Today in the Fortune 500: Verizon, AT&T fall prey to porn ad scam, SEC after former CEO of Freddie Mac and Northrop Grumman sells its shipyards

March 16, 2011: 11:00 AM ET
Freddie Mac

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The Fortune 500 comes out just once a year, but the companies on it make headlines every day. Here then are today's highlights of news and happenings coming from the biggest names in business.

By Shelley DuBois, reporter

PORN SITE AD SCAM hits advertisers, who have been tricked into paying for phantom traffic. A group of pornography sites are using software that launches a flood of hidden pages with links that users never see. The software forces the user's computer to click on the links, and the scam operator collects money for directing the fake traffic to legitimate sites. AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) are two companies who've ended up paying for hidden ads. Google (GOOG) has said it blocked the scam. [Wall Street Journal]

FREDDIE ON THE HOOK The latest news in the investigation of mortgage finance company Freddie Mac (FMCC) is that the Securities and Exchange Commission could take legal action against its former CEO Richard Syron. Only a week ago, former CEO of Freddie Mac's sister company Fannie Mae (FNMA) received a similar notice from the SEC. [New York Times]

ABANDON SHIP Defense company Northrop Grumman (NOC) wants to spin-off its debt-laden shipyards business into a company called Huntington Ingalls Industries by the end of March. Northrop's shipyards business is dead weight right now, since the Pentagon's budget is shrinking and Northrop has had production problems building warships. Once jettisoned, the spinoff may have trouble staying afloat. [New York Times]

NO DEAL sometimes can still turn a profit for Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA). Companies that agree to be bought by Warren Buffett's company also agree to hefty breakup fees if they end up tossing the deal for a rival bid. If Berkshire's purchase of Lubrizol, for example, doesn't go through, the additives company will have to fork over a $200 million termination fee. [Fortune]

FOOD GIANTS FORM NON-PROFIT Cargill, General Mills (GM) and Dutch company Royal DSM NV are teaming up to combat hunger in Africa. The organization, called Partners in Food Solutions, aims to strengthen the food industry by helping manufacturers in African countries process food more efficiently. [Wall Street Journal]

ATM FEES ON THE RISE for several banks, including J.P. Morgan & Chase (JPM), which is now testing raising fees for non-customers using its machines from around $3 to $4 or $5. Customers are probably going to see even more fees tacked on to certain services, as banks try to make up for lost revenue from changing federal regulations on overdraft charges.  [Wall Street Journal]

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