Here’s a quick rundown from the world of business and economics this morning: the things you need to know, and some you’ll just want to know.
• Remember the Chance card in Monopoly: “Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200”? Well, for years, some pension plans have made errors in favor of retirees, overpaying them to the tune of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Now, they’re demanding the money back — with interest — and they’re slashing those retirees’ pension checks to recover it.
• The word on the street is that the Obama administration “will delay enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance mandate,” the Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch reports. But it’s only technically a delay. The enrollment deadline won’t change from March 31, 2014, but there will be a six-week or eight-week grace period to give insurers more time to process those applications. So if you sing up in time, but your coverage doesn’t start until late April or May, you won’t have to pay the penalty. An official announcement is expected later Thursday.
• Thanks to a combination of the fracking boom and advances in horizontal drilling, the United States has raced past Russia and Saudi Arabia to claim the title of world’s largest producer of hydrocarbon fuels — i.e.: oil and natural gas. The U.S. now produces 14 percent more of its own energy than it did in 2005. IBTimes unrolls its maps to explain what fueled the transformation.
• The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are weighing an unusual deferred prosecution agreement with JPMorgan (JPM) over allegations that the bank abetted Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, ignoring obviously suspicious signs and allowing fraudulent fund transfers. If the deal is made, the government would suspend criminal charges against the bank, but impose a fine and other concessions. Though they are a common tool for prosecutors, this would be the first time major Wall Street bank has ever been subjected to this type of agreement.
• In other banking news, a jury in civil court has found Bank of America liable for fraud over a slipshod mortgage origination program that cost Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac millions in loses when more than half the loans defaulted. The program, called the Hustle, sped through mortgage applications with only cursory attempts to check for fraud, lies or other issues in the paperwork. The Hustle, it should be noted, was used solely by Countrywide Financial, and a bank spokesman pointed out that it was suspended months before Bank of America (BAC) bought the troubled lender.
• And finally, sold! to the highest bidder: the Navy’s first supercarrier, the U.S.S. Forrestal. Price: 1 cent. The 1,067-foot long ship, which was decommissioned in 1993, goes to Texas-based All Star Metals, to be scrapped and recycled.