5 Things To Know Today

Arkansas Senate Passes Bill To Make Gun-Permit Records Private

The Republican-controlled Arkansas state Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would exempt from public disclosure the names and zip codes of gun owners, those with permits to carry concealed guns and permit applicants. The bill comes in response to the controversy late last year over a New York newspaper’s decision to publish the names and addresses of thousands of gun permit holders on its website after a shooting rampage at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults. Reuters reports the Arkansas bill, which passed the Senate 24-9, now moves to the state House of Representatives, which is also controlled by Republicans. Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has said he opposes the bill because it restricts the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

State Lawsuits Could Add To S&P Exposure 

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services could face a much higher legal bill than the $5 billion sought by the federal government as more and more states join the battle against the credit-ratings firm. A raft of lawsuits this week from attorneys general from several states, including California and Iowa, is compounding S&P’s legal woes over its role during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.  On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued S&P for allegedly causing some banks and credit unions to lose $5 billion after relying on the company’s ratings of mortgage-linked securities. However, the $5 billion claim, which S&P has dismissed as “meritless,” is only part of the legal battle being fought by the world’s largest credit-ratings firm by number of deals rated. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have followed in the Justice Department’s footsteps, filing separate lawsuits against S&P on Tuesday. The California attorney general alone is suing S&P for about $4 billion to recover funds for two of the country’s largest public pension funds, according to its lawsuit.

Lance Armstrong May Testify Under Oath About Doping

Facing a federal criminal investigation and a deadline that originally was tonight to tell all under oath to anti-doping authorities or lose his last chance at reducing his lifetime sporting ban, Lance Armstrong now may cooperate. His apparent 11th-hour about-face, according to the U.S. Anti Doping Agency (USADA), suggests he might testify under oath and give full details to USADA of how he cheated for so long. Neither Armstrong nor his attorney responded to emails seeking comment on the USADA announcement. The news of Armstrong’s possible and unexpected cooperation came a day after ABC News reported he was in the crosshairs of federal criminal investigators. According to a high-level source, “agents are actively investigating Armstrong for obstruction, witness tampering and intimidation” for allegedly threatening people who dared tell the truth about his cheating. Armstrong was previously under a separate federal investigation that reportedly looked at drug distribution, conspiracy and fraud allegations — but that case was dropped without explanation a year ago. Sources at the time said that agents had recommended an indictment and could not understand why the case was suddenly dropped.

Boy Scouts Delay Gay Membership Decision

The national organization that sets broad rules for the Boy Scouts of America says it needs more time to consider lifting an overall ban of gay scouts and scout leaders. In late January, the national group confirmed it was in serious talks about changing its controversial policy that excludes gays. But on Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America’s board said a decision wouldn’t be reached until May, at the earliest. “In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization,” the group said in a statement.  The decision that was under consideration would move any policy about including gays in the Scouts to a local level, and away from the national group. On a local level, many organizations are sponsored by churches, and some have objections to a proposed policy change by the national group. But on a national level, some sponsors have been critical of the ban.

JPMorgan Hid Reports Of Defective Loans Before Sales

According to documents filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, JPMorgan adjusted critical reviews on fraudulent home appraisals and overextended borrowers so home loans would look more appealing to investors.  The trove of internal e-mails and employee interviews, filed as part of a lawsuit by one of the investors in the securities, offers a fresh glimpse into Wall Street’s mortgage machine, which churned out billions of dollars of securities that later imploded. The documents reveal that JPMorgan, as well as two firms the bank acquired during the credit crisis, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, flouted quality controls and ignored problems, sometimes hiding them entirely, in a quest for profit, CNBC reports. The lawsuit, which was filed by Dexia, a Belgian-French bank, is being closely watched on Wall Street. After suffering significant losses, Dexia sued JPMorgan and its affiliates in 2012, claiming it had been duped into buying $1.6 billion of troubled mortgage-backed securities. In court filings, JPMorgan has strongly denied wrongdoing and is contesting two lawsuits currently in federal court.

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