Business & Finance

PriceWaterhouseCoopers agreed to a $5 million fine, the Securities and Exchange Commission said, to settle allegations of violating auditor-independence standards. The SEC said the world's largest accounting firm failed to conduct proper audits of clients with which it had consulting contracts, in violations between 1996 and 2001 that involved 16 publicly traded companies. PriceWaterhouseCoopers neither admitted not denied wrongdoing, but agreed to accept a censure for improper professional conduct and to change its procedures. The SEC fine is the largest of its kind and comes as Congress prepares legislation that would form a new oversight board for the accounting industry and limit consulting work by auditors.

Ron Sommer resigned as Deutsche Telekom's chief executive Tuesday, in an expected move, and the European telecommunications giant appointed Helmut Sihler as a six-month interim replacement. Shareholders – the largest of which is the German government – had been pressing for Sommer's departure in the wake of a nearly 90-percent drop in stock value since March 2000.

Intel said it will cut 4,000 jobs after missing second-quarter earning estimates. The reductions represent 5 percent of the workforce at the world's largest computer chipmaker, based in Santa Clara, Calif. Soft personal-computer sales also lowered earnings at Apple Computer. For the third-quarter that ended June 29, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said earnings fell 48 percent from a year ago to $32 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenue of $1.43 billion.

Duke Energy Corp. admitted conducting two-dozen sham energy trades last year. The trades, worth $126 million, were designed to artificially boost trade volume and revenue but did not affect earnings. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company made the disclosures in response to SEC inquiries. It is the latest of several energy companies that have admitted to "round-trip" energy trades.

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