NATIONAL BRIEFING

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LEGAL

SEC Reaches Deal With Madoff

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced an agreement with disgraced money manager Bernard L. Madoff that could eventually force him to pay a civil fine and return money raised from investors.

The partial judgment, which renders permanent a preliminary injunction that froze Madoff's assets after his arrest in December, must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the case. The civil proceeding is separate from the criminal case against the prominent Wall Street figure, who is accused of bilking $50 billion from investors.

The SEC said Madoff agreed to the partial judgment without admitting or denying the allegations in its civil complaint. However, the agreement says Madoff cannot contest the "facts" of the complaint for the purposes of determining his obligation to pay civil fines and restitution -- which will be specified later. The SEC says the basic facts of the complaint are that Madoff committed a $50 billion fraud and told his sons his investment business was a sham.

Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, said only that his client's agreement with the SEC "is a civil matter . . . [that has] nothing to do with the criminal matter at all." He declined to comment further.

AIRLINES

On-Time Performance Fell in Dec.

U.S. airlines' on-time performance declined dramatically in December compared with the previous month, but improved slightly over a year earlier, the Transportation Department said. The carriers blamed heavy snowstorms around the Christmas holiday and aviation system issues for contributing to some delays.

The DOT also said that the airlines had a significantly higher domestic flight cancellation rate and a higher mishandled baggage rate in the final month of 2008 compared with November. Even complaints about airline service were up in December compared with November.

Still, the DOT said the airlines did a better job in all four categories in December compared with the same month in 2007.

Regional carrier Comair, a unit of Delta Air Lines, had the worst on-time performance in December, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best on-time performance in the month.

RETAIL

McDonald's Sales Up 7.1% in Jan.

McDonald's said global sales rose 7.1 percent in January, topping analysts' estimates, as consumers sought less expensive food. Sales at U.S. restaurants open at least 13 months climbed 5.4 percent, while European orders jumped 7.1 percent, the company said. Sales in Asia, the Middle East and Africa gained 10 percent.

With a dollar menu and coffee that's cheaper than Starbucks', McDonald's is lifting sales in the United States, where the jobless rate hit a 16-year high in January. Britain, France and Russia are driving European sales, while Asia's growth was lifted by Chinese New Year promotions and chicken and beef choices that cater to local tastes.

EARNINGS

Whirlpool said that its fourth-quarter profit tumbled 76 percent, to $44 million from $187 million in the comparable period a year earlier, as the recession slowed consumer demand for its appliances. Revenue fell 19 percent to $4.32 billion. Whirlpool said it has been squeezed by a restructuring charge, recall expenses and the stronger dollar. For all of 2008, Whirlpool reported profit fell 35 percent, to $418 million from $640 million in 2007. Revenue fell 3 percent, to $18.91 billion.

Beazer Homes USA said its fourth-quarter loss narrowed to $80.3 million from $138.2 million in the comparable period last year, but home closings and new orders each plunged by more than half. Revenue fell to $232.4 million from $500.7 million a year earlier.

TREASURY BILLS

T-bill rates rose. The discount rate on three-month Treasury bills auctioned yesterday rose to 0.34 percent from 0.27 percent last week. Rates on six-month bills rose to 0.48 percent from 0.39 percent. The annualized return to investors is 0.345 percent for three-month bills, with a $10,000 bill selling for $9,991.41, and 0.488 percent for a six-month bill selling for $9,975.73. Separately, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year Treasury bills, a popular index for making changes in adjustable-rate mortgages, rose to 0.54 percent last week from 0.49 percent two weeks ago.

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


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