- - Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Retail groups sue over debt card fee rules

NEW YORK — Retail groups are suing the Federal Reserve, claiming the central bank didn’t follow the law when it set a cap on fees that banks can charge merchants for handling debit card purchases.

The National Retail Federation and other groups charge in the suit that the Fed buckled under pressure from bank lobbyists when it set the cap at an average of about 24 cents per transaction in late June. The cap, which took effect Oct. 1, was initially proposed at 12 cents.

The merchant groups maintain that in raising the cap, the Fed considered expenses that the law did not allow. The law is part of the financial regulatory reform passed in July 2010.

Banks lobbied hard against the rule, which cut fees that averaged around 44 cents per transaction.


More clarity mulled on interest rate policy

Federal Reserve policymakers this month discussed how they could give businesses and investors more information about what might trigger an increase in interest rates, according to minutes of the Nov. 1-2 meeting.

But the Fed held off making any changes.

A panel headed by Vice Chairman Janet Yellen is exploring ways to provide more information on future central bank moves. More clarity on interest rate policy could help reassure investors and businesses that rates will stay low.

At its August meeting, the Fed said it planned to keep short-term rates near zero until at least mid-2013, as long as economic growth remained weak.

The Fed has kept its key short-term interest at a record low since December 2008. That is the rate that banks charge on overnight loans and it serves as the benchmark for millions of business and consumer loans.


Proposal to tax Jack Daniel’s whiskey derailed

NASHVILLE — Jack Daniel’s officials are toasting the defeat of a proposal to tax whiskey at its celebrated Tennessee distillery.

The Moore County Council in Lynchburg, Tenn., voted 10-5 Monday evening to kill the proposal, which would have taxed Jack Daniel’s up to $5 million annually with all the revenue going to local coffers.

Tom Beam, a distillery spokesman, said Tuesday he hopes the company has shown that it pays its fair share of taxes already.

The vote reversed an earlier one that asked the Tennessee legislature to authorize a local referendum on the proposal.

Supporters of the proposal said the issue is dead for now and they may quit trying.

Company spokesmen never said whether the tax would have meant higher prices at the retail level.


Travelport claims court win over American Airlines

DALLAS — Travelport Ltd. Said Tuesday that a federal judge tossed out most of American Airlines’ antitrust lawsuit against the flight-information provider and online travel agent Orbitz.

Travelport, which owns nearly half of Orbitz, said the judge dismissed American’s claims that the company monopolizes distribution of airline fare and flight information to travel agents.

American said, however, that the judge allowed its main antitrust claims to proceed. The ruling was issued by a U.S. district court in Fort Worth, Texas, where American is based.


Microsoft buys Gore-backed search engine

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft announced Tuesday it has bought VideoSurf, an online video search engine founded by four Israelis and which has received funding from former Vice President Al Gore.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Silicon Valley technology blog TechCrunch put the purchase price at around $70 million.

Microsoft said it will work VideoSurf’s technology into its Xbox Live platform, the online environment for its Xbox 360 videogame console.

VideoSurf, which was founded in 2006 and is based in San Mateo, Calif., has developed technology that allows for fast discovery of video content on the Internet.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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