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A federal judge on Wednesday approved a $1.7 billion settlement for holders of life insurance policies at Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

People eligible for part of the settlement must have owned life insurance policies or deferred annuity contracts or certificates from MetLife from Jan. 1, 1982 until Dec. 31, 1987.

U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose approved the settlement after hearing from policyholders in court Dec. 2.

MetLife was accused in the lawsuit of "churning," or persuading policyholders to boost their coverage with more expensive policies they did not need. It did not admit to doing anything wrong in its part of the settlement.

Many found they would have to pay more than they expected to keep the new policies, which earned commissions for agents.

MetLife agents were also accused of telling policyholders that their dividends would eventually pay for their insurance. That turned out to be untrue when interest rates dropped.

As many as 6 million people could be eligible for the settlement.

The case began in 1995 with lawsuits filed in New York.

Ingram to register 1.5 million shares

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- Ingram Micro Inc., the world's largest computer distributor, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to register 1.5 million shares of common stock for Softbank Corp.

Softbank, one of Japan's largest investors in Internet and computer ventures, would be able to sell the Ingram Micro Class A shares on the open market once the SEC clears the registration statement filed Wednesday.

Ingram Micro operates a call center in Amherst.

The Japanese company isn't required to sell the shares, which were acquired through a warrant on Dec. 3. The shares are worth about $18.8 million at today's prices. Softbank currently owns about 1.2 million Ingram shares, and if it exercised the warrant, would own 1.8 percent of the computer distributor, the filing said.

Ingram, which sells computers and related equipment to dealers and retailers, saw its third quarter profit fall 71 percent, hurt by price cuts needed to maintain market share and by management shake-ups.

Investment firm linked to Frankel

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- A Michigan investment company is under investigation for its links to Martin Frankel, the financier accused of bilking more than $200 million from insurance companies in five states, a newspaper reported.

Frankel was able to hide millions of dollars in stolen money over the last decade by saying he had safely invested the funds with the brokerage, the Blade reported Wednesday, citing the FBI as its source.

FBI agents were trying to find out why the brokerage, Liberty National Securities, shared its phone lines with Frankel in Connecticut for the past several years, the newspaper said.

Frankel, 45, is awaiting extradition from Germany, where he was arrested in September after a four-month international manhunt.

United sells assets to Bear Stearns

BATON ROUGE, La. (Bloomberg) -- United Companies Financial Corp., in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since March, said it agreed to sell some assets to a unit of Bear Stearns Cos. for $895 million.

United, a home equity and mortgage lender, plans to sell its mortgage servicing, whole loan portfolio and residual interests to EMC Mortgage Corp., wholly owned by Bear Stearns. Cash on hand and some other assets aren't included, the company said in a statement.

The debt-ridden United -- which had 3,200 employees and offices in 50 states -- filed for protection from its creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington. It listed $1.36 billion in assets and $1.23 billion in liabilities in the filing, officials said.

Fruit of the Loom files Chapter 11

CHICAGO (AP) -- Underwear and leisure clothing manufacturer Fruit of the Loom Ltd. sought court protection from its creditors Wednesday under federal bankruptcy law.

The Chicago-based company with 40,000 employees worldwide has lined up $625 million in financing through Bank of America, subject to court approval, to enable it to continue operating, spokesman Joel Weiden said.

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