- - Thursday, December 8, 2011


Wells Fargo settles bid-rigging cases for $148M

Wells Fargo will pay $148.2 million to settle federal and state charges that it rigged dozens of bidding competitions to win business from cities and counties.

The U.S. Department of Justice, along with the federal and state regulators, had been investigating the actions of employees at Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia Bank, which Wells Fargo & Co. acquired in 2008.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wachovia generated millions of dollars in illicit gains during an eight-year period when it fraudulently rigged at least 58 municipal bond transactions in 25 states and Puerto Rico.

Banks help states and municipalities raise money for projects like building roads and schools by selling bonds to investors. Portions of those proceeds may not be spent immediately, and banks will help the municipalities invest those funds until they’re needed. The SEC said the banks rigged the bidding process for some of those investments, forcing the municipalities to pay prices for securities that were above fair market value.


Secret formula gets first new home since 1925

ATLANTA | The Coca-Cola Co. has made its secret formula the centerpiece of a new exhibit at its corporate museum, ditching the confines of the bank vault where the list of ingredients had been stored since 1925.

The world’s largest beverage maker said Thursday a new vault containing the formula will be on display for visitors to its World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta. However, the formula itself, which dates back to 1886, will remain hidden from view.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said the decision to move the formula from a vault at SunTrust Banks Inc. had nothing to with the bank’s decision in 2007 to begin selling its long-held stake in Coca-Cola. The bank, which provided underwriting services to Coca-Cola when it went public in 1919 and received some of Coca-Cola’s first publicly traded stock, at one time held more than 48 million Coca-Cola shares.


Live online tax-prep help sign of competitive 2012

NEW YORK | The competition for your tax business is heating up.

H&R Block and TurboTax will both offer live online professional help in the coming tax season, aiming to draw customers nervous about making mistakes or missing out on refund money.

The two companies are also offering mobile applications that enable users to file their tax returns using smartphones and tablet computers, and providing reloadable prepaid cards to use to receive refunds.

Younger taxpayers who file simple forms are the most specific target. Both companies hope to establish relationships with these customers that will last as their financial lives get more complex and their tax returns more expensive to prepare.

H&R Block Inc. and Intuit Inc.’s TurboTax handled more than 45 million returns last tax season, a third of all returns filed.


$50M verdict for rice farmers affirmed

LITTLE ROCK | The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a nearly $50 million verdict for farmers who say they lost money because a company’s genetically altered rice seeds contaminated the food supply and drove down crop prices.

Bayer, the German conglomerate whose Bayer CropScience subsidiary produced the seeds, had argued that Arkansas tort laws set a limit on punitive damages and that courts should set aside jury awards that “shock the conscience.” In the April 2010 verdict, a Lonoke County jury awarded $42 million in punitive damages and $5.9 million in actual damages.

The company said a lower court erred last year in ruling that a cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.

But in its 24-page opinion released Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the cap on punitive damages was unconstitutional.



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