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Financial markets won't be derailed by the Year 2000 date change, the government's top securities regulator and Wall Street officials assured investors Tuesday.

"The worst that we have to fear right now is public misperception, public fear," Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said at a news conference.

Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, promised: "The first trading day of the new millennium will be business as usual."

Grasso and the other officials said the securities industry had tested and retested all its computer systems, ensuring a trouble-free transition to the 21st century.

Levitt said investors "can rest assured that their trades (will) be processed as efficiently as on any other day."

The SEC has these tips for investors:

Keep good records, including bank and investment account statements and bill payments.

Continue to invest for the long term.

Don't worry about obtaining your stock certificates, since brokerage firms keep records and can answer your questions.

A Year 2000 investor kit with information on checking personal computers and other topics is available through the National Association of Securities Dealers' Web site at Printed copies can be obtained by calling 1-888-227-1330 or sending an e-mail to

Bank faces suit over 401(k) plan
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Eighteen former and current employees of First Union Corp., have filed a $300 million lawsuit against the nation's sixth-largest bank, claiming it put profits ahead of its employees' best interests in managing their in-house 401(k) retirement plans.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday claims First Union employees have lost $100 million by being forced to invest in poorly performing, high-fee First Union mutual funds. The suit could draw in 100,000 current and former members of First Union's 401(k) plan if it is certified as a class-action, according to the court papers.

Because the lawsuit has been filed under federal antitrust and anti-racketeering statutes, plaintiffs could receive triple damages.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday was the second in about four months challenging First Union's handling of employee 401(k) plans. A similar, $150 million lawsuit was filed in May on behalf of 5,000 former employees of Signet, a Richmond-based bank that First Union bought in 1997.

Yields decline on Treasury bills
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Treasury Department sold $6.5 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 4.720 percent, down from 4.875 percent last week.

An additional $7.5 billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 4.950 percent, down from 4.990 percent.

The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors -- 4.856 percent for three-month bills with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,880.70, and 5.161 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,749.80.

Separately, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday that the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, the most popular index for making changes in adjustable rate mortgages, rose to 5.29 percent last week from 5.19 percent the previous week.

In other business news
A federal court ruled Tuesday that clothing retailer The Limited Inc. owes taxes on $174.1 million from transactions between a foreign subsidiary and another entity created to handle The Limited's credit-card business.

Vodafone AirTouch, the world's largest cellular phone company, confirmed Tuesday that it wants to form a trans-Atlantic alliance with Bell Atlantic, a venture that could pose a stiff challenge to U.S. competitors Sprint Corp. and AT&T Corp.

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a shareholders lawsuit filed against current and former Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. executives on behalf of New York's $90 billion pension fund. More than a dozen other plaintiffs, including California's $120 billion pension fund, had been added to the lawsuit alleging that mismanagement by Columbia executives devalued their stock holdings in the nation's largest hospital company.

Philip Marineau, who has been credited with broadening Pepsi's appeal, was named president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co. on Tuesday. He succeeds Levi president Peter Jacobi, who stepped down in January after nearly three decades with the company. Bob Haas, the former CEO, is continuing as chairman.

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