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Business in brief: Fine suggested against Verizon Northwest

Fri., March 20, 2009

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission staff is recommending that Verizon Northwest be fined for overcharging some low-income state phone customers.

In a complaint filed recently, the WUTC staff asked that Verizon be penalized $107,800 for violating state law by overcharging Washington Telephone Assistance Program customers, providing WTAP customers with misleading information, and for incorrectly billing city taxes to customers who reside outside city limits.

WTAP is a state program designed to make sure low-income families and individuals have access to affordable telephone service.

The three-member WUTC has the option to accept the suggested fine. No date has yet been set by the commission for a hearing on the Verizon complaint.

Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies said the company believes it has billed customers properly.

Tom Sowa


Auto parts suppliers get financial support

The Treasury Department will pump up to $5 billion in financing into troubled auto parts suppliers to prevent an auto industry collapse that could undermine the government’s work to restructure General Motors and Chrysler.

The funds, announced Thursday, will be made available from the government’s Troubled Assets Relief Program in a financial entity similar to a revolving credit line. Large suppliers would be eligible for financing auto parts they have shipped to the Detroit carmakers but have not yet received payment for.

U.S. automakers will have the option of using the program and designate the companies that need financing.

Associated Press


Feds focusing on wealthy farm subsidy recipients

The Internal Revenue Service and the Agriculture Department are cracking down on millionaires who receive farm subsidies by mistake.

A report released last year shows that a sports team owner, a financial firm executive and 2,700 other millionaires were receiving farm payments even though they probably were ineligible.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that his department will now work with the IRS to verify the incomes of subsidy recipients. Those receiving government farm payments will be required to sign a separate form that will give the Agriculture Department access to IRS information about their income.

The report last year by the Government Accountability Office reviewed farm payments sent from 2003 to 2006. During that time, an individual or farm entity was ineligible for subsidy dollars if average adjusted gross income exceeded $2.5 million over three years – unless 75 percent or more of that income came from farming, ranching and forestry.

According to the report, 2,702 recipients exceeded the $2.5 million and got less than 75 percent of their income from these activities. The payments to them totaled more than $49 million.

Associated Press

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