In other items: Court allows more to join Starbucks overtime suit; Action Engine raises $10 million in financing round; Trubion Pharmaceuticals starts clinical trial for arthritis drug; IBM to donate 500 patents; talk of British bank, Wells Fargo merger; State Farm to pay $40 million in case; two former AOL executives charged with fraud; Yahoo!...

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Microsoft is offering a 25 percent discount to customers of PeopleSoft, which has been acquired by Oracle.

The offer covers licensing of business applications such as accounting and payroll, and the first year of support programs, Microsoft said.

PeopleSoft, with 12,750 customers, became part of Oracle last week in a $10.3 billion takeover after an 18-month battle.

“Everyone is going in for the kill here,” said Charles Di Bona, analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Lilienthal declined to comment. The company has said it will support PeopleSoft products until 2013.

Oracle announced last week it’s working on software that will combine features of both company’s programs, to be delivered within three years.


Court allows more to join overtime suit

A federal court in Florida is allowing two Starbucks managers to invite others similarly employed in the past three years to join their lawsuit that contends the coffee chain denied them overtime pay in violation of federal law.

Sean Pendlebury and Laurel Overton — Starbucks store managers in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale — were authorized last week by the court to ask others to join the suit.

Starbucks will release the names of all its managers to the plaintiffs in the next month, said attorney Dan Levine, who represents the two. He said the effort has not been granted class-action status.

A message left for Starbucks officials was not immediately returned. In June, when the suit was filed, the company said it complies with all “applicable federal and state laws.”

The managers estimated that less than 10 percent of their time was spent on managerial tasks, so they should not be exempt from overtime pay.

Action Engine

$10 million raised in financing round

Redmond-based Action Engine said yesterday it has completed a $10 million round of financing led by Baker Capital. The company, which develops mobile application technology, has raised $45 million in funding since its founding in 2000.

Action Engine said the latest money round will finance sales, marketing and other efforts to launch its mobile application platform and programs into the wireless market

Trubion Pharmaceuticals

Clinical trial started for arthritis drug

Seattle biotech startup Trubion Pharmaceuticals said it has begun its first clinical trial, testing TRU-015, a protein drug designed to remove excess inflammatory B cells in rheumatoid-arthritis patients.

The trial is crafted to measure safety and assess varying doses of the experimental drug.

The trial will be conducted at three clinical sites in the United States, and will enroll at least several dozen patients, said Daniel Burge, Trubion’s senior vice president for clinical development.

Trubion, a private company, has raised $45 million from venture capitalists since its founding in November 2002.


Computer maker to donate 500 patents

U.S. patent leader IBM said last night it plans to donate 500 patents for free use by software developers, marking a major shift of intellectual-property strategy for the world’s top computer maker and a challenge to the high-tech industry.

Jim Stallings, IBM’s vice president in charge of intellectual property, said the move was meant to encourage other companies to unlock patent portfolios to spur technological innovation. But it also puts IBM at further loggerheads with rivals such as Microsoft, which argues that open-source software development undermines corporate intellectual property rights.


Talk of British bank, Wells Fargo merger

Shares in British bank Barclays pushed higher yesterday on media reports that it has held merger talks with U.S. banking giant Wells Fargo.

Analysts said the talk of a merger, which would create a global financial-services giant worth more than $100 billion, was in line with earlier speculation about trans-Atlantic banking deals and suitors for Barclays in particular.

“There’s no change in the theory, it’s just a new name in terms of the U.S. bank involved,” said UBS banking analyst Stephen Andrews.

Barclays shares closed up 1.1 percent on the London Stock Exchange.

Britain’s Sunday Express newspaper reported that discussions took place between the two banks in October and November. Talks ended before Christmas but could be resumed in the coming weeks.

A Barclays spokesman said the bank did not comment on market speculation. Officials at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo could not immediately be reached for comment.

State Farm

Insurance firm to pay $40 million in case

Thousands of automobile owners nationwide will share in a $40 million settlement with State Farm Mutual Insurance over the company’s handling of titles to vehicles totaled in accidents.

About 30,000 consumers nationwide may be eligible for payments ranging from $400 to $10,000, depending on the value of their vehicle. Most payments will be between $800 and $1,850, officials said.

The settlement includes 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only Indiana opted out of the settlement.

The case began after State Farm approached the states and indicated that, after an internal review, it couldn’t confirm that it had properly titled vehicles it had assumed after damage or theft.

America Online

Two former AOL executives charged with fraud

Two former executives at America Online (AOL) were among six people charged yesterday with stock fraud and other offenses as part of the federal government’s ongoing investigation into illegal accounting practices at AOL.

The other four individuals charged were executives at a defunct Las Vegas-based software firm called PurchasePro. Prosecutors say the two companies entered into secret deals to help PurchasePro inflate its revenues in early 2001.

Yesterday’s indictment brings to 12 the number of individuals charged during the government’s multiyear investigation of AOL and PurchasePro. Six other former PurchasePro executives have pleaded guilty.


Software to help with desktop search

Internet giant Yahoo! is offering to help consumers and office workers sift through the digital mishmash stored on their computers with a free software product to be introduced today.

The new product, developed as part of a licensing agreement with a startup called X1 Technologies, follows through on a plan Yahoo! announced last month.

Two of Yahoo!’s biggest rivals, online search-engine leader Google and software giant Microsoft, introduced their own free tools for scouring the computer desktop late last year.


Ex-CEO Scrushy’s trial delayed by week

A judge in Alabama yesterday delayed the corporate-fraud trial of fired HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy by one week.

U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre said she “reluctantly” agreed to the defense request to delay opening statements, granting Scrushy lawyers more time to sort through potential evidence recently turned over by prosecutors. Opening statements were reset for Jan. 25.

Scrushy has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to overstate HealthSouth earnings by more than $2.6 billion from 1996 through 2002.

Compiled from Bloomberg News, The Associated Press and Seattle Times business reporters