Fraud recovery record set
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is reporting it has recovered nearly $9 billion in fraud against the government since the beginning of the Obama administration, a record three-year total. The $3 billion recovered this year included an unprecedented $2.8 billion raised after whistle blowers filed lawsuits for false claims for government money or property such as Medicare benefits, military contracts and federal subsidies and loans. Reporting of false claims increased after Congress amended the False Claims Act 25 years ago to increase incentives for whistle blowers to 15 to 30 percent of funds recovered from lawsuits they file on behalf of the government. Assistant Attorney General Tony West noted Monday that 28 percent of the more than $30 billion in recoveries since then have come since President Barack Obama took office.
Homebuilders see new interest
WASHINGTON — Rising interest from would-be buyers is leaving U.S. homebuilders less pessimistic about the housing market. But tighter lending standards are still keeping many potential buyers from purchasing new homes. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose two points to 21 in December. That's the highest level since May 2010. It's just the second time the index has been at 20 or above in two years. Still, any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market.
Madoff associate pleads guilty
NEW YORK — The former controller for imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff blamed him Monday for directing her to deceive investors, regulators and the Internal Revenue Service as she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges. “I did not know that Madoff and others were stealing investors' money,” Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz said as she entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, becoming the sixth person to plead guilty and admit a role in a fraud that Madoff claimed he carried out alone. “For that, I am terribly sorry.” Cotellessa-Pitz, 53, said she wanted investors and the public to know that she is cooperating fully with prosecutors. Besides conspiracy, she pleaded guilty to falsifying books and records and making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The charges carry a potential of up to 50 years in prison for a woman who admitted a major role in the multi-decade fraud that cheated thousands of investors out of the roughly $20 billion they invested.
T-bill interest rate falls
WASHINGTON — Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills fell in Monday's auction with rates on three-month bills matching a record low. The Treasury Department auctioned $29 billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 0.005 percent, down from 0.01 percent last week. Another $27 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 0.04 percent, down from 0.045 percent last week. The three-month rate matched a record low set Nov. 7. The six-month rate was the lowest since these bills were at 0.035 percent, also on Nov. 7. The discount rates reflect that the bills sell for less than face value. For a $10,000 bill, the three-month price was $9,999.87 while a six-month bill sold for $9,997.98. That would equal an annualized rate of 0.005 percent for three-month bills and 0.041 percent for six-month bills.
Metals company fights takeover
IRVING, Texas — Commercial Metals Co. recommended Monday that shareholders reject a $1.73 billion hostile bid by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, saying it undervalues the company. The metal company said the $15-per-share tender offer is a bad deal for shareholders, and its own strategic plan will deliver better value. Its board has already rejected an Icahn offer. The bid is a 31 percent premium over the company's market value as of Nov. 25, the last trading day before Icahn announced the buyout offer.
Winn-Dixie chain to be sold
GREENVILLE, S.C. — The supermarket chain Winn-Dixie is being sold in a deal valued at $560 million to Bi-Lo LLC, the companies said Monday, creating a huge grocery operator in the South. Shares of Winn-Dixie, which has more than twice the number of stores of its buyer, jumped about 70 percent in early trading. The company had struggled in the past, entering into bankruptcy protection in 2005, but has been revamping operations in recent years. The combined company will have about 690 stores and 63,000 workers in eight states in the southern U.S. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will become a privately held subsidiary and its ticker will be removed from the Nasdaq. Bi-Lo is a private company. Each Winn-Dixie stockholder gets $9.50 per share in cash, a 75 percent premium to the Jacksonville, Fla. company's Friday closing stock price.
Company sorry for outage
LOS ANGELES — The president of Southern California Edison is sending letters of apology to hundreds of thousands of people who were left without electricity — some for as long as a week — during a devastating windstorm last month. Edison will do better next time when it comes to restoring power and keeping people informed about the efforts, Ron Litzinger, company president wrote, noting the company has learned from its experience. The state Public Utilities Commission has launched an investigation into Edison's response to the storm.
Gold deal worth $2.4 billion
Canadian gold and iron producer Eldorado Gold Corp. said Sunday it will buy European Goldfields Ltd. in a deal worth about $2.4 billion, increasing its ability to produce gold. The Vancouver, British Columbia, company said its offer values each European Goldfields share at $12.59, based on Eldorado's closing stock price on the Toronto Stock Exchange Friday. That comes to $2.5 billion. It's a 10 percent premium to European Goldfields' closing price on the Toronto Stock Exchange Friday.
From wire reports