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Business Digest: Airline merger clears hurdle; banks appeal FHFA rulings

Airline merger clears judicial hurdle

A federal bankruptcy judge in New York signed off Wednesday on the $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The widely expected decision by Judge Sean H. Lane helps clear the way for the two carriers to form the world’s biggest airline, with 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of $40 billion.

American has been operating under bankruptcy protection since November 2011. The ­merger, first announced Feb. 14, still needs approval from the Justice Department and US Airways shareholders. If approved, it is expected to close by the fall.

— Associated Press

Banks seek court’s help in FHFA lawsuits

Fifteen major banks sued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency over risky housing debt urged a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to intervene, citing “gravely prejudicial” rulings by the trial judge coordinating the litigation.

In a joint petition filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, the banks said U.S. District Judge Denise Cote had “systematically deprived” them of evidence to defend themselves and issued rulings aimed at coercing settlements.

The banks, which include UBS, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, want to reverse several of Cote’s rulings and get more access to information about what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac knew about mortgage debt they bought prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s two biggest mortgage finance companies, are regulated by the FHFA.

The lawsuits, filed in 2011, accuse the banks of violating securities laws by misleading Fannie and Freddie about the quality of home loans that were packaged into $200 billion in securities.

— Reuters


l  Banks in Cyprus were to open for the first time in more than a week on Thursday, operating for six hours starting at noon (6 a.m. Eastern time), but restrictions on financial transactions will be in place to prevent people from draining their accounts. Among the capital controls, cash withdrawals will be limited to 300 ­euros ($383) per person each day. No checks will be cashed, but people will be able to deposit them in their accounts, according to a ministerial decree released late Thursday. The controls will be in place for four days.

l  A cyberattack was slowing global internet services, experts said Wednesday, after an organization blocking “spam” content became a target. Spamhaus, a London- and Geneva-based nonprofit group that helps e-mail provders weed out unsolicited spam messages, said it had been subjected to “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks on an unprecedented scale for more than a week. “Based on the reported scale of the attack, which was evaluated at 300 Gigabits per second, we can confirm that this is one of the largest DDoS

operations to date,” online security firm Kaspersky Lab said in a statement.

l  Wal-Mart is testing new delivery methods and adding to its mobile technology to improve Web-based shopping and boost its challenge to ­ About 12 stores have lockers so customers can order online and pick up items in stores without needing a clerk, the retailer announced at an event in San ­Bruno, Calif. ­Wal-Mart is also building its presence in mobile, which accounts for about a third of the traffic to its Web site. Functions being tested allow customers to scan and track what they’re buying as they walk through a store and to transfer the items scanned from a mobile phone to a self-checkout machine with just a few clicks and without removing anything from the physical cart.

l  Leaders of five of the world’s emerging economic powers agreed Wednesday to create a ­development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure plans. But the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — nations known as the BRICS group — were unable to agree on some basic issues. Finance Min­ister Pravin Gordhan of South ­Africa said there were “different views” about how much capital such a bank would need. He said $50 billion had been mentioned, an amount conference officials said would be seed capital shared equally among the five countries.

— From news services

Coming Today

l  8:30 a.m.: Fourth-quarter gross domestic product and weekly jobless claims released.

l  Earnings: Fannie Mae.




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