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Massey shareholders' case on hold until April

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- A lawsuit by shareholders who say Massey Energy lied about its safety record to inflate stock prices for two years before the Upper Big Branch mine explosion is now on hold until mid-April.

Last week, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Irene Berger to let them continue keeping secret any evidence they've gathered in the continuing criminal probe of the 2010 disaster that killed 29 men.

Berger granted that motion Thursday. She says a previous order aimed at protecting the integrity of the criminal investigation will stand until April 15 or until the government's work is finished.

The investigation has spawned three prosecutions so far.

Investors led by the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust contend shareholders had no clue about Massey's long history of violations until after the West Virginia disaster.

Toyota settlement may signal future legal strategy

LOS ANGELES -- Legal observers say recent settlements by Toyota Motor Corp. may signal the Japanese automaker would rather fight its battles behind closed doors instead of in a courtroom.

The company has been chipping away at settling lawsuits over sudden-acceleration issues. It has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve economic loss and some wrongful-death claims.

But the question remains whether attorneys who sued Toyota could prove to a jury there was a design flaw responsible for the dangerous problem.

The company maintains stuck accelerator pedals, faulty floor mats and driver error are to blame.

On Thursday, the company said it had settled a wrongful-death lawsuit set to go to trial next month. Terms of the deal weren't released.

Fiat, Mazda seal deal to build new roadster

Fiat and Mazda have signed a final agreement to jointly produce convertible two-seater Alfa Romeo and Mazda sports cars.

The Italian and Japanese carmakers said Friday that the roadsters will go into production at Mazda's plant in Hiroshima, Japan, in 2015.

The cars will be based on the same platform -- the next generation of the iconic Mazda MX-5 -- but will have different styling and engines. The carmakers signed a memorandum of understanding in May.

Fiat is planning to launch nine new Alfa Romeo's by 2016 as part of its strategy to focus on higher-margin luxury cars and launch Alfa into a global brand. Most will be produced in Italy to help return European operations to profitability and revive production at underutilized plants.