Americas




Bank Securities Fraud Case Settled
Anti-Bribery and Anti-Corruption, Business Ethics and Corporate Culture

Gulf News reports that Bank of America has made a confidential settlement for securities fraud claims lodged by a group of Countrywide Financial (Countrywide) investors that had opted out of a US$624 million class-action settlement in 2010. The settlement reportedly involved plaintiffs who had deemed last year’s settlement as inadequate, and all the defendants but Countrywide’s former auditor KPMG have reached a confidential settlement. Bank of America had acquired Countrywide in 2008, after Countrywide encountered allegations of deceptive lending practices and misleading its shareholders.
Gulf News: Bank of America settles fraud claims (24 November 2011)
(Source: Gulf News)


FTC Settles Antitrust Charges
Competition

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Pool Corporation (PoolCorp), the largest swimming pool products distributor in the US, has agreed to a settlement resolving antitrust charges by the FTC. Among other things, the settlement will stop future anticompetitive tactics which PoolCorp has allegedly used to exclude new competitors in local markets nationwide by requiring the company to implement an antitrust compliance program.
FTC’s media release (21 November 2011)
(Source: FTC)


Banks Under Investigation for Debit Card Fees
Competition, Consumer Protection

Bloomberg reports that US Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich has stated that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) “will take appropriate action” if evidence of collusion emerges with regards to the recent debit card fees imposed (and withdrawn) by major US banks. According to Bloomberg, Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase and Co and Wells Fargo and Co had briefly tested debit card fees on some customers, until the move raised public rancour from customers and politicians. Reportedly, Mr Weich’s statement was in response to a request by Representative Peter Welch to conduct an antitrust investigation into actions by the banks and their trade groups.
Bloomberg: Debit Card Fees Under U.S. Justice Department Review (23 November 2011)
(Source: Bloomberg)


Major Telecom Merger Faces Antitrust Hurdles
Competition

The Los Angeles Times reports that telecom giant AT&T has withdrawn its merger plan with T-Mobile for consideration from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after heavy pressure from government agencies, consumer advocates and competitors. Instead, AT&T has reportedly decided to face the US Department of Justice’s antitrust challenge to the merger in court before again seeking the FCC’s consideration. According to the Los Angeles Times, AT&T’s decision also follows FCC chair Julius Genachowksi’s recommendation that the US$39 billion proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger be referred to a rare administrative law review and hearing. The FCC reportedly feared that the merger between the communications giants would lead to higher consumers prices and damage to industry innovation and US jobs.
Los Angeles Times: AT&T withdraws T-Mobile merger plan from FCC (25 November 2011)
(Source: Los Angeles Times)


Investment Co Fined Over UITs
Consumer Protection, Financial Integrity

The US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has fined Chase Investment Services Corporation $1.7 million and ordered it to reimburse customers more than $1.9 million over the company’s unsuitable sales recommendations of high-risk unit investment trusts (UITs) and floating rate loan funds which resulted in customers suffering significant losses.
FINRA’s media release (15 November 2011)
(Source: FINRA)