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BUSINESS IN BRIEF

Acquittal of ex-Serono officials won't stop probe

THE REGION

US Attorney Michael Sullivan said his focus on fraud in the drug business will continue despite a jury's acquittal Thursday of four former executives of drug maker Serono SA who faced kickback charges over the way the company marketed an AIDS drug. The acquittals came after Serono, now a unit of German chemical giant Merck KGaA, with a research facility in Rockland, agreed to pay $704 million in 2005 over related charges, marking the second time jurors dismissed charges against executives of a drug company that had already agreed to a huge payment. (Ross Kerber)

Cablevision and MLB cut programming deal
Cablevision Systems Corp., the cable TV provider being bought by its founders, agreed to carry Major League Baseball's "MLB Extra Innings," programming that includes 60 games a week. Cablevision also will air the MLB Channel that's set to begin in 2009. The deal was negotiated after Major League Baseball, under pressure from Congress, dropped an exclusive arrangement with DirecTV Group Inc., the largest satellite television service. Senator John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, argued the exclusive deal would force millions of cable TV subscribers to switch to DirecTV. (Bloomberg)

THE NATION

Gas prices top $3 at pump even as oil falls below $62
According to the Oil Price Information Service and AAA, the national average price of a gallon of gasoline hit $3.012. Prices at the pump generally lag the futures markets, so consumers can end up paying more for gas even as futures prices drop. Gasoline futures for June delivery fell 3.12 cents to settle at $2.2164 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Light, sweet crude for June delivery fell $1.26 a barrel to settle at $61.93 on the Nymex. (AP)

Kennedy: Student-loan companies paid agency
The student-loan companies SLM Corp., known as Sallie Mae, and Nelnet Inc. paid a New Jersey agency to market products to schools, Senator Edward Kennedy said. The companies, which provide loan assistance to students attending college, had agreements with the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said. The agency ended the contracts on April 20, a month after Kennedy began investigating the arrangements, according to his statement. Kennedy has focused his probes as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on lenders, colleges, and financial-aid officials. (Bloomberg)

Investor sues to compel acceptance of buyout offer
Dow Jones & Co.'s owners and directors were sued by a shareholder seeking to compel acceptance of a $5 billion buyout offer by News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch offered $60 a share this week for Dow, owner of The Wall Street Journal. The bid, 65 percent above the previous day's close, was rejected by members of the Bancroft family, who control more than 50 percent of the shareholder voting power. (Bloomberg)

Suspect chickens held back from going to market
Federal officials yesterday placed a hold on 20 million chickens raised for market in several states because their feed was mixed with pet food containing an industrial chemical. Three government agencies -- the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency -- are overseeing a risk assessment to determine whether the chickens would pose a threat to human health if eaten, USDA spokesman Keith Williams said. The assessment may be completed as early as Monday. The 20 million chickens represent a tiny fraction of the 9 billion chickens raised each year in the United States. Meat from the birds can't go into commercial use without the USDA's inspection seal, which is being withheld until the risk assessment is completed, Williams said. (AP)

Etc.
Stephen Anbinder, vice chairman of student-loan servicer First Marblehead Corp., sold 15,000 shares for $34.87 to $36.43 apiece, under a prearranged trading plan, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing . . . Cambridge biotech drug developer Dyax Corp. said president and chief operating officer, Thomas Beck, resigned. The company gave no specific reason . . . Following a protest, CNN removed a link from Lou Dobbs's home page on its website to an organization raising money to fight illegal immigration. (Globe wire services)

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