Justice Department Sues American Express, MasterCard and Visa

Photo Courtesy -- PRNewsFoto | American Express(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that it filed a civil antitrust lawsuit challenging rules that American Express, MasterCard and Visa currently have in place that prevent merchants from offering rewards, discounts and information about card costs.  As a result, consumers ultimately end up paying more for purchases. 

 “With today’s lawsuit we are sending a clear message: We will not tolerate anticompetitive practices,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “We want to put more money in consumers’ pockets, and by eliminating credit card companies’ anticompetitive rules, we will accomplish that.”

According to the statement from the Justice Department, a proposed settlement with Visa and MasterCard has also been filed, that, if approved by the court, would require for the two companies to allow merchants to offer consumer discounts, incentives and encourage the use of less costly methods of payment.

The proposed settlement states that merchants that only accept Visa and MasterCard will be allowed to take advantage of the relief immediately.  However, ongoing litigation against American Express will seek to allow merchants that accept its credit card to engage in the same kind of relief named in the proposed settlement with MasterCard and Visa.

Once American Express files its response to the government's lawsuit, the court will determine a pretrial schedule for the case against the company.        


Twitter CEO Ev Williams Steps Down

Photo Courtesy -- Twitter (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Twitter CEO Ev Williams announced Monday in a post on the site's blog that he would be stepping down from his role to focus on the growing company's product strategy.  Dick Costolo, who served as Twitter COO for the past year, will take Williams' place as CEO. 

After recounting some of Twitter's accomplishments and challenges, Williams said that he had come to his realization during the recent Twitter relaunch. 

Williams wrote, "I am most satisfied while pushing product direction. Building things is my passion, and I’ve never been more excited or optimistic about what we have to build.  This is why I have decided to ask our COO, Dick Costolo, to become Twitter’s CEO. Starting today, I’ll be completely focused on product strategy."

Williams, who began his new Twitter role Monday, stated that he expects a smooth transition, given Costolo's previous experience in a CEO role.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Google TV: The Future of Interactive Television?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- First, Google revolutionized Web searches. Now it's trying to reinvent the way you watch TV.

Inside a top-secret lab in Silicon Valley, programmers are putting the finishing touches on a new product called Google TV. The company says this new device will take all the best features of watching television, surfing the Web, playing online games, and connecting with friends on Twitter and Facebook, and combine them into a single experience.

With Google TV, users can channel-surf between traditional TV shows, websites, online video, social media, and eventually programs recorded on a DVR, all with just a few clicks of the remote. (The DVR function has not yet been worked out with all major cable and satellite providers.)

Google is betting that it will transform TV the same way smartphones transformed the telephone.

The device is expected to hit store shelves later this month. It will be marketed as a stand-alone unit that can be attached to an existing TV, and also as a built-in feature in Sony TVs and Blu-Ray DVD players.

Google TV already has competition from Apple, which markets a system called Apple TV. Apple's device -- a sleek little black box -- provides access to TV shows, movie downloads, online music, photos and more. Amazon and Netflix are also looking at new ways to provide immediate content for viewers to turn watching TV into a more interactive experience.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Verizon Wireless Admits Billing Errors, Will Refund Customers

Image Courtesy - Verizon Wireless(BASKING RIDGE, N.J.) -- Verizon Wireless is beginning one of the largest-ever customer refunds by any telecommunications company in a move that could cost Verizon $90 million after complaints about web and data use overcharges.

About 15 million customers will receive refunds or credits of $2 to $6, the company said in a statement, adding that some customers will be issued larger amounts.

The FCC said that it is investigating the case.

"We're gratified to see Verizon agree to finally repay its customers,” said Michele Ellison, FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief. “But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner.”

Ellison said that additional penalties against Verizon are still possible.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Indiana Car Dealership Offers $79 Vehicles

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) -- More than 600 bargain-seekers flocked to an Indiana used car dealership this weekend that promised deals as low as $79 on some vehicles.

The crowd began to gather Friday night for the Saturday event, which the company said would offer reductions on more than 400 cars, trucks and SUVs.

“It’s like giving back for all the support we’ve seen from the community,” said Bo Nahrwold, a manager at Fort Wayne Toyota-Lexus-Kia. “It’s our way of giving back, and it’s only right.”

The dealership blamed the economy for its surplus of inventory, saying many have taken advantage of low interest rates and upgraded to newer cars.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


U.S. Government Wants 60+ Mph Fuel Economy

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Government issued a “Notice of Intent” on Friday indicating that it will propose much tougher fuel economy standards. 

The proposal would call for 3 to 6% increased fuel economy every year, topping out in 2025 at 62 miles an hour.

New fuel standards went into effect earlier this year that are expected to increase average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. 

This initiative is keeping with President Obama's vision to reduce greenhouse gases and increase fuel efficiency.  It is also a key part of the administration's energy and climate goals, which call for the increased domestic production and use of existing, advanced and emerging technologies to strengthen the auto industry and enhance job creation in the the United States.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Bank Of America To Halt Foreclosures In 23 States

Photo Courtesy -- PRNewsFoto | Bank of America(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of homeowners who have been affected by the foreclosure process are trying to determine if Bank of America gave them a fair shot.

A bank official has acknowledged during legal proceedings that she signed up to 8,000 foreclosure documents a month and typically didn't read them.  Consequently, the bank is reviewing and resubmitting corrected documents.

In the meantime, Bank of America will halt foreclosures in 23 States.

On Friday, regulators shut down a small bank in Florida, lifting up to 128 foreclosures -- the number of U.S. bank failures this year as loan defaults have mounted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


United Continental Holdings Announces Close of Merger

Photo Courtesy -- United Continental Holdings, Inc.(CHICAGO) -- United Continental Holdings, Inc., formerly UAL Corporation announced Friday that both Continental Airlines and United Air Lines, Inc. are now wholly owned subsidiaries of United Continental Holdings, Inc. 

Common stock of United Continental Holdings began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday under the symbol UAL.

Jeff Smisek, who will serve as president and chief executive officer said, "We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future."

United expects the merger to deliver $1 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies by 2013, including between $800 million and $900 million of incremental annual revenue.

Although "Continental and United, operating under United Continental Holdings, Inc., will immediately begin the work to fully integrate the two companies," customers shouldn't expect to see a more seamless union until early to mid 2011.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


SEC: Computerized Trading Caused 'Flash Crash'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday that a major sell-off by a mutual fund caused the so-called "flash crash" back on May 6 that caused the Dow to drop nearly 1,000 points in minutes.

Identified by The Wall Street Journal as Kansas-based Waddell & Reed, the company apparently decided to sell $4.1 billion worth of futures contracts, electing to computerize the order.

Within 20 minutes, computers pushed the volume of shares onto the market, effectively flooding it and triggering other automated sell orders, which snowballed into the massive sell-off. Manually entering the trade could have taken five hours.

Regulators have recalibrated market circuit breakers and the report says the SEC will determine whether that is enough.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Government Rescue Ends Sunday

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government's $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the financial system will come to an end Sunday, bringing to a close one of the most controversial programs in economic history.

But the political ramifications of the Wall Street bailout live on and seem sure to haunt lawmakers come November.

Supporters say the Troubled Asset Relief Program rescued the country from another Great Depression. Critics counter that it simply handed money to the same Wall Street banks that plunged the country into recession in the first place and, moreover, it failed to help Main Street Americans.

The political back-and-forth has been fierce. Republicans, led by President Bush, first pushed the program through Congress in the fall of 2008. But with the 2010 mid-term elections fast approaching, Republicans are trying to capitalize on the program's unpopularity by tying Democrats, including President Obama, to the bailout.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been put on the defensive, standing up for a program that was the brainchild of a Republican administration. While the president has repeatedly noted that he understands why the program is so deeply unpopular, he also continues to defend its effectiveness.

Obama said in Rolling Stone magazine last week the program will ultimately cost taxpayers far less than had initially been feared.

"The truth of the matter is that TARP will end up costing probably less than $100 billion, when all is said and done," he said. "Which I promise you, two years ago, you could have asked any economist and any financial expert out there, and they would have said, 'We'll take that deal.'"

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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