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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cerberus to buy United Rentals for $4 billion

From Wire Reports The Spokesman-Review

Private equity group Cerberus will acquire United Rentals Inc. for about $4 billion in cash, the equipment rental company said Monday.

Including about $2.6 billion in assumed debt, the transaction is valued at $6.6 billion.

Shares of United Rentals, one of the largest players in the construction-gear rental industry, have risen more than 16 percent since April 9, the day before the company said it might put itself up for sale. United Rentals jumped 61 cents, or almost 2 percent, to $32.98 Monday.

United Rentals has a network of more 690 rental locations in 48 states, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico and more than 12,000 employees, according to the company’s web site, which serve construction and industrial customers, utilities, municipalities and private homeowners.

The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. paid $115 million to settle allegations it allowed illegal trading in some mutual funds, the company and the attorneys general of Connecticut and New York announced Monday.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said The Hartford paid so-called contingent commissions to insurance brokers and agents, accusing it of steering business in exchange for secret commissions.

•Shares of Expedia Inc. plunged Monday after the online travel agency said it would curtail stock-buyback plans because of a lack of financing on acceptable terms.

The Bellevue-based company’s stock sank $2.68, or 9 percent, to close at $26.71.

•An NASD arbitration panel ordered Merrill Lynch & Co. to pay an Iranian former broker $1.6 million, saying a branch complex director at the firm set him up to be fired after learning of his ethnicity.

In an unusually lengthy and detailed decision last week, the panel also found Merrill Lynch defamed Fariborz Todd Zojaji on his public record, called a Form U5, which “destroyed claimant’s ability to become employed in the securities industry.”

The panel said an internal investigation of Zojaji was “so reckless and wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard and indifference to the rights of claimant.” The arbitration panel awarded Zojaji $400,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.

In November 2004, the panel said, Zojaji was “abruptly terminated” without a chance to respond to Sepe’s accusations that he executed unauthorized trades in two customers’ accounts.

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