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"We felt that a lot of rights have eroded in this country. Our freedom of speech may be the only one we have left to regain what we've lost."

--Juror Pat Gowdy after Texas cattle ranchers lost their beef defamation suit against Oprah WinfreyEDITED BY ROBERT McNATT & LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

THAT FINE PRINT CAN BURN YOU

EVERY INVESTOR LOVES A TAX BREAK. But at Charles Schwab, one break may not be quite as good as it seems. In a print ad for its Schwab 1000 Fund, which holds stock in the 1,000 largest public companies, Schwab extolls the fund's "tax efficiency." It prominently notes that for seven years the fund has distributed no taxable capital gains: As an index fund, it basically buys and holds.

What the ad doesn't explicitly say, however, is that the fund still generates small dividends, which are usually taxed at a higher rate than capital gains. Michelle Swenson, Schwab's top mutual-fund marketer, says there was no intention to mislead potential investors. "It hadn't occurred to anyone here," she says. "When Chuck [Schwab] talks about tax efficiency, he's talking about capital gains." The ad also satisfied the National Association of Securities Dealers, which checks mutual-fund ads. It declined to comment.

Swensen says she'll review the ad and make fixes, if need be: "Maybe we can do this with a footnote." Perhaps it would note that Morningstar says the fund's average annual pretax total return from 1992-97 was 19.1%, but dropped to 18.6% after taxes.Jeffrey LadermanReturn to top

A WEB SITE FOR SORE EYES

CBS GOT LESS THAN STELLAR marks for its Olympic coverage, but its partners at CBSSportsline captured a medal for their Web site. They have high hopes of scoring just as big with the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The four-year-old company that runs the Web site, Sportsline USA, showed a 245% increase in viewership during Nagano, more than any of the other big sports sites. And according to RelevantKnowledge, which rates Web viewership, Sportsline was the third-most-watched site, behind No.1 ESPN SportsZone and the official Olympics site. It also knocked another big site, CNNSI, into fourth place. Best of all, Sportsline reaped more than $2 million in ad revenue, 40% of its 1997 total, from advertisers such as Budweiser and Intel.

Although CEO Michael Levy thinks Sportsline's ratings were undercounted, he is optimistic. "We have momentum, and CBS picking up NFL is another big plus for us," says Levy. He also says that NCAA basketball is "off to a good start."

While the CBS connection is a major plus for Sportsline, it also runs the home pages for high-profile athletes such as Tiger Woods.Gail DeGeorgeReturn to top

FOR THE DRIVER WHO HAS EVERYTHING

THE BALLERINA FLITTING about, dressed as Rolls-Royce's "Spirit of Ecstasy" hood ornament, may have been overkill. Then again, it's not every day that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars unveils a new make. In fact, there hasn't been a new Rolls for 18 years. Now there is.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, which debuted at the Geneva motor show on Mar. 3, is a sleekly rounded ode to excess with a base price of about $255,000. And what, you may ask, does one get for the price of a dozen Honda Accords? For starters, a sedan with vast expanses of burled walnut and leather. Plus, options such as the $8,900 dual video monitors with cordless headphones.

The carmaker hopes the Seraph will boost sales, including its Bentleys, to 2,500 cars this year, from 1,900 in 1997. Still, the Seraph reminds Britons that the sun is setting on another piece of the empire. German auto makers BMW and Volkswagen have both said they want to buy Rolls from its owner, Vickers PLC, though neither has made a bid yet. So a deal may not be announced until April.Kathleen KerwinReturn to top


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