BUSINESS NEWS AT A GLANCE
c.2013 New York Times News Service
LABOR PANEL FINDS ILLEGAL PUNISHMENTS AT WAL-MART
Wal-Mart illegally disciplined and fired employees over strikes and protests, according to findings released by the National Labor Relations Board in a statement Monday. In addition, the board’s general counsel said an inquiry conducted by the counsel’s office found evidence that a company spokesman, appearing on national television, had unlawfully threatened employees who were considering taking part in the protests. Wal-Mart denied the accusations, labeling as “procedural” the board counsel’s decision to authorize the filing of a complaint asserting violations of workers’ rights against the company. No complaint was filed Monday, as the board counsel’s office said it would give the parties involved a chance to reach a settlement.
REGULATORS SEE VALUE IN BITCOIN, AND INVESTORS HASTEN TO AGREE
The virtual currency bitcoin took a big step toward the mainstream Monday as federal authorities signaled their willingness to accept it as a legitimate payment alternative. A number of federal officials told a Senate hearing that such financial networks offered real benefits for the financial system even as they acknowledged that new forms of digital money had provided avenues for money laundering and illegal activity. Signs that the government would not stand in the way of bitcoin’s development, even as it has been cracking down on criminal networks that use the digital money, stoked a strong rally in the price of the crypto-currency.
BLOOMBERG NEWS LAYS OFF STAFF
Bloomberg News started laying off and reassigning employees Monday, seeking to emphasize areas that promote growth and focus more on core subjects like finance and government. Also Monday, Bloomberg said that a reporter based in Hong Kong who had worked on a controversial article about China, and who had been suspended since last week, had left the company. The reporter, Michael Forsythe, was the co-writer of an article that Bloomberg employees said had been quashed for political reasons, an assertion that Bloomberg News denied.
EUROPEANS FAULT AMERICAN SAFETY EFFORT IN BANGLADESH
Tensions broke into the open Monday involving two large groups of retailers — one overwhelmingly American, the other dominated by Europeans — that have formed to improve factory safety in Bangladesh. An official from the European group voiced concern that the U.S. retailers would piggyback at no cost on the efforts of the Europeans — which includes H&M, Carrefour and more than 100 other retailers — in financing safety upgrades at hundreds of factories. While the U.S.-dominated group, which has 26 members, including Wal-Mart Stores, Target and Gap, has stopped short of making a binding commitment, it has pledged to provide loans for the improvements.
DROPBOX IS SAID TO SEEK $250 MILLION IN FUNDING, DOUBLING ITS VALUATION
Online storage, once a backwater of the Silicon Valley technology scene, is suddenly a hot commodity. Dropbox, a 5-year-old San Francisco startup that allows users to access stored documents via the web, is seeking $250 million in funding in a round that would value it at more than $8 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter. If successful, such a fundraising round would more than double the company’s valuation. It last took on money in October 2011, when it raised $250 million at a valuation of about $4 billion.
SETTLEMENT ON JPMORGAN NEARLY READY
The Justice Department is set to announce a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s questionable mortgage practices in the runup to the financial crisis, people briefed on the deal said Monday, as prosecutors and the bank hashed out the final details. The announcement, expected as soon as Tuesday, will detail how the government will divide the record $13 billion payout, with $4 billion directed to struggling homeowners. Under the settlement, the people briefed on the deal said, JPMorgan will have to hire an independent monitor to oversee the distribution of the $4 billion in relief.
BROADER POOL OF MADOFF VICTIMS TO BENEFIT FROM FUND
The largest category of victims in the vast Ponzi scheme run by Bernard L. Madoff — those who lost cash through accounts with various middleman funds — will be first in line for compensation from a $2.35 billion fund collected by the Justice Department. These so-called indirect investors represent about 70 percent of all the claims filed after Madoff’s arrest in December 2008, and about 85 percent of the claims for out-of-pocket cash losses. But because they were not formal customers of Madoff’s brokerage firm, they are not eligible to recover anything from the federal bankruptcy court, where the Madoff trustee has so far collected $9 billion to apply toward eligible claims.
MARIA BARTIROMO TO LEAVE CNBC FOR FOX BUSINESS
Maria Bartiromo, one of the first women to become a star on television reporting on business news, is leaving her longtime home at CNBC for its rival, the Fox Business Network. CNBC confirmed the news Monday, thanking Bartiromo for her 20-year career at CNBC. Bartiromo is expected to start on the Fox Business Network next Monday, with a program dealing with the day’s developments on Wall Street. Her new deal is also expected to include exposure on the far more watched Fox News Channel.