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story.lead_photo.caption This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio, center, in a scene from the film "Roma" by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for both best foreign language film and best picture. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP)

Walgreens to pay $269M in billing suits

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. agreed to pay $269.2 million to settle two civil suits alleging the drugstore chain defrauded federally funded health care programs over insulin drugs and a discount program.

The settlements, announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman, cover U.S. allegations over improper billing. In the first accord, the company agreed to pay $209.2 million to resolve claims that it billed Medicare, Medicaid and other programs for hundreds of thousands of insulin pens it distributed to people who didn't need them.

In the second, Walgreens said it would pay $60 million for overbilling Medicaid by failing to disclose lower drug prices it offered through a discount program.

"Overbilling and improper billing of Medicare and Medicaid unduly burden taxpayers and put the solvency of these vital health-care programs at risk," Berman said in a statement.

The company "admitted and accepted responsibility for the conduct the government alleged in its complaints," Berman said.

Walgreens didn't have an immediate comment on the settlements.

-- Bloomberg News

Lowe's NFL tie-in kicks off on rival's turf

Lowe's Cos., looking to gain an edge on Home Depot Inc., is teaming up with the National Football League in a sponsorship deal that kicks off in its competitor's hometown.

The chain is now the league's official home-improvement retail sponsor, capitalizing on the run-up to next month's Super Bowl in Atlanta. Lowe's will place billboards along highways and at the airport this week, and it's taking over branding at one of the stadium gates during the game.

Home Depot is based in Atlanta.

"We're obviously super excited about the partnership, and I'm not going to lie, we've got a competitive spirit as well," said Jocelyn Wong, chief marketing officer at Lowe's, which is based in Mooresville, N.C. "So it was opportunistic, I would say, that the Super Bowl was in Atlanta, and we wanted to absolutely leverage this deal."

Less than a year ago, the retailer exited a high-profile NASCAR partnership. With the current campaign, Lowe's is going after the ambitious do-it-yourselfers that Home Depot has targeted for years. The new chief executive officer at Lowe's is a Home Depot veteran, and even its new slogan -- "Do It Right for Less" -- mirrors one previously used by its larger rival.

Lowe's joins roughly 35 other leaguewide NFL partners, which pay big money to use NFL marks on their packaging and promote themselves during events like the Super Bowl. The league and its teams made a record $1.32 billion in sponsorship revenue during the 2017-2018 season, according to consulting firm IEG.

-- Bloomberg News

California utility obtains $5.5B in credit

NEW YORK -- The nation's largest utility has lined up $5.5 billion in credit and loans so it can continue operating as it prepares for bankruptcy.

Pacific Gas & Electric said in a regulatory filing Tuesday it secured commitments from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclay's Bank and Citigroup Global Markets.

Without the new financing, the utility could have problems accessing capital. The utility's stock lost more than 80 percent of its value in the past two months and S&P slashed its credit rating to junk status after California's deadly wildfires.

-- The Associated Press

Witness in bank-fraud case gets prison

WILMINGTON, Del. -- A former bank executive who cooperated with authorities in an investigation that led to the fraud convictions of four top executives for Wilmington Trust, the only financial institution to be criminally charged in connection with the federal bank bailout program, has been sentenced to almost two years in prison.

Joseph Terranova, 51, was sentenced to 21 months behind bars, more than five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators. He also must pay a $15,000 fine.

Terranova's sentencing brings an end to a lengthy criminal investigation into the downfall of a bank that was founded by members of the du Pont family and foundered more than a century later after the real estate market collapsed in the 2008 recession.

Terranova, who at one point wore an FBI wire to secretly record his conversations with colleagues and real estate developers, testified last year in the trial of former bank president Robert Harra and three other top Wilmington Trust executives. All were convicted.

-- The Associated Press

Netflix joins movie-industry lobby group

NEW YORK -- On the same day Netflix scored its first best-picture nomination from the Oscars, the streaming company is also joining the lobbying group the Motion Picture Association of America.

The Motion Picture Association announced Tuesday that Netflix will join its ranks, becoming the first streaming service to do so. The only other members of the association are the six major studios.

One of the association's chief goals is to combat piracy, which is a concern for Netflix as it continues to expand its footprint overseas. Netflix, though, doesn't use the association's ratings system to stamp its films PG-13 or R, for example.

Netflix on Tuesday landed 15 Academy Awards nominations, including best picture for Roma.

-- The Associated Press

Self-driving outfit plans Michigan factory

LANSING, Mich. -- Google's self-driving car spinoff Waymo said Tuesday that it will put a factory in Michigan, creating up to 400 jobs at what it describes as the world's first plant "100 percent" dedicated to the mass production of autonomous vehicles.

The company plans to spend about $13.6 million to retrofit a to-be-determined manufacturing facility in the Detroit area. In exchange, it will get a state incentive grant worth up to $8 million that was approved Tuesday by the Michigan Strategic Fund Board.

Waymo spokesman Alexis Georgeson said the company plans to hire up to 400 people to work at the factory, including engineers, operations experts and fleet coordinators.

The company integrates its self-driving system into vehicles it buys from automakers and is currently testing autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in a preferred-rider program for passengers in the Phoenix area, but with human backup drivers on board. It plans to expand the service to the San Francisco area but has not given a time frame. Waymo previously announced plans to buy 62,000 Pacificas and 20,000 I-Pace electric SUVs from Jaguar.

-- The Associated Press

Business on 01/23/2019

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