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Originally published Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Index ranks Seattle top office market

Pacific Northwest The Seattle area has the hottest office market in the country, supplanting New York, a national real-estate brokerage...

Pacific Northwest

Real estate

The Seattle area has the hottest office market in the country, supplanting New York, a national real-estate brokerage says.

The region ranks No. 1 in Marcus & Millichap's 2008 "National Office Property Index," up from No. 4 last year.

The index, intended to measure office supply and demand for the year, is based on criteria that include anticipated job growth, vacancy rates, changes in rental rates and new office construction.

Marcus & Millichap attributed Seattle's rise in rank to "forecasts for above-average job growth and rent gains."

In a report, the firm said "local technology titans continue to hire actively and lease additional office space, largely offsetting increased construction."

Qwest Communications

Bell Plaza building put on market

Qwest Communications International plans to sell and lease back its Bell Plaza office building in downtown Seattle as it consolidates operations.

"We have about 1,600 employees in the building right now, and most of those would remain," Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said Wednesday. "We would probably see a couple of hundred employees move to other facilities in downtown Seattle."

The 33-story Bell Plaza is on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and Olive Way. It has 531,771 net square feet, King County property records show. Toevs declined to give an asking price for the building.

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The median sale price for office buildings in downtown Seattle last year was $390 a square foot, according to real-estate broker Cushman & Wakefield. That would value the Qwest building at about $207 million.

Securities fraud

Penny-stock scam results in 10 years

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday that Arizona stock promoter Michael Paloma was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for running penny-stock scams. He must also pay $7.8 million in restitution to his victims.

Paloma posed as a legitimate financier to persuade companies to issue him shares, which he later touted through e-mail and fax spam, the SEC said.

One of the unwitting companies he promoted was Courtside Products, a Spokane maker of athletic bags.

In August, Paloma pleaded guilty to securities fraud and electronic mail fraud. His criminal prosecution comes amid regulators' efforts to halt abuses in loosely regulated penny-stock markets.

Lockdown Networks

Startup a victim of economic trends

Tech startup Lockdown Networks said Wednesday that it's shutting down for lack of venture investment.

The Seattle firm stated on its Web site that it couldn't raise enough cash to fund its operations "due to overall economic trends" and "slower than predicted" adoption of its technology. On Tuesday the company notified its 32 employees that it would cease operations at the end of the week, said Todd Terbeek, Lockdown's vice president for sales and business development.

Terbeek added that the company, which specializes in network-access control devices, will try to sell some of its technology.

The company raised some $14 million last October from Seattle venture firm Ignition Partners, Menlo Park-based Integral Capital Partners, as well as Intel Capital and Cargill Ventures.

"We made a go, and in the end, it wasn't enough," Terbeek said.

Redmond Town Center

Village Roadshow to replace AMC

Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas will replace the AMC movie theater at Redmond Town Center sometime this year.

Macerich, which owns the 10-year-old shopping center, announced the new entertainment venue Wednesday but offered no other details.

The eight-screen AMC closed earlier this year along with seven retail tenants, including Limited Too, Nine West and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Nation and World

Congress

Investment bank reserves favored

The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said Wednesday he will push for stricter federal regulation of investment banks, including making them hold reserves similar to those required of commercial banks.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said the financial-market crisis that has shaken Wall Street demonstrates that innovations by investment houses have outpaced regulations.

Mandating that they hold reserves could help those institutions avoid trouble and boost investor and consumer confidence, he said.

"These investment houses are going to have to be regulated so they are not able to get themselves into the kind of trouble that then either causes a serious economic problem for the whole country or requires us to help them out," Frank told WBZ Radio in Boston.

Frank plans to discuss his proposals at a breakfast speech Thursday in Boston before business leaders.

His speech was scheduled days after the collapse of Wall Street giant Bear Stearns. The recent sale of the troubled investment house to JPMorgan Chase was seen as a way of keeping the impending failure of Bear Stearns from dragging down other big financial firms and perhaps plunging global markets into a cascading collapse.

Brocade

Former HR chief gets 4 months in jail

The former human-resources chief of Brocade Communications was sentenced on Wednesday to four months in prison and ordered to pay a $1.25 million fine for her role in a stock-options backdating scheme.

Stephanie Jensen was convicted in December of conspiracy and falsifying corporate records at the networking equipment maker.

She faced as many as 12 months in prison.

Jensen and her former boss, former Brocade Chief Executive Gregory Reyes, were the first two executives to go on trial over backdating when their cases went before separate juries in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last year.

Their trials were seen as important signals about how severely the courts would punish backdating, a new type of securities fraud that prosecutors contend paints an inaccurate picture of a company's financial health by hiding certain compensation expenses.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff, Bloomberg News and The Associated Press

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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