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Merrill paying $131.8M to settle SEC charges

Updated: Friday, December 13, 2013 |
Merrill paying $131.8M to settle SEC charges story image
WASHINGTON (AP) - Merrill Lynch has agreed to pay $131.8 million to settle U.S. civil charges that it misled investors about risky mortgage bonds it sold ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement Thursday. Merrill Lynch was accused of marketing the investments with misleading materials in 2006 and 2007. The materials gave investors the false impression that the collateral for the mortgage-backed investments was chosen by an independent firm.

Merrill neither admitted nor denied the allegations.

When the housing bubble burst in 2007, millions of home borrowers defaulted on their loans and bundles of mortgages sold by big banks left investors with billions in losses.

Bank of America acquired Merrill at the height of the crisis in September 2008.
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A day after the Obama administration struck a trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, the Commerce Department releases international trade data for August.

In July, the U.S. trade deficit fell to the lowest level in five months as exports posted a small gain while imports declined. So far this year, the deficit is running 3.6 percent above last year's level, reflecting weaker export sales amid a stronger dollar and weaker growth in nations such as China. Some analysts are expressing concern that's all holding back U.S. economic growth.

Overseas, Europe's biggest economy, Germany, is set to release August industrial orders figures.

On the corporate earnings front, PepsiCo reports quarterly financial results before the market opens. Yum Brands reports its results after the market closes.


NEW YORK (AP) -- General Mills is recalling 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, saying the cereal is labeled gluten-free but actually contains wheat.

The recall affects Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios that were made in July at a plant in Lodi, California. The Minneapolis company says wheat flour was inadvertently used in a system that normally processes gluten-free oat flour.

The use of wheat flour means the cereals are not gluten-free, and people with conditions like wheat allergies or celiac disease who eat them might experience an allergic reaction or discomfort.

General Mills Inc. says it will take the cereals out of warehouses and off store shelves, and says customers who cannot eat wheat should contact the company for a replacement box or a full refund.


LUXEMBOURG (AP) -- The European Union's executive arm is to warn Spain over its draft budget plans for this year and next.

Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission's top economy official, said Monday that the plans point to the Spanish government missing fiscal targets by 0.3 percentage points in 2015 and 0.7 percentage points in 2016.

As such, he said the Commission will on Tuesday invite Spain's center-right government to make sure the budget plans comply with euro rules.

The eurozone's top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (YER'-oon DY'-sel-bloom), said it was up to the Spanish government to act on the opinion.

In joining the euro currency, countries signed up to a set of rules to keep their budgets within certain parameters. In theory, countries could face sanctions.

Spain is to hold a general election on Dec. 20.


UNDATED (AP) -- Doctors have discovered a potential problem involving implanted heart valves that hundreds of thousands of people have received. The valves do not always open and close properly, possibly because a blood clot has formed that could raise the risk of stroke.

Experts stressed that not enough is known about the situation to change the practice now, and officials from the Food and Drug Administration say the valves still seem safe and worth the risk.

The problem involves aortic valves made from cow, pig or human tissue rather than mechanical ones made from synthetic materials. A study published Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that these valves may not work right in up to 15 percent of cases.

The FDA urged doctors and patients to report any suspected problems.


DOVER, Del. (AP) -- The DuPont Co. has announced the sudden retirement of Ellen Kullman as chairwoman and CEO.

The company said Kullman, 59, will step down at the end of next week.

Edward Breen, a DuPont board member, will serve as Kullman's interim replacement.

DuPont also downgraded its operating earnings outlook on Monday, saying it now expects operating earnings per share for the full year of about $2.75, compared with prior guidance of $3.10.

The company said the revised outlook primarily reflects continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar versus currencies in emerging markets, especially in Brazil, and a further weakening of agricultural markets, primarily in Brazil.

The company now expects second-half operating earnings per share of about 40 cents, down from its prior guidance of 75 cents.

DuPont shares rallied in extended trading.

Washington Times