Genentech chairman given key post on Apple’s board

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has named board member Arthur Levinson as its non-executive chairman to fill the vacancy left when co-founder Steve Jobs died last month.

Levinson is chairman of Genentech Inc., a pharmaceuticals company he joined as a research scientist in 1980 and led as chief executive from 1995 to 2009. Levinson has been co-lead director on Apple Inc.’s board since 2005. He joined the board in 2000.

Robert Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., was tapped as a director.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said Levinson has made “enormous contributions” to the company since joining the board, saying “his insight and leadership are incredibly valuable.”

Agency that backs pensions reports $26 billion imbalance

The federal agency that insures pensions for one in seven Americans ran the largest deficit last year in its 37-year history.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. said Tuesday that it ran a $26 billion imbalance for the budget year that ended Sept. 30.

The agency has been battered by the weak economy, which has brought more bankruptcies and failed pension plans.

Pension obligations rose by $4.5 billion. The PBGC also earned less money in the stock market, which helps to fund pension plans. Returns were $3.6 billion, half what was earned the previous year.

Joshua Gotbaum, the agency director, says taxpayers may have to bail out the agency “eventually” if Congress doesn’t raise companies’ insurance premiums. He didn’t give a time frame.

The agency insures the pensions for nearly 44 million U.S. workers.

Walmart strategy pays off: Store revenues on upswing

Walmart got an early Christmas gift: Its strategy of offering the lowest prices and shoppers’ favorite goods is starting to bear fruit just in time for the holiday shopping season.

Walmart Stores Inc. on Tuesday reported its first quarterly gain in revenue at stores opened at least a year after nine consecutive quarters of declines at its branded U.S. business.

That the world’s largest retailer is turning a corner is a positive sign for the retail industry and the U.S. economy as a whole.

Its core low-income shoppers have been particularly hard-hit by joblessness and the other challenges of the nation’s weak economy.

“The plan is working,” Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart, said Tuesday. “Customers are responding favorably.”

Two court rulings may add to BP’s Gulf oil spill liability

BP has lost two big rulings in its fight to shield itself from potentially having to pay billions of dollars more in damages related to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, though the company was able to limit some of its future exposure.

A federal judge in New Orleans ruled Tuesday that BP PLC is not entitled to coverage for the spill under insurance policies totaling $750 million held by Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that BP was leasing at the time of last year’s Gulf of Mexico disaster.

“Because Transocean did not assume the oil pollution risks pertaining to the Deepwater Horizon Incident — BP did — Transocean was not required to name BP as an additional insured as to those risks,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier wrote in his ruling.

The judge ruled Monday that Alabama and Louisiana can pursue punitive damages against BP and other companies.