NATIONAL BRIEFING

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Friday, January 23, 2009

REGULATORS

Copps Named Acting FCC Chair

President Obama appointed Michael J. Copps as acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Copps is a Democratic commissioner of the agency who has championed media diversity, rules that would prevent consolidated ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations by the same entity in one town, as well as the blocking of Internet traffic by network carriers.

The appointment is expected to be temporary. Julius Genachowski, Obama's tech adviser, is expected to be named head of the agency.

LEGAL

GM Settles Accounting Probe

General Motors has settled federal regulators' charges related to accounting errors in financial statements the automaker filed in 2002.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement with GM, which did not admit or deny wrongdoing but did agree to refrain from future violations of securities laws. GM, which received a $13.4 billion lifeline from the federal government last month, was not fined by the SEC.

The deal resolves an SEC investigation that began in 2004, as part of a wide-ranging examination of pension accounting practices at a number of big companies.

Airlines Admit to Price Fixing

Three foreign airlines pleaded guilty to price fixing on air cargo shipments and agreed to pay a total of $124.7 million in fines, the Department of Justice said. Under the plea agreements, Chilean company LAN Cargo and Aerolinhas Brasileiras, a Brazilian company substantially owned by LAN Cargo, agreed to pay a single criminal fine of $109 million. Israel's El Al Israel Airlines agreed to pay a fine of $15.7 million.

The airlines are charged with conspiring to eliminate competition by fixing cargo rates charged to customers for international air shipments, including those to and from the United States.

The Justice Department said the price fixing occurred between 2003 and 2006.

Twelve airlines and three executives have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into price fixing in the air cargo industry. So far more than $1 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and executives have been sentenced to serve a total of 20 months in jail.

EARNINGS

M&T Bank said that its fourth-quarter profit jumped 57 percent, to $102.2 million from $64.9 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Net interest income, or the difference between how much it costs a bank to borrow money and how much it receives from lending money to customers, rose 3 percent, to $486.1 million. For the year, M&T's earnings fell 15 percent, to $556 million from $654 million in 2007.

Union Pacific said its fourth-quarter profit jumped 35 percent, to $661 million from $491 million, as it spent less on fuel, improved productivity and increased some shipping prices. The Omaha-based railroad operator said revenue grew 2 percent, to $4.29 billion. For the full year, profit rose 26 percent, to $2.34 billion. Revenue rose 10 percent, to $18 billion.

UnitedHealth Group's fourth-quarter earnings fell 40 percent, to $726 million from $1.22 billion, but this year's result includes a $350 million charge to resolve a class-action suit over out-of-network medical services. Revenue rose 9 percent, to $20.45 billion. For the full year, UnitedHealth's profit fell 36 percent, to $2.98 billion from $4.65 billion in 2007. Revenue rose 8 percent, to $81.19 billion.

Compiled from reports by Washington Post staff writers, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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