Business

Business Digest

Technology

Eight former America Online Inc. executives, including chief financial officers John Michael Kelly and Joseph Ripp, were sued by U.S. regulators for allegedly helping overstate Internet advertising revenue by more than $1 billion from 2000 to 2002.

Four of the executives agreed to pay more than $8 million to settle a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed Monday at federal court in Manhattan, the agency said in a statement. The regulator's claims are still pending against Kelly, 51, Ripp, 56, and two others.

In mid-2000, before AOL completed its $124 billion takeover of Time Warner, the Internet service provider began overstating revenue by paying more for goods and services in exchange for customers' ad purchases, the SEC said. The company agreed to pay $300 million in 2005 to settle a related regulatory probe.

“Each of the former executives played a significant role in the scheme to inflate AOL's reported online advertising,” said Scott Friestad, the SEC attorney overseeing its case. Bloomberg News

Takeovers

Staples Inc. brought its $2.47 billion hostile takeover bid for Corporate Express NV directly to the Netherlands-based office products firm's shareholders on Monday, as Corporate Express' management continued to call Staples' offer too low.

In announcing it was seeking to bypass Corporate Express' management, Staples did not raise its offering price from the 8 euros-a-share level that Corporate Express rejected last week.

Staples said it won permission from Dutch regulatory authorities to directly solicit Corporate Express' shareholders with an offer to tender their shares in support of the deal – a clearance that Staples had said it expected when it raised its offering price last Tuesday from its original 7.25euros-per-share bid.

“We are making this offer directly to the shareholders following Corporate Express' unwillingness to allow us to perform due diligence and negotiate a transaction,” said Ron Sargent, Staples' chairman and CEO. Associated Press

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