Archive for December, 2008

Wal-Mart settles labor suits of up to $640 million (AP)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday it will pay between $352 million and $640 million to settle 63 wage and hour abuse lawsuits against the company.

The discount retailer, which has more than 1.4 million employees, said the total amount to be paid depends on the number of claims submitted by those who are eligible. Each of the settlements must be approved by a trial court.

Wal-Mart, one of the few retailers doing well in a dismal holiday season, said it would take an after-tax charge to continuing operations of about $250 million, or approximately 6 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter.

The company said many of the lawsuits were filed years ago and the allegations are not representative of the company it is today.

"Our policy is to pay associates for every hour worked and to provide rest and meal breaks," Tom Mars, Wal-Mart's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart agrees to continue to use various electronic systems and other measures to ensure compliance with wage and hour policies and law.

Last year, Wal-Mart said it would pay more than $33 million in back wages to thousands of employees after turning itself in to the Labor Department for paying too little in overtime over the past five years. A judge in Pennsylvania also ruled last year that Wal-Mart workers in that state who previously won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will share an additional $62.3 million in damages.

Shares in Wal-Mart, which rose 70 cents to close at $55.29 before the settlement was announced, gained another penny in after-hours trading.

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Treasury adds to investments in U.S. banks (Reuters)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) –
The Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it completed a $2.8 billion equity investment in 49 banks on Friday and invested in 43 more on Tuesday.

The investments completed on December 19 include 14 privately held banks, the first time the Treasury has recapitalized private banks. Details of the investments made on Tuesday, including the names of the 43 banks, will not be released until Monday, December 29.

The Treasury created the capital purchase program as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. It allocated $250 billion under the program to invest in U.S. financial institutions.

Congress approved a total $700 billion TARP program in October. The Treasury has drawn down $350 billion of it and now says Congress should release the rest of it, although the Bush administration has not initiated formal action to request the additional money.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Fannie, Freddie agree to new appraisal guidelines (Reuters)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Finance News

NEW YORK (Reuters) –
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have agreed on a revised code of conduct that aims to improve the reliability of appraisals on mortgage loans purchased by the two home funding companies, their regulator said on Tuesday.

The amended home valuation guidelines were agreed upon by the two companies and their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Authority, as well as New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

"The Code strikes a balance of assuring enhanced protections for appraisers while maintaining lender ability to address unprofessional appraisal practices and to perform quality controls on appraisals received," FHFA Director James Lockhart said in a statement.

(Reporting by Lynn Adler)

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