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Business Digest

Friday, July 3, 2009

LEGAL

Justice Looking Into Google E-Books Deal

The Justice Department officially acknowledged yesterday that it is investigating Google and its $125 million settlement with authors and publishers that would allow the company to post millions of books online. In a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is scheduled to conduct a final hearing on the settlement in October, the Justice Department said it has reviewed "public comments expressing concern that aspects of the settlement agreement may violate" antitrust laws.

Critics of the settlement argue that the deal among Google, publishers and authors could violate copyright laws and will give the Web search giant an unfair edge over competitors on digital book titles. The Justice Department said that it has not reached any conclusions in its investigation, which industry sources say was launched in April, but that it has requested information from Google, authors and publishers.

The inquiry is one of three federal investigations into potential anti-competitive practices, including a separate Justice Department review of hiring practices at technology industry competitors including Google and a Federal Trade Commission investigation into ties among board members at Google and Apple.

-- Cecilia Kang

REGULATORS

FDIC Proposes Rules For Buyers of Banks

Private-equity firms seeking to buy failed banks would face strict capitalization and disclosure requirements under newly proposed government rules.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is seeking to expand the number of potential buyers for the growing number of banks it has closed during the financial crisis. One proposal would require investors to maintain a healthy amount of cash in the banks they acquire, keeping them at about a 15 percent leverage ratio for three years. Investors also would have to own the banks for at least three years and face limits on their ability to lend to any of the owners' affiliates.

-- Associated Press

7 More Banks Fail; Year's Total Now 52

Six Illinois banks and one bank in Texas were shuttered yesterday. Regulators shut down John Warner Bank of Clinton, Ill.; First State Bank of Winchester in Winchester, Ill.; Rock River Bank of Oregon, Ill.; Elizabeth State Bank of Elizabeth, Ill.; Danville, Ill.-based First National Bank of Danville; Founders Bank of Worth, Ill.; and Dallas-based Millennium State Bank of Texas, bringing the number of U.S. bank failures this year to 52.

That's more than double the 25 that failed in all of 2008 and the three closed in 2007. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of all seven. The total cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund from the seven closings will be $314.3 million, the FDIC said.

-- Associated Press

SEC Taps Third Former Prosecutor

The Securities and Exchange Commission named Lorin L. Reisner, a lawyer at Debevoise & Plimpton, to be deputy enforcement director, this year's third appointment of a former federal prosecutor to help lead the division. Reisner, 47, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan from 1990 to 1994, will take the post in August, the SEC said. He has been a litigation partner at Debevoise since 1996, focusing on white-collar crime and internal investigations, the statement said.

-- Associated Press

LEGAL

Madoff's Penthouse Seized by Marshals

Federal marshals took possession of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff's $7 million Manhattan penthouse in a move that forced his wife to move elsewhere. Proceeds from a sale of the property and its contents could be used to help reimburse those who lost billions of dollars investing with Madoff before he confessed to running a Ponzi scheme, for which he was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

-- Associated Press

TECHNOLOGY

FCC Notes Very Little Trouble in TV Switch

Television stations and viewers coped with the U.S. switch to digital broadcast signals on June 12 "without much trouble," Robert H. Ratcliffe, acting chief of the Federal Communications Commission's media bureau, said at the agency's monthly meeting in Washington. More than 800,000 homes affected by the changeover took steps after the deadline to get a signal, leaving about 1.7 million, or 1.5 percent of homes with TVs, still without the capability for digital transmissions, Nielsen Co. said.

-- Bloomberg News

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