Credit-counseling service AmeriDebt, accused of defrauding consumers and falsely portraying itself as a nonprofit, announced it will lay off most of its workers and stop seeking new customers because of recent “negative publicity.” Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission announced they would investigate nonprofit credit counseling services to make sure they serve consumers and qualify for their tax-exempt status. No specific firms were named. AmeriDebt announced that as of Nov. 1 it will cease outreach to new consumer clients to focus on existing clients.
Stronger lumber and plywood sales helped Weyerhaeuser Co. boost its third-quarter profits fivefold over the same period in 2002, the wood products company reported Friday. For the July-September quarter, Weyerhaeuser had net earnings of $82 million, or 37 cents a share, up from $13 million, or 6 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 6 percent, to $5.2 billion from $4.9 billion. Earnings for the most recent quarter reflected $92 million in after-tax charges, or 42 cents a share, for a variety of expenses.
Microsoft Corp. shares fell 8 percent Friday after the company reported a sharp drop in new corporate contracts as the Blaster computer virus attacked computers around the world two months ago and left distracted salespeople unable to close new deals. “It’s one thing to have the security issue give you bad public relations. But it’s another thing to have it impact your sales cycle,” said Charles DiBona, a senior research analyst with Bernstein, an investment research firm. Microsoft’s stock fell $2.30 to close at $26.61 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Many Washington businesses will pay higher unemployment taxes next year. The state Employment Security Department announced the increase Friday, saying a 24 percent drop in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund was large enough to trigger the increase. On average, businesses will see their taxes increase 12 percent, the department said, although the exact amount will vary widely from company to company based on criteria that include how often a firm lays off workers. Last year, the state paid out $1.62 billion in regular jobless benefits, plus another $840 million in state and federal extended benefits. That pulled the balance in the trust fund below the $1.3 billion level, thus triggering the increase. The new tax rate notices will be mailed out in December. The first payments under the new rates will be due in April.
From Herald staff
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