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American Express 27 Million Dollar Fine
American Express 27 Million Dollar Fine

American Express Co. (AXP) credit card company and three of its units agreed to pay a fine of $27.5 million plus refund roughly $85 million to nearly 250,000 customers for alleged illegal card practices, according to a settlement announced Monday by bank regulators and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Several American Express companies violated consumer protection laws and those laws were violated at all stages of the game, from the moment a consumer shopped for a card to the moment the consumer got a phone call about long overdue debt,” said Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau, in a statement. AXP was ordered to pay $14.1 million by the consumer bureau, $3.9 million by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $9 million by the Federal Reserve and $500,000 by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The CFPB said that an investigation launched by the FDIC and a Utah regulator found that AXP allegedly deceived consumers who signed up for their “Blue Sky” credit card program. According to regulators, consumers were sometimes led to believe they would receive $300 in addition to bonus points if they signed up for the program however, they never did get the money. Additionally, AXP allegedly failed to report consumer disputes to consumer reporting agencies and purportedly unlawfully discriminated against new account applicants on the basis of their age. The CFPB also said AXP units allegedly - wrongly told consumers that if they paid off old credit card debt the payment would be reported to credit bureaus and it could improve their credit scores however, according to a statement from the regulators, AXP did not report the payments. The CFPB said in many cases, the debts were so old that reporting them would not have affected consumer credit scores. The AXP subsidiaries agreed to refund “harmed” customers and reportedly, Blue Sky customers who were promised $300, will receive that amount. Other consumers who were allegedly misled into paying old debt because they thought American Express was relaying that information to credit reporting bureaus will be reimbursed.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday that he is not expecting a recession but that the central bank's is concerned that growth will continue at a pace that is insufficient to put people back to work. "If the economy is growing at trend or below trend that is just enough to provide jobs for new people coming into the labor force. It does nothing to eat into the backlog of the unemployed. Our unemployment rate of 8.1% is currently about the same it was in January. We are not really making progress," Bernanke told the Economic Club of Indiana in Indianapolis in response to a question after he attempted to answer some of the fierce criticism and public unease facing the Fed's third round of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing or QE3. Bernanke tried to de-mystify the purchases, saying the basic monetary policy strategy “is the same as it has always been.” “The difference is that, with short-term interest rates nearly at zero, we have shifted to tools aimed at reducing longer-term interest rates more directly,” he said. Bernanke stressed the Fed has not abandoned its mission to keep inflation under control. “We expect inflation to remain low for the foreseeable future,” he said, and added, “The Federal Reserve’s price stability record is excellent and we are fully committed to maintaining it.” Bernanke stressed that the Fed’s pledge to keep rates low until mid-2015 was not a forecast of a weak economy over the next three years. Instead he said, the message is “as long as price stability is preserved, we will take care not to raise rates prematurely.” Bernanke denied the Fed is “monetizing” the federal debt by printing money for the government to use and stressed that the Fed is only buying Treasurys temporarily. The central bank has created reserves which have not been translated into more money in circulation. Bernanke addressed the low interest rates that are hurting savers and reiterated that the financial crisis has dropped interest rates all around the world. “Only a strong economy can create higher asset values and sustainably good returns for savers,” Bernanke said.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Monday announced its outlook on Argentina's ratings remain negative, citing rising restrictions on international trade and a growing level of public-sector intervention into various sectors of the economy among the reasons for its view. In a statement, S&P Ratings said "these actions could exacerbate the existing weaknesses in Argentina's economy, including high inflation (which continues to appreciate Argentina's real exchange rate) and increasingly rigid government expenditures," among other issues. "The government implemented these changes unilaterally and with little negotiation with the other participants, underscoring the weakening system of checks and balances in Argentina, in our view," said S&P credit analyst Sebastian Briozzo. S&P Ratings affirmed its 'B' long and short-term sovereign credit ratings on Argentina.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that outlays for U.S. construction projects fell for the second month in August - down 0.6%. The decline in July construction spending was revised up to a 0.4% decline from the previous estimate of a 0.9% drop. In August, spending on private construction fell 0.5% while spending on public projects fell 0.9%.

The Institute for Supply Management announced Monday that the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded during September for the first time in four months. The ISM manufacturing gauge rose to 51.5 in September from 49.6 in August, striking the highest reading since May. Readings over 50 indicate that more manufacturers are expanding instead of contracting. Until the September reading, the ISM had been below 50 for three straight months. The ISM's new-orders gauge climbed higher to 52.3 from 47.1, while the producers index rose to 49.5 from 47.2.


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Oct 1, 2012


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