- - Monday, February 7, 2011


Regulators seek delay of bonuses

Federal regulators have proposed making top executives at large financial firms wait at least three years to be paid half of their annual bonuses, a move designed to cut down on risky financial transactions.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted Monday to advance the rule, which builds on more general requirements in last year’s financial regulatory law to curtail risk taking. The rule targets firms with $50 billion or more in assets, seeking to tie bonuses with financial performance over a longer time period.

The requirement would apply major financial institutions, such as Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Wells Fargo & Co.

Lawmakers and government officials have blamed outsize bonuses for helping to fuel the financial crisis, saying they encouraged short-term risk taking. The financial regulatory law enacted last year simply directed government regulators to put in rules to prohibit incentive-based payments that encourage excessive risks.

Other financial regulators - including the Federal Reserve, two Treasury Department agencies, and the Securities Exchange Commission - must also adopt the bonus rule before it can be finalized. They are expected to act in the next few weeks, and the final rule could take effect by the fall, officials said.


Diesel spilled outside executive mansion

A tanker truck has dumped part of its load of diesel fuel on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

However, a Secret Service spokesman said the fuel did not pose any danger, and crews are in the process of cleaning it up.

Spokesman Max Milien said Monday the truck was leaving the White House grounds when it sprang a leak. A hazardous materials team from the District arrived quickly and ensured the scene was safe.

Workers poured sand and gravel on the fuel to soak it up, then used brooms to collect the residue.

The spill occurred ahead of a late-morning speech by President Obama at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, across the avenue - and Lafayette Park - from the White House.


Bank warrants set for auction

The government plans to auction warrants it holds for Illinois-based Wintrust Financial Corp. on Tuesday in the latest effort to recoup the costs of the $700 billion financial bailout.

The Treasury Department said Monday it will sell 1.64 million warrants, which will give buyers the right to buy Wintrust common stock at a fixed price. Treasury set a minimum bid price of $13.50 per warrant.

Treasury received the warrants when it provided Wintrust, headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., with $250 million from the bailout fund at the height of the financial crisis in December 2008.

The bank paid back the assistance in December. The sale of the warrants will sever its remaining ties with the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Wintrust Financial stock closed at $33.30 on Friday. Over the past year, the stock has traded in a range from $27.79 to $44.93.

Purchase of the warrants will give the buyer the right to buy Wintrust stock at $22.82 per share.

In the past two weeks, the government has received $312.2 million from the sale of warrants it held in Citigroup and $6.2 million from the sale of warrants in Boston Private Financial Holdings.

Treasury announced last week that it is close to breaking even on all of the bank investments made under the bailout program. Treasury distributed $245 billion in support under the program and so far has received $243 billion in repayments, dividends and other revenue including the warrant sales. That includes a $3.4 billion repayment received last week from Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati.


First lady makes date to go on “Live!”

NEW YORK | - Michelle Obama is making her first visit to “Live! With Regis and Kelly.”

The show announced Monday that the first lady will be a guest of Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on Feb. 9.

Mrs. Obama will be in New York to mark the first anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity.

She is expected to discuss the campaign during her “Live!” appearance.

“Live!” is distributed by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.


Amtrak, senators propose rail tunnel

NEWARK | Amtrak is proposing to spend $50 million on preliminary engineering and design for two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River to link New Jersey and New York City.

Democratic Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez joined Amtrak officials Monday in proposing what they’re calling the “Gateway Project.”

Amtrak says it will look for contributions from New Jersey, New York and government agencies to cover the estimated $13.5 billion cost.

The proposal comes months after Republican Gov. Chris Christie killed plans for a new tunnel to relieve travel congestion. He cited concerns about New Jersey being on the hook for any cost overruns.


Feds settle case of Facebook firing

Employers should think twice before trying to restrict workers from talking about their jobs on Facebook or other social media.

That’s the message the government sent Monday as it settled a closely watched lawsuit against a Connecticut ambulance company that fired an employee after she went on Facebook to criticize her boss.

The National Labor Relations Board sued the company last year, arguing that the worker’s negative comments were protected speech under labor laws. The company claimed it fired the employee because of complaints about her work.

Exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed. But the labor board said the company will change its “overly broad” policy that barred workers from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without permission.

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