News briefs: Milk contamination case, Parmalat
for their role in an alleged E. coli milk contamination, and
Parmalat settles its ongoing dispute with UBS.
Farmers plead guilty in E. coli raw milk case Two US farmers pleaded guilty this week over allegations that they were responsible for E. coli sickening in 18 people who consumed their raw milk at the end of 2005, according to news reports. Michael Puckett and Anita Puckett, who own the Dee Creek Farm, pleaded guilty in a Seattle court of distribution of adulterated food, a charge that carries a possible sentence of one year in prison and $100,000 worth of fines, The Seattle Times newspaper reported yesterday. According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections of Dee Creek Farm referred to in the case, the cow holding area of the business was found to be deep in mud and manure, while rubber mats on the dirt floor at the site's milking area were also coated in excrement, the report said. Additionally, the company was alleged by the attorney's office to have provided no evidence of well testing for bacterial presence required for licensed dairy production. Sentencing will take place on 5 September, the news report added. UBS settles multi-million Parmalat suit Parmalat says it has now settled all disputes with financial group UBS over its alleged role in the company's 2003 financial collapse for which it will receive over €180m. The Italy-based dairy giant said that as a result of agreements announced at the end of last week, UBS will now pay it €149.1m in relation to revocatory action and an additional settlement of €33m over "internal liability". The dairy group's fall created one of Europe's largest financial scandals when the company, under a previous administration, defaulted on more than €14bn in debt in 2003. Under the current leadership of administrator Enrico Bondi, Parmalat has subsequently worked to stave off efforts by an Italian banking conglomerate to disintegrate the group. This has led to the company pursuing various legal proceedings in Europe and the US against banks allegedly involved in having knowledge of the fraud. Last September, the company settled disputes with Graubuendner Kantonalbank and Credit Agricole Indosuez out of court for the sum of €20.7m and €2.63m respectively. Parmalat posted financial assets totalling €58.9m during the first financial half of this year as a result of these proceedings. By comparison, in the company's 2006 full year results, the group posted net debts of €170m. Net gains of €237m from legal settlements with financial institutions allegedly linked to its bankruptcy were highlighted as the key factor in this turnaround.