IN BRIEF

Travel deals

$83M-PENSION PROTEST. The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor

organization, protested the $83 million pension that Manhattan-based Pfizer

Inc. has awarded chief executive Hank McKinnell at the drugmaker's annual

shareholder meeting yesterday. "Give it back, Hank" was on a banner towed by an

airplane circling the meeting site, the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel in Lincoln,

Neb. The AFL-CIO arranged for local members to rally against the CEO's "super

pension." Shares of the world's biggest drugmaker have lost almost half their

value since McKinnell, 63, took the top job in 2001. "We feel McKinnell should

give back half his pension," Dan Pedrotty, an AFL-CIO attorney who addressed

the meeting, said in an interview. "Shareholders should be given a chance to

vote on this and register their outrage." McKinnell's annual pension when he

retires in 2008 is currently valued at $6.5 million, the richest in America,

according to the Portland, Maine-based Corporate Library research group. Dana

Mead, the chairman of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corp. and chairman

of the Pfizer board's compensation committee, told shareholders at the meeting

that McKinnell has provided shareholder value and will leave the company in a

strong position.

FORD'S GETTING REAL. Ford Motor Co., a sponsor of Fox's "American Idol"

reality show, is planning its own TV reality program in which participants

develop concept cars with Ford designers, the Detroit News reported yesterday.

Ford showed a promotional video at a dealer's meeting Wednesday and is working

on lining up a network, the newspaper said. "It's a very cool idea," said

analyst Jim Sanfilippo of Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. Last week, the

nation's No. 2 automaker reported a $1.2-billion loss for its first quarter as

it began a costly restructuring effort.

LI WORKERS MEMORIAL. Local labor leaders will hold their 10th annual

observance today to remember Long Island workers killed on the job. Fifteen

workers died from workplace injuries last year, up from nine in 2004, according

to the Long Island area office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Workers Memorial Day observance, co-organized the Long Island Occupational

& Environmental Health Center, is part of a nationwide event and open to the

public. It will take place at the New York State Office Building on Veterans

Memorial Highway in Hauppauge at 7 p.m.

- CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN

MONITOR CHOSEN FOR BANK OF NY. The former head of the U.S. attorney's

office on Long Island was named yesterday by the Justice Department as an

independent examiner to monitor the Bank of New York's compliance with an

agreement that headed off a possible criminal indictment of the bank. George

Stamboulidis, who was chief of the Long Island office from 1998 to 2001, is a

partner in the Manhattan office of Baker & Hostetler and had previously been

named by the Justice Department as the monitor of Merrill Lynch & Co. The Bank

of New York agreed in November to pay $38 million and be overseen by a monitor

for three years as settlement of two separate federal criminal investigations,

one in the Eastern District and one in the Southern District. In the Southern

District case in Manhattan, the bank's London office had been accused of

failing to report that it had been used to launder $7 billion in money from

Russia. In the Eastern District case, which occurred after the bank had agreed

in 2000 to tighten its procedures against criminal activity in light of the

Russian money-laundering, a branch manager in Long Beach was involved in a

fraud scheme, officials have said. - ROBERT E. KESSLER

MINETA WANTS TO SET FUEL-ECONOMY RULES. President George W. Bush's

administration wants authority to raise fuel-economy standards for cars, with

gasoline pump prices above $3 a gallon in some states. Congress under current

law sets the standards, which for cars is 27.5 miles per gallon. Transportation

Secretary Norman Mineta said in a letter to congressional leaders yesterday

that he wants authority to raise car standards through an administrative

process, as he can now do for light trucks. The standards should "be set

through an administrative process based on sound science," Mineta said in the

letter. "Substantial" car fuel-economy increases under the current

congressional approach would mean more crash deaths, raise health care costs

and cut jobs, he said. The administration's proposal comes as the government

faces pressure to act against the surge in gasoline prices.

MEMO ON GRASSO PAY RELEASED. A 2003 memo from a top aide to H. Carl McCall,

a former member of the New York Stock Exchange board, contradicts the

long-held claim that the NYSE board was fully informed of Richard A. Grasso's

contested $187.5-million compensation, according to New York Attorney General

Eliot Spitzer. The memo recounts McCall saying the full board was "shocked" to

learn in September 2003 that the compensation was actually $40 million more

than was announced in a press release and included in a signed contract a month

earlier because of additional "accruals over the next four years." Spitzer's

deposition last week of Linda Scott, the longtime assistant to former New York

State Comptroller McCall, led to the court-ordered release on Wednesday of the

2003 memo. The memo also states that McCall "had some concerns about conflicts

of interest. He knew that the full board did not receive detailed information

from the compensation committee. The board had never received details about

deferred income," according to the memo's recounting of a July 21, 2003,

compensation committee meeting, shortly after McCall became its chairman.

Spitzer has accused the former chairman of the compensation committee, Home

Depot Inc. co-founder Kenneth Langone, of misleading other board members about

Grasso's pay, specifically deferred compensation called a capital accumulation

plan. Grasso has countersued the NYSE for $50 million, claiming defamation and

breach of contract.

MEDICARE DRUG UPDATE People enrolled in the U.S. government's Medicare drug

plan will still get coverage for the pills they're taking even if insurance

providers change their lists of preferred treatments, under a revised policy.

Health insurance providers offering the plans can make customers switch to

another drug only when a cheaper generic copy is available or safety concerns

arise, according to a letter yesterday to companies including UnitedHealth

Group Inc. Safety issues may include questions resulting from research or

warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

NYSE LUNCHEON CLUB CLOSING. The Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, established

in the era of tycoons such as J. Pierpont Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, serves

its last meal tomorrow, victimized by stepped-up security and a steady erosion

of customers since the 2001 terror attacks. "The decision to dissolve it was

not just difficult, it has been heart-wrenching," the club's board wrote to

members yesterday. "But the facts could not be denied." The 108-year-old club,

a members-only eatery on the seventh floor of the New York Stock Exchange, lost

money for three years, even after staff and service cuts. The exchange, now a

public company, has cut its own amenities, including a tailor and barbershop.

HERSHEY DROPS TOPPS. Hershey Co., the biggest U.S. chocolate maker, will no

longer supply Bazooka bubble gum to Topps Co. after the two companies agreed

to end a manufacturing agreement, leaving Topps to find another supplier. Topps

will pay the candy company $114,799.96 to end the agreement, which dates from

March 13, 1998, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and

Exchange Commission.

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