NEWS WATCH: SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH BEEF CHECKOFF PROGRAM...MARSH CLAN SETTLES LAWSUIT OVER BENEFITS PAYMENT...PROFITS UP NEARLY 80% AT M&S' KINGS; SALES FLAT...

SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH BEEF CHECKOFF PROGRAMsed a lower-court decision and last week ruled the Beef Checkoff Program constitutional. The federal Beef Promotion and Research Act, created as part of the 1986 Farm Bill creating generic marketing programs for certain government-regulated commodities, had faced several challenges in the past by producers objecting to the $1 per-head fee they were required

SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH BEEF CHECKOFF PROGRAM

sed a lower-court decision and last week ruled the Beef Checkoff Program constitutional. The federal Beef Promotion and Research Act, created as part of the 1986 Farm Bill creating generic marketing programs for certain government-regulated commodities, had faced several challenges in the past by producers objecting to the $1 per-head fee they were required to pay, on the grounds it violated the First Amendment. By a 6-to-3 margin, the high court ruled that, because the beef checkoff funds the government's own speech, it is not susceptible to a First Amendment compelled-subsidy challenge.

MARSH CLAN SETTLES LAWSUIT OVER BENEFITS PAYMENT

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here has agreed to pay its former vice chairman -- the brother of its chief executive officer -- nearly $1 million as part of a lawsuit settlement, the retailer said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The agreement calls for the company to pay C. Alan Marsh $985,784 or the surrender value of two life insurance policies cited in the suit, whichever is higher, as well as $553,733 in tax reimbursements, and $50,000 in legal fees, the filing said. C. Alan Marsh and Don Marsh, the company's current chairman and CEO, are sons of Emil Marsh, the company's late founder. C. Alan Marsh left the company in 1998 but filed suit last year saying he was owed around $2 million in benefits. A related suit brought by Marsh against benefits provider Watson-Wyatt was also settled, with Marsh receiving $33,000 from Watson-Wyatt. The agreement stipulates the parties release one another from all claims related to the suit.

PROFITS UP NEARLY 80% AT M&S' KINGS; SALES FLAT

PARSIPPANY, N.J. -- Kings Super Markets here posted an operating profit of about $7.8 million in the 52-week period ended April 2, an increase of 79.2% over the previous year, its London-based parent company, Marks & Spencer, reported last week. Sales at the chain, which has 27 locations in New Jersey and New York, were flat at constant exchange rates. M&S said the profit gains were a result of actions taken last year to improve the chain's financial performance.

TERMINATED WAL-MART EXECUTIVE FILES COMPLAINT

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Jared Bowen, a former Wal-Mart Stores vice president who was terminated as part of the investigation into misuse of corporate funds that also took down former vice chairman and board member Tom Coughlin, filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department last week alleging the retailer violated federal rules. According to his complaint, Bowen provided Wal-Mart with the information that helped the company investigate Coughlin and so should have been protected by a provision in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act regarding so-called "whistle-blowers." His complaint alleges that he alerted Wal-Mart that Coughlin had demanded he approve certain expenses leading to the investigation. But he was fired in March when Wal-Mart determined he had failed to tell the company all he knew during the investigation. According to complaint, Bowen is seeking his former job back, as well as back pay and expenses.

REPORT: H-E-B TO FOCUS ON BUILDING LARGER STORES

SAN ANTONIO -- H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here next year plans to open its largest stores yet -- 160,000-square-foot H-E-B Plus units in San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Round Rock, Texas, a published report said last week. The stores would represent an increase from the 109,000-square-foot H-E-B Plus models the company currently operates, Charles C. Butt, H-E-B chairman, said in an article in the San Antonio Express-News.