12/31/2011 (12:52 pm)

Boeing outbids Lockheed as missile shield developer

Filed under: Stock market, uk |

Boeing Co. beat Lockheed Martin Corp. to win a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract that lets it keep its role as the primary developer of the U.S. shield against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Missile Defense Agency announced the contract in a statement Friday. The agency oversees the Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense, which includes interceptors in Alaska and California, ground- and sea-based radar, satellites and a command and control system.

The Boeing team, which included Northrop Grumman Corp. of Falls Church, Va., delivered “a cost-effective approach to program management and execution,” Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing’s defense unit, said in a statement.

Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, was seeking to dislodge Boeing from the contract it has held since 1998. Boeing has said the program totaled as much as $18 billion during the 10 years ending 2011.

Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, said in August 2010, when the agency was preparing to call for bids, that it needed to contain costs.

“But before we get to cost, bidders have got to demonstrate they’ve the capacity and capability, and also an ability to do upgrades,” he said high risk personal loans.

Lockheed’s team included Raytheon, which makes the non-exploding warhead that is designed to seek and destroy enemy missiles. Raytheon was on both teams.

The news for Boeing officials came just one day after they and St. Louis leaders lauded a $30 billion deal for the company to provide Saudi Arabia with 84 new F-15 fighters. The deal will prolong production of the F-15, which is largely built at Boeing’s plant in north St. Louis County, by about five years, through 2020.

The Regional Chamber and Growth Association on Friday estimated that the F-15 work supports 1,000 manufacturing jobs at Boeing and contributes to nearly 4,000 more through local suppliers and spinoff activity.

The Boeing jobs generate $1.1 billion a year in wages and other economic activity, and the indirect impact is another roughly $1.8 billion, according to RCGA economist Ruth Sergenian.

Tim Logan of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


12/29/2011 (9:28 pm)

Business Activity, Pending Home Sales in U.S. Exceed Forecasts: Economy - Bloomberg

Filed under: Stock market, marketing |

Companies cranked out more goods in December and pending sales of existing homes jumped in November for a second month, pointing to a pickup in U.S. economic growth as 2011 comes to a close.

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Inc. said today its business barometer (CHPMINDX) was little changed at 62.5 from a seven- month high of 62.6 in November. The index of signed contracts (USPHTMOM) to buy previously owned houses rose 7.3 percent after climbing 10.4 percent the prior month, the National Association of Realtors said. Both figures surpassed the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

12/28/2011 (8:32 pm)

Expect higher payroll taxes in 2012, taxpayers group says

Filed under: Uncategorized, money |


12/28/2011 (10:04 am)

Two hospitals, insurer begin negotiations

Filed under: business, technology |

Eleventh-hour contract talks have started between two Saint Louis area hospitals and a leading insurer who had been locked in an impasse, according to officials on both sides.

Representatives of St. Louis University Hospital and Des Peres Hospital as well as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri and HealthLink Inc., confirmed Tuesday that limited talks occurred last week.

So far, negotiators have failed to reach an agreement that may avert an end-of-the-year contract deadline. And the impasse may result in thousands of patients fleeing to other medical providers.

Both sides offered widely different accounts Tuesday of their recent talks, which were apparently held via phone calls, conference calls and emails, but not in person. They accused each other of undermining or walking away from the negotiations. And they could not agree on which offer or counter-offer is currently on or off the table - or even if talks will likely move forward. 

A spokeswoman for Tenet Healthcare Corp. of Dallas, which owns the two hospitals, said that WellPoint Inc. of Indianapolis, which owns the two health insurance plans, had delivered an ultimatum in the form of a new, only slightly better contract proposal that the hospitals rejected last Friday.

“They’ve said, ‘Take it or leave it,’” said Laura Keller, a spokeswoman for SLU Hospital. “They offered an increase that is so low it doesn’t keep up with the increase in cost of taking care of patients.”

But a spokesman for Anthem insisted that the negotiations were still ongoing - and that the insurer is in fact examining an earlier offer from the hospitals.

“We are incredulous,” said Deb Wiethop, an Anthem spokeswoman. “We’re not aware that the negotiations are over. … We received a proposal from Tenet on Dec. 19. We’re going to look at it and get back to Tenet in January.”

Wiethop acknowledged that the hospitals had rejected an offer last Friday from the insurer. “It’s not a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal,” she said.

The two hospitals announced in early December that - because of a breakdown in talks - they would cancel their managed care contracts with Anthem as well as HealthLink as of Jan. 1. This termination does not apply to SLUCare physicians.

Without the contracts, Anthem and HealthLink customers would pay significantly higher rates next year for out-of-network care at both of the hospitals. And if that occurs, it would no doubt drive away many patients who would ordinarily visit Des Peres Hospital or SLU Hospital to other competing St. Louis-area hospitals that accept WellPoint’s health plans.

Under the existing contracts, the two hospitals’ agreements with HealthLink patients will end on Dec. 31. However, patients covered by the Anthem contract will continue to receive care at ‘in-network’ rates until Feb. 22.


12/28/2011 (1:16 am)

Obama to Seek $1.2 Trillion Increase in U.S. Debt Limit Dec. 30 - Bloomberg

Filed under: bank, economics |

The Obama administration will ask Congress to increase federal borrowing authority by $1.2 trillion as the nation approaches the debt limit set by law, according to a Treasury Department official.

The White House will send the request to Congress on Dec. 30, the day the debt is projected to rise to within $100 billion of the $15.194 trillion limit, the Treasury official told reporters today on condition of anonymity.

Congress will be notified under the terms of a deal to raise the limit worked out on Aug. 2 after months of wrangling between the administration and Republican lawmakers. Three days later, Standard & Poor

12/26/2011 (11:43 am)

US stocks edge higher after N. Korean leader death

Filed under: Stock market, legal |


12/19/2011 (9:44 am)

Seniors with travel insurance billed $107,000

Filed under: online, real estate |

If you take a trip outside Canada, it

12/17/2011 (7:24 pm)

Experts: Corzine avoided missteps in his testimony

Filed under: term, uk |

Jon Corzine’s three days of testimony on MF Global’s collapse offered little to satisfy lawmakers or clients who lost millions when the securities firm failed. Yet legal experts say Corzine helped himself by choosing words with care and articulating an explanation that’s hard to disprove.

Corzine, a Democratic former senator and governor of New Jersey, told three congressional panels that he never intended to “misuse” client money or order anyone else to do so. He said no reasonable person who worked with him could have concluded otherwise.

He also rebuffed an assertion that he knew about customer money that might have been transferred to a European affiliate just before MF Global collapsed. It could be hard to build a persuasive case that he did know, experts say.

“It’s remarkable how he really has narrowly walked that line _ to be able to communicate effectively while preserving his defenses,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former enforcement attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission, one of the regulators investigating MF Global. “He could have hurt himself by testifying. That has not happened.”

About $1.2 billion was found to be missing from client accounts when MF Global failed on Oct. 31, becoming the eighth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Much of the missing money belonged to farmers, ranchers and other business owners who used MF Global to reduce their risks from the fluctuating prices of commodities such as corn and wheat.

Brokers such as MF Global generally are required to keep customer money in separate accounts to protect it in case the company fails. MF Global apparently failed to do so. Congress, regulators and criminal investigators are looking into the case.

Those investigations, still in their early stages, will likely yield clearer answers about how client money came to be misused. For now, it remains a mystery.

“I think it was unrealistic for Congress to expect substantive answers to these questions, because no one is that naive,” Frenkel said. “That’s why these investigations are ongoing _ to figure out what happened to the money and who is responsible.”

Some of the lawmakers who questioned Corzine appeared to agree.

“If you did anything wrong, the criminal investigators will find that; I won’t,” said Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano, the top Democrat on the panel Corzine faced Thursday.

Corzine was careful to testify that he never “intended” for client money to be misused. That’s because intent is a key requirement of criminal prosecution, Frenkel said.

“If someone intended to violate (rules requiring the separation of client accounts), then the conduct is criminal,” he said. “If it was unintentional, we are only in the zone of civil enforcement, if that.”

If Corzine or others at MF Global are found guilty of civil violations, they might have to pay financial penalties.

One regulator raised the possibility Thursday that crimes were committed. As a primary dealer, MF Global made trades with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As the firm’s finances worsened in its final weeks, the New York Fed required MF Global to put aside more money to cover the Fed’s losses in case the firm failed.

New York Fed General Counsel Thomas Baxter testified that MF Global gave “express representation in writing” that the money it put up was not from client accounts.

“If that representation turns out to be false, a federal criminal offense has been committed,” Baxter said.

Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and a former regulator, said the hearings resolved none of the questions surrounding MF Global’s failure.

“Regulators’ enforcement divisions and the Justice Department will work together because if the money is missing, somebody did something wrong,” Greenberger said.

And given the damage done by MF Global’s failure, there’s little Corzine can do to revive his public image, said Michael Robinson, a former SEC official who now works in crisis communications.

“Unless Jon Corzine can look under the mattress in his house and find $1.2 billion to give back to customers, his reputation is beyond repair,” Robinson said.

He noted that Corzine spent a career branding himself as an effective manager. Corzine rose from the trading floor of Goldman Sachs to become the investment bank’s co-chairman. He then ran successfully for the U.S. senate and one term as governor of New Jersey. Corzine joined MF Global shortly after losing his bid for a second term.

Now, to protect himself legally, Corzine must avoid being precise about what occurred at the firm he led until last month. That’s why many legal experts had expected Corzine to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He never did.

Much of Corzine’s testimony Thursday involved an allegation that he knew about customer money that may have been transferred to a European affiliate just before MF Global collapsed.

“I did not instruct anyone to lend customer funds to MF Global or any of its affiliates,” Corzine told a House panel. He also said he didn’t know about “the use of customer funds on any loan or transfer.”

It was his first public appearance since Terrence Duffy, CME Group Inc.’s executive chairman, alleged Tuesday that he might have known about the $175 million transfer. MF Global traded on exchanges managed by CME Group.

According to Duffy, an MF Global employee told a CME auditor that “Mr. Corzine was aware” of the earlier transfer. Duffy said he referred the matter to the Justice Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The transaction Duffy described wasn’t necessarily illegal. Brokers such as MF Global are allowed to borrow from customer accounts temporarily in some circumstances _ to reduce their own risk, for example.

But such cases are a narrow exception. A firm couldn’t use customer money to pay trading partners if its speculative trades lost value. Even in cases where borrowing clients’ money was legal, the firm would have to replace it with a safe, cash-like investment such as a U.S. Treasury security.

Corzine also was questioned about whether he used his relationships with regulators to gain advantages for MF Global.

Corzine has been a major fundraiser for Democrats. He was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. In that role, he worked with two other Goldman executives at the time: Gary Gensler, now chairman of the CFTC, and William Dudley, now president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Gensler has recused himself from the investigation because of his long history with Corzine. Along with other Wall Street executives, Corzine lobbied Gensler and his staff last summer against a possible CFTC rule that would limited how their firms can invest clients’ money. Afterward, the CFTC delayed adopting the rule until earlier this month.

Early this year, the Federal Reserve allowed MF Global to join an elite group of 22 dealers that help the government sell Treasury securities. The Fed did not assess MF Global to see if it was taking on too much risk. Instead, Fed officials relied on oversight by the CFTC, the SEC and others.

The role of primary dealer conferred on MF Global a seal of financial strength. It gave the firm a competitive edge and likely lowered the interest it was charged to borrow, experts said.

Asked whether he received privileged treatment from the regulators because of his connections, Corzine said, “We didn’t ask for special treatment” from the Fed.

And he said, “I do not believe we were given special treatment” from the CFTC regarding the rule to limit firms’ investments of customer funds.