Economy

SEC Considering Changes to Best-Price Rule

The Securities and Exchange Commission may require that the New York Stock Exchange revise the rule that forces markets to get investors the best price, even if it means they have to go to a competing market to get it, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Scandal-Plagued Illinois Launches Ethics Training For State Workers

A state with a long history of political corruption is giving its employees training in how to avoid more scandalous headlines.All Illinois state workers are required by a new reform law to annually undergo ethics training, which started last week for 58,000 employees and continues through May. The training involves a computerized test, which presents a variety of realistic dilemmas and asks employees to choose the most ethical route out of the predicaments.The training comes as a scandal plays out involving former Gov.

Exxon Mobil Ordered to Pay $6.75 Billion in Valdez Case

The oil spilled more than 14 years ago, but the fallout continues. A federal judge has ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages and $2.25 billion in interest in relation to the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill that severely damaged the Alaskan environment. Exxon Mobil, the largest publicly traded oil company in the world, will most likely appeal the decision, a company lawyer told Reuters, but no official word came from the company yesterday. The punitive number was once $5 billion but was reduced to $4 billion and now stands at $4.5 billion by U.S.
Practice Management

Brand Reputation Outranks Financial Performance as Measure of Success

Corporate reputation is a more important measure of success than stock market performance, profitability, and return on investment, according to a survey of some of the world's leading CEOs and organization leaders. Only the quality of products and services edged out reputation as the leading measure of corporate success.The World Economic Forum sent a written survey in December to all 1,500 delegates to the 34th Forum currently underway in Davos, Switzerland.
A&A

Mortgage Industry Has a Long Way to Go With Customer Satisfaction

New CFI Group Study Shows Challenges For Mortgage Industry In Face of Reforms, Rate Increases A new survey of recent mortgage purchasers by the international consulting firm CFI Group, co-sponsored by Mortgage Banking Magazine, shows that mortgage lending ranks relatively low on customer satisfaction among financial services organizations.
A&A

SBA, Running Low On Funds, Shuts Down Popular Loan Program

As the Small Business Administration moved to temporarily close down its most popular loan guarantee program, some worry that as the economy begins to recover, this is not the time to shut off funds to small businesses.The SBA, which oversees loan guarantees for companies that don’t qualify for traditional bank loans, has not received its funds for the fiscal year that began in October.
A&A

NYSE Names Chief Regulatory Officer

As part of its ongoing efforts to clean up operations in the wake of the Richard Grasso compensation scandal, the New York Stock Exchange is expected to hire its first chief regulatory officer.Richard Ketchum, general counsel of Citigroup Inc.'s investment bank, is widely expected be approved for the position he accepted Monday since he already enjoys the support of the Exchange’s board of directors and soon-to-be chief executive John Thain.The full board is expected to meet today to formally approve the appointment and make a public announcement.
A&A

Company 401(k) Plans Dumping Some Funds Implicated in Scandals

In what one official called a "sea change" in the way 401 (k) plans are managed, 25 percent of chief financial officers are dumping the mutual funds involved in the widening industry scandal.
A&A

NASD Notes Dubious Records in 2003

Records were set in 2003 in the securities industry, but not the kind that make people rich. The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) reported last week that it had suspended or barred a record 830 people from the profession while collecting $32.6 million in fines for disciplinary actions.The NASD, which oversees the securities profession with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Stock Exchange, barred 480 people and suspended 350 in 2003. In 2002, the regulator barred 440 and suspended 374.
Tax

Financial Planning Too Often Hung Out to Dry

Oil changes, vacations take priority over portfolio planning, says Schwab survey.Taking the car in for service ranks higher on the "to-do" list of American investors as they prepare for 2004 than meeting with their financial advisor, according to a new survey released this week by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc."This survey is interesting because it confirms that most investors still need to take their finances much more seriously," said Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning, Schwab Center for Investment Research.

Janus to Restore $31.5 Million for Improper Trades

The Janus Capital Group announced on Friday that it will pay $31.5 million to funds or shareholders harmed by improper trades.The $31.5 million figure was determined by the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP, which conducted an inquiry into the effect of quick trades on the funds and their shareholders.
A&A

Incorporations Surge Even in Unpredictable Economy

Economic indicators are showing that a sluggish economy and an uncertain world are not stopping Americans from starting their own businesses in record numbers. Over the last year, self-employment has increased by 400,000, according to a Labor Department survey, reported by the Wall Street Journal. In the state of Delaware, an incorporation center, there has been a big increase in start-up businesses.
A&A

SEC Chairman Calls For Tighter Regulation of Mutual Funds

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission outlined a plan for tighter regulation of mutual funds before Congress Tuesday, and responded to criticism that the SEC failed to find problems in the industry early enough.SEC Chairman William H. Donaldson told Congress that he supported a plan to force mutual fund chairmen and three-quarters of the directors to be independent. Half of the board is required to be independent now, the New York Times reported. Under the proposals, fund directors would be required to perform annual evaluations of their effectiveness.
A&A

S&P Launches New Online Tools to Assist Investors

Standard & Poor's, a leading provider of independent investment research, ratings and indices, announced today that is has launched a comprehensive set of global online information and analysis on mutual funds aimed at helping individual investors make more informed investment decisions.The new products are available on http://www.funds-sp.com Standard & Poor's dedicated funds Web site.
A&A

Is Your Cash-Value Insurance Policy in Danger?

Billions of dollars of life insurance cash values may be in big trouble, and most consumers don't know it because they don't check their policies like they do their stocks and bonds.Most owners of cash value life insurance polices don't really understand what effect low interest rates have had on their policies, according to the top insurance consultants at Herz Financial."Customers may be losing money with a policy that was once valuable, but now with the extended drop in interest rates, it may be on a collision course to self-destruct and become worthless," said Matthew Herz, one of t

Scandals Make Weathly Reluctant to Invest

A steady stream of financial mischief in corporate America has made some of the nation’s wealthiest citizens distrustful and wary of investing, a new poll revealed.The survey, released Wednesday by wealth management firm United States Trust Co., polled 151 of the most affluent 1 percent of Americans who had either an adjusted annual gross income of more than $325,000 or a net worth greater than $5.9 million.Among the findings reported: 79 percent "question the reliability" of corporate financial statements and do not trust equity analysts 67 percent do not trust co

SEC Approves NASDAQ and NYSE Corporate Governance Rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved new rules proposed and adopted by the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ Stock Market requiring widespread strengthening of corporate governance standards for listed companies.SEC Chairman William Donaldson said, "These rule changes are at the core of a broad movement by our markets to enhance the corporate governance practices of the companies traded on them and I congratulate the NYSE and the NASD for their efforts.
Tax

IRS Reminds Some Refinancing Costs May Be Deductible

The Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers who took advantage of this year’s low interest rates to refinance their mortgages that they may be eligible to deduct some costs associated with their loans.Generally, taxpayers who itemize may deduct the “points” paid to obtain a home mortgage as interest.

'Heads should roll' at the SEC, says NY Attorney General Spitzer

The Securities and Exchange Commission found itself in the hot seat at a Senate hearing yesterday for failing to act sooner to clean up the mutual fund sector.Charges against the industry range from illegal—including 10 percent of the fund firms that allegedly have participated in late trading, which allows favored investors to trade after the 4 p.m. deadline-to questionable, including marketing timing, in which larger, more savvy investors trade in and out of a fund quickly to make a better profit.
A&A

Employees Ask For More Retirement Advice, Study Shows

After three years of market volatility, employees are now re-engaging with their retirement planning and, in turn, are asking their employers for more guidance in achieving their retirement goals, according to the latest survey commissioned by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive included 300 small business executives and 600 full-time small business employees ages 18 and older.

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