Investor suit; "bargain" investments
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Calling the stock market that peaked in 2000 a "high stakes wheel of fortune," a US district court judge threw out class action suits filed against Merrill Lynch & Co. Investors claimed that analysts working for the brokerage issued tainted reports that lured them into making disastrous investment decisions.
Shoddy research reports didn't cause the market bubble to burst, says the judge. Besides, the investors should have done their homework by looking up publicly available information about the companies involved. Folks who lost money when the market tanked shouldn't look to the courts for "cost-free speculators' insurance."
Investors who think they're saving money by buying class B mutual fund shares may actually end up paying more, says the NASD. Class B shares don't generally involve a front-end sales charge, so they may look like a better bargain than Class A shares, which typically do. But Class B shares often carry higher ongoing fees, and levy a charge when you sell. The financial regulatory firm issued an investor alert about the different share classes at www.nasdr.com/alert_classb_funds.htm.
Since September 2002, new cars have been required to have special anchors for child safety seats, and seats must have attachments that mate with the anchors. Although installation is generally easier with the new system, don't assume that the new seats will be a snap to install, warns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Researchers had trouble securing any child safety seat into the Hyundai Santa Fe or the Cadillac CTS. The anchors in the Chevy TrailBlazer, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Toyota RAV4 were easiest.
At least under the new system, known as LATCH, or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, parents will no longer have to thread seat belts through the backs of car seats.
Shareholders will have a say in whether corporate executives receive stock options under a new rule approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Publicly traded companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq now have to get shareholder approval for all stock compensation plans, says the SEC. Executive stock option packages attracted attention from disgruntled investors in the wake of corporate financial scandals and falling stock prices over the past few years.
Advertisers use software to monitor chat rooms, e-mail, and Web surfers. In fact, companies can even watch the keys you hit as you type. Only 43 percent of those surveyed have ever used filters to block unwanted e-mails, 23 percent have used software that hunts out codes and programs that spy on a user's activities, and 17 percent have used software to hide their identity when visiting Web sites.
For information on how to protect your identity while on the Web, go to www.consumerprivacyguide.org, a site sponsored by Consumer Action, Common Cause, and other consumer groups.
Yvonne Wollenberg. UPDATE: Focus on finance. Medical Economics Aug. 22, 2003;80:10.