- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

Regional

Fannie Mae, the biggest source of financing for U.S. home loans, told lenders it will probably ban the use of appraisals by in-house employees or those arranged by brokers. Fannie Mae distributed the proposal, a response to New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s yearlong mortgage probe, to lenders in a “talking points” memo posted on American Banker’s Web site.

Washington Post Co. said fourth-quarter earnings fell 13 percent to $82.9 million ($8.71) from $95.5 million ($9.97 per) a year ago because of $17.2 million in restructuring costs and a continued erosion of revenue at its flagship newspaper. Quarterly revenue climbed 8 percent to $1.13 billion. For the year, profit fell 11 percent to $287.7 million.

Dollar Tree Stores of Chesapeake, Va., said net income for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 fell 3 percent to $94.7 million ($1.04) from $97.6 million (96 cents) a year ago. The company also forecast full-year profit and sales ahead of estimates. The shares rose $2.71, or 10 percent, to $29.12.

ManTech International Corp., Fairfax maker of terrorist-tracking databases, said fourth-quarter profit rose 40 percent to $21.4 million (61 cents a share) from $13.9 million (41 cents) a year earlier.

Insurance broker Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. of Richmond said net income for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 fell 48 percent to $11.1 million (30 cents) from $21.4 (59 cents) a year ago.

Commercial real estate developer First Potomac Realty Trust of Bethesda said net income for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 fell 29 percent to $500,000 (2 cents) from $700,000 (3 cents) a year ago.

National

Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson said the North American Free Trade Agreement is at risk after U.S. presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized the accord in their Ohio debate Tuesday and threatened to end it. “We are the largest supplier of energy to the United States,” Mr. Emerson said. “You’re going to find that it’s not such a slam-dunk proposition.”

Power executives were still in the dark about how a glitch at a substation triggered a blackout that cut power to millions in SouthFlorida. The outage darkened traffic signals, forced hospitals to scramble for generators and cut off air conditioners in the afternoon heat.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged three promoters who targeted military families in a multimillion-dollar investment scheme that forced victims into personal bankruptcy and their homes into foreclosure. The SEC contends the promoters operated a Ponzi scheme by using money from new investors to make mortgage payments on previously purchased investment homes.

Milberg Weiss and the law firm’s co-founder, Melvyn Weiss, failed to win dismissal of charges that they illegally paid clients to file lawsuits that yielded $216 million in fees. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter denied the firm’s request to throw out the fraud charges.

Countrywide Financial has been reaping profits from “inflated, unverifiable or false” charges in foreclosure actions that threaten hundreds of thousands of homeowners, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Delaware. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, takes aim at attorneys’ fees, property inspection charges and other assessments.

The Humane Society sued the federal government over what it said is a legal loophole that allows sick or crippled cattle, called “downers,” into the food supply. A Department of Agriculture rule change made in July is the problem, the Humane Society said.

General Mills Inc. and Nestle SA asked supermarkets to remove some of their products affected by the biggest U.S. meat recall. General Mills said it recalled 35,000 cases of Progresso Italian Wedding soup containing beef a supplier got from the Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, Calif. Nestle recalled 49,264 cases of Hot Pocket sandwiches with beef.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. said it completed a $12 billion swap that sends control of satellite television provider DirecTV to Liberty Media. Liberty Media exchanged its 16 percent News Corp. stake worth roughly $11 billion plus $625 million in cash for a 41 percent interest in DirecTV.

The organizer of a federal hearing at Harvard Law School on Comcast Corp.’s treatment of subscriber Internet traffic said “seat-warmers” hired by the company prevented other attendees from getting in, and some were dozing. Comcast acknowledged that it hired some people to fill seats, but said they gave up their spots when Boston-area Comcast employees arrived.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News have laid off 68 non-newsroom employees. The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia said most of the layoffs are in advertising. But the circulation, customer service, finance, marketing and systems departments are also affected.

Scott Meyer, head of New York Times Co.’s About.com, will leave the company next week as the parent company faces criticism over moving too slowly online. Separately, 30-year veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse said she would take advantage of the Times’ newsroom buyout offer announced last week.

International

French judges questioned for a fourth time the rogue trader charged in the $7 billion scandal at Societe Generale, sources said. An attorney for Jerome Kerviel, 31, offered no details on the questioning.

Chinese leaders pledged to improve their control of the economy, which is suffering from its highest level of inflation in 11 years as food costs soar. The Communist Party’s Central Committee also said it aimed to improve regulation of investment, consumption and exports.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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