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Schapiro set to leave an emboldened SEC

SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro will end a four-year tenure that began in the rough-and-tumble days of the financial crisis and came to be defined by it. ¶ Even Schapiro’s detractors credit her for making the agency relevant again. The overhaul of its enforcement unit returned a record $4.5 billion to harmed investors since fiscal 2010. In April 2010, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million to settle a fraud suit, the largest fine the agency had ever assessed against a financial firm. Other cases followed against Countrywide, Bank of America and Citigroup. ¶ But there were setbacks. A federal judge rejected an SEC settlement with Citigroup in one of the biggest cases to emerge from the mortgage meltdown, saying the deal was too weak.¶ Her successor — for now, Elisse Walter — faces an ongoing battle over regulating the $2.5 trillion money-market fund industry, 63 unfinished rulemakings required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law and continuing fears about market stability and high-frequency trading.

Business

The SEC is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against SAC Capital Advisors, a hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen, whose business has attracted government scrutiny for years.

BP was suspended from bidding on any new federal contracts, including drilling leases, as a result of the company’s conduct during the gulf oil spill.

Google and the FTC are discussing a deal that would end nearly two years of investigation into claims of monopolistic behavior by the Web giant.

The Gallup Organization allegedly bilked federal agencies out of millions of dollars by routinely inflating prices for contracts, the Justice Department said.

Hostess Brands received court permission to wind down its 82-year-old business but revealed “furious” interest in its iconic brands from potential buyers. Hostess also asked for a judge’s approval to give top executives bonuses totaling $1.8 million. About 18,000 people are expected to lose their jobs.

LivingSocial plans to lay off as many as 400 U.S. employees, including some in the District, where the online daily deals venture is headquartered, people inside the company said.

Hewlett-Packard was sued by an investor who claimed the company knew that statements about its Autonomy acquisition were misleading and led the stock to fall. HP had announced a $8.8 billion write-down on its acquisition of British software firm Autonomy, saying the company inflated sales with improper accounting. Autonomy co-founder Mike Lynch has denied any wrongdoing. HP bought Autonomy for $11.1 billion.

France says it will look into changing laws next year to block the ability of online companies including Google and Apple to pay levies on French earnings in European countries with lower tax rates.

JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon would be the best person to lead the Treasury in a financial crisis, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said he plans to step down.

Costco will spend $3 billion to pay a special dividend of $7 per share next month ahead of anticipated “fiscal cliff” tax increases in January. An array of companies, from Las Vegas Sands to Wal-Mart, will issue special dividends.

Intrade, the online prediction market that gained popularity as an informal oddsmaker for the presidential election, shut itself to U.S. customers after regulators charged it with illegally facilitating bets on future economic data, the price of gold and acts of war.

Federal authorities announced the seizure of 132 domain names in several countries to stop them from selling counterfeit merchandise online. Authorities said it was the third consecutive Cyber Monday on which Web sites selling knockoff sports jerseys, DVDs and other goods were targeted.

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon reached an “agreement in principle” to complete a contract valued at as much as $4 billion for the fifth production batch of F-35 fighters.

Replacement demand from owners of vehicles damaged by Hurricane Sandy could boost U.S. car and light-truck sales in November to the best monthly pace in more than four years.

Nintendo sold more than 400,000 of Wii U, its new video-game consoles, in their first week of U.S. sales.

Deals

ConAgra Foods will be the nation’s biggest maker of store-brand foods. Its $5 billion purchase of Ralcorp expands its stake in the fast-growing market for cereals, crackers and other packaged foods sold under private labels, also known as store brands or house brands.

McGraw-Hill said that it reached a deal to sell its education arm to private-equity firm Apollo Global Management for $2.5 billion in cash and debt as part of its plan to focus on its financial information businesses.

Earnings

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $91.9 million, up from $75.4 million in the quarter last year.

Economy

The European Union approved the payment of nearly $48 billion in bailout loans to four of Spain’s struggling banks.

Jobless lines in the euro zone reached a record high in October. The highest unemployment rates were in Spain and Greece — both over 25 percent, with youth unemployment climbing toward 60 percent.

Germany approved the latest Greek debt deal to give the country 44 billion euros in rescue loans, without which the country would face bankruptcy and possibly be pushed out of the euro zone.

U.S. gross domestic product grew 2.7 percent in the third quarter — a 35 percent jump from its previous estimate. Annualized GDP growth in the second quarter was 1.3 percent. The added growth came largely from federal government spending, homebuilding and larger business inventories, while state and local spending cuts were a drag on growth.

Crop conditions for U.S. winter wheat declined for the fourth week and were the worst since 1985, the government said, as dry, cold weather slowed seed germination and early plant growth.

Consumer confidence rose in November to its highest level in almost five years, helped by a better outlook for hiring over the next six months.

The jobless rate in the Washington region dipped to 5.3 percent in October, with the strongest job growth coming from the education and health-services sector.

Washington

The Supreme Court debated the standards for when a co-worker is more like a supervisor and thus makes an employer liable for damages under federal employment discrimination laws.

Transitions

The British government picked Mark Carney, a Canadian, to be the next governor of the Bank of England.

Former NBC chief Jeff Zucker will be the president of CNN. Zucker will head the U.S. news network as well as International, HLN and CNN digital, which includes cnn.com .

— From news services and staff reports

$7.2 billion card fee settlement appealed Hundreds of merchants, including Wal-Mart, have rejected the proposed settlement, claiming it offers meaningless relief for merchants saddled with an estimated $30 billion in annual swipe fees. They object to a portion of the order that would release Visa and Mastercard from new legal claims over related interchange issues.

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