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"But for some in Washington, balancing the budget is just an excuse to bring back the era of Big Government as they unleash the hounds of higher spending." -- House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-Tex.)EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT & ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

BOEING'S 737: NOT QUITE FLYING COLORS, BUT...

DON'T BE SURPRISED IF Boeing emerges with a clean bill of health on safety from unscheduled inspections at two of its aircraft plants. Since Jan. 12 the Federal Aviation Administration has been taking a close look at Boeing's quality-control procedures for horizontal stabilizers, and so far says it has found no safety problems. Its final report is due in February.

The unusual, unannounced inspections followed the crash of a SilkAir Boeing 737-300 in Indonesia in December. The 10-month-old plane was found to have missing tail screws, though the cause of the crash is not yet known. Boeing saw production bottlenecks and problems on its 737s last year due to a heavy backlog; it was also chastised by the FAA on some procedural paperwork matters.

Separately, the FAA has asked airlines to inspect 211 737s made since September, 1995. It said that 90% of them, mostly owned by foreign carriers, have been inspected through Jan. 16. Twenty had minor problems, including loose or missing screws or bolts or missing sealant on some bolts. The FAA, however, insisted that these did not represent safety problems. An agency spokesman said that the FAA is unable to say whether these problems were the fault of Boeing or poor airline maintenance.By Stan Crock EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT & ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

INCOMPLETE PASS AT FOX

NOW THAT THE CHEERING HAS died down at the networks that won National Football League broadcast rights, it's time to divvy up the tab. Affiliate stations at CBS, ABC, and Fox love the deal--but they're not rushing to help pay for it.

The issue looms biggest at Fox, which is already urging its 217 affiliates to help defray the cost of its $2.75 billion, five-year contract. At a recent meeting of its affiliates, the idea went over like a lead football. "I can't see us giving them any more cash," said Kevin O'Brien, general manager of KTUV in Oakland, Calif. Other Fox stations were also leery of giving up ad time to the network in lieu of cash. They currently hand over $35 million a season for NFL games.

Fox would likely take some local ad time from its affiliates if it expands its pregame NFL show to 90 minutes from an hour. Affiliates may also give Fox a bigger share of profits from the Fox Children's Network, a joint venture between Fox and its stations. Ultimately, Fox football might then end up being subsidized in part by Fox cartoons.By Ron Grover EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT & ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

DID MARINE MIDLAND SHIELD A CROOK?

DENNIS HELLIWELL RAN A Ponzi scheme for 11 years, using his former employer's name, Marine Midland Bank, to trick his victims out of $4 million-plus. Turns out that the bank knew all along what he was up to, yet did nothing to stop him, says a victims' lawsuit filed against the bank to recover money.

Helliwell, now in prison for four years after pleading guilty in October to mail fraud, was a junior Marine Midland staffer in 1985 when he began soliciting investments for the fictitious Marine Midland Trust B, which offered lush 18% to 21% returns. He used bank stationery to keep up the scam even after he was laid off in late 1990. Helliwell, who parked the funds in his own Marine Midland accounts for his personal use, was caught in 1996 after one of his 50 investors got suspicious.

Key to the victims' suit is a Marine Midland document filed in the action. The document, from early April, 1991--months after Helliwell's layoff--recounts the bank's probe into his activities regarding one investor, Charles Pooley. The inquiry unearthed details about letterhead misuse, the fake Trust B, and the shunting of Pooley's money into the art market.

Helliwell apologized to the bank, which did nothing more, the suit says. Filed in Manhattan's State Supreme Court, it also charges that bank officials attended Helliwell's parties for investors, lending credence to Trust B's legitimacy. Marine Midland, the nation's No.24 bank, has declined to comment with the matter in litigation. Helliwell's prosecutor and lawyer could not be reached.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT & ROBERT McNATTReturn to top


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