OPENING STATEMENTS EXPECTED: The 12-person jury that will decide whether Martha Stewart lied to cover her tracks or simply made a smart move to get rid of a falling stock should be in place Monday. Opening statements, and possibly the first government witnesses against the paragon of domestic style, are expected Tuesday, lawyers said Friday. The tentative schedule was set after a federal judge completed a fourth day of interviews with potential jurors in her private robing room, hoping to eliminate those who bring a clear bias to the case. It was unclear how many jurors were qualified Friday, but the total was expected to exceed the 50 that the judge has said she wanted before moving to the final selection.
E-MAIL ISN'T FROM FDIC: Federal investigators are seeking the source of a phony e-mail purportedly from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. that asks recipients to click on a Web site and provide personal bank account information. FDIC spokesman David Barr said Friday the bogus Web site was shut down when the agency was alerted by consumers who received the e-mail. FBI and FDIC officials are investigating who set up the scam. "It's just another creative way to separate people from their money," Barr said. "Some people are smart and realize that it doesn't sound right, but a lot of people may respond to it. It does seem like it's official, but the FDIC does not and would not ask consumers unsolicited for personal account information."
SEC MAY CHARGE SPECIALISTS: The Securities and Exchange Commission is contemplating civil charges against at least five New York Stock Exchange specialist firms for violating securities laws and exchange rules against improper trading activities. LaBranche & Co. Inc., Van Der Moolen Holdings NV and Fleet Specialist, a subsidiary of FleetBoston Financial Corp., each confirmed they received a "Wells notice" from the SEC, a formal notice in which the commission warns a company that civil enforcement charges may be recommended against it. All five firms have also received a similar notice from the NYSE, which intends to bring a formal disciplinary proceeding against the firms for violating exchange rules.
UNITED CUTS MIAMI FLIGHTS: United Airlines reshuffled some international routes Friday, adding some flights while ending service on May 1 between Miami and Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and laying off about 150 ground workers there. The carrier also will shift the 99 pilots and 481 flight attendants currently based out of Miami but said they will not be laid off and can bid on assignments elsewhere. The Miami domicile for flight attendants will be closed, while the pilots' future will be determined in contract-mandated negotiations with the pilots' union.
TREASURY WEIGHS NEW BOND: The U.S. Treasury is seeking comment from bond dealers about the possible introduction of 20-year inflation-indexed bonds to attract more investors and reduce borrowing costs. The questionnaire was sent in advance of the Feb. 4 quarterly refunding, when the government discloses how much and what kind of securities it plans to sell during the next three months. Wall Street firms such as Merrill Lynch & Co. have speculated the Treasury would need to issue more types of debt to finance a budget deficit that the firm estimates may reach a record $600-billion this fiscal year.