Business Highlights, Sept. 19

Business Highlights, Sept. 19
By The Associated Press Modified: September 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm •  Published: September 19, 2013
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Business highlights

‘Likes' ruled as protected

Clicking “Like” on Facebook is constitutionally protected free speech and can be considered the 21st-century equivalent of a campaign yard sign, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed a lower court ruling that said merely “liking” a Facebook page was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection. Exactly what a “like” means played a part in a Virginia case involving six people who say Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid, which he won. The workers sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.

Walgreen alters coverage

Walgreen Co. is joining a growing push from big businesses to shift more responsibility for finding insurance onto their employees as health care costs continue to climb. The nation's largest drugstore chain said Wednesday that it will send its 180,000 workers and dependents to a private health insurance exchange where they will pick from as many as 25 plans instead of having the company give them two to four options. Proponents say it makes an employer's health care costs more predictable and forces employees to pay more attention to the cost of their coverage. But it also means workers used to having coverage chosen for them could wind up with inadequate coverage if they don't pick wisely.

Home building is on rise

U.S. builders started work in August on the most single-family homes in six months and requested permits to construct even more in future months. The figures suggest housing remains a driver of economic growth despite rising mortgage rates. Construction of single-family homes rose 7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 628,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That's the fastest rate since February. And builders sought 627,000 permits to construct future single-family homes, 3 percent more than July and the best pace since May 2008.

TY owner to pay $53M fine

The creator of Beanie Babies stuffed animals has agreed to pay a $53 million penalty after being accused of federal tax evasion for failing to report income he earned in a secret offshore bank account. As prosecutors in Chicago announced the charge against H. Ty Warner, his defense lawyer issued a statement saying the 69-year-old billionaire intended to plead guilty and pay the massive penalty. Warner, who lives in suburban Chicago and is the sole owner of TY Inc., still faces the prospect of time behind bars. A conviction on a federal tax evasion charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

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