FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Statewide Business Briefs - May 2007

MORE INDICTMENTS -- Tampa-based engineering powerhouse PBS&J, trying to rebound from last year's $36-million embezzlement scandal involving longtime employees ["Culture of Trust," March, FloridaTrend.com], had more bad news -- the indictments of two former chairmen. Following an FBI investigation that was sparked by the embezzlement probe, federal prosecutors in March charged Richard A. Wickett and H. Michael Dye with violating federal campaign laws by using company funds to donate to candidates and secretly reimbursing employees for contributions. John B. Zumwalt III, who replaced Wickett as chairman in 2005, tightened company rules on contributions and "basically took the whole subject from being whispered about at the water cooler to something we talked openly about so that everyone would understand our policies and the law." No word on whether this is the end of indictments at the 4,000-employee company.

NEW PLAYER -- Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain's second-largest bank, will enter Florida through the acquisition of Compass Bank of Birmingham, Ala. The $9.6-billion deal, BBVA's biggest acquisition abroad, is expected to close in the second half of 2007. Compass Bank will operate as a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of BBVA. With the addition of Compass' 415 branches, BBVA will have 622 branches in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas and generate about 10% of its earnings in the United States. Compass' 44 Florida branches are in north and central Florida, including in Pensacola, Gainesville and Jacksonville.

DROPOUT COSTS -- If all of Florida's high-school dropouts last year had graduated, the state's economy could have gained $24.7 billion in wages over the lifetimes of the dropouts, according to calculations by the Alliance for Excellent Education. The full report, "The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools," is available at all4ed.org/publications/HighCost.pdf.