SEC accuses Miami, city official of fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Miami and its former budget director of securities fraud related to several municipal bond offerings.

The city and Michael Boudreaux made materially false and misleading statements and omissions about interfund transfers in three 2009 bond offerings totaling $153.5 million, the SEC said in a statement Friday. Boudreaux orchestrated the transfers to mask growing deficits in the city’s general fund, the SEC said.

The SEC in 2010 started cracking down on state and local governments for not providing investors in the municipal bond market with accurate information about pension liabilities. Since then, Illinois and New Jersey settled with the commission after similar probes. The SEC also accused Miami of violating a cease-and-desist order from 2003 related to similar misconduct.

“Miami actively marketed bonds to the investing public while hiding the true reason for interfund transfers to boost the image of its primary operating fund,” George S. Canellos, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in the statement. “The fact that a city official would enable these false and misleading disclosures to investors merely a few years after Miami had been reprimanded by the SEC for similar misconduct makes this repeat behavior all the more appalling and unacceptable.”

— Bloomberg News

Volumes of mail sorted in the Washington area. (The Washington Post/Source: U.S. Postal Service)
U.S. offers path to restore trade benefits

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office on Friday outlined a series of steps that it urged Bangladesh to take to improve factory conditions and workers rights in order to have U.S. trade benefits restored.

President Obama revoked longtime trade benefits for Bangladesh following a garment factory collapse in April and a factory fire in November that together killed more than 1,200 people.

The trade office plan urges Bangladesh to increase the number of labor, fire and building inspectors, improve its training, and establish clear procedures for independent and credible inspections.

It also calls for increased fines and other sanctions, including loss of import and export licenses, for failure to comply with labor, fire, or building standards.

Bangladesh should enact and implement labor law reforms to address concerns related to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the trade office said.

It also endorsed a “compact” between the European Union, Bangladesh and the International Labor Organization to improve working conditions in the country.

The United States privately gave Bangladesh its “action plan” last month. “Today, the Administration is making this action plan public as a means to reinforce and support the efforts of all international stakeholders to promote improved worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh,” the trade office said.

— Reuters

Also in Business

l  Microsoft shares fell more than 11 percent, the most in more than four years, after the company wrote off nearly $1 billion on its new tablet computer and reported declining revenue for its Windows operating system. Microsoft dropped $4.04, or 11.4 percent, to close at $31.40 after reporting its earnings late Thursday. The poor results shocked Wall Street, which had believed the company’s strength with business customers would help it ride out a downturn in consumer PC sales.

l  A California judge said Friday that he is finalizing a settlement worth more than $1 billion in cases where motorists said the value of their Toyota vehicles plunged after recalls over claims they unexpectedly accelerated. U.S. District Judge James Selna said he was approving the deal that was announced in December and will affect 22 million consumers. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Toyota since 2009, when the Japanese automaker started receiving numerous complaints that its cars accelerated on their own, causing crashes, injuries and even deaths. More than 14 million vehicles have been recalled since the claims surfaced.

l  General Electric on Friday unveiled a surprise jump in its backlog of orders for locomotives, X-ray machines and scores of other industrial products. GE’s backlog at the end of the second quarter was up 4 percent from the end of the first quarter to $223 billion, a staggering figure that gives the company plenty of work across its seven industrial units. The order book rose 20 percent in the United States alone. The Fairfield, Conn.-based company said second-quarter profit fell to $3.69 billion, from $4.01 billion a year earlier. But the results were better than expected, and chief executive Jeffrey Immelt said GE remains on track for a “good year.” Its shares closed up 4.6 percent at $24.72.

— From news services

Coming Next Week

l  In Sunday Business: Legendary financier Frank Pearl left behind a huge legacy — of mystery.

l  On Monday: Existing-home sales for June released at 10 a.m.