Business & Finance

Government regulators handed a major victory to Western utilities and cities trying to get out of exorbitant contracts they made with disgraced energy giant Enron Corp. during the power crisis of 2000-01. In an order issued Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for the first time, acknowledged that the contracts were signed under fraudulent pretenses. The commission said a hearing should be held to determine whether Enron can collect profits it would have received had those contracts been fulfilled. When Enron went bankrupt, it sued for the money it would have made had the terms of the contracts been adhered to. The hearing is expected in May, followed by FERC's final decision late this year.

According to a filing late last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, top executives of AT&T Corp. would receive $31 million in severance pay if the long-distance company's deal to be acquired by SBC Communications Inc. goes through as planned. AT&T President William Hannigan stands to receive the largest cash severance, nearly $6.5 million. The SEC filing also said AT&T might create a pool of up to $100 million for cash retention bonuses to keep top executives from leaving earlier than six months after the SBC deal is completed. SBC, the second largest US local phone company, agreed in January to a $16 billion cash-and-stock acquisition of its former parent AT&T.

Japan Airlines Corp. says it will trim an additional 1,400 more jobs through attrition as part of its new three-year restructuring plan. The carrier earlier announced plans to cut 4,500 jobs by the end of fiscal 2006. JAL is looking to carve out $721 million in annual savings in order to remain competitive against regional rivals.

On the heels of the news that Ford Motor Co. is discontinuing the current-generation Thunderbird after the 2005 model year, the automaker said Friday it will lay off about 200 employees at its Wixom, Mich., assembly plant. The retro convertible went on sale in the summer of 2001.

Off-price retailer TJX Cos., which operates more than 1,600 T.J. Maxx, Marshalls,, and HomeGoods stores, will lay off more than 500 workers as it closes two distribution centers in Mansfield, Mass., and consolidates its the operations of its HomeGoods division in Bloomfield, Conn.

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