Business briefs 1/27/04

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Auto financing charges cost consumers millions

WASHINGTON -- Secretive auto financing charges cost consumers $1 billion each year, and blacks and Hispanics are particular targets, a consumer advocacy group said Monday. When a car buyer arranges financing through an auto dealer, lenders quote a finance rate based on the buyer's credit history. In some cases, dealers are increasing that rate by several percentage points and sharing the profit with lenders, the Consumer Federation of America said. The National Automobile Dealers Association responded that the charges are fair compensation for dealers who set up financing.

Beef industry unveils post-mad cow promotion

OMAHA, Neb. -- The beef industry launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign on Monday, one month after the nation's first case of mad cow disease and just in time for Super Bowl parties and romantic Valentine's Day meals. The cattle group delayed its annual "Beef: It's What's For Dinner" campaign for two weeks following the discovery of mad cow disease in a Holstein cow in Washington state. The campaign is expected to cost about $3 million. The ads will make no mention of mad cow.

Women dominate Stewart jury for stock fraud trial

NEW YORK -- A jury of eight women and four men was chosen Monday to hear Martha Stewart's stock fraud trial. Six alternates -- four men and two women -- also were selected. In a defeat for Stewart, U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum ruled that the defense may not argue that she is being prosecuted for asserting her innocence and exercising her right to free speech. Attorneys for the government and defense were expected to present their opening statements beginning today.

-- From wire reports

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