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News Briefs

OPEC to Increase Oil Production By 2 Million Barrels a Day

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Thursday to increase its production quotas by 2 million barrels a day, or 8.5 percent, effective July 1.

Industry experts gathered here for the cartel’s meeting said the decision sent a tepid message to oil markets about OPEC’s commitment to lowering oil prices, which have been bobbing around $40 a barrel for the last month.

Traders responded to the news by bidding oil up more than 80 cents a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but prices fell again later in the day when new Department of Energy statistics showed growing stockpiles of oil, gasoline and other distilled fuels in the United States. Crude oil for July delivery closed at $39.28 a barrel, down 1.7 percent from Wednesday’s close.

The problem with OPEC’s move, analysts said, is that it does not add any new oil to the market; raising quotas merely legitimizes what is already happening, analysts said.

Gov’t Witness Complicate Enron Case

The defendants in the first criminal fraud trial stemming from the collapse of the Enron Corp. may have found an unlikely witness on their behalf: Andrew S. Fastow, the former executive who is the government’s star cooperator.

Even before the start of the trial, scheduled for Monday, the prosecution’s case against four former executives of Merrill Lynch & Co. and two former officials of Enron ran into complications when a letter provided by prosecutors to the defense revealed that Fastow had made statements in government interviews that could prove favorable to them.

Fastow’s statements, as described in a government document, do not exonerate the defendants. But they contain sufficient equivocation about the events surrounding the questionable financial deal between Enron and Merrill that is at the center of the case that defense lawyers could use his comments to cast doubt on whether their clients entered into the deal with the intent to commit a crime.

Harvard Overpays Money Managers, Alumni Group Says

Last year, Jack R. Meyer, who oversees Harvard University’s mighty endowment, the biggest university endowment in the country, was paid $6.9 million.

His counterpart at the University of Texas, Bob L. Boldt, was paid $743,316 for managing the second-largest university endowment, while David F. Swenson, who manages the third-largest, at Yale University, was paid $1,027,685.

The disparity is even larger when looking at the five highest paid managers at the Harvard Management Co., one of whom made more than $35 million last year. This has angered Dr. Terry M. Bennett, who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1964 and later got a degree from its School of Public Health. “The managers of the endowment took home enough money last year to send more than 4,000 students to Harvard for a year,” he said.

Bennett, who gave some $4 million in proceeds from an antique car auction to Harvard in 1991, at the time the largest gift ever to the medical school, has sent e-mail messages to class members in advance of their reunion next week asking them to withhold donations until the university agrees to put management of the $19.3 billion endowment up for competitive bid. He also wants a promise of greater accountability in management of the endowment.