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Texas Business Report: Anadarko Petroleum Pays $5.1 Billion to Settle Pollution Case

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The Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum said Thursday that it will pay $5.1 billion to clean up toxic pollutants at more than 2,700 locations around the country, settling a long-running legal battle with the federal government, the New York Times reports. The award—a record high for a Justice Department environmental settlement—will go toward restoring sites harmed by uranium mining, chemical manufacturing, waste dumps, and other operations overseen by Anadarko’s subsidiary Kerr-McGee. The money will also “compensate more than 8,000 people claiming respiratory ailments, cancer and other diseases from chemical exposure,” according to the newspaper.

The Bottom Line: CEO Al Walker says the settlement “eliminates the uncertainty this dispute has created,” which could help pave the way for the company to become a prime takeover target, the Times reports. The news prompted a rally for Anadarko’s stock, which posted a 14.5 percent gain by the closing bell.

Arts and Grafts

Proceedings began this week in the insider-trading trial of the former chairman of Michaels Stores Inc., whom the Securities Exchange Commission has accused of using offshore trusts to fraudulently trade large volumes of stock in his own companies, Businessweek reports. The government is seeking to recover $550 million from Samuel Wyly and the estate of his brother, who died in 2011.

The Irving-based crafts retailer was one of several companies involved in the Wylys’ clandestine investment “labyrinth” in the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man, which the brothers allegedly used to sell $750 million in securities from 1992 to 2004, according to the SEC complaint. The subsequent investigation took six years to complete, and the case has been awaiting trial for the last four years.

The Bottom Line: The scheme was apparently an effort to “evade laws limiting stock transactions by corporate insiders,” who are required to disclose ownership of overseas securities, according to Businessweek. The regulations are designed to protect investors, who use board members’ stock transactions “to gauge leadership’s confidence in a company’s future earnings.” Wyly claims he and his brother set up the trusts legally for tax purposes.

VC Come, VC Go

Despite having one of the nation’s strongest economies, Texas is lagging behind other states in venture capital funding for early-stage companies, according to a report presented this week by the Texas Coalition for Capital. The nonprofit outlined its findings to the Texas House Economic and Small Business Development Committee, which House Speaker Joe Straus has charged with crafting new legislation aimed at boosting investment in Texas startups, the Associated Press reports.

Some key statistics, per the AP: Texas generates nearly 10 percent of the U.S. economic output, but it draws just 5 percent of total VC funding for early-stage companies. Also, VC firms invest about $12.3 billion in California startups, dwarfing Texas’s figure of $1.3 billion—roughly half of which goes to companies in Austin.

The Bottom Line: The report identified several factors that could be contributing to the state’s venture capital shortcomings, including “a lack of venture capital firms in Texas, the fact that oil and gas companies play such a large role in the state’s economy, and a shortage of companies . . . that will produce the high return on investment the firms need in a relatively short period of time,” according to the AP.

Winners of the Week: Social Marketers

Two of Texas’s top social media marketing firms, Spredfast Inc. and Mass Relevance Inc., announced this week that they plan to merge in a deal that will “create the largest company of its kind in the burgeoning social media marketing space,” the Austin Business Journal reports. The new company, which will retain the Spredfast name, brings together Spredfast’s 200 employees with Mass Relevance’s 150, and Spredfast CEO Rod Favaron says the combined firm plans to add another 100 positions by year’s end. Favaron will remain at the helm, while Mass Relevance CEO Sam Decker “will join the board of directors and serve as an executive advisor without a day-to-day operational role,” according to Ad Age.

The Austin-based companies specialized in separate but complementary areas of social marketing. Spredfast works with clients to manage and measure the effectiveness of social media campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. Mass Relevance, meanwhile, focuses on developing new methods for brands to display social content on TV, online, and billboards. For example, its products have been used to broadcast viewer tweets on American Idol and other shows in real time, Ad Age reports.

Losers of the Week: Unequal Opportunity Employers

Texas employers were named in more workplace discrimination and harassment complaints than those in any other state last year, according to a new report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Workers in the state filed 9,068 charges with the EEOC in 2013, a 2 percent increase over the previous year “and enough for 9.7 percent of all such charges in the United States,” Frisco Enterprise reported this week. That’s also about 19 percent more than Florida, the second-most-cited offender. Nationally, the number of discrimination and harassment charges decreased by 5.7 percent, according to the San Antonio Business Journal. 

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