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Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times

The proposal for a new set of Internet neutrality rules threatens to undermine the FCC’s long-held principle of ensuring equal access to all content.

By Jim Puzzanghera and Meg James, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Consumers could end up the losers in a high-stakes battle among regulators, broadband providers and online entertainment giants over access to the Internet’s fastest speeds. read more »

 

BERLIN — As business and political leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the improving world economy, new evidence emerged about how much the rich have become richer — and how much further the poor are falling behind.

The 85 richest people on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population, according to a report released Monday by the British humanitarian group Oxfam International.

The findings highlight the widening gap between rich and poor ahead of the annual World Economic Forum this week. The report, and others recently on the issue, could boost efforts in Washington to increase the federal minimum wage, which President Obama has made a priority. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Federal officials swooped in to rescue mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008 with the largest of all the financial crisis bailouts — a combined $187.5 billion — because they were considered too big to fail.

Now, despite bipartisan support to shut them down, Fannie and Freddie may prove to be too profitable to close.

Fannie and Freddie play a vital role in the mortgage market by purchasing or guaranteeing more than six in 10 new loans. And the housing market’s recovery has reversed the finances of the once-private companies, now wards of the U.S. government.

Fannie and Freddie are not only making money but also sending huge dividend checks to the Treasury — a combined $39 billion this week for their latest quarterly payment — and some are wondering why they should be put out of business. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Wells Fargo said this week that it agreed to pay $591 million to Fannie Mae to settle disputes over soured mortgages that the bank sold to the seized housing-finance giant during the subprime housing boom.

The agreement covers loans originated by Wells Fargo before 2009 that Fannie Mae was trying to force the bank to buy back.

Wells Fargo will pay $541 million in cash to Fannie Mae, with the rest covered by credits from earlier repurchases.

Fannie Mae and its sibling firm, Freddie Mac, were seized by the federal government in 2008 as they teetered near bankruptcy because of bad loans they had purchased from banks. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — The federal government’s consumer-financial watchdog will require lenders to issue shorter, easier-to-understand mortgage disclosure forms to homebuyers that more clearly show the costs and terms of the loans.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued the rule Nov. 20, following through on an initiative launched in 2011 as the then-fledgling agency’s first major action.

The early Know Before You Owe forms were welcomed by consumer and industry groups as an improvement over the more complex disclosures required under federal law for more than 30 years. The bureau said the new forms would make it easier for homebuyers to compare loan offers. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Credit unions have been snatching customers from banks amid consumer frustration over rising fees and outrage over Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis.

Now banks are fighting back by trying to take away something vital to credit unions — their federal tax exemption.

With fast-growing credit unions posing more formidable competition to banks, industry trade groups are pressing the White House and Congress to end a tax break that dates to the Great Depression.

“Many tax-exempt credit unions have morphed from serving ‘people of small means’ to become full-service, financially sophisticated institutions,” Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association, wrote to President Obama last month. read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook strongly defended the company’s tax practices at a Senate hearing on May 21 highlighting the technology giant’s use of Irish subsidiaries to shelter billions of dollars in income from U.S. taxes.

“We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar,” Cook told the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

“We not only comply with the laws but we comply with the spirit of the laws,” he said. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks.”

Cook said the tax code “has not kept up with the digital age” and restricts the free movement of capital in comparison with the codes of other countries. He called for a “dramatic simplification of the corporate tax code,” including lower tax rates and a “reasonable tax on foreign earnings.” read more »

 

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said this week it would raise $7.6 billion in the sale of its final shares of American International Group, ending the controversial bailout of the insurance giant with a $22.7 billion profit.

The department agreed to sell its remaining 234 million shares in AIG, which represented 15.9 percent of the company, for $32.50 each. The sale in effect closes the books on a rescue that at its height had the government on the hook for more than $182 billion and owning 92 percent of the company.

The offering, which was announced earlier this week, is expected to be completed Dec. 14.

“The closing of this transaction will mark the full resolution of America’s financial support of AIG — with a profit to taxpayers of $22.7 billion read more »

 

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are poised to ease ownership restrictions on major-market media outlets in what could be a boost to some big players in the struggling newspaper industry.

After two failed attempts to loosen its rules, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected by the end of the year to approve a new proposal that would allow newspapers and television or radio stations in the 20 largest markets, including Seattle, which is No. 12, to consolidate.

And unlike previous battles, there is little opposition this time to easing the so-called cross-ownership rules.

A decade of Internet growth, fast-changing technologies and plunging newspaper revenues — along with the nation’s focus on recovering from the Great Recession — has altered views. Few people seem to care much if newspapers and television stations hook up in the same metropolitan area. read more »

 
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