Business & Finance

McKesson Corp., the largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in the US, agreed Wednesday to pay $960 million to settle a securities class-action lawsuit brought by shareholders who lost money in an accounting scandal. The troubles, which led to the criminal convictions of several former executives, are tied to McKesson's $12 billion acquisition in 1999 of software maker HBO & Co. Correcting misstated profits wiped out $9 billion in shareholder wealth. Although the settlement represents a fraction of what shareholders lost, their attorney said they had to balance a desire for repayment with their interest in seeing the San Francisco company stay in business.

Oil industry giant BP announced it will take a $2.3 billion charge against fourth-quarter earnings, mostly because of its plan to sell or spin off a chunk of its petrochemical business. The world's second-largest energy producer wants to unload its olefins and derivatives unit, plus two refineries, in the second half of 2005.

OfficeMax Inc., the troubled office-products retailer, announced the resignation of chief financial officer Brian Anderson, who'd held the job only since November. The company declined to cite a reason for the departure, which came as four other employees were fired after being implicated in an ongoing internal investigation into billing irregularities. OfficeMax also said it was delaying its fourth-quarter earnings report because of accounting problems.The company has been rocked by a series of setbacks since late fall, when it changed its name from Boise Cascade Corp. and moved its headquarters from Idaho to Itasca, Ill.

Six foreign-owned textile plants closed without warning in impoverished Lesotho over the year-end holidays, leaving more than 6,600 employees without jobs. An executive of the union representing the workers said they had not been paid and that he expected more plants to close because of the Jan. 1 lifting of World Trade Organization quotas that limited cheap exports to the US and Europe from low-wage Asian factories. The owners of the Lesotho plants were identified as being from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Mauritius. Lesotho is a mountainous kingdom surrounded by South Africa and textiles are one of its few major industries. Its exports to the US have been duty-free under the four-year-old African Growth and Opportunity Act.

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