Wealthy households reduce their charitable donations

Wealthy U.S. households made smaller charitable donations last year, while the number of those giving remained the same, according to a Bank of America study.

Average giving by survey respondents decreased 35 percent to $54,016 last year compared with 2007, after adjusting for inflation, the biennial report found. About 98 percent of the 801 households in the survey donated to philanthropies in 2009, unchanged from two years earlier. Bank of America surveyed households with an income greater than $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding primary residences.

The percentage of income dedicated to giving fell to about 9 percent from 11 percent in 2007, Tuesday’s report said. High net-worth households account for about two-thirds of all individual giving in the U.S., according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which co-wrote the report.

General Obama fired named to JetBlue’s board

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by President Obama after making insulting comments about top administration officials, was named Tuesday to the JetBlue Airways Corp. board of directors.

JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson said McChrystal added “a new dimension to an already strong corps of advisors” at the airline.

CEO Dave Barger said McChrystal, 56, would offer “fresh perspectives.”

Obama fired McChrystal in July after comments that the general and his aides made about civilian leaders in a profile in Rolling Stone. The magazine dubbed McChrystal “The Runaway General” and quoted him and his aides mocking Vice President Joe Biden and other top administration officials.

Ex-exec charged in case of illegal drug promotion

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they have charged a former Glaxo-SmithKline executive with obstructing justice and making false statements in an effort to conceal illegal promotion of a company drug.

The Department of Justice alleges that in 2002, Lauren Stevens of Durham, N.C., signed several letters to the Food and Drug Administration denying that her company had promoted an antidepressant drug for unapproved uses. But Stevens knew that the company had paid numerous physicians to give talks touting unapproved uses of the drug, including weight loss, according to the indictment filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Maryland.

A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline PLC confirmed Stevens worked as a vice president in the company’s legal department but has since retired. The spokeswoman also confirmed that the drug — which was not named in the indictment — is Wellbutrin, a former blockbuster-selling product.


Chevron to buy Atlas Energy in deal worth $4.3 billion

Chevron Corp. said Tuesday it will buy Atlas Energy Inc. in a $4.3 billion deal that values the energy firm at a 37 percent premium, as the oil giant aims to beef up its market position in the U.S. shale-gas business by acquiring assets in the Marcellus region.

Chevron said stockholders of Pittsburgh-based Atlas Energy will receive $38.25 in cash for each of their shares, plus another $5.09 a share reflecting the value of Atlas Energy’s stake in Atlas Pipeline Holdings LP, for a total purchase price of $43.34 a share.

The deal includes $3.2 billion in cash and the assumption of some $1.1 billion in debt

Sara Lee selling bread line to Mexican baking company

Sara Lee Corp. is cutting the apron strings on its struggling North American bread-making business, selling it to Mexican baking giant Grupo Bimbo for $959 million.

The deal makes Grupo Bimbo the largest baker in the U.S. It also marks Sara Lee’s last major planned sale of a business line and completes a series of moves to focus on its more-profitable businesses such Hillshire Farms meat and Senseo coffee.

Sara Lee still will sell its signature frozen cheesecake and deli meats. Grupo Bimbo will have rights to the Sara Lee brand in fresh baked goods globally, excluding Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

It adds to Grupo Bimbo’s presence as one of the world’s largest baking companies. The company, based in Mexico City and traded on the Mexican Stock Exchange, sells brands such as Entenmann’s, Tia Rosa and Thomas’ baked goods.

General Electric plans to focus efforts on China

General Electric Co. plans to sink more than $2 billion into its efforts in China through 2012 as the conglomerate looks to tackle the country’s pressing energy and infrastructure needs.

GE said Tuesday that it will likely spend $500 million on research and development and new customer innovation centers in China, adding more than 1,000 new jobs. More than $1.5 billion is expected to be put toward new joint ventures with Chinese state-owned enterprises in high-technology sectors.

The news comes a day after GE named John Rice head of global operations. It also comes after GE emerged as a big winner from President Obama’s trip to India, as the company signed multiple deals in that market.


Proposed bank fee change would rely on bigger banks

Federal bank regulators on Tuesday proposed a new system of fees paid by U.S. banks that would shift more of the burden to bigger institutions to support the deposit insurance fund.

The board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. voted to propose rules to change the basis for assessing a bank’s insurance fees from the amount of its deposits to its assets. The change is required by the financial overhaul law enacted in July. Officials said it would more clearly reflect the risks to the insurance fund.

It would be the first time since 1935, during the Great Depression, that insurance premiums wouldn’t be based on deposits.

The regulators also proposed changes to the way the FDIC determines how much it charges big banks to insure their deposits.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said that while the amounts paid by individual banks would change, the proposal is designed “to keep the total amount collected from the industry very close to unchanged.”

Also, because banks’ assets provide a much larger base for insurance premiums than deposits, the FDIC said, it also is proposing to reduce the overall assessment rates.