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FirstEnergy to cut 200 jobs; UPMC files amended lawsuit

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

FirstEnergy may cut 200

FirstEnergy Inc. said it expects to cut about 200 employees as the result of an organizational study to realign its workforce, considering the “continued weak economy.” The Akron-based power company said the review will include corporate support departments and competitive supplier FirstEnergy Solutions, located primarily in Akron. Staff reductions primarily could affect Akron offices, company spokesman Mark Durbin said on Thursday, although employees who retire in 2013 in Pennsylvania may not be replaced. FirstEnergy acquired the former Allegheny Energy Inc. in 2011 and operates a West Penn Power headquarters in Greensburg, along with Penn Power, which provides electricity in areas north of Pittsburgh. FirstEnergy said results of the study will be announced in early November.

UPMC amends lawsuit

UPMC filed an amended complaint on Thursday in its federal lawsuit claiming that Highmark Inc. and West Penn Allegheny Health Systems have conspired to create an insurance monopoly in Western Pennsylvania. While the revised complaint makes changes intended to keep U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti from dismissing the lawsuit, the main allegation remains the same. The hospital system claims that Highmark has been propping up West Penn Allegheny for years in order to keep other insurers from entering the market so it can dictate reimbursement rates to UPMC. The lawsuit is a response to a similar lawsuit West Penn Allegheny filed against UPMC and Highmark, claiming that they were conspiring to drive it out of business. West Penn Allegheny dropped Highmark from its lawsuit after the insurer agreed to buy the troubled hospital system for $475 million.

30-year mortgage rate at record

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage touched a record low this week and the rate on the 15-year mortgage hit a new record. The declines followed the Federal Reserve announcement last week that it would buy bonds to try to push mortgage rates lower and stimulate the housing market. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said on Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.49 percent from 3.55 percent last week. That matched the lowest rate since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, plunged to 2.77 percent, a record. That's down from 2.85 percent last week and the previous record low of 2.80 percent.

Microsoft fixing security bug

Microsoft is releasing an update to its Internet Explorer browser to fix a security problem that could expose personal computers to hacking attacks. A permanent repair to the security flaw will be released on Friday. Microsoft Corp. began offering a temporary patch for the problem on Wednesday on a part of its website set up for technical issues. The permanent solution to the problem will be automatically installed on PCs running on Microsoft's Windows operating system if the machine is set up to receive important updates. The temporary repair requires clicking on a link.

Facebook to make businesses pay

Facebook Inc., owner of the world's largest social network, will begin requiring business clients that use its Offers service to purchase advertisements, seeking to generate sales from a feature that had been free. Businesses that take advantage of Offers, which include discounts on products and services, will have to create an ad to place them, the company said. The change should make Offers more relevant to users when they see them in their news feeds on Facebook's website. Facebook is under pressure from investors to wring more advertising revenue from its more than 950 million users as it grapples with mounting competition from rivals.

Other business news

• Liberty Tire Recycling, a Strip District-based company that recycles used tires into a number of products, recently removed hundreds of used tires from the infield of Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan., that were left over after the construction of a new road course at the facility. The tires, which had been stockpiled for use as soft walls on the road course, will be used as material for crumb rubber and industrial feedstock for molded products, tire-derived fuel for industrial kilns, mills and power plants, and rubber mulch for landscaping and playgrounds.

• Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. has a mobile application for iPhone and Android smartphones. Customers who download the free app can use it to access their ScoreCard Rewards information, locate Dick's stores, shop or earn rewards for engaging with the Dick's brand via social media, the Findlay-based retailer said in an announcement on Thursday.

— Staff and wire reports

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