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Business news briefs — March 7

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LOCAL BUSINESS

AFG responds to suit

The Cincinnati insurance company seeking to buy Richfield-based National Interstate Corp. has filed paperwork in federal court opposing a proposed temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would stall the buyout process.

A hearing on the preliminary injunction is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court for Northern Ohio in Cleveland before Judge James Gwin.

American Financial Group and its subsidiary Great American Insurance Co. have asked the federal court not to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction as proposed by Alan Spachman, founder of National Interstate, a company director and large shareholder. Spachman opposes AFG’s $30-per-share tender offer. Spachman filed suit in U.S. District Court earlier in the week seeking court action to stall the nearly $287 million buyout offer from AFG, which owns 52 percent of National Interstate and wants to buy the entire company.

The 42-page response by AFG to Spachman’s suit asks in part that Spachman be ordered to post a bond in the amount adequate to account for all monetary losses AFG and Great American Insurance Co. might entail if the court “is proven wrong in its decision.”

Also Friday, Gwin agreed to seal Spachman’s reply brief to AFG’s response. Spachman asked that the brief be sealed because it contains a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission that National Interstate considers to be confidential and would consider a breach of Spachman’s fiduciary responsibility to the company.

AFG gave a deadline of midnight March 17 to complete the tender offer.

Smucker shuts store

J.M. Smucker Co. closed its online store after a data breach involving an unauthorized user possibly obtaining access to the personal information of some consumers, including name, address, email address, phone, credit or debit card number, expiration date, and verification code.

The Orrville-headquartered coffee and food business apologized to customers in a message on the store website — https://onlinestore.smucker.com/message.cfm. In the message, the company said the unauthorized user “utilized a sophisticated scheme to illegally obtain this personal information as it was being entered during the online checkout process.”

The company, on the website, answers questions about the incident and advises customers to monitor their account statements and credit reports for unusual activity. It includes contact information for credit agencies.

Pry named chairman

Summit County Executive Russ Pry has been re-elected chairman of the multi-county body called the Northeast Ohio Joint Office of Economic Development. Columbiana County Commissioner Tim Weigle was re-elected vice chairman and Richland County Commissioner Ed Olson was re-elected secretary.

The group oversees NEOTEC — the Northeast Ohio Trade & Economic Consortium. NEOTEC, based in Kent, is an economic development group made up of Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit and Trumbull counties.

NEOTEC oversees the two Northeast Ohio zones and spearheads other economic development initiatives. More information is online at www.neotec.org.

ADVERTISING

ADT settles complaint

The Federal Trade Commission says ADT Corp. has settled charges that it deceived consumers by paying people to recommend its home security products in media outlets without disclosing their connection to the company. The commission says ADT paid child-safety, home-security and technology experts more than $300,000 to promote its ADT Pulse security system online and on TV. The company used public relations firms and booking agents. The paid endorsers were introduced by show hosts and reporters as experts and their connection to ADT was never revealed.

ENTERTAINMENT

Job cuts at Disney

Walt Disney Co. is cutting 700 jobs at its interactive unit, as it realigns its video-game business and Internet advertising sales.

AUTO INDUSTRY

Bonus for Mulally

Ford awarded Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally $13.8 million in stock for the automaker’s performance last year when its profits grew in North America and sales picked up speed in China.

Compiled from staff and wire reports


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