Local Digest

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


FHA suspends Equitable Trust

The Federal Housing Administration suspended Equitable Trust Mortgage of Baltimore for at least six months effective immediately for overcharging borrowers, the agency announced on Monday.

The lender charged 37 borrowers fees that exceeded the agency's limits in a recent six-month period, and 68 percent of the borrowers were minorities, according to the agency. In 21 of those cases, Equitable Trust failed to properly disclose fees to customers.

The company, which could not be reached for comment, has a month to appeal the decision. It is also under investigation by the inspector general's office at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which includes the FHA.

In a letter to the lender, the agency said Equitable Trust's default rate of 7.76 percent far outpaced the 4.69 percent national average in fiscal 2008.

-- Dina ElBoghdady


Pepco to exit retail business

Pepco Holdings, the owner of Washington's electric utility, decided to exit the retail electric and natural-gas supply business which it conducts through its subsidiary Pepco Energy Services to free cash for transmission and distribution investments.

The decision will result in pretax charges of $5 million in the fourth quarter, the District-based company said in a filing today.

Pepco Energy Services, which has obligations to provide power until June 1, 2014, will probably remain profitable until the end of 2012 and post "minimal" losses beyond that date, the company said. Pepco Energy Services reported net income of about $32 million in the first nine months of 2009, according to the filing.

-- Bloomberg News


Discovery names Peter Liguori COO

Discovery Communications, which owns Discovery, TLC and other cable channels, on Monday named Peter Liguori as chief operating officer, effective Jan. 19.

He replaces Mark Hollinger, 50, who became chief executive of Discovery Networks International.

Liguori, 49, was recently entertainment president for Fox Broadcast Co., a unit of News Corp. He also was chief executive of News Corp.'s FX Networks, which encompasses FX and Fox Movie Channel. Under Liguori, the audience reach of FX more than doubled to 84 million in five years, according to Discovery.

At Silver Spring-based Discovery, Liguori will oversee Discovery Studios, as well as marketing, corporate communications and corporate affairs, business affairs and media technology, production and operations.

He will represent Discovery in joint ventures with Hasbro and OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Liguori also will be chairman of Discovery's content committee, a group comprising general networks from its U.S. cable channels.

Shares of Discovery Communications rose 8 cents, or 0.3 percent, to close Monday at $31.46.

-- Associated Press


Vornado Realty halts Va. land deal

Vornado Realty Trust said Monday it has halted plans to sell a tract of land in Arlington, and that the undisclosed purchaser forfeited a $27 million deposit.

The 8.6 acres is located in the Pentagon City area.

The Paramus, N.J., company, a real estate investment trust, will record the $27 million as income in the fourth quarter. It will write down the value of the land from $108 million to about $83 million.

Vornado owns or manages about 100 million square feet of office and retail properties, primarily around New York and Washington.

-- Associated Press

© 2009 The Washington Post Company