Business briefs for Feb. 14

Business briefs for Feb. 14
Published: February 13, 2014

Business Highlights

Ignition problem spurs GM recall

General Motors is recalling almost 780,000 older-model compact cars in North America because a faulty ignition switch can shut off the engines without warning and cause crashes. The company says six people have died in 22 crashes linked to the problem in Chevrolet Cobalts from the 2005 through 2007 model years, and Pontiac G5s from 2007. A heavy key ring or jarring from rough roads can move the ignition switch out of the run position, cutting off the engine and electrical power, GM said in statements and documents released Thursday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If that happens, the front air bags may not work if there’s a crash. GM says the six fatalities occurred in five front-end crashes, all of which happened off-road and at high speeds.

Facebook adds gender options

You don’t have to be just male or female on Facebook anymore. The social media giant has added a customizable option with about 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them. Facebook said the changes initially cover the company’s 159 million monthly users in the U.S. and are aimed at giving people more choices in how they describe themselves, such as androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid or transsexual. Facebook, which has 1.23 billion active monthly users around the world, also allows them to keep their gender identity private and will continue to do so.

Coal ash spill prompts inquiry

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a massive coal ash spill into a North Carolina river, demanding that Duke Energy and state regulators hand over reams of documents related to the accident that left a waterway polluted with tons of toxic sludge. The U.S. attorney’s office in Raleigh issued grand jury subpoenas seeking records from Duke and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The subpoenas seek emails, memos and reports related to the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River and the state’s oversight of the company’s 30 other coal ash dumps in North Carolina.

J.C. Penney replaces finance chief

J.C. Penney has replaced its chief financial officer, the latest move by the struggling department store operator as tries to improve its results. Chief Financial Officer Ken Hannah, 45, is leaving the company and will be replaced by Ed Record, 45. He was previously chief operating officer at department store chain Stage Stores. The move is effective March 24. Record will be responsible for J.C. Penney Co.’s financial operations and will report to CEO Mike Ullman. Hannah will remain CFO during the transition. The company did not give a reason for his departure.

Continue reading this story on the...