News Briefs

Settlement for another Enron executive?; best corporate citizens; USF; BorgWarner; Franklin Electric; optimism on hiring; Gannett; Rohm and Haas.

  • Federal authorities are preparing charges and a settlement for Paula Rieker, a former executive in Enron Corp.’s investor relations unit, according to the Wall Street Journal. She will probably settle charges of insider trading and making false statements, then help prosecutors probing other high-ranking officials, added the paper, citing people familiar with the matter.
  • For the fifth year in a row, 29 companies made Business Ethics magazine’s annual listing of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. The most consistent performer was Procter & Gamble, which this year ranked second and has been in the top five all five years of the study. Hewlett-Packard has made the top 10 every year and placed eighth this time around.

The ranking identifies companies among the Russell 1000 — the largest publicly traded companies — that excel at serving a variety of shareholders well. The ranking is based on quantitative measures of corporate service to seven stakeholder groups: stockholders, employees, customers, the community, the environment, overseas stakeholders, and women and minorities.

The top ten companies for 2004: Fannie Mae, Procter & Gamble, Intel Corp., St. Paul Cos.; Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., Deere & Co., Avon Products Inc., Hewlett-Packard Corp., Agilent Technologies Inc., and Ecolab Inc.

  • Ignoring the trend toward separating the posts of chairman and CEO, USF Corp. announced that chief executive officer Richard DiStasio will succeed Neil Springer as chairman of the board. Springer will remain on USF’s board as lead director and will also serve on the audit, compensation, and nominating committees.
  • Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services raised its corporate credit and senior unsecured debt ratings on BorgWarner Inc. to A-minus from BBB-plus, with a stable outlook, citing the company’s strong operating performance and improved credit statistics.
  • Franklin Electric Co., a manufacturer of underground and submersible motors, hardware, and piping for fueling systems, announced that it will split its stock two-for-one. On Wednesday the company’s share price rose about 4 percent, to more than $65, following the announcement.
  • In a survey of more than 9,400 U.S. workers, one-third said that their bosses were hiring, sending The Hudson Employment Index of workplace optimism to a high for the year.
  • Gannett Co. Inc. shareholders re-elected James Johnson and Stephen Munn, as well as president, CEO, and chairman Douglas McCorkindale, to the board of directors. Calpers had withheld its vote for Munn because he is a member of the audit committee that authorized the company’s auditor to perform non-audit services.
  • Rohm and Haas Co. shareholders elected 14 members to the company’s board of directors. They include Gary Rogers, vice chairman of General Electric from 2001 until his retirement in December 2003. John McArthur, a director of the company since 1977, did not stand for re-election in accordance with company policy, since he has reached age 70. Shareholders also ratified PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as the company’s independent auditor.

Calpers withheld votes for seven of the directors, including David Haas, a member of the nominating committee, and Thomas Haas, a members of the executive compensation and the nominating committees, since they are cousins. The pension fund said the other nominees it opposed are members of the audit committee that has authorized PwC to perform non-audit services. Calpers also voted against ratifying PwC.

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