News Briefs


VOLATILE NUMBERS: Thanks in part to the AOL-Time Warner Inc. megamerger, as well as the start of earnings season, volatility ruled the market for Net stocks last week. The Nasdaq whipsawed, but it ended up 9 percent on the week to close at 4064.49. The Dow was steadier, closing at 11722.98. AOL lost 9.5 percent as holders looked askance at the deal, but recovered a bit late in the week to close at $63. Speculation of further media mergers helped ExciteAtHome, which gained 5.7 percent. Yahoo released earnings that met expectations, and it fell 4 percent on the week.

ZERO IPOS: The typically quiet period for IPOs following the holidays has carried into January's third week, and not a single Net firm has gone public this year. Moreover, no Net firms are slated to go public until Jan. 24.


NOT JUST RANDOM NUMBERS: A hacker apparently gained access to CD Universe's files and posted customer credit card information on a Web site after the retailer refused to bow to an extortion attempt. The hacker claimed he had obtained more than 300,000 customer credit card numbers.

RENO TO THE RESCUE: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno proposed the creation of a new national computer-based crime-fighting network in a speech for the National Association of Attorneys General meeting at Stanford University. The online network, dubbed LawNet, would transcend local, state and international borders to allow law enforcement agencies to ride herd on criminals in cyberspace.

ENCRYPT THIS: High-tech industry officials cheered the Clinton administration's release of revised regulations governing the export of encryption hardware and software. The new rules still restrict some sales of data-scrambling products, such as exports to Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. The officials pledged to keep pushing for further rules relaxation in what one representative called "an inherently uncontrollable market."

REFUNDS AWAIT: Online brokerage Datek Online announced Thursday it will pass back to its customers the payments it receives from traders in exchange for order referrals. The move focuses attention on this controversial but common practice in the online trading industry and could give Datek a marketing advantage over its competitors.

TIME TO GIVE UP TEMPING: The U.S. Supreme Court Monday denied Microsoft's appeal of a decision that entitles contract workers to take advantage of a 15 percent discount on stock offered to regular employees. The affected class of employees goes back to 1986; considering the split-adjusted price of Microsoft's stock was 24 cents then, and as many as 10,000 workers are affected, Microsoft is likely to owe millions.

SCHWAB UPS THE ANTE: Charles Schwab acquired U.S. Trust, a New York-based trust company catering to individuals with $5 million or more in assets, for $2.7 billion in stock. Schwab will apply for financial holding company status. The move would level the playing field further between the company and full-service investment banks.

FLYING IN FORMATION: Twenty-three airlines are banding together to make looking for fare specials online less like a five-stop hop in bad weather. A new site, as yet unnamed, will consolidate the major U.S. and foreign airlines' online-only last-minute weekend fares, allowing consumers to comparison-shop Web fares, a function that gives the new entity a leg up on established players.

NO DISCOUNTS IN PALO ALTO: Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is teaming up with blue-chip VC firm Accel Partners to spin off into an independent company, to be headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif. No CEO yet, but heavy-hitting backers already say the plan is to take the company public.

IS THERE A DOCTOR ONLINE? Keeping track of Healtheon/WebMD was a full-time job last week: The health care site will provide online services to Humana's 330,000 doctors and 6 million patients; pharmacy giant CVS will become the exclusive online pharmacy for the site; and Healtheon /WebMD will integrate Medic Computer System's medical-practice management system, used by 65,000 doctors, into a cobranded Web site.

NOTED: You can't buy good looks, but bought for about $42 million in stock. ... Embattled retailer Toys "R" Us named John Eyler, head of the upscale toy chain FAO Schwarz, as its president and chief executive. ...

The rock band They Might Be Giants topped the worldwide chart for legally downloaded music sales in 1999, according to, followed by Phish, Bush, the Goo Goo Dolls and Hypnotic Records Compilations. And the word "MP3" overtook "sex" as the most-searched-for term on the Net last year.

Edited by Patricia Sullivan.