Tuesday PM November 14th, 2006

Government concedes four of five convictions against former Enron broadband finance chief should be tossed aside...Enron's Richard Causey faces sentencing...British Ministry of Defense asks KBR to withdraw IPO pending financial review...

The government concedes that four of five federal convictions against the former finance chief of Enron's defunct broadband unit should be tosses aside because they won't stand on appeal, according to the Houston Chronicle. Kevin Howard would face a maximum of ten years in prison rather than 30, if U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore upholds the fifth count and follows government recommendations to throw out the other four counts. Howard's lawyers say the fifth conviction of falsifying books also was tainted and should be thrown out. He is to be sentenced in February. A jury convicted Howard last May for selling future profits in a video-on-demand deal to an investor so Enron could book immediate earnings. Prosecutors said the deal was a sham because Enron promised to repay the investor. Howard was one of five former broadband executives whose first trial ended with a handful of acquittals, with jurors hung on dozens of counts.

The last of Enron's top officers learns his punishment Wednesday afternoon for helping perpetuate fraud at Enron. Richard Causey, Enron's former chief accounting officer, was going to be tried with Enron founder Ken Lay and former CEO Jeff Skilling, but pleaded guilty to securities fraud about a month before that trial began. Causey signed a deal in December 2005 with an agreed-upon sentence of seven years. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake could reduce that sentence to five years upon the recommendation of prosecutors. But because of his plea deal, Causey could get a longer sentence than former Enron CFO Andy Fastow, who is serving six years for his part in Enron's collapse. Unlike Fastow, Causey didn't testify against his former bosses or in any other trials. Skilling was sentenced to over 24 years in prison, but Lay died before being sentenced. Later this week, former Enron investor relations chief Mark Koenig and Michael Kopper, Fastow's right-hand man, are also to be sentenced.


The British Ministry of Defence has asked KBR to withdraw plans to hold an initial public stock offering pending a financial review. Halliburton's engineering and construction unit disclosed the request in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The office has concerns about the impact of KBR's spinoff on the Devonport Royal Dockyard, which is majority-owned by Halliburton. The Houston-based firm plans to sell 17 percent of KBR through an IPO as part of a plan to spin off the entire division by early next year.

Russia's Rosneft has awarded Halliburton International a $59 million contract to provide hydraulic fracturing services at an oil field in Siberia. Halliburton will provide services for 327 wells next year.

KBR is one of two major Houston companies on G.I. Jobs' 2006 Top Military-Friendly Employer List, ranking 12th. Machinery and systems maker FMC Technologies ranks 43rd. Texas has ten companies on the list. Companies are evaluated on their efforts to recruit members of the military, favorable policies for reserve and National Guard members called to active duty and efforts to support veterans promotional programs.


Nine universities--including three in Texas--are part of a consortium planning to foster study for resolving challenges in border security, immigration and trade. The group was announced at a conference on technologies for border security, defense and commerce in Tucson, Arizona. The Southwest Border Security Consortium consists of: Texas A&M University, the University of Texas-El Paso and the University of Texas-San Antonio; the University of Arizona and Arizona State University; San Diego State University; the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. The universities are all public and all in cities with large Hispanic populations heavily affected by the border. Three of the schools--New Mexico State, UTEP and UTSA--are designated as Hispanic-serving institutions. Each university is already conducting border-related research with a variety of grants.


The El Paso-based company that's buying Giant Industries has slashed its offer at least $100 million because of Arizona-based Giant's disappointing financial performance. The boards of both companies agreed to the discounted price. Western Refining had said in late August that it had agreed to buy Giant in a deal worth $1.5 billion. The deal will create the fourth-largest publicly traded independent oil refiner in the United States. Giant says earnings for the quarter that ended September 30th were $44 million, nearly $3 million below the same period a year ago.


Jimmy Buffet has filed a lawsuit charging that a Galveston merchant is unlawfully using Buffett's trademark to sell goods at an online store. The lawsuit filed in federal court seeks to shut down Robert Akard's Web site, underonehut.com. The suit claims the Web site falsely represents itself as "Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Online Store for Merchandise.'' Akard's attorney, Darrell Apffel, says he'll fight Buffett's efforts to drive his client out of business. He says Akard had already modified his Web site in response to complaints from Buffett's lawyers. A federal judge in Nevada shut down Akard's last Web site related to Jimmy Buffett, which was called parrotsofthecaribbean.com.


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