Early Briefing: Wanna Buy The Brooklyn Bridge?

Private firms increasingly see themselves as part of the solution for governments that are looking to complete or repair billion-dollar public works projects, such as the tunnel under the English Channel, but are facing declining tax revenues and a troubled municipal bond market. (Associated Press)

*Carlyle Group of the District has raised $1.15 billion for an infrastructure fund. People with the firm say it would love to participate in an expansion of Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and also mentioned interest in the Dulles Rail project, which doesn't appear to be on the table. See story and slideshow.

*The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its largest-ever settlement for an individual racial discrimination case: $2.5 million against Lockheed Martin. Charles Daniel, a black aviation electrician who had worked in plants in Florida, Washington State and Hawaii, was the target of verbal abuse and of physical threats after he reported the harassment, the EEOC said. See story.

*Discovery Communications of Silver Spring named Mark Hollinger as chief operating officer. See story.

*The Communications Workers of America, which represents about 400 post-production workers at The Washington Post, has launched an ad campaign seeking to jump-start contract talks. See story.

*Mitchell H. Caplan, the former chief executive of E-Trade Financial, resigned from the online brokerage's board. The New York company, which has banking operations in Arlington, expects to give Caplan $10.9 million in severance pay. Caplan's resignation "effectively severs all ties with the company," E-Trade said. Caplan resigned as chief executive in November. E-Trade said it expects to announce a new chief executive in one or two months.

*Lockheed Martin's plan to supply F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan drew criticism from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-Del.), who said proceeding with the sale during turmoil in Pakistan is a mistake. The Pentagon on Dec. 31 announced a $498.2 million order for Lockheed, of Bethesda, to provide the fighters as part of a foreign military sales program coordinated by the Air Force. Congress cleared the $5 billion program in July 2006.

*Shares of Sallie Mae, the largest provider of U.S. student loans, fell to their lowest level in seven years after Friedman, Billings, Ramsey cut its profit estimates for the largest U.S. student-loan provider. Reston-based Sallie Mae lost 78 cents, to $19.36.

Sallie Mae faces an "uncertain" funding environment and a "thinned bench of executive talent," analyst Matt Snowling wrote in a note to investors. Snowling, who kept a "market perform" rating on the educational lender, reduced his 2008 profit forecast and 2009 earnings estimate.

*Freddie Mac increased its debt last month by the most in 3 1/2 years. Debt outstanding rose $30 billion, or 4 percent, according to data posted on the McLean company's Web site. Short-term borrowing drove the increase, climbing $34.8 billion, to $199.4 billion.

*Pepco Holdings closed the $44 million sale of the Virginia operations of its Delmarva Power subsidiary to A&N Electric Cooperative and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. See press release.

*MGP Ingredients, the biggest U.S. supplier of wheat gluten, received $8 million after settling a patent-infringement lawsuit against Mars over ingredients in snacks for dogs.

McLean-based Mars and its S&M NuTec unit, maker of Greenies chews, were sued by MGP in 2006. MGP accused S&M, a former customer, of breaching a 2005 supply agreement for a formula with secret ingredients made by MGP. Mars, which bought S&M in 2006, contended that it came up with a new formula for Greenies. MGP said the formula wasn't new and claimed S&M used trade secrets and violated its patent for some of the ingredients.

*Media General of Richmond hired Dow Lohnes Government Strategies to lobby the federal government on a new rule to loosen media ownership, according to a recent disclosure form. Eric S. Kessler, former chief of staff for Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), is among those registered to lobby for the company.

*Foundation Coal Holdings of Linthicum Heights named Kurt D. Kost president and chief operating officer. Kost has been with the coal producer and its predecessor companies since 1980.

*Trex appointed Ronald W. Kaplan as president, chief executive and a director.
Andrew U. Ferrari, who had been chief executive of the Winchester company, was appointed chairman. He replaced Anthony J. Cavanna, who will continue as a director and interim chief financial officer. See press release.

*NeuStar of Sterling named Lisa Hook chief operating officer. Hook, 49, who also will serve as president, succeeds Larry Bouman, 61, will continue to serve as a senior adviser. Hook previously served as president and chief executive of SunRocket, a Vienna voice over Internet protocol service provider. She has also worked at AOL and Time Warner. See press release.

*State officials are checking allegations that at least one retailer might have been a bit hasty in instituting the 1 percent statewide sales tax increase going into effect today.

Joseph Shapiro, spokesman for state Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), said the office is looking into claims by some Best Buy customers that they were charged the higher tax rate, 6 percent instead of 5 percent, on New Year's day -- two days before the scheduled increase.

"We're aware of the allegations, and we're investigating," said Kelly Groehler, spokeswoman for Best Buy. She said shoppers can check their receipts and return to the store for a refund if they were overcharged.

At a Best Buy on Rockville Pike in Rockville yesterday, the correct tax was being charged.

By Terri Rupar  |  January 3, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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