTON Three former Merrill Lynch executives were charged with fraud Wednesday for allegedly helping Enron Corp. inflate earnings with a loan the energy trader disguised as a sale.

Daniel Bayly, Robert Furst and James Brown were named in a three-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in Houston. They were scheduled to appear before a judge later in the day.

All three were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsifying books and records.

Tobacco giant announces layoffs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Faced with stiff competition from discount brands, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco will cut about 2,600 jobs, about 40 percent of its work force, in an effort to trim costs, the company announced Wednesday.

''Reynolds Tobacco is fundamentally changing the way it operates its business in order to deliver profit growth,'' said Andrew J. Schindler, chairman and chief executive officer of RJR.

Schindler said the company plans to trim its expenses by $1 billion by the end of 2005 and will focus its spending on premium brands, such as Camel and Salem.

RJR will place less emphasis on other brands, including Winston and Doral, he said.

''Given the continuing challenges in the domestic market, it's critical that we position ourselves for future profit growth,'' Schindler said.

Spokesperson Seth Moskowitz said the cuts involve all areas of the company, including both blue collar and white collar jobs. RJR employees were notified of the job cuts by press release Wednesday morning.

Last month, RJR's parent company said its quarterly profit and sales fell sharply from year-ago levels because of increased competition from discount cigarette brands.

House votes to continue Internet tax ban

WASHINGTON Connections to the Internet would remain tax-free under a bill the House passed Wednesday.

The legislation, passed with bipartisan support, makes permanent a ban on taxing Internet connections.

A temporary ban on the taxes, first enacted in 1998, runs out on Nov. 1.

New language clarifies that all types of Internet access ranging from dial-up connections and high-speed DSL to cable modems cannot be taxed.

''This bill would broaden access to the Internet, expand consumer choice, promote certainty and growth in the IT (information technology) sector of our economy and encourage the deployment of broadband services at lower prices,'' said Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah.

Treasury Secretary John Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans said in a joint statement that the ban will ''help create an environment for innovation and will help ensure that electronic commerce remains a vital and growing part of our economy.''

The Associated Press

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