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News Briefs

West Coast Ports Idled by Lock Out


Every port on the West Coast was idled Monday by a bitter, escalating contract feud between shipping companies and dockworkers that could have enormous effects on the national economy.

The shutdown forced nearly 11,000 dockworkers off their jobs for the second time in recent days and paralyzed 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle during their busiest time of the year. The ports handle about $1 billion in cargo a day and are among the largest in the country.

As angry dockworkers picketed outside port gates here and elsewhere Monday, scores of cargo ships arriving all along the West Coast from Asia were stranded outside harbors, filled with goods for factories and businesses across the country. Some rail lines were left without deliveries, and hundreds of truckers were stuck parked outside ports with empty rigs.

White House officials said they were closely monitoring the dispute and urged both sides to accept the help of federal mediators with a meeting tentatively scheduled Thursday in Washington. “We are concerned about the effect on the economy,” said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.

Shipping companies and port operators are accusing the longshoremen, whose labor contract expired July 1, of orchestrating costly and disruptive work slowdowns. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and port operators, imposed a temporary lockout Saturday, then closed all terminals Sunday evening only a few hours after they reopened, saying dockworkers were again engaging in tactics that were creating chaos.

Lawsuit Targets Executives’ Profits


New York’s attorney general on Monday sought to force five telecommunications executives to give up millions of dollars in profits they earned selling shares in companies going public during the Internet boom.

In a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, Eliot Spitzer charged that former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers and four other executives received initial public offering shares by steering lucrative investment banking business to brokerage firm Salomon Smith Barney, an arrangement that was not disclosed to investors. Spitzer said the men should be forced to give up the $28 million in profits earned when they sold those shares.

The lawsuit also asked that the executives be directed to return $1.5 billion in profits they made by selling shares in their own companies, saying they knew their stock was inflated.

Others named in the lawsuit include Metromedia Fiber Networks Inc. Chairman Stephen Garofalo; former McLeod USA chairman Clark McLeod Inc.; and two former Qwest Communications International executives, Joseph Nacchio, who was chief executive, and Philip Anschutz, who was chairman.