Lawmakers grilled company executives from Comcast and Time Warner Cable about their proposed $45 billion merger, expressing doubts that the resulting mega-company would improve on its parents’ long history of combining high rates with poor customer service. ¶ “I believe this deal will result in fewer choices, higher prices and even worse service for my constituents,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who urged federal regulators to block the deal. ¶ Comcast executive vice president David Cohen and Time Warner Cable chief financial officer Arthur Minson focused on the benefits of the proposed marriage. ¶ Cohen argued that, together, the firms could better compete against a slew of Internet firms such as Netflix, Apple and Google. And with a national footprint, Cohen said, the merged companies could more quickly deploy faster Internet service.
The eight biggest U.S. banks will have to meet more rigorous measures for holding capital — money that provides a cushion against unexpected losses — under a new rule. Their minimum ratio of capital to loans rises to 5 percent from 3 percent. The banks are Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street Bank.
Citigroup said it will pay $1.12 billion in cash to settle legacy securities and other claims. The bank reached the agreement with 18 institutional investors and said the settlement will resolve a significant issue left over from the financial crisis.
JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon’s total compensation fell 37 percent last year to $11.8 million as the nation’s largest investment bank grappled with billions in legal costs and fines.
SAC Capital Advisors’ landmark $1.8 billion settlement of a U.S. government insider-trading probe stretching back to 2007 was approved by a federal judge. SAC Capital, which this week changed its name to Point72 Asset Management, pleaded guilty to reaping hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal profits and fostering a culture of criminality that encouraged brazen insider trading by its employees.
Ally Financial, the auto lender rescued by the U.S. government during the 2008 financial crisis, dropped in its trading debut. The Treasury Department raised $2.38 billion after selling a large chunk of its stock in the IPO; it got $25 each for the 95 million shares it sold. The pricing of the IPO came at the low end of the forecast range of $25 to $28 per share.
● ● Hewlett-Packard will pay the U.S. government $108 million to settle charges that former employees bribed officials in Russia, Mexico and Poland.
General Motors suspended two engineers over its delayed recall of vehicles with defective ignition switches.
Northwestern University asked the National Labor Relations Board to overturn a regional director’s ruling that the school’s football players are employees under federal law and thus entitled to unionize.
● Amazon.com chief Jeffrey P. Bezos received $1.68 million in total pay last year, unchanged from 2012, including $81,840 in salary and $1.6 million to cover security arrangements. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, again asked the company not to grant him additional compensation in 2013 and has never received a higher salary or any stock-based compensation, Amazon said.
● American Airlines is doubling to 50,000 the number of frequent-flier award miles needed for a free one-way ticket for flights on the busiest travel days.
The “Heartbleed” breach of Web encryption technology has exposed millions of passwords and credit card numbers to potential theft by hackers.
Microsoft stopped providing free support and security updates for Windows XP. Among the users who still that need to transition to Windows 7 is the IRS, just days before its own important deadline: Tax Day. The agency is “struggling” to find $30 million to complete its move.
Family Dollar will close 370 underperforming locations this year in a move that suggests the end of unemployment benefits and cuts to the nation’s food-stamp program are starting to hit lower-income shoppers.
Mars agreed to buy three Procter & Gamble pet-food brands — Iams, Eukanuba and Natura — for $2.9 billion.
H&R Block said it will sell its banking unit to exit Federal Reserve oversight. The deal with BofI Federal Bank will give the biggest U.S. tax preparer up to $250 million in excess capital.
JPMorgan Chase said first-quarter profit fell 20 percent, to $4.9 billion, driven by a decline in investment banking and mortgage lending.
Samsung Electronics posted a 4 percent drop in profit, to $8 billion, as stalling demand led to lower prices for Galaxy devices and components.
Wells Fargo, the biggest U.S. mortgage lender, posted a 14 percent gain, to $5.6 billion, as the bank continued to trim its losses on soured loans.
The International Monetary Fund predicted that the global recovery would strengthen this year and next as output in richer nations picked up, but it warned of rising risks in emerging economies.
Buoyant Greek officials hailed the country’s return to the international debt market after four years, with investors snapping up the five-year bond in a sale that was eight times oversubscribed. The Finance Ministry said it had raised $4.14 billion with a 4.75 percent coupon.
President Obama is targeting the wage gap between men and women with orders requiring federal contractors to reveal more about their pay.
Thousands of taxpayers expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often one incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check. The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years.
The cost of drugs administered by doctors accounts for a growing piece of Medicare’s spending and varies widely from region to region in the United States, raising questions about whether some physicians may be misusing the pharmaceuticals. Most of the 4,000 doctors who received at least $1 million from Medicare in 2012 billed mainly for giving patients injections, infusions and other drug treatments, government records show.
Kathleen Sebelius,Health and Human Services Secretary, announced her resignation, ending a tumultuous tenure as the public face of the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius entered the Cabinet in 2009, three months into Obama’s presidency, as a well-regarded former governor of conservative Kansas. She leaves after criticism over the botched rollout last fall of the insurance marketplace. In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama nominated his budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to succeed Sebelius.
The Federal Trade Commission said the operators of Jerk.com harvested personal information from Facebook to create profiles labeling people a “Jerk” or “not a Jerk.” Consumers were then told they could pay $30 to revise their online profile but got nothing in return. The FTC estimates that the site and John Fanning, its operator, created profiles for more than 73 million people.
The FDA issued new guidance that would prevent food companies from adding sugar or other sweeteners to pure honey and still calling it “honey.”
— From news services and staff reports
The typical 401(k) fees — adding up to a modest-sounding 1 percent a year — would erase $70,000 from an average worker’s account over a four-decade career compared with lower-cost options, a Center for American Progress study showed. To compensate for the higher fees, someone would have to work an extra three years before retiring.