Business & Finance

Ernst & Young, the accounting giant, denied allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it violated conflict-of-interest rules by marketing software along with a company it also audited. Ernst & Young said its late-1990s arrangement with PeopleSoft Inc. was "entirely appropriate and permissible." The SEC Monday ordered a hearing within 60 days to determine whether sanctions are warranted.

Teamsters union members approved a strike if contract negotiations with United Parcel Service (UPS) fail. The current five-year agreement, reached after a devastating 1997 walkout, expires July 31. A spokesman for Atlanta-based UPS, the world leader in package deliveries, called the strike vote "routine" and said negotiations "have maintained a good pace."

Retail banks in the western US will be prime targets for BNP Paribas, which announced it has set aside $8.3 billion for further acquisitions, the Financial Times reported. The money will be spent over the next three years. The Paris-based financial institution, France's largest, paid $2.4 billion in December for United California Bank and $2.5 billion last May for the shares it did not already own in BancWest. The latter's headquarters are in Honolulu.

Adelphia Communications Corp. is in discussions with its founding family on an asset transfer of $2 billion to help restore liquidity and investor confidence, The Wall Street Journal reported. Coudersport, Pa.-based Adelphia, the US's sixth-largest cable TV operator, is facing possible bankruptcy and federal inquiries over the disclosure of $2.3 billion in loans to members of John Rigas's family last year.

Regulators were expected to take a hard look at a $1.7 billion deal that would give E.ON, the giant German energy supplier, just under a 20 percent stake in Ruhrgas AG, the nation's largest natural gas company. In exchange, Ruhrgas's parent, RAG Aktiengesellschaft, would assume half-ownership of E.ON's chemical subsidiary, Degussa.

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