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SEC alters policy on admitting guilt

WASHINGTON — The Securities and Exchange Commission is making a major change in how it settles some securities fraud cases, telling companies they no longer will be allowed to say they “neither admit nor deny” the commission’s civil charges when, at the same time, they admit to or have been convicted of criminal violations.

SEC enforcement director Robert Khuzami said the change was adopted last week after a review that began last spring.

A December bid-rigging case against Wachovia highlighted the disconnect under the old policy.Wachovia – a unit of Wells Fargo & Co. since 2008 – agreed to pay $148.2 million to settle federal and state charges that it rigged dozens of bidding competitions to win bond business from cities and counties. The bank neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations. But in its settlement with the Justice Department, Wachovia admitted manipulating the bidding process.

In other news

GASOLINE PRICES hit an average of $3.35 a gallon Friday, the highest ever for this time of year. Motorists are buying less gas than they did a year ago, but pump prices are rising with higher oil prices.

BEST BUY CO. says weaker-than-expected traffic until the week before Christmas and low demand in Canada and Europe put a crimp in its December sales. The largest U.S. electronics retailer said Friday that December revenue in stores open at least two years fell 1.2 percent.

– From wire reports


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