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Top 5: ‘Hanging on to what you’ve got is harder’

Solar energy company SunEdison announced it will be moving its headquarters to California, and speaking fees for pharmaceutical companies are going down. Those stories and more in this week’s business Top 5.

1. Maryland’s top lobbyists got $15.5M during 2011 session – by Nicholas Sohr

Maryland’s biggest businesses, interest groups and labor unions increased spending on lobbyists to $15.5 million during the 2011 General Assembly session, according to the State Ethics Commission.

That was a 14.4 percent bump over the 2010 session, when the top spenders had $13.5 million in lobbying expenses.

2. Speaking fees declining for pharmaceutical firms – by Ben Mook

The amount of money paid by pharmaceutical firms to physicians and other health professionals to speak about their products seems to be slowing, but a look at 12 companies that disclose those figures shows it still amounts to millions of dollars in Maryland.

A review of the payments reported by eight major pharmaceutical firms including Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Novartis show that in 2010 in Maryland, doctors were paid more than $4 million in speaking fees. This compares to the first half of 2011, when reporting companies paid only $836,330 in speaking fees.

3. Beltsville-based SunEdison moving HQ to California – by Ben Mook

SunEdison LLC became the second large solar energy company to leave Maryland when it announced that its long-rumored move to California was official.

California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and SunEdison officials made the announcement Monday at the company’s new headquarters in Belmont, Calif. One of the main reasons behind the move, they said, was the passage of a bill in the California legislature that clarified tax law and allows the state’s solar energy property tax exclusion to apply to sale-leaseback transactions. Prior to this law, solar companies were taxed for transactions that commercial real estate owners were not.

4. Legg’s assets under management decline – by Daily Record Staff

Legg Mason Inc. of Baltimore, a global asset manager, said its assets under management fell to $611.8 billion at the end of September 2011, down more than 9.1 percent from the $673.5 billion recorded in September 2010.

Fixed-income investments declined to $355.5 billion from $371.6 billion in the previous year. Managed assets in stocks dropped to $144.9 billion from $169.6 billion in September 2010.

5. No relief in Maryland unemployment insurance rates next year – by Nicholas Sohr

Maryland businesses will face the highest possible unemployment insurance tax rates for the third straight year in 2012, according to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Businesses will pay between $187 and $1,147 per employee next year, but labor officials expect the tax rates will begin to decline in 2013 as payments into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund increase.