The staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) said Monday that the state consumer advocate's petition to unveil confidential testimony related to the sale of Puget Energy should be denied.

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Utilities

The staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) said Monday that the state consumer advocate’s petition to unveil confidential testimony related to the sale of Puget Energy should be denied.

In August the attorney general’s Public Counsel Office had argued that the documents, submitted by the utility and an international buyers consortium led by Australia’s Macquarie Bank, should be open to the public because of the importance of the takeover. But in a filing, UTC staff said that public counsel’s petition had no legal basis.

Although the $7.8 billion sale of Puget Energy has been approved by shareholders and federal regulators, the UTC has the last word on the deal. Final briefs from all parties presenting testimony before the UTC are due Sept. 24, according to a recent filing.

Software

Tableau gets $10M in venture support

Tableau Software said Monday that it has raised $10 million in a second round of venture-capital funding from a prominent Silicon Valley firm to help it develop new products and boost sales.

The sole investor, New Enterprise Associates, had put up $5 million in Seattle-based Tableau’s first investment round in 2004.

Tableau makes analytical software.

Newspapers

News Tribune offers staff buyouts

The News Tribune on Monday offered voluntary buyout deals to 189 of its 350 full-time staffers, although Publisher David Zeeck said the Tacoma newspaper doesn’t plan to accept anywhere near that number as it works to bring expenses in line with reduced ad income.

Expense trimming could potentially involve layoffs, depending on the response to the buyout offer and what savings can be achieved elsewhere, he said.

The newspaper also said it has imposed workweek reductions on all of its hourly workers.

The buyout offer is the second round of staff reductions at the paper, whose majority owner is the McClatchy Co. Eighty-two workers left the paper as a result of a similar offer in mid-June.

A story posted on the newspaper’s Web site said affected employees were being offered a buyout package of two weeks’ pay for every year of service up to 13 years and some health benefits.

Antitrust

Feds preparing Google case?

The Justice Department hired Sanford Litvack, the department’s antitrust chief under President Carter, for a possible antitrust challenge to Google’s proposed online ad partnership with Yahoo, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

Litvack will examine evidence collected so far and prepare a case if necessary, the newspaper said, citing unidentified lawyers.

The companies said in June they would give the government 3 1/2 months to review the partnership, though they indicated it wasn’t legally necessary. Microsoft and some advertisers oppose the deal, saying it will curb competition in the $65 billion market for online advertising.

U.S. lawyers have deposed witnesses and issued subpoenas for documents, though that doesn’t mean a case is coming, The Journal said.

Technology

RIM gains more smartphone users

Research in Motion (RIM) captured more than 50 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in the second quarter, up sharply from first-quarter levels, according to figures released Monday by technology research firm IDC.

Apple, with its iPhone, and Centro maker Palm both lost share in the second three months of the year.

The IDC numbers show that RIM, maker of the wildly popular BlackBerry wireless device, held 53.6 percent of the U.S. market for smartphones in the second quarter, up from 44.5 percent in the first quarter.

A smartphone is a handset that uses a high-level operating system that can run multiple applications at once — such as a Web browser and an online game — and handle applications other than just those approved by the device maker or service provider.

IDC’s numbers show that Apple’s share of the U.S. smartphone market tumbled to 7.4 percent in the second quarter, from 19.2 percent in the first quarter, as consumers waited for the July release of the iPhone 3G.

Palm saw its market share fall to 10.8 percent in the second quarter, from 13.4 percent in the first quarter.

Investments

Apple settles suit by shareholders

Apple settled a suit claiming its directors and managers, including Chief Executive Steve Jobs, lied to shareholders about how they backdated option awards to maximize personal profit.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, Calif., Monday tentatively approved the settlement of the so-called derivative suit brought by investors for breach of corporate duties, according to court filings.

Directors’ and officers’ insurance will pay Apple $14 million to settle the case. The settlement also covers a similar derivative case filed in state court in San Jose.

Apple said last year that it backdated 6,428 stock-option grants issued from 1997 to 2002. It investigated the backdating, found no misconduct by Jobs, and recorded $84 million in charges.

The Justice Department in July closed its criminal probe of the backdating.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Seattle Times staff and Bloomberg News