c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

JPMORGAN SAID TO BE NEAR DEAL ON MORTGAGES

The Justice Department is moving closer to striking a multibillion-dollar settlement with JPMorgan Chase over questionable mortgage practices, after authorities urged the bank to raise its offer and the bank’s chief executive took the rare step of meeting with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in Washington to discuss the deal. JPMorgan has offered to pay a roughly $7 billion fine and provide $4 billion in relief for struggling homeowners, according to people briefed on the talks. The latest push on the size of the penalties indicates that the talks are entering their final stages.

MCDONALD’S MOVES TOWARD A HEALTHIER MENU

Under pressure to provide healthier meals, McDonald’s announced Thursday that it would no longer market some of its less nutritional options to children and said it also planned to include offerings of fruits and vegetables in many of its adult menu combinations. It plans to make the changes to its menu in 20 of the company’s largest markets, which account for more than 85 percent of its overall sales, including overseas. But it will take three years or more to put the changes into place.

AS SOME TURN TO HEALTH EXCHANGES, GENERAL ELECTRIC GOES IN ANOTHER DIRECTION

Although the new federal health care law is designed to help people buying individual policies, even people with employer-provided policies are beginning to see changes in their coverage as companies rethink health care for their workers. But while some corporations look to get out of insuring workers altogether, General Electric Co., one of the largest employers in the nation, is using its considerable clout to work directly with doctors and hospitals to improve care and reduce costs.

DETROIT’S MANAGER SEEKS A PENSION FREEZE

Detroit’s emergency manager wants to freeze the city’s pension system for public workers in light of mounting evidence that it was operated in an unsound manner for many years, contributing to the city’s downfall. Preliminary results of a three-month investigation identified questionable actions, including diversions of pooled money into individual accounts, and excessive real-estate investments that lost millions of dollars. Kevyn Orr has also demanded much more detailed information from the city’s pension trustees about how the funds were handled over the last 28 years.

GOOGLE ALTERS SEARCH TO HANDLE MORE COMPLEX QUERIES

Google on Thursday announced one of the biggest changes ever to its search engine, a rewriting of its algorithm to handle more complex queries that affects 90 percent of all searches. The change represents a new approach to search using Google and required the biggest changes to the company’s search algorithm since 2000. Now, the world’s most popular search engine will focus more on trying to understand the meanings of things and the relationships among them, as opposed to the company’s original strategy of matching keywords.

LONGTIME MADOFF ACCOUNTANT IS ARRESTED

Federal authorities, broadening their investigation of Bernard L. Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme nearly five years after the fraud was uncovered, unveiled criminal charges on Thursday against Paul J. Konigsberg, a longtime accountant in Madoff’s inner circle. The indictment accuses Konigsberg of assisting Madoff in doctoring the false account statements that were central to carrying out the fraud for decades. Prosecutors say Konigsberg performed services for more than 300 accounts invested with Bernard L. Madoff Securities, including those held by some of the firm’s earliest and wealthiest clients.

9 AUTO PARTS MAKERS PLEAD GUILTY TO FIXING PRICES

Nine Japanese automotive suppliers pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy and agreed to pay $740 million in criminal fines for fixing the price of auto parts sold in the United States and abroad. Thursday’s pleas were the latest in what the Justice Department said is its largest criminal antitrust investigation, involving more than a dozen separate conspiracies, 30 kinds of parts and sales to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, as well as the U.S. subsidiaries of Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota.

EUROPEAN UNION STARTS NEW GRAFT INQUIRY INTO TOBACCO REGULATOR

European Union investigators said Thursday they had started a new investigation into the former senior official responsible for tobacco regulation, the latest turn in a high-profile case of alleged corruption. The case focuses on John Dalli, a politician from Malta, who resigned last October from the European Commission as the official in charge of health and consumer protection after a preliminary inquiry into a Maltese businessman’s solicitation of a nearly $80 million kickback from the tobacco industry. Dalli has denied wrongdoing.