Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire




Hoku Scientific takes policy role

Honolulu-based Hoku Scientific has been asked to take a policy-making role with the U.S. Fuel Cell Council.

The firm has been named an executive member of the council's board of directors. The industry organization promotes the commercialization of fuel cells. Executive members participate in council governance as well as fuel cell promotion, industry policy setting and public education.

The council is made up of fuel cell developers, manufacturers, suppliers and customers from around the world, including companies like DuPont, 3M and DaimlerChrysler.

Founded in 2000, Hoku Scientific is working to develop fuel cell technologies.

Lex Brodie shops OK with AAA

Four Lex Brodies Tire Co. repair shops on Oahu have been recertified by the American Automobile Association, which means AAA considers them good places for its members to use. AAA Hawaii said it approved the Lex Brodies facilities at 701 Queen St., 333 Kalihi St., 98-115 Kamehameha Highway and 94-169 Farrington Highway.

As AAA-approved repair shops, the facilities provide discounts of at least 10 percent and up to $60 to drivers showing AAA membership cards. The latest approval is a continuation of AAA authorization that was already in place.


Sprint has deal with some workers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. >> Sprint Corp. said it reached tentative deals with workers in four states who had threatened to walk off the job today if contract issues were not settled before an early afternoon deadline.

Talks continued past the deadline with workers in a fifth state.

The strike would have affected about 2,700 local telephone employees in Florida, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and North Carolina who are represented by the union.

Sprint spokeswoman Lisa Litec said the company reached agreements today with workers in Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and North Carolina. The Overland Park, Kan.-based company continued to negotiate with workers in Oregon.

WorldCom trial stays in Manhattan

NEW YORK >> The accounting fraud trial of a former WorldCom Inc. executive will remain in Manhattan and begin in September, a judge decided Tuesday.

Ruling from the bench, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones rejected a defense motion asking her to throw out conspiracy charges against Scott Sullivan because they were improperly filed in Manhattan.

Jones also denied a request to move the case to Washington, D.C., so Sullivan's ailing wife and small child could stay with relatives there during the monthlong trial.

The defense had claimed a trial in Manhattan would create a financial hardship for the family, which lives in Boca Raton, Fla. Prosecutors countered that Sullivan still has "vast resources" at his disposal.

The judge set a trial date for Sept. 8.

Sullivan, 40, was chief financial officer at WorldCom when investigators say the company carried out a $9 billion accounting fraud, the largest in U.S. history.

He is charged with ordering accounting executives to move operating expenses off the books, making WorldCom appear profitable when it was losing money. He has pleaded innocent and is free on $10 million bond.

Disney settles whistle-blower suit

LOS ANGELES >> Walt Disney Co. has settled a $20-million "whistle-blower" lawsuit brought by a former executive who says she was fired for refusing to help the company allegedly cheat the IRS.

The case, scheduled to go to trial Jan. 27, was settled late last week, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. The terms were not disclosed.

In her March 2001 suit, Judy Denenholz said she was wrongfully terminated after a series of clashes with the company's chief lawyer. Disney general counsel Louis Meisinger allegedly was angered by her refusal to sign off on Disney's response to an IRS audit.

Denenholz, who was senior vice president of the company's worldwide anti-piracy division, claimed that Disney had substantially understated what it owed the IRS.

Disney said it had investigated the allegations and found them to be "shameful and untrue."


BAE Systems denies report of Boeing talks

LONDON >> Aerospace company BAE Systems yesterday dismissed as speculative a report that it has held exploratory talks with Boeing Co. about a possible merger that would create a $32 billion defense business.

The Sunday Times reported that senior bankers held talks on behalf of the two companies last autumn, before BAE issued a profit warning in December. Although the paper said the two sides have put their talks on hold, it cited sources close to BAE as saying the companies are still eager to do a deal.

BAE Systems spokesman Richard Coltart described the report as "speculation" but would neither confirm nor deny that talks with Boeing had taken place last fall. Similar reports have surfaced in the past, he said.

Boeing spokesman John Dern declined comment yesterday.

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