The news at a glance
AIG: No criminal charges over derivatives; Legal affairs: Supreme Court deals blow to NFL; Software: IBM buys business software shop; Airlines: BA strike snarls European travel; Advertising: Google to buy mobile-ad provider
AIG: No criminal charges over derivativesEnding a two-year investigation, the Justice Department has decided not to bring criminal charges against the head of AIG’s mortgage-derivatives business, said Tom Krisher in the Associated Press. Joseph Cassano, formerly the head of AIG Financial Products, was under investigation for allegedly misstating the value of credit default swaps linked to mortgage-backed securities. Credit default swaps are a type of insurance against debt defaults; in selling the swaps, AIG was in effect promising to pay its customers if the securities linked to the swaps went bad. AIG’s inability to honor its promises precipitated the firm’s near-collapse and a $182 billion federal bailout.
The Justice Department’s decision to abandon the case “underscores the difficulty facing prosecutors who want to hold individuals criminally accountable for the financial crisis,” said Amir Efrati in The Wall Street Journal. To gain a criminal conviction, prosecutors need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that executives had intended to break the law. Still, the Securities and Exchange Commission could yet slap AIG with a civil suit. Plaintiffs in civil suits need only show that a “preponderance of evidence” supports their case.
Legal affairs: Supreme Court deals blow to NFLThe U.S. Supreme Court this week dashed the hopes of the National Football League for baseball-style immunity from antitrust laws, ruling unanimously against the league in a dispute over NFL-licensed apparel, said Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the NFL’s apparel contracts amounted to “concerted action” by separate entities and therefore were covered by the Sherman Antitrust Act. The case was brought by hatmaker American Needle after the NFL awarded all its teams’ apparel contracts to Reebok. The decision could alter the way the NFL negotiates everything from merchandising deals to labor contracts.
Software: IBM buys business software shopIBM this week agreed to buy business-to-business software developer Sterling Commerce from AT&T for $1.4 billion, said John Paczkowski in DigitalDaily.com. Sterling, with about 18,000 clients worldwide, makes automated-transaction software for financial-services firms, retailers, manufacturers, and communications companies. The sale amounts to an admission by AT&T that it overpaid for Sterling when it shelled out $3.9 billion for the firm in 2000, at the height of the dot-com craze. AT&T “was happy to unload it, even at a loss.”
Airlines: BA strike snarls European travelThousands of British Airways flight attendants launched a five-day strike this week to protest the airline’s plans to impose a wage freeze and job cuts, said Julia Werdigier in The New York Times. The airline canceled about half its flights from Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, for the duration of the strike. Unite, the union that represents most BA flight attendants, staged two strikes in March, costing the airline $62 million, and plans two more walkouts over the next several weeks.
Advertising: Google to buy mobile-ad providerAfter a six-month review, the Federal Trade Commission has green-lighted Google’s $750 million acquisition of AdMob, which places advertising on mobile phones, said Chloe Albanesius in PCMag.com. Mobile phone advertising is expected to double this year, to $433 million. The approval surprised many analysts, because the FTC had earlier expressed concerns that Google could monopolize mobile phone ad sales. But the agency said those concerns were allayed by Apple’s recent launch of iAd to compete with AdMob.