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Published Oct. 22, 2008

Funny how the word "carnage" in the second sentence livens up a quarterly press release. Raymond James Financial of St. Petersburg reported its earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter Tuesday after the markets closed, and chief executive Tom James said the company did comparatively okay by staying away from the worst of the recent damage inflicted on Wall Street firms. "While we have successfully avoided almost all of the carnage suffered by the larger firms in the financial services sector through abstaining from participating in subprime mortgages, credit default swaps and high leverage, the fallout has definitely affected us," James stated, adding that the tight credit market had cut the company's credit line in half to $100-million. The investment firm said its quarterly profit fell 22 percent, and for the year dipped 6 percent.

It sounds official, but it's just a scam

The United States Mortgage Crisis Center sounds like an offshoot of the federal government, but it's not. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum's office said USMCC is a scheme to defraud customers out of $325 in exchange for false promises of reducing a homeowner's mortgage payoff. On Tuesday, the state asked the courts to shut down the company, force it to make restitution and fine it $10,000 to $15,000 per violation. Catrina and Wendell Ponder incorporated the company this year in Lee County, though it operated in Hillsborough County. Here's how the AG's office described its activities: "Defendants have committed and are committing acts or practices in trade or commerce which shock the conscience."

Medicare changes stunt Lincare profit

Lincare Holdings Inc. of Clearwater, which provides oxygen and respiratory therapy in homes, lost revenue to Medicare price reductions in the third quarter. One big change is that Medicare now limits rental payments for oxygen equipment to 36 months, instead of for the life of the patient. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, revenue was $406-million, down from $408-million in 2007's third quarter. Lincare estimates that without the 6 percent drop in Medicare payments, it grew 5 percent. Net income for the quarter was $56-million, compared with $59-million for 2007's third quarter. Lincare, one of the bay area's 10 largest public companies, provides services and equipment to about 700,000 customers in 48 states.

Port board okays biodiesel facility

GreenHunter Energy has nine months to put together financing for a $70-million biodiesel plant and terminal at Port Sutton. The Tampa Port Authority board on Tuesday awarded the Texas renewable-energy firm three 30-day lease options on 22 acres along U.S. 41 near Gibsonton. GreenHunter says its plant will produce 50-million gallons of biofuel annually from vegetable oils and animal fats. The plant will employ 50 to 60 employees.