PRICE-FIXING PLEA: Carlton Gary Walker, a former vice president with Harriet & Henderson Yarns Inc. of Henderson, N.C., pleaded guilty to price fixing and agreed to help federal officials in a wider price-fixing inquiry dating to 2000, the Justice Department said Thursday. Walker was charged with conspiring with unnamed “corporations and individuals,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C. The price fixing involved spun yarn and started in October 2000 and continued until June 15, 2001, in violation of U.S. antitrust laws protecting competition. Walker pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a $350,000 fine. The Justice Department in a statement asked “for anyone with information concerning price fixing in the yarn industry” to contact federal prosecutors.
GAP MAKES THE GRADE: Standard & Poor’s Rating Services lifted its corporate credit and senior unsecured debt ratings on Gap Inc. to “BBB-” from “BB+” with a stable outlook, citing the company’s strong cash flow, improved operating margin, store location geographic diversity and “strong business position in casual apparel.” Analyst Diane Shand said Thursday that she expects “cash flow protection measures will remain solidly characteristic of investment-grade levels.” Shand cited the depth of Gap’s management team and believes the company has put processes in place to minimize a decline in business. The analyst was cautious, however, on the “intensely competitive” industry environment Gap operates in, which was partially reflected by its flat same-store sales in 2004.