FINANCE

Consumer watchdog probes Venmo app

PayPal Holdings said regulators are investigating the company’s popular person-to-person payments app, Venmo.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is probing Venmo’s processes for collections and unauthorized fund transfers, PayPal said in an annual regulatory filing. The payments giant said the agency requested documents and answers to written questions in a civil investigative demand PayPal received Jan. 21.

“We are cooperating with the CFPB,” PayPal said in the filing Friday. Tia Elbaum, a spokesperson for the bureau, declined to comment on its investigation.

PayPal has faced criticism in recent years for engaging in collections or debiting accounts when users turn up with negative balances in their Venmo wallets.

“If you have amounts past due, you should confirm that your payment methods contain funds sufficient to cover any amounts past due,” Venmo says in its user agreement. “This will help you avoid overdraft or other fees your financial institution may charge.”

The CFPB is led by acting director Dave Uejio, who was named by President Biden on Jan. 20.

— Bloomberg News

ECONOMY

U.S. trade deficit rose to 12-year high in 2020

The U.S. trade deficit rose 17.7 percent last year to $679 billion, the highest since 2008, as the coronavirus disrupted global commerce and confounded President Donald Trump’s attempts to rebalance America’s trade with the rest of the world.

The gap between the value of the goods and services the United States sells abroad and what it buys climbed from $577 billion in 2019, the Commerce Department said Friday. Exports skidded 15.7 percent to $2.1 trillion, and imports fell 9.5 percent to $2.8 trillion.

As president, Trump sought to narrow the gap by imposing taxes on imported goods on a scale unseen since the trade wars of the 1930s. The deficit narrowed slightly in 2019 but then ballooned last year as coronavirus restrictions hammered U.S. exports of services such as tourism and education. Services exports dropped 20.4 percent last year.

Still, the United States ran a $237 billion surplus last year in services. But that was overwhelmed by a $916 billion deficit in trade in goods such as aircraft and auto parts.

The politically sensitive deficit with China in the sale of goods fell 10 percent last year to $311 billion; Trump had imposed tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese imports to protest Beijing’s sharp-elbowed efforts to supplant Western dominance in technology, an effort that U.S. officials alleged included cybertheft.

In December, the trade deficit dropped to $66.6 billion, down 3.5 percent from November. Exports rose 3.4 percent, and imports increased 1.5 percent.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

The Justice Department has called off a criminal investigation of Ford over pollution-testing flaws the automaker self-reported in 2019. The Justice Department and the California Air Resources Board dropped probes of the emission-testing problems "and do not intend to take any further action," Ford said Friday in a regulatory filing. The investigations began after the automaker revealed that its workers had discovered issues with on-road testing to determine how aerodynamic drag and tire friction affect fuel economy.

French oil major Total, which is making a big push to develop its renewable-energy portfolio, said Friday that it had bought 2.2 gigawatts of solar projects in Texas, adding to a rush of acquisitions elsewhere this year. Europe's top energy companies have outlined plans to curb emissions and boost renewable-energy output as they come under pressure from investors. Total is looking to wean itself off a reliance on oil.

A federal judge has dismissed Walmart's lawsuit seeking to preemptively block the U.S. government from blaming the world's largest retailer for its alleged role in fueling the nation's opioid crisis. U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan said the government had not waived its sovereign immunity from Walmart's "sweeping" challenge to the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration's enforcement of laws governing opioid prescriptions by pharmacies and pharmacists. Walmart said Friday that it will appeal the decision, which the Plano, Tex.,-based judge issued Thursday night.

— From news services