Goldman Sachs fine sets new record for SEC

Goldman Sachs &Co. has agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges that accused the Wall Street giant of misleading buyers of mortgage-related investments. The settlement came on the same day that the Senate passed the stiffest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression. The deal calls for Goldman to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission fines of $300 million. The rest of the money will go to compensate those who lost money on their investments. The fine was the largest against a financial company in SEC history. The settlement amounts to less than 5 percent of Goldman’s 2009 net income of $12.2 billion after payment of dividends to preferred shareholders — or a little more than two weeks of net income.

Google earnings miss expectations

Google Inc.’s second-quarter earnings missed analysts’ target as higher expenses and the fallout from the European debt crisis dragged down the Internet search leader. Still, Google earned $1.84 billion, or $5.71 per share, in the April-June period, up 24 percent from $1.48 billion, or $4.66 per share, a year ago. The earnings growth wasn’t quite as robust as analysts had hoped, a factor that seemed to amplify investor concerns already weighing on Google’s stock price. Google shares fell $20.49, or more than 4 percent, in extended trading Thursday after the release of results.

Foreclosure pace could set record

More than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year, as lenders work their way through a huge backlog of borrowers who have fallen behind on their loans. Nearly 528,000 homes were taken over by lenders in the first six months of the year. If foreclosures continue at that rate, the yearly number would eclipse the more than 900,000 homes repossessed in 2009, RealtyTrac Inc., a foreclosure listing service, said Thursday. “That would be unprecedented,” said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac. Lenders have historically taken over about 100,000 homes a year, he said.

Penthouse bids to buy Playboy

The owner of Penthouse magazine made a formal bid for the Playboy empire Thursday despite founder Hugh Hefner’s insistence that he does not intend to sell the company. Penthouse corporate parent FriendFinder Networks Inc. said it will offer $210 million for Playboy Enterprises Inc. The bid comes just a few days after Hefner proposed to buy out the stake he doesn’t already own in a deal that would value the company at $185 million. The catch: Hefner already owns nearly 70 percent of Playboy’s voting shares. “If he doesn’t want to sell, there’s no deal,” RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank said. The company’s namesake magazine has struggled with competition from the Web, losing readers and a drop in advertisers.

From Herald news services