Nation and world business briefs

Nation and world business briefs
Oklahoman Published: December 20, 2011
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BUSINESS BRIEFS

Nation

Fraud recovery record set

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

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

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