Business & Finance

Shareholders in embattled oil industry giant Yukos were called to a Dec. 20 meeting to consider declaring bankruptcy after the Russian government slapped the company with a bill for $6.7 billion more back taxes Tuesday. That sum pushed the total being sought from Yukos by the Tax Ministry to at least $14 billion, or more than its market value. Under Russian law, a company in bankruptcy has two years to work with the courts and its creditors on a schedule to repay its debts.

In a key deal with Volkswagen, the union representing its assembly-line workers agreed to a 28-month freeze in pay in return for a guarantee of no layoffs before 2011. The automaker will pay a one-time bonus of $1,270 to employees next year, however. The union, IG Metall, had sought not only a guarantee of job security but also pay hikes of 2.2 percent in the first year of a new contract and 2.7 percent in the second year. Volkswagen claimed in negotiations that it needed major cost cuts to stay competitive and would be forced to resort to mass layoffs if the union didn't concede them.

Boeing and its arch-rival, Airbus Industrie, were left hanging by Malaysia Airlines after the latter announced that it plans to spend $1 billion on 39 new passenger jets but didn't say which company it wants to build them. Chief executive Low Chee Teng told journalists the carrier would not reach a decision on that question before next April.

Marsh & McLennan, the brokerage accused of price-fixing, will set aside about $230 million to be returned to customers who lost money because of sales tactics that subordinated their interests to those of insurance companies, it announced late Monday. The money will come out of bonus commissions paid by the carriers, the Financial Times reported. Marsh & McLennan stopped accepting the bonuses last month because of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney Eliot Spitzer (D). In the wake of that action, other insurance companies and brokerages have said they'll also discontinue the practice.

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