FINANCE

U.S. finalizes disputed banking regulation

A leading U.S. bank regulator finalized a rule Thursday that prohibits large banks from refusing to lend to certain business sectors, after Republicans voiced frustration at what they saw as a reluctance by banks to finance gunmakers and energy firms.

The rule, proposed in November by the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, has been fiercely contested by banks, which call it unworkable and politically motivated. It applies to banks with more than $100 billion in assets and stipulates that they must show legitimate business reasons for not providing services to certain borrowers.

The rule, pushed by Comptroller Brian Brooks, had been encouraged by some Republicans frustrated by banks’ refusal to lend to certain types of businesses, such as gun manufacturers and oil and gas companies.

Instead, Brooks said banks must evaluate each applicant on the merits, and the rule would prohibit any blanket prohibition.

The OCC finalized the rule on Brooks’s last day at the agency.

The last-minute rule has been met by broad condemnation, with consumer groups, Democrats and the banking industry in rare alignment in opposition. Banks say the rule takes away their ability to make business decisions for themselves and places it in the hands of the government.

Banks are expected to push the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats to find a way to repeal the rule and have suggested they could challenge it in court.

— Reuters

FOOD INDUSTRY

McDonald's won't use 'forever chemicals'

In a victory for health and environmental safety advocates, the world’s largest fast-food chain has promised to stop using potentially harmful chemicals in its packaging.

McDonald’s on Wednesday announced it will remove all PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from wrappers, containers and any other packaging served to guests by 2025.

PFAS are a category of man-made chemicals that can be found in a variety of manufactured items, including cookware and clothing. They are often used in food packaging to create grease- and water-resistant containers.

Sometimes called “forever chemicals,” certain PFAS take a long time to break down and can accumulate in the environment, drinking water and the human body.

Some may cause cancer, result in low infant birth weights, and increase cholesterol levels, among a host of other health issues, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Organizations behind the study say the McDonald’s decision is a step in the right direction but worry the 2025 deadline is too slow.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Google has closed its deal to buy Fitbit, the companies said on Thursday, even as the Justice Department said it was continuing its probe of the $2.1 billion transaction. The Justice Department, which sued Alphabet Inc.'s Google in October over allegedly violating antitrust law in its search and search-advertising businesses, said it "has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action" regarding the Fitbit deal.

Toyota settled a lengthy Justice Department civil probe into its delayed filing of emissions-related defect reports for $180 million, the government said Thursday. Toyota first disclosed in 2016 it was under investigation for the delayed reports to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Justice Department had not previously confirmed the investigation until Thursday's announcement by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan that the government had filed a civil lawsuit against Toyota.

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Commerce Department releases retail sales data for December.

9:15 a.m.: Federal Reserve releases industrial production for December.

Earnings: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo

— From news services