- Associated Press - Monday, July 16, 2012

NEW YORK — The companies that determine Americans’ credit scores are about to come under government oversight for the first time.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Monday that it will start supervising the 30 largest firms that make up 94 percent of the industry. That includes the three big credit reporting firms: Equifax Inc., Experian PLC and TransUnion LLC.

In remarks prepared for a speech Monday, Richard Cordray, the government agency’s director, said that scorekeeping by credit bureaus plays such a large role in Americans’ financial lives that it requires scrutiny.

The CFPB said its oversight may include on-sight examinations, and that it may require credit bureaus to file reports.

Mr. Cordray said the agency’s oversight will extend to niche companies that “focus on payday loans or checking accounts, as well as resellers of credit reports and those that analyze credit report information.”

The announcement wasn’t a total surprise, said Jon Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com and a former Equifax employee. He said the CFPB hinted earlier this year that it was considering supervising the industry.


Microsoft revamps Office for tablets, Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft Corp. unveiled a new version of its widely used, lucrative suite of word processing, spreadsheet and email programs, designed specifically with tablet computers and Internet-based storage in mind.

Like an upcoming redesign of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, the new Office will respond to touch as well as commands delivered on a computer keyboard or mouse. The addition of touch-based controls will enable Office to extend its franchise into the rapidly growing tablet computer market. Apple Inc. dominates that market with the iPad, though Microsoft has plans to compete with its own tablet, called Surface.

Microsoft said the new Office was designed as a service first, so the programs can run easily on multiple devices connected to the Internet.

The programs will store documents online through Microsoft’s SkyDrive service by default, meaning users will have to change settings to store documents on their own computers. The programs also will remember settings, including where you last left off in a document, as you move locations. The Internet-based services approach is one Google has been promoting with its own suite of similar programs.


Largest public pension fund earns dismal 1%

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The nation’s largest public pension fund reported a dismal 1 percent return on its investments, a figure far short of projections that likely will add pressure on California’s state and local governments to contribute more, officials said Monday.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System reported its returns for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The 1 percent return is well below its projected annual return of 7.5 percent.

“The last 12 months were a challenging period for all investors as the ongoing European debt crisis and slowing global economic growth increased market volatility and reduced equity returns,” said chief investment officer Joe Dear. “It’s a clear reminder that we must remain focused on performance, risk and internal controls in today’s financial environment.”

Mr. Dear said the fund was most affected by a minus-7 percent return on global equities. Half the pension’s assets are in equities, he said.

CalPERS, which has yet to recover from the recession, runs a $234 billion pension system for more than 1.6 million state employees, school employees and local government workers.


Discount clothing firm Daffy’s to liquidate

NEW YORK — Daffy’s Inc., which sells national fashion brands at up to 80 percent off, is going out of business, a victim of a fiercely competitive landscape that also has claimed rivals Syms and Filene’s Basement as casualties.

Michael McMullan, a spokesman for the chain, confirmed Monday that the Secaucus, N.J.-based retailer will be winding down business at its 19 stores, including eight in Manhattan, six in New Jersey and one in Philadelphia, over the next several months.

About 1,300 employees will be affected. Daffy’s said that all associates will remain employed and receive pay and benefits for at least 60 days.

“This action was necessary due to the impact on its business of the uncertain economy and weak consumer spending and a lack of viable financial and business alternatives,” Mr. McMullan said in a statement.

Daffy’s has not determined the date for the final liquidation of the business.

The news follows the moves by discount retailer Syms Corp. and its subsidiary Filene’s Basement, which liquidated all 46 of their stores earlier in the year. Syms acquired Filene’s Basement out of bankruptcy protection in the spring of 2009 for $62.4 million, but struggled to turn around the chain.

Daffy’s, which has been in business for 51 years, faced slowing sales as what’s known as the “off-price” arena became more competitive starting in 2005, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with market research firm the NPD Group. That was when national brands started to expand their outlet businesses, leaving off-price retailers with fewer opportunities to buy discontinued items or leftovers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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