BofA settles debt dispute
Bank of America (BofA) will pay US$9.5 billion to settle US charges that it sold bad mortgage-backed securities to mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae ahead of the housing bust. The settlement, arranged with the US Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, involves securities sold by BofA as well as by Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, which were acquired by the bank. BofA said it would make a cash payment to the agencies of US$6.3 billion and buy back US$3.2 billion in mortgage securities from them. Freddie said it would recoup US$5.1 billion in the deal, while Fannie said it would get US$4.4 billion.
WTO to review Aussie law
A battle against Australia’s plain tobacco packaging rules gained pace at the WTO on Wednesday, as Indonesia won the right to seek a ruling by the global body. Indonesia is the fifth country to take Australia to the WTO, after cases brought last year by Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Trade sources said that the WTO’s disputes settlement body had agreed to set up an independent panel of trade and legal experts to assess whether Australia is breaching the rules of global commerce. Under the ruled Canberra passed in 2011 and in force since December 2012, all tobacco products have to be sold in drab green boxes, use the same typeface and contain graphic images of diseased smokers.
Facebook suit dismissed
A California federal judge has dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit against Facebook Inc that had accused the company of misappropriating the names and likenesses of minors who use the social network. At issue was Facebook’s use of minors’ names and photos in targeted advertising in a case that highlighted privacy concerns. The lawsuit, originally filed in Illinois in 2011, had sought to represent all minors that used Facebook and had their names used in an ad. In a ruling on Wednesday, US District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that the minors gave their consent when they signed up for Facebook under a “statement of rights and responsibilities” that governs the site.
UBS suspends forex traders
UBS AG suspended foreign-exchange traders in the US, Singapore and Switzerland as its investigation into the alleged rigging of currency markets widened, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. They include Onur Sert, an emerging-markets spot trader based in New York, and at least three more worldwide, said the person, who asked not to be identified because of the probe. Sert and Dominik von Arx, a spokesman for UBS in London, both declined to comment on the suspensions. The bank opened a review of its currency operations last year after learned that traders in the industry had colluded to rig the benchmark WM/Reuters rates.
Citic to raise HK unit assets
Chinese conglomerate Citic Group (中國中信集團), whose businesses span property, resources and banking, plans to inject its vast assets into its Hong Kong-listed unit in a multibillion-dollar deal that will help it tap overseas investment. The country’s largest state-run conglomerate will hand all its shares in Citic Ltd — its operating company with unaudited assets of about US$36.2 billion at the end of last year — to Hong Kong unit Citic Pacific Ltd (中信泰富).