- - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ABORTION

Protesters arrested outside Boehner’s office

Six followers of anti-abortion activist Randall Terry were arrested Wednesday outside the office of House Speaker John A. Boehner. The protesters were demanding that the Ohio Republican, himself a staunch opponent of abortion, not give in to the Senate on the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood.

Capitol Police took the six into custody on unlawful-assembly charges after they blocked a hallway outside Mr. Boehner’s private office. Congress is not in session this week, and Mr. Boehner was not in his office.

The Republican-led House last week, as part of a massive spending bill for the remainder of the current budget year, voted to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood because of its abortion services. That provision likely faces strong resistance in the Senate, where majority Democrats are more supportive of abortion rights and back Planned Parenthood because of its family-planning services.

TAX EVASION

Four Swiss bankers charged in tax case

Four bankers with Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group were indicted Wednesday on conspiracy charges, accused of helping U.S. taxpayers hide as much as $3 billion in assets from the IRS.

Arrest warrants have been issued for all four, who are thought to be in Switzerland: Marco Parenti Adami, Emanuel Agostoni, Michele Bergantino and Roger Schaerer. All are Swiss citizens, except for Mr. Adami, who is Italian.

Prosecutors allege in the indictment that the conspiracy goes back as far as 1953. The indictment alleges that as of late 2008 Credit Suisse was maintaining thousands of secret accounts for U.S. customers with as much as $3 billion in assets.

The indictment itself does not specify the bank as Credit Suisse, but a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case confirmed the bank’s identity to the Associated Press. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the case.

Public documents unconnected to the case also identify some of the bankers as Credit Suisse employees.

Credit Suisse itself is not charged in the indictment.

RECALL

Ford F-150 pickups recalled over air bags

Under government pressure, Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it will recall nearly 150,000 F-150 pickup trucks to fix air bags that could deploy without warning.

The recall covers trucks from the 2005-2006 model years in the U.S. and Canada for what the auto company calls a “relatively low risk” of the air bag deploying inadvertently.

The recall, however, is much smaller in scope than what the government had requested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, citing 77 injuries, told the company in a November 2010 memo that the recall should cover 1.3 million F-150 trucks from the 2004-2006 model years.

The F-150 is the flagship of Ford’s popular F-Series pickup trucks, the best-selling vehicle in America. The government expanded its investigation into the air-bag problems in January 2010.

COURTS

Abramoff associate appeals sentence

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s former partner in crime is appealing his prison sentence because he thinks a Supreme Court ruling ought to cut his penalty.

Michael Scanlon was sentenced two weeks ago to serve 20 months in prison and pay $20 million in restitution for a scheme in which he and Abramoff defrauded Indian tribe clients. Abramoff persuaded the tribes that hired him for lobbying to pay inflated fees for Scanlon’s public relations services, and Scanlon secretly kicked back half the profits to Abramoff.

Scanlon had pleaded guilty in part to defrauding the tribal clients of their right to “honest services.” The Supreme Court weakened the honest- services law last June, but U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that Scanlon could not change his plea to reflect the high court’s decision.

NEW JERSEY

Christie says no to federal PAC

TRENTON | New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he has no plans to start a federal political action committee, further dispelling rumors that he plans to run for president in 2012.

Mr. Christie’s former law partner, Bill Palatucci, suggested in a recent interview with the Courier Post of Cherry Hill that he might consider starting a PAC because “it’s leaving money on the table by not having one.”

Mr. Christie is often asked about running for president, and starting a PAC could be seen as a first step for the Republican.

But Mr. Christie threw cold water on the idea Wednesday during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

He says he hasn’t started a PAC and has no plans to start one.

BANKS

Troubled banks rise to 18-year high

The number of banks at risk of failing made up nearly 12 percent of all federally insured banks in the final three months of 2010, the highest level in 18 years.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said Wednesday that the number of banks on its confidential “problem” list rose to 884 in the October-December quarter, up from 860 in the previous quarter. Those are banks rated by examiners as having very low capital cushions against risk.

Twenty-two banks have failed so far this year. And more banks are at risk, even as the FDIC reported the industry’s highest earnings as a group since the financial crisis hit three years ago.

Only a small fraction of the 7,657 federally insured banks — about 1.4 percent with assets of more than $10 billion — are driving the bulk of the earnings growth. They are the largest banks, including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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