Cincinnati-based banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine after admitting it paid a Colombian terrorist group for protection in a volatile farming region. The settlement resolves a lengthy Justice Department investigation into the company's financial dealings with terrorist organizations in Colombia. In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the company and several unnamed high- ranking corporate officers paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials. The AUC has been responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's civil conflict and for a sizable percentage of the country's cocaine exports.
Software firms file lawsuit
Four software companies have sued John D. Crain of Coraopolis, and his Internet business, MD of PC Custom Computers LLC, for alleged reproducing and selling copyrighted software, according to a lawsuit filed Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. Microsoft Corp., McAfee Inc., Symantec Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., said Crain's company sold the software through 15 Web sites. The suit asked the court to prevent Crain's business from destroying any records and alleged pirated software, and from reproducing any pirated software. The software companies, part of the Business Software Alliance, were alerted to the situation by Crain's customers, who complained about problems with the software, said Jennifer Blank, the alliance's enforcement director. The companies are seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Crain could not be reached for comment.
ICG orders shelters for mines
International Coal Group is the first major coal company to throw itself behind the call for airtight chambers underground. The Scott Depot, W.Va.-based company has ordered inflatable shelters for about 14 underground mines in West Virginia, Illinois and Kentucky. Though only West Virginia and Illinois require shelters, ICG said placing them everywhere meets federal standards as well. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration recently ordered all underground mines to provide enough breathable air for trapped miners to survive at least four days, though MSHA is only studying shelters at this point.
Halliburton to hire 13,000
Halliburton plans to hire more than 13,000 workers this year in the U.S. and elsewhere as it splits its headquarters between Houston and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, an executive said in a memo obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday. The oil service firm's announcement this week that its CEO, Dave Lesar, would lead the company from a new headquarters in the Arab Gulf state raised an outcry among some in the United States. A number of congressional Democrats raised fears that the move would mean job cuts in the United States and suspicions that Halliburton Co. was trying to avoid U.S. taxes. The firm says it will remain incorporated in Delaware and that the move would not affect its tax burden.
AK workers OK deal
Union workers at AK Steel Holding Corp.'s Middletown Works in Ohio overwhelmingly approved a contract offer Wednesday to end a nearly 13-month-old lockout. Machinists union officials said the ratification vote was 1,275 in favor, 226 against. The agreement, which will send some 1,750 union employees back to work at the plant, is effective today and runs through September 2011. The company has continued to operate the mill with replacement workers and salaried employees in what is the nation's longest current major work stoppage. The contract gives most …