Business Digest |


“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment won a court ruling blocking a Michigan-based company from publishing a guide to the best-selling book and film series.

U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson in New York on Monday cited a “troubling amount of direct quotation” and “verbatim copying” in barring RDR Books from publishing “The Harry Potter Lexicon.” Patterson said RDR had infringed on Rowling's work.

Rowling and Warner Bros. argued at a three-day trial in April that the “Lexicon” plagiarized her work. The guide's 2,437 entries list alphabetically the characters, places, spells, creatures and objects in the seven Potter books. The “Lexicon” hasn't been published. Bloomberg News


Shares in Washington Mutual Inc., the biggest U.S. savings and loan, tumbled as much as 24 percent after the lender ousted Chief Executive Officer Kerry Killinger and disclosing that regulators stepped up scrutiny of the company's operations.

WaMu signed an accord with the Office of Thrift Supervision that calls for the Seattle-based company to reduce risks and overhaul procedures, according to a statement Monday. Alan Fishman, 62, of Meridian Capital Group, a New York-based commercial mortgage broker, replaces Killinger, 59, who was CEO for 18 years.

Directors of WaMu turned to Fishman after Killinger failed to halt losses on home mortgages that already total $6.3 billion. The lender has estimated the sum could climb as high as $19 billion in the next 21/2 years, raising concern among some investors that WaMu may need to raise cash for a second time this year. The company said Monday that more capital isn't necessary.

The lender dropped 15 cents to close at $4.12 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading and earlier traded as low as $3.25. The stock, the worst performer in the 24-company KBW Bank Index in the past year, was the only member of that index to fall Monday. Bloomberg News


Altria, the owner of the nation's biggest cigarette seller, said Monday that it will buy UST, the maker of Skoal and Copenhagen, in a $10.4 billion deal that is part of the wider consolidation of the global tobacco industry.

Analysts say Lorillard, which was spun off from Loews Corp. in June, could be next on the list of potential targets.

“It's going to put pressure on everybody else to consolidate,” said Sachin Shah, an analyst with iCap Equities. Shah said tobacco leaf producer Universal Corp. and Vector Group Ltd. could also be potential targets.

Altria owns the Marlboro brand and the nation's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA. Its acquisition of UST will give it a strong position in smokeless tobacco, a segment of the U.S. market that is growing as cigarettes decline. Associated Press


Senior oil officials from Iran and Libya said Monday that there is too much crude on the market, adding that OPEC is reviewing whether supply exceeds demand before deciding whether to cut back production.

But the energy minister of the United Arab Emirates said OPEC's policy of keeping the world oil market “well supplied” has not changed. Minister of Energy Mohammed Bin Dhaen al-Hamli was also quoted by UAE's state news agency as saying that crude oil stockpiles in heavily consuming countries are within recent average levels. Associated Press