AT&T settles Missouri suit over utility taxes

AT&T Mobility agreed to pay up to $76 million in back taxes and legal fees to put an end to a six-year-old cell phone tax lawsuit in Missouri. Verizon Wireless settled an identical suit against it in September, while Sprint has settled with some of the Missouri municipalities involved but is still in negotiations with others. The basis of the municipalities' lawsuit is whether they can levy a tax normally applied to utilities and landline phones to cell phone services, too. The suit originally sought $500 million in back taxes and fees, but the total looks like it will be far less. Verizon Wireless settled for $31.5 million.

ALSO: AT&T announced it will buy back about 7 percent of its stock--400 million shares--at a price of almost $15.2 billion (according to Monday's closing price of $37.90). The buy-back will be completed by the end of 2009. The company is also raising its dividend by about 12.7 percent, or 5 cents, to 40 cents per share. That dividend will be payable, and you've got until Jan. 10 to jump on the bandwagon if you want your piece. -Dan

For more on the story:
- read this article from the WSJ (sub. req.)