Panel tackles import safety

A presidential panel looking at the safety of U.S. imports suggested that the federal government focus on preventing unsafe goods from being shipped to the country, rather than trying to catch them at the border. The panel was set up in July, after several dangerous Chinese-made products were discovered. The U.S. imports more than $2 trillion in goods from 150 countries, and that will triple by 2015. (USA Today) The panel said federal agencies should communicate better and target risky products. But the report “is long on platitudes and short on specifics,” said Rep. Bart Stupak (D, Mich). (The Washington Post)

The Fed takes the debate public

Four Federal Reserve officials gave differing views of the economic situation yesterday, giving investors grist to debate the size of an expected interest rate cut next week. (MarketWatch) Three of the officials, including Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin, said housing and mortgage problems seriously risked hurting the rest of the economy. But Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher said the economy seems to be “weathering the storm” so far. (The New York Times, free registration required) Economist Chris Rupkey of Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi said the Fed “might be legitimately still debating,” but the market has already priced in a rate cut of 25 to 50 basis points. (Bloomberg)

Older investors pay for “free lunch”

State and federal regulators said that retired and older investors are being misled in purportedly unbiased “free lunch” investment seminars. The Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies investigated 110 free-lunch restaurant seminars and found that half of them featured misleading or exaggerated claims. (MarketWatch) Thirteen percent are being investigated for outright fraud. Seminar promoters made wild claims and steered retirees toward unsuitable investments. “Reputable investment professionals do not use these tactics,” said AARP policy director George Gaberlavage. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)