- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2012


Drop in natural-gas prices leading to less drilling

PITTSBURGH | As natural-gas prices continue to drop, the recent nationwide boom in drilling is slowing. Drillers don’t make money if prices go too low — and drilling wells isn’t cheap.

“It is safe to say that there will be fewer natural-gas wells drilled in 2012,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Pennsylvania.

In recent weeks, several companies have announced plans to cut gas production around the nation, but experts say the low prices are also opening up new markets. Industry reports note that the national count of active new gas-drilling rigs fell to 775 in early February, down from about 1,500 in 2008.

When the shale drilling boom was starting in 2008 the average price for a unit of gas was about $8. Two years ago it was down to $5.50, and now it’s dropped to about $2.50.


EU Parliament chief attacks copyright pact

BERLIN | The European Parliament’s president has criticized an international copyright treaty, arguing that it lacks sufficient balance.

Backers of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, say it’s needed to harmonize international standards to protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals and other piracy-prone products. But opponents, thousands of whom protested in several European countries Saturday, fear it will lead to censorship and a loss of privacy on the Internet.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz told Germany’s ARD television Sunday: “I don’t find it good in its current form.”

He said the necessary balance between copyright protection and the individual rights of Internet users “is only very inadequately anchored in this agreement.”


Five British bankers arrested in tax inquiry

LONDON | British tax authorities said Sunday that four current and one former member of staff at the Royal Bank of Scotland had been arrested in an investigation into tax fraud.

The revenue service said the five suspects, none of whom has been identified, were arrested at their homes in London and southern England on Wednesday. Authorities said the inquiry was in connection with the personal financial affairs of the suspects and unrelated to the bank’s work.

Britain’s government owns 82 percent of the Edinburgh, Scotland-based bank. It was rescued during the credit crisis of 2008 with $72 billion of taxpayers’ money. In a statement, the Royal Bank of Scotland said it was “fully cooperating with” tax authorities, but would not comment further.


MF Global trustee says at least $1.6B missing

The court-appointed trustee overseeing MF Global’s liquidation says an additional $400 million is missing from customer accounts, bringing the total to a least $1.6 billion.

The trustee, James Giddens, said in a statement Friday that the new estimate was based on his investigation and that it could change again. Mr. Giddens has been combing through the accounts of MF Global, which was headed by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, since it filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31.

Mr. Giddens says most of the cash transactions in the last week before the bankruptcy filing have been traced. Regulators are investigating whether MF Global tapped money from clients’ accounts as its financial condition worsened. That would violate securities laws.

Mr. Giddens has returned about $3.9 billion to customers.


Justice Department calls Swiss bank a ‘fugitive’

NEW YORK | The Justice Department is calling Switzerland’s largest private bank a fugitive from justice after it didn’t show up for a court hearing in New York.

Wegelin & Co. is charged with conspiring with American clients to hide $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service.

The bank, which doesn’t have an office in the U.S., was indicted Feb. 2. Since then, U.S. officials haven’t found a way to move the case forward.

The bank was summoned to appear before a federal judge at 3 p.m. Friday, but no one showed. The judge presiding over the case asked prosecutors for a proposal on what to do next. The hearing ended without any immediate resolution.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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