Judge slams weaks terms of SEC, Citi settlement

December 4, 2011

A federal judge rejected the SEC’s plan to settle a lawsuit against Citigroup, accusing the agency of failing to do its job. The SEC had accused Citigroup of misleading investors about an investment tied to the deteriorating housing market. ¶ U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff said that if the charges against Citigroup are true, the SEC settlement is too weak to hold the bank accountable. He ordered the two sides to prepare for trial. ¶ Citigroup had agreed to pay $285 million to settle allegations that it misled investors while marketing a complex investment linked to subprime loans in 2007. The bank was betting that the investment would lose money, the SEC said. Citigroup made $160 million in profit on the deal, and investors lost more than $700 million, the SEC alleged.

Business

Verizon Wireless will pay an alliance of cable companies $3.6 billion for wireless spectrum in a deal that presents new challenges for rivals such as AT&T.

Zynga, the biggest maker of games on Facebook, is reportedly seeking a valuation of as high as $10 billion in an initial public offering.

Chiquita Brands International will move its global headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte after a North Carolina economic development panel approved an incentives deal worth more than $22 million.

American Airlines’ parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; the last of the major U.S. airlines to restructure under Chapter 11.

Standard & Poor’s cut its long-term credit ratings for 15 banks including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase.

General Motors said its Chevrolet Volt will miss its sales target of 10,000 cars this year by more than 3,800. Facing consumer backlash, GM offered free loaner vehicles while it works with regulators to prevent battery fires. It also said it would buy back the cars from unsatisfied customers.

Research In Motion said it will offer companies software to manage Apple’s iPhones and other handsets, displacing RIM’s once-dominant BlackBerry.

The National Labor Relations Board advanced a proposal that would speed up union elections.

Steuben Glass closed its only factory, in Corning, N.Y., ending a glassmaking tradition dating to 1903. Most of the company’s 60 workers were laid off.

AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless announced a ratings system for mobile apps to warn about smartphone and tablet software containing violent and other mature content.

Raj Rajaratnam, the Galleon Group hedge fund co-founder convicted of directing an insider trading scheme, said the use of wiretapped calls by the United States raises “substantial” issues of law that should allow him to remain free during his appeal.

Facebook agreed to settle an FTC complaint that it deceived users about its privacy practices.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed suit against Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citi and Ally Financial, seeking “accountability for the banks’ unlawful and deceptive conduct in the foreclosure process, including unlawful foreclosures, false documentation and robo-signing.”

Then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former chief of Goldman Sachs, laid out for certain hedge funds plans for a government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in July 2008, according to a Bloomberg Markets report.

Deals

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is buying the Omaha World-Herald and expanding the firm’s newspaper holdings despite Buffett’s misgivings about the industry. Buffett agreed to pay $150 million cash and assume $50 million in debt to acquire the newspaper he’s been reading since he was a child.

SolarCity and Bank of America Merrill Lynch have agreed on financing terms for a five-year SolarCity plan to build more than $1 billion in solar power projects for privatized U.S. military housing communities.

Economy

The U.S. unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.6 percent in November. The drop comes partly from people leaving the labor force — 315,000 people stopped looking for work. The economy added about 120,000 jobs.

The U.S. economy expanded at a slow-to-moderate pace in most of the country over the past two months, but hiring was weak, according to the Fed Beige Book survey.

Fitch Ratings agency warned the United States that it faces a credit-rating downgrade if it cannot find a “credible” way to curb its debt over the next two years. It gave America’s triple-A rating a negative outlook.

Six major central banks took coordinated action to keep the European debt crisis from sinking the global economy; the Dow Jones industrial average shot up nearly 500 points — back into positive territory for 2011.

Leaders from 17 Euro zone nations approved loans to bolster the bailout fund for Greece and other struggling countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a new European Union treaty that would create a “fiscal union,” giving the EU more leverage to intervene in countries’ budgets.

In Britain, 2 million public workers went on strike to protest changes in the pension system.

South Korean President Le e Myung-bak signed 14 bills needed to implement the country’s free trade deal with the United States.

The world was 64 million jobs short in 2011 to restore employment levels to those before the recession, the U.N. said.

Washington

The Obama administration is appealing a judge’s order blocking a requirement that tobacco companies put graphic images warning about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packs.

Jon Corzine was subpoenaed by the House Agriculture Committee to speak about his role as CEO of MF Global, which filed for bankruptcy that collapsed into bankruptcy last month. Federal regulators are investigating whether MF Global attempted to use customers’ money to support its own trades.

Native American tribal leaders asked President Obama to reject a permit for the Keystone pipeline, which would run from Canada to Texas.

Senate voted to kill Obama’s plan to push payroll tax cuts — and make them more generous for workers through the end of next year as well as GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to renew a 2 percent payroll tax cut. It approved a $662 billion defense spending bill.

Transitions

Laura Lang, chief of the digital advertising firm Digitas, was named the new CEO of Time Inc., the magazine division of Time Warner.

— Compiled from The Post and news services

$250
a share for the Packers

The Green Bay Packers, the NFL’s only publicly owned team said it will sell 250,000 shares, at $250 each, to raise money to help pay for $130 million in stadium renovations. The stocks pay no dividends and have virtually no resale value. All stockholders get voting rights and can attend annual meetings and stick around for the kickoff of training camp. The last sale was 14 years ago.

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