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Business today

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

NO VERDICT IN ANDERSEN CASE: Jurors in the Arthur Andersen obstruction of justice case deliberated for nine hours without reaching a verdict. Deliberations were to resume at 10 a.m. today. Jurors sent four notes to U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, asking for office supplies, extra copies of their 15-page court instruction and copies of several pieces of evidence, including the entire transcript of former Enron audit team leader David Duncan's testimony. Harmon said they could not have the entire transcript, noting Duncan testified for nearly five full days last month.

ANDERSEN OFFICE ACQUIRED: Grant Thornton LLP has acquired the Orlando office and employees of Arthur Andersen LLP. The deal, which gives Grant its first presence in that city, includes three partners, 23 other CPAs and three support staff from the embattled accounting firm, said Stan Levy, southeastern managing partner for Grant Thornton. A prior deal that would have handed both Andersen's Orlando and Tampa offices to Grant fell through. Ernst & Young LLP acquired the remaining employees of Andersen's Tampa office late last month. Grant Thornton did hire several CPAs from the Tampa office.

JOBLESS CLAIMS SOFTEN: The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment insurance plunged last week to the lowest level in a year, the Labor Department reported. New claims dropped by a seasonally adjusted 32,000 to 383,000 for the week ended June 1, but analysts cautioned the bigger-than-expected drop might have been exaggerated by seasonal adjustment factors related to the Memorial Day holiday. The number of unemployed workers continuing to draw jobless benefits rose to 3.82-million for the week ended May 25, close to a 19-year high.

ANALYST DROPS DILLARD'S: Prudential Securities Inc. analyst Wayne Hood dropped coverage of Dillard's Inc., after having followed the retailer since 1986, because of lack of access to the department-store chain's management. "We're preferring to spend our time with companies that are more open with the Street," he said. Hood, who had followed the retailer since 1986 and who owns Dillard's shares, said he didn't find anything wrong with its financials. Retail consultant Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said Dillard's traditionally has been a very closed-mouth company. A Dillard's spokeswoman was unavailable to comment. Dillard's shares fell $1.16 to $29.

HERSHEY SETTLES STRIKE: Hershey Foods Corp. and negotiators for 2,700 striking chocolate factory workers reached a labor agreement after a record strike of 42 days largely idled two company plants. Members of Chocolate Workers Local 464 walked out April 26 after more than six months of negotiations failed to dissolve an impasse over management's insistence that employees contribute more toward health care costs. Union members said that they would not object to a higher health care contribution if the company were struggling, but Hershey Foods has consistently recorded profits.

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