Barclays, four ex-traders fined over energy scheme

Barclays and four former traders were ordered to pay a combined $487.9 million in fines and penalties by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for engaging in what the agency said was a scheme to manipulate energy markets in the Western U.S. from 2006 to 2008.

The agency directed the company and traders to pay $453 million in civil penalties to the U.S. Treasury within 30 days, according to the order issued Tuesday. The London-based bank also must surrender $34.9 million in profits, to be distributed to programs that help low-income homeowners pay energy bills in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington, the FERC said.

Beige Book says economy still growing at modest pace

The U.S. economy is continuing to grow at a “modest to moderate” pace, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday, in an assessment that is likely to keep it continuing its loose monetary policy.

The so-called Beige Book found expanding manufacturing, rising consumer spending, stable to growing services activity, and moderate to strong residential real estate and construction.

The Beige Book is a collection of anecdotes on the economy used to help the Federal Reserve prepare for its next interest rate setting meeting. The Fed has pledged to keep interest rates at near-zero levels at least until unemployment drops below 6.5 percent, as the central bank debates whether to scale back its $85 billion per month bond purchase plan.

Judge sets hearing on bid by BP to suspend payments

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday on BP’s bid to temporarily block settlement payments to Gulf Coast businesses and residents who claim they lost money after the company’s 2010 oil spill.

On Tuesday, BP asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to suspend the payments while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates alleged misconduct by a lawyer who helped administer the multibillion-dollar settlement program.

Last month, court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau announced that his office is investigating allegations that a former staff attorney, Lionel H. Sutton III, received a portion of settlement proceeds for claims he had referred to a law firm before he started working on the settlement program.

Sales of Monster High dolls hit Barbie in the pocketbook

Vampy teen Monster High dolls are taking a bite out of Barbie sales.

Mattel said Wednesday its second-quarter net income fell 24 percent, hurt by a continued slide in Barbie sales and a $14 million write-down on the toy maker’s Polly Pocket line. Its shares dropped nearly 7 percent Wednesday.

It was the fourth straight quarter of sales declines for Barbie, one of Mattel’s biggest and most iconic brands. Mattel executives said their Monster High and other girls doll lines were likely taking away some sales from the 54-year-old fashion doll.

– From news service reports