SYSTEM SECURITY: Anthem breach exposed thousands of records

Hundreds of thousands of Mainers were cautioned to watch for possible identity theft in the wake of a massive data breach at Anthem. The health insurer reported Thursday that a cyberattack on its IT system gave thieves access to names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other data of millions of policyholders and employees, including more than 300,000 customers and 800 employees in Maine. The data, which appear not to include credit card or medical records, could be used for tax fraud, warned consumer advocates who recommend filing IRS tax returns quickly to thwart the thieves.

Consumers were directed to www.anthemfacts.com for more information. Read the story here.

MANUFACTURING: Gorham company lands high-tech contract

A Gorham manufacturer of radio-frequency components landed a $2.6 million contract to help equip a new facility being built at Michigan State University to explore rare isotopes. MEGA Industries will provide components for the facility, which is expected to come on line in 2022 to pursue research that can be applied in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. The company’s CEO said he expects this will open the door to other work at the facility. Read the story here.

New pollution standards set for woodstoves

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted stringent new emission standards for wood stoves and pellet stoves. The new rules are expected to force manufacturers to make stoves that emit 70 percent less pollution than existing stoves. Retailers will be able to continue selling stoves under the old standards, which were established in 1988, through this year. About 14 percent of Mainers use wood as a primary heat source and 50 percent use it as a supplemental source. Read the story here.

TOURISM: Nova Star gets backing for second year

Nova Star Cruises has signed a contract with the Nova Scotia government to provide a second year of ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Portland. Government officials pledged another $13 million in subsidies to help the ferry service return for a 2015, despite a disappointing inaugural season in which the cruise company spent all of a $21 million subsidy intended to last seven years. Officials said following the 2015 season, a contract for the ferry service will go out to bid annually. They also are applying pressure to Maine government officials to follow through on a pledge to help the service by contributing $5 million to its operation. Read the story here.

REAL ESTATE: Mixed-use project proposed for armory

A $2.5 million plan to develop the former National Guard armory in South Portland into a mixed-use complex is scheduled for a Planning Board workshop Feb. 10. Priority Real Estate Group of Topsham is seeking a conditional use zoning amendment to redevelop the high-profile, often-vacant building at the foot of the Casco Bay Bridge. The plans would preserve the art deco-style front section of the brick building at 682 Broadway. In addition to a convenience store and Irving gas station, it would contain a coffee shop or deli, professional office space, community meeting space and a tourist information bureau. A gazebo and public art pieces would be featured on the side and front lawns. Read the story here.

UTILITIES: FCC proposal possible boon for Maine broadband customers

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed regulating the Internet as a public utility Wednesday, a move that, if adopted, could make the Maine broadband market more competitive. Maine lands near the bottom of national lists ranking Internet speed, a disadvantage to businesses and educational institutions that policy makers and politicians want to change. The change would make it easier for Internet service providers to gain access to Maine’s telecommunication infrastructure. The full commission is expected to rule on proposal Feb. 26. Read the story here.

FairPoint complaints rise

FairPoint Communications’ ability to respond in a timely manner to customers’ problems has deteriorated since its workers went on strike in mid-October, according to company figures provided to the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The filing, which covers from October through December 2014, shows the company missed compliance benchmarks in the number of problems reported and the time it took to resolve customer complaints. FairPoint workers walked off the job Oct.16 after prolonged negotiations between management and union failed to produce a new contract. The PUC started an investigation of similar performance shortfalls last year. Read the story here.

Gas prices head north

CasGas prices are expected to eke upwards after falling sharply for the past several months, according to energy analysts. Gas prices, which have settled around $2 a gallon, are expected to start rising again soon with some analysts predicting prices will top out at $2.50 or even $2.80 when they typically peak in May and June. Production of oil and gas, particularly in the U.S., remains high, while global demand is low amid weak economic forecasts outside the U.S. Read the story here.

BANKING & FINANCE: Two banks form new company

Two Maine banks have decided to form a mutual holding company that will own both banks, but allow them to continue to operate separately. Auburn-based Mechanics Savings Bank and Biddeford Savings Bank have entered into an agreement to form Maine Community Bancorp, which still needs approval from Maine’s Bureau of Financial Institutions, as well as federal regulatory agencies. Once finalized, Maine Community will draw equally from each bank’s board and management team, but the banks will retain their names and staff. The banks expect the partnership will better position them to serve customers with significantly greater loan capacity and new products and services. Combined, the banks employ 152 and operate 10 branches. Read the story here.

$21.5 million settlement from S&P dispute heads to Maine

Maine will get $21.5 million as part of a national settlement with credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s over charges the credit rating agency engaged in unfair trade practices that contributed to the financial crisis and 2008 recession. The settlement negotiated by the Department of Justice on behalf of 19 states tallied $1.3 billion. Maine’s portion will be directed to consumer education and protection efforts, assistance with foreclosure relief and other initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of the recession. Read the story here.

LAW: Global law firm snags local lawyers for new office

A global employment law firm based in California has opened a practice in Portland by wooing five local lawyers to join it. The new Portland office of Littler Global is made up of five attorneys who previously worked for Fisher & Phillips, a national law firm that specializes in employment law, Littler Global said Monday in a news release. Joining Littler are shareholder Jonathan Shapiro, who previously served as regional managing partner of Fisher & Phillips’ Portland office, shareholders Melinda J. Caterine and David Strock, and associates Shiloh D. Theberge and Peter F. Herzog. Shapiro said the five lawyers decided to switch alliances in December not because they were unhappy at Fisher & Phillips but because they saw opportunities in the resources and global reach Littler offered. Read the story here.