Supreme Court to Review Massive Walmart Class Action Case

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court announced Monday it would review whether to allow one of the largest class action suits in history to go forward against retailing behemoth Walmart.

Walmart had asked the high court to step in, arguing that a lower court was wrong to allow the sex discrimination case to go forward as a class certification instead of allowing employees to file on an individual basis.  In briefs, Walmart argued the class size would be "larger than the active duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined."

Walmart said the class action could include "every woman employed for any period of time over the past decade in any of Walmart's approximately 3,400 stores...the millions of class members collectively seek billions of dollars in monetary relief."

The action stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed by six women who worked in 13 stores who alleged they had been paid less than men in comparable positions, despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

In court papers, lawyers for the women say the case needs to proceed as a class action because Walmart exercised a strong centralized corporate culture, and that class litigation "may be the only means of obtaining the broad injunctive relief necessary to address the allegedly discriminatory policies challenged."

"The average Walmart worker," the briefs say, "simply does not have the capacity to pursue a discrimination lawsuit against her employer."

The women seek injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Legal Internet Poker Could Give US Casinos Share of $25 Billion Pie

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than 2,000 websites currently offer users the chance to wager real cash in games of skill and chance, including poker, according to the American Gaming Association. But most of them are run by offshore companies, industry experts say. Now some lawmakers want to allow U.S.-based casino companies to get into the game -- and a cut of the $25 billion-a-year pie -- by quietly pushing for a change in the law before the end of this year.

A draft bill, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and obtained by ABC News, would legalize online poker playing in the U.S., and establish licensing and reporting requirements for companies, as well as safeguards for consumers. It would also generate tax revenue from wagers, for state and federal governments. Forms of online gambling other than poker would remain prohibited under the bill.

Legalization of online poker forums has long been sought by the U.S. casino industry which says federal gaming regulations have unfairly handicapped their business in a flourishing online marketplace and left American consumers vulnerable.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 indirectly outlawed online gambling in the U.S. by making it illegal to use a credit card or checking account to place electronic bets. But the industry has repeatedly lobbied Congress to clarify the rules and loosen restrictions on some forms of online gaming, including poker.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thrift Stores Gaining in Great Recession

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Second-hand shops once considered the bottom-of-the-barrel for shoppers are getting a boost as consumers living the great recession discover better inventory and bargains.

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, saw comparable store sales decline by 1.5 percent year-to-date, according to investment research firm Morningstar. Meanwhile, its competitor Target had a soft third quarter with comparable store sales up only slightly by 1.6 percent, according to Morningstar.

On the other hand, the thrift shops are enjoying an expansion of sales and customers.

"Our transaction growth has grown by over 30 percent over the last two years but the bulk has been over the last year," says George Erickson, the Salvation Army's Northern California director of retail, based in San Francisco. "All of these extra transactions had to come from some place -- it's my conclusion that all these customers have stepped down from the Kohl's, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Macy's and Nordstrom."

Since the start of the recession that has led to more than 8 million lost jobs, The Salvation Army has seen sales grow from $499 million in 2007 to $542 million in 2009.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Too Late to Score Cheap Holiday Airfare?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It’s not too late to find some holiday travel bargains. Several of the big travel websites boast the best deals, but where do the experts go for their rates?

“We like Kayak…,” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance editor Janet Bodnar said. “It really aggregates a lot of different kinds of travel information so you can get a lot of your work done on that particular site.”

And then there’s vacation rental site, where you can “book your lodging in someone else's home so you don't have to stay in a hotel,” Bodnar said.

Kiplinger’s top carrier? Southwest Airlines, where you can still check two free bags and change your ticket at no additional cost.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Obama Pleased with Korea Trade Deal

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Calling it a “landmark” deal, President Obama said Saturday he’s “very pleased” with the free-trade agreement the United States and South Korea have worked out.

“This deal is a win for American workers, for farmers and ranchers,” the president announced this afternoon in a statement read from the White House. 

Obama boasted that the deal will contribute significantly to his goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years by opening up the Korean market to American aerospace products, electronics, and cars and trucks. 

“In short, the tariff reductions in this agreement alone are expected to boost annual exports of American goods by up to 11 billion. All told, this agreement, including the opening of the Korean service market, will support at least 70,000 American jobs,” Obama said.

The deal now must be ratified by Congress and approved by lawmakers in South Korea.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports passage of the agreement, and its president said in a statement Friday that the lobby organization will do everything in its power to round up the votes needed. 

News of the trade agreement was announced late Friday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Google, Groupon Abandon Deal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Google's attempt to buy Groupon came to a disappointing end for the search-engine giant on Friday, The Wall Street Journal reports. Local deals site Groupon, whose name is a combination of group and coupon, was apparently divided over Google's multibillion dollar offer, with many investors fearing that the two companies' personalities were incompatible.

Google has a history of spending big bucks for smaller businesses, including a $3.1 billion deal for DoubleClick in 2007. It seemed especially determined to get Groupon, however, even if the bidding was unprecedented. The Journal noted that AllThingsD claimed Google was offering $5.3 billion in the deal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Former 'GMA,' 'Primetime' Producer Tapped to Lead ABC News

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In a packed ABC News studio, incoming network president Ben Sherwood vowed to "work his heart out" to propel the news division to success.

"This is the greatest building in all of television, and the people who work here are the best in television," said Sherwood, who noted that it was "emotional" to walk into the ABC News headquarters this morning for the first time in years.

The audience that gathered to welcome Sherwood back to ABC News -- most recently he served as the executive producer of Good Morning America from 2004 to 2006 -- included World News anchor Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, and outgoing president David Westin.

Sherwood first joined ABC News in 1989 as an associate producer and producer for PrimeTime and later led Good Morning America to its two most successful seasons. Sherwood has also worked at NBC's Nightly News and has published two best-selling novels.

ABC News Digital will be of the utmost importance in this mission, according to Sherwood.

"Digital is everything, it's essential," he said. "I'm going to challenge our digital team to think really big thoughts."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Jobs Report Disappointing, Unemployment Up to 9.8%

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's employers increased payrolls by 39,000 in November, significantly worse than the 130,000 increase analysts expected.

Private sector companies added only 50,000 workers, far fewer than the 140,000 predicted.
The jobless rate jumped significantly from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

A net of 7.5 million jobs have been lost since Dec. 2007, the first month of the recession.

“There's no denying that the report is disappointing,” Vice President Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, “because we were, quite frankly, hoping for even stronger job growth.”

The vice president said that the bottom line is that there has clearly not been enough economic progress.

“There is too much pain out there. There's still millions of people out of work and trying to make do with -- without a paycheck and without the dignity or the respect that goes with a job.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


JP Morgan Suspected Madoff Months Prior to Arrest

Photo Courtesy - Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Documents obtained by ABC News show that two months before Bernie Madoff's arrest, JP Morgan Chase suspected that his investment returns were probably "too good to be true."  The bank, however, was still doing business with Madoff when federal authorities discovered his Ponzi scheme.

Lawyers representing the victims of Madoff's massive investment fraud filed a $6.4 billion lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase Thursday, claiming the bank continued its relationship with Madoff despite having documented suspicions about him.

The lawyers' complaint remains sealed, and lawyers did not specify in a public statement on the lawsuit how JP Morgan had documented those suspicions, but ABC News has obtained a "Suspicious Activity Report" that the London office of JP Morgan Chase filed with the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency in October 2008. The document -- filed two months prior to Madoff's arrest -- specifically notes Madoff's investment returns were most likely "too good to be true."

The report shows the company was already removing its money from funds that did business with Madoff -- so-called "feeder funds" -- by the time it alerted the British government to its concerns.  The London office did not issue a similar alert to U.S. authorities, and an Inspector General's Report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued in the wake of Madoff's arrest did not mention any warnings from JP Morgan.

The company filed the report, an attorney for JP Morgan would later say, after a representative of a Madoff feeder fund became angry when JP Morgan began removing money from the fund.  The representative of Geneva-based Aurelia Finance, which was acting as an advisor to one of the feeder funds, allegedly hinted at violence against a JP Morgan employee involving Aurelia's "Colombian friends" who could "create havoc."

But the report also emphasizes concerns about Madoff based on "the investment performance achieved by its funds which is so consistently and significantly ahead of its peers year-on-year, even in the prevailing market conditions, as to appear too good to be true -- meaning it probably is."

It also cites Madoff's "lack of transparency" surrounding his trading techniques, the "implementation" of Madoff's investment strategy, the "identity" of its over-the-counter (OTC) option counterparties, and Madoff's "unwillingness to provide helpful information."

As a result, the report says, JP Morgan has "sent out redemption notices in respect of one fund, and is preparing similar notices for two more funds -- referring funds Lagoon, Fairfield Sentry/Sigma Ltd., and Herald Fund SPC."

While the London office of the bank sent its warning letter to British authorities, and withdrew its funds from the Madoff feeder funds, it did not send a similar notification to U.S. authorities.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


'We Did Not Stop Hosting WikiLeaks Because of Government, Site Attacks,' Says Amazon

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Amid reports that government inquiry caused Amazon not to serve WikiLeaks, Amazon Web Services (AWS) posted a message on its blog stating "that is inaccurate."

AWS Thursday claimed that WikiLeaks simply did not follow the terms of service, which was cause for removal from the server.  For example, Amazon's terms state that one must "represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content...that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity."

Amazon said it was "clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content."

AWS, which has been storing data for its customers for over four years, also said that controversial information is not an issue for them as much as violation of terms.

"Some of this data is controversial, and that's perfectly fine.  But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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