Wednesday PM October 11th, 2006

Judge order BP chief executive to give deposition in Texas City lawsuit...Jeff Skilling asks judge to throw out his conviction, citing successful appeal in another Enron case... HP to add 140 jobs at data center complex to be built in northwest Houston...

A Galveston judge has ordered BP CEO John Browne to give a deposition in a lawsuit arising from last year's deadly blast at BP's Texas City refinery. State District Judge Susan Criss ordered Lord Brown to testify under oath in the lawsuit filed by the daughter of a couple who were among 15 people killed in the explosion. Criss says Lord Browne's interviews and statements to BP employees recently indicate he has a "unique and superior'' knowledge about possible factors in the explosion. BP attorneys argue that Lord Browne doesn't possess such knowledge and that the request for a deposition violates a deal between attorneys in the case. That agreement would only have allowed Browne to be questioned if BP subordinates indicated he alone had information the plaintiffs attorneys sought. Trial is scheduled to begin the first week in November in Galveston of the suit filed by Eva Rowe. Her parents, James and Linda Rowe of Hornbeck, Louisiana, were killed in the blast.

Enron's former chief executive has asked a judge to throw out his conviction, citing a successful appeal in another Enron case. Jeff Skilling joined other convicted Enron executives in asking a trial judge to void his guilty verdict based on an August ruling by a federal appeals court in New Orleans. His request came as part of a motion to remain free pending an appeal he said he planned to file after his October 23rd sentencing. Skilling says U.S. District Judge Sim Lake his conviction should be thrown out because the jury might have relied on a prosecution claim that he deprived the company of "honest services," a theory that caused the New Orleans court to overturn four other Enron-related convictions in August. Skilling was convicted of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy and insider trading, and faces a sentence of as much as 25 years in prison.

Hewlett-Packard plans to add 140 jobs at a $430 million data center complex that will be built in northwest Houston. The Harris County Commissioners court voted to grant HP a 50 percent tax abatement on part of the property after it revealed some of its plans for the facility. The ten-year pact is expected to save HP about $4.4 million. HP hopes to save as much as $1 billion in coming years by consolidating 85 data centers worldwide in Houston, Austin and Atlanta. HP employs about 8,500 people in the Houston area.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says she's still not sure why she was fired by the computer and printer maker. In an interview with the Associated Press to promote her book, "Tough Choices,'' she says "it wasn't about performance,'' noting that the board had approved her plans for 2005 just before letting her go. She suspects that her firing was engineered by then-directors Thomas Perkins and George Keyworth, and she says it was a mistake to let Perkins return to the board after he had been forced out when he reached mandatory retirement age. Fiorina says she was "shocked'' and then saddened by the tactics HP investigators used to try to find the source of boardroom leaks. But she says it's important that the whole "pretexting'' scandal came to light.

Oil is moving again through the Trans-Alaska pipeline after bad weather forced it to shut down briefly Tuesday. Flooding near the southern end of the pipeline is suspected of knocking out fiber-optic communication lines. The lines operate remote valves that can be closed if a spill occurs. The pipeline was reopened when crews were flown out to the valves so that they could be operated manually. Meanwhile, high winds are blamed for a power outage that drastically cut production at Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska. Layers of dust and dirt blown by high winds built up on high voltage insulators on power lines and the field, causing a short. A BP spokesman says crews are washing insulators but he can't predict how long it will take.

Most of the dozens of troops and oil workers taken hostage in a raid on a navy base and nearby oil facility in southern Nigeria have been released. The release of the remaining hostages from Royal Dutch Shell was imminent, according to a local police commissioner. Assailants held 60 oil workers captive at an oil installation near the base on Tuesday. The attackers initially demanded that the oil company supply light and water to the local community and tackle erosion problems, as well as money. Armed fighters frequently attack oil installations in Nigeria's southern Delta.

A Federal Communications Commission member is criticizing today's Justice Department approval of AT&T's buyout of Atlanta-based BellSouth. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the buyout tomorrow. Today, FCC member Jonathan Adelstein called the Justice Department's approval "a reckless abandonment'' of the department's "responsibility to protection competition and consumers.'' The Justice Department approval cleared one major hurdle for reuniting two modernized parts of the old Ma Bell phone monopoly that the government broke up in 1984. But that left the FCC as the last hurdle for a $78 billion deal to create the nation's biggest provider of phone, wireless and broadband Internet services. If the deal wins final government approval, the merger would give San Antonio-based AT&T total control over the nation's largest cellular provider, Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless. Cingular is a joint venture of the two phone companies that serves more than 57 million customers.

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