Corporations and securities brief ~ Three insurance executives plead guilty to fraud

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's corporations and securities law news, a former senior executive at Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. [corporate website] and two executives from American International Group Inc. (AIG) [corporate website] have pleaded guilty to fraud charges. The charges were brought as part of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's [official website] investigation of fraud in the insurance industry [Spitzer press release]. Spitzer has obtained nine guilty pleas from executives at AIG, Marsh, ACE Ltd. and Zurich Financial Services AG [corporate website] since starting the investigation last year. Read the Spitzer press release. USAToday has more.

In other news...

  • Following up on a story JURIST's Paper Chase reported yesterday, sources indicate California insurance regulators and French bank Credit Lyonnais [corporate website] have reached a settlement of the state's lawsuit alleging the bank and several investors fraudulently obtained defunct insurer Executive Life. The settlement was reached after California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi [official website] and Sierra National Insurance Holding Co., a plaintiff in the case, agreed to the terms. Credit Lyonnais will reportedly pay $525 million to California and $75 million to Sierra. AP has more. From Paris, Le Monde has local coverage in French.

  • ChoicePoint Inc. [corporate website], which sells consumer data to government agencies and a variety of companies, has warned thousands of Californians that the company's computer network was compromised and hackers may have stolen credit reports, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. AP has more.

  • Lawyers for former WorldCom chief Bernard Ebbers [Wikipedia profile] began its cross-examination of the government's star witness, former chief financial officer Scott Sullivan, today. Under cross-examination, Sullivan said he deliberately misled WorldCom's board in 2002 when he defended baseless accounting entries that covered up the company's expenses. Sullivan, who already pleaded guilty to fraud, is the prosecution's only witness to directly link Ebbers to the fraud. Read Ebbers' indictment [text, PDF] and the superseding indictment [text, PDF]. AP has more.

  • Citigroup's [corporate website] Chief Executive Officer Chuck Prince [Citigroup biography] has sent an internal memo to the company outlining a five-point plan which emphasizes staff training and independent controls to combat the company's role in recent scandals. The memo is a response to the high-profile bond-trading disaster in Europe and the loss of its private banking license in Japan. Reuters has more.

  • The European Court of Justice [official website] will hear a case over whether Greece should be the only EU country to be allowed to label its cheese feta. The Danish and German governments are challenging the European Commission [official website] ruling which gave Greece sole rights to use the name thereby effectively restricting the use of the feta name to producers there. BBC News has more.

  • Russia's Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev [official biography] announced the detainment of the heads of two large Russian oil companies on suspicions they embezzled more than 1.5 billion rubles in state funds. AP has more.

  • National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) [official website] has charged mutual fund underwriter and distributor American Funds Distributors [corporate website] for violations of NASD rules when American Funds directed $100 million to top sellers of their fund as reward money. Read the NASD press release. Reuters has more.

  • Circuit City Stores Inc. [corporate website] announced its plan to close 19 stores and other facilities as part of an initiative to improve its financial condition. The move comes a day after the company received an unsolicited takeover bid. Read the Circuit City press release. AP has more.
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