Thursday AM September 13th, 2007

Shell president spotlights supplier diversity as beneficial to business...Arbitrator orders Houston attorney to pay $41.4 million to former breast implant litigation clients...United Food and Commercial Workers International Union decries "illegal workplace raids"...

Corporate investment in supplier diversity has a clear business benefit, according to Shell Oil President John Hofmeister. He's Corporate co-chair of this year's Houston Minority Business Council 2007 Expo at the George R. Brown Convention Center, along with Wayne McConnell from McConnell, Jones, Lanier and Murphy. Hofmeister says keeping the job market healthy depends on keeping more people from dropping out--and in fact, pursuing post-high school education.

"We really, as a nation, have the chance to tap into minority peoples across this country—African-American, Hispanic, Asian—as a great source of future talent. One of the things we have to come to terms with is that too many minority students drop out of school and they miss the opportunity to become part of the economic mainstream in ways that so many other majority students do not. If we can get the whole of society graduating from high schools, get the whole of society—all the minority communities—pursuing post-high school education, this is an important source of future talent for minority enterprises. It's an important source of future talent for big enterprises like Shell, as well. So I think job growth in a minority community is a way of stimulating the 'stay-in-school' mantra."

Hofmeister says diversity is not just another item on lists of business objectives, but a business imperative that enables corporations to accomplish its objectives.

"Well, you know we live in a large, diverse culture in this country, and this is a country of business. We have been for hundreds of years a country built upon the economic growth of business. We care a lot about economic security in this country, and business seems to be the primary driver for the engine of growth—meaning job growth. And so job growth, particularly as it applies to minority populations in this country is every bit as important as job growth in majority population. Houston in particular is a terrific market. It's got a booming economy. It's got a very robust minority business enterprise history, and that history is growing. It's expanding, and so being part-and-parcel of the talent that we can tap into through Minority Business Enterprise is very important to us."

Shell Oil has been recognized for not only seeking out minority and women-owned businesses as suppliers, but working with its major suppliers to enhance their supplier diversity.


Houston trial lawyer John O'Quinn must pay $41.4 million for improperly charging expenses to his former breast implant litigation clients, according to the Houston Chronicle. An arbitration panel found that O'Quinn was to pay the more than 3,000 women who were improperly charged an extra 1.5 percent for general expenses. The case stems from a 1999 class-action lawsuit filed by ex-clients in east Texas, alleging O'Quinn improperly took funds from their settlements for group charges they had not agreed to pay.


The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union went to court to stop what it calls illegal workplace raids. The federal lawsuit was filed in Amarillo. It contends agents last December unlawfully detained workers and violated their constitutional rights during raids at six Swift meatpacking plants--including one in Cactus. Nearly 1,300 people were arrested in raids targeting use of stolen or fake identification documents. A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency will fight charges. Swift is not named as a defendant. ICE returned to the plants in July and made 20 more arrests, including a human resources manager and a union representative on charges of recruiting and harboring illegal immigrants.


A new forecast from UCLA suggests weakness in the housing market will translate to weak economic growth in the near-term, flirting with a recession. The quarterly Anderson forecast predicts economic growth of just over one percent in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter of 2008. It predicts that growth will remain "tepid'' for the remainder of 2008 and return to three percent in 2009. The traditional definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of decline in gross domestic product. The report says other key factors involved with the slowdown could include further credit tightening, which could discourage corporate investment, and the willingness of foreign investors to hold dollar-based assets.


Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says that turbulence in the financial markets will take time to be resolved, especially regarding mortgages held by higher-risk borrowers. Speaking to officials of some of the country's biggest financial firms, Paulson says the government is looking for their help to make sure homeowners get assistance in dealing with rising mortgage payments as their adjustable rate mortgages reset. An estimated two million homeowners will be facing steep increases in their mortgage payments over the next two years, raising the risk of losing their homes. The session was called as a follow-up to efforts announced by President Bush last month to provide more government help to struggling borrowers.


ConocoPhillips will spend $10 million to fund emissions-cutting programs in California as it expands a refinery in Rodeo. It's part of an agreement with California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The Houston-based oil firm will donate $7 million to an emissions-offset program that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will use to support offset projects in the Bay Area. It will provide $2.8 million for reforestation efforts and $200,000 for restoration of the San Pablo wetlands. Brown says ConocoPhillips is the first oil company in the U.S. to offset greenhouse gas emissions from a refinery expansion project.


Electronic Data Systems announced that it's offered extra retirement benefits to about 12,000 U.S. employees if they'll leave early. The Plano-based technology-outsourcing company says it expects the offer to result in a charge against 4th-quarter earnings of $70 million to $130 million. EDS says the offer wouldn't affect cash flow because it'll be funded almost entirely from the company retirement plan. EDS said employees have until October 30th to accept. Employees who accept the buyout would get an additional $10,000 from the retirement plan and extra credits to their retirement account. EDS went through a round of 5,000 job cuts starting in 2003. The next year, the chief executive announced that the company would shed another 20,000 jobs. While cutting jobs in the United States and Europe, EDS has been adding workers in low-cost countries--chiefly India, where it has 20,000 workers. An EDS spokeswoman said the company has 136,000 employees, including 35,000 in low-cost countries. It expects to have 45,000 in low-cost nations next year.


Houston law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp is merging with Chicago-based Lord Bissell & Brook, according to the Houston Business Journal. The new firm will be called Locke Ord Bissell & Liddell, with about 700 attorneys in 11 U.S. offices.


The economic impact of League City's Big League Dreams Sports Park exceeded original 2006 projections by about 30 percent, according to the League City Economic Development Department. The park hosted 51 baseball and softball tournaments played by 1,887 teams. Total paying attendance for 2006 was 251,891 visitors. The economic impact is around $41.5 million.


The Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended trading in securities of Dallas-based Terax Energy. The SEC says the trading suspension would end at noon September 26th. The SEC said questions have been raised about Terax's oil and gas operations and the identity of the people running the company. It also cites questions about Terax's purported financing agreements, its supposed acquisition of a controlling interest in a foreign energy firm, and a purported share-exchange agreement between Terax and Westar oil. The Terax Web site says it operates energy leases on 27,500 acres in the Barnett shale. That's a large natural gas field in and around Fort Worth. According to the Web site, Terax's management has "proven expertise in the early stage development of oil and gas opportunities.''


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