Wal-Mart pleads guilty to dumping hazardous waste
SAN FRANCISCO – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $81.6 million after pleading guilty on Tuesday to criminal charges of improperly disposing of fertilizer, pesticides and other hazardous products pulled from stores in California and Missouri because of damaged packaging and other problems.
The retail giant entered the plea in federal court in San Francisco to misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act and another environmental law regulating pesticides. The fine also settled Environmental Protection Agency allegations.
In Kansas City, Mo., the company pleaded guilty to improperly handling pesticides.
The plea agreements ended a nearly decade-old investigation involving more than 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental groups that has cost Wal-Mart a total of $110 million.
Court documents show illegal dumping occurred in 16 California counties between 2003 and 2005. Federal prosecutors said the company didn’t train its employees on how to handle and dispose hazardous materials at its stores.
The result, prosecutors say, was that waste was tossed into trash bins or poured into sewer systems. The waste also was improperly taken to one of several product return centers throughout the U.S. without proper safety documentation, authorities said.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company has fixed the problem.
Agency rates U.S. banks stable
NEW YORK – Moody’s Investors Service has raised its outlook for the U.S. banking industry for the first time in five years, citing the improving economy and banks’ stronger balance sheets.
The rating agency said in a report issued Tuesday that sustained economic growth and a better jobs picture will help banks during the next 12 to 18 months. Moody’s raised its outlook for the industry to “Stable” from “Negative.” It had been “Negative” since 2008, the year the financial crisis struck.
Moody’s said that after a year of reducing losses from soured loans and building cushions against losses, banks are in a better position to handle any future economic downturn.
Tablets poised to surpass PCs
SAN FRANCISCO – Just three years after hitting the market, tablets are now poised to outsell personal computers.
Tablet shipments are on track to surpass notebooks and other portable PCs this year, according to an IDC report released Tuesday. By 2015, tablets will be outselling desktops and portable PCs combined, the report said.
The report underscored both the rapid growth of media tablets, which were introduced in 2010 when Apple Inc. rolled out the first iPad. It also highlighted the steady decline of the PC market.
A total of 229.3 million tablets are expected to ship this year, up 58.7 percent from the year-earlier period, according to IDC. Portable PC shipments are expected to total 187.4 million.
Kellogg settles marketing suit
NEW YORK – Kellogg has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over the marketing claims it made for Frosted Mini-Wheats.
The company was sued for saying that the cereal improved children’s attentiveness, memory and other cognitive functions.
Kellogg, based in Battle Creek, Mich., says in a statement that the ad campaign in question ran about four years ago and that it has since adjusted its messaging.
If approved by the court, the law firm representing consumers says the settlement will result in cash refunds for up to three boxes of cereal purchased during the time of the advertising in question.