BofA reaches $11.6 billion settlement with Fannie Mae

(Reuters) – Bank of America Corp on Monday entered an $11.6 billion settlement to end Fannie Mae’s claims that the bank improperly sold it mortgages that later soured, and to resolve problems with foreclosures, the companies said.

Apple: 40 billion unique app downloads, $7 billion paid to developers

The mobile app world has come a long way since Steve Jobs extolled the virtues of Web apps in 2007. Apple announced early Monday that it had crossed the 40 billion mark for App Store downloads, with 20 billion of those downloads taking place in 2012 alone. In its announcement, Apple pointed out that the 40 billion number was derived from unique downloads that exclude re-downloads and updates—a common nit picked by critics.

Apple provided a number of other figures for context. The App Store now has more than 500 million active user accounts, and two billion app downloads took place during the month of December—undoubtedly after many new users unwrapped iPad minis and iPod touches. Apple says it has now paid out more than $7 billion to third-party developers for their apps, of which 775,000 are now available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch in 155 countries.

The iOS App Store was first launched in early 2008, almost a year after the iPhone made its debut. It took a year for the App Store to push its first billion downloads, but it was only five months later when it crossed the two billion download mark in September 2009. The market has exploded since then for Apple and for competing platforms alike; earlier this month, Flurry analytics said there were 1.76 billion app downloads on iOS and Android during a single week in 2012, with an estimated 17.4 million devices being activated on Christmas Day. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Apple’s download numbers are multiplying—now if only app browsing and searching were even more intuitive (particularly when it comes to keywords), we could all download some more.

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CES 2013: Griffin PowerDock 5 Charges and Organizes Up to 5 iOS Devices [iOS Blog]

Griffin yesterday announced (via Engadget) the forthcoming launch of its PowerDock 5, a $99.99 charging station that organizes up to five iOS devices in the space otherwise taken up by one iPad laid flat.

PowerDock 5 is the ultimate space-saving, countertop charging and storage solution for up to 5 iPads. Designed for convenience and efficiency, PowerDock 5 contains five charging bays large enough to accommodate an iPad encased in even the largest of cases, including Griffin’s own Survivor case. When not in use, PowerDock 5 keeps all the users’ device cables tucked away and organized, ready for use at any time.

The PowerDock 5 will launch later this spring.

Griffin is also introducing several other charging accessories at CES, including the PowerBlock wall charger ($29.99) and PowerJolt car charger ($24.99). Both devices include Griffin’s new “ChargeSensor” technology that automatically senses a device’s power profile and charges the device accordingly.

All mobile devices have specific charging profiles that dictate how much, and how quickly, they can charge. Most chargers are designed with a one-size-fits-all approach which typically does not support the requirements of each individual device. Griffin’s new ChargeSensor technology senses the requirements of any device plugged into it, providing optimal charging for all USB-chargeable devices.

Both the PowerBlock and PowerJolt will also be launching in the spring.

MetroPCS reports decline in subscribers as it awaits merger

(Reuters) – MetroPCS Communications could not attract enough new paying customers to offset the loss of millions of subscribers fleeing its mobile phone service.

10 Banks Agree to Pay $8.5B for Foreclosure Abuse

(WASHINGTON) — Ten major banks and mortgage companies agreed Monday to pay $8.5 billion to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners who should have been allowed to stay in their homes. The banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, will pay billions to homeowners to end a review process of foreclosure files that was required under a 2011 enforcement action. The review was ordered because banks mishandled people’s paperwork and skipped required steps in the foreclosure process. Under the new settlement, people who were wrongfully foreclosed on could receive from $1,000 up to $125,000. Failing to offer someone a loan modification would be considered a lighter offense; unfairly seizing and selling a person’s home would entitle that person to the biggest payment, according to guidelines released last summer by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Monday’s settlement was announced jointly by the OCC and the Federal reserve. The agreement covers up to 3.8 million people who were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010. Of those, about 400,000 may be entitled to payments, advocates estimate. About $3.3 billion would be direct payments to borrowers, regulators said. Another $5.2 billion would pay for other assistance including loan modifications. The companies involved in the settlement also include: Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services, Sovereign, SunTrust, U.S. Bank and Aurora. The 2011 action also included GMAC Mortgage, HSBC Finance Corp. and EMC Mortgage Corp. The deal “represents a significant change in direction” from the original, 2011 agreements, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said in a statement. Banks and consumer advocates had complained that the loan-by-loan reviews required under the 2011 order were time consuming and costly without reaching many homeowners. Banks were paying large sums to consultants who were reviewing the files. Some questioned the independence of those consultants, who often ruled against homeowners. Curry said the new deal meets the original objectives “by ensuring that consumers are the ones who will benefit, and that they will benefit more quickly and in a more

Forget Self-Esteem. You Need Compassion.

Self-esteem has long been considered the bedrock of individual success. But high self-esteem may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. Thinking you’re great (which of course you are) comes with pressure to live up to your own self-image. You may live in quiet terror of making mistakes, and even worse, feel devastated when you do. When faced with a challenge, you don’t need to believe in your own brilliance as much as you need to confront your flaws head on. Develop self-compassion, a willingness to look at your own shortcomings with kindness and understanding. With a realistic sense of your abilities and actions, you can figure out what needs to be done differently next time. Being perfect doesn’t lead to success, but being able to avoid the same mistake twice does. Adapted from “To Succeed, Forget Self-Esteem” by Heidi Grant Halvorson. Visit Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip homepage Purchase the HBR Management Tips book

Carl Gibson: Cut Corporate Welfare, Not the Safety Net

If your boat is sinking, do you blame the bird sitting on the railing or on the gallons of water spewing from a gaping hole in the floor?

In Congress’ latest “fiscal cliff” deal that supposedly had to be passed in order to avoid economic calamity, we spent $30 billion on extending unemployment benefits for a year, and $205 billion in corporate tax breaks, subsidies and excessive tax loopholes. Most of these Christmas gifts for corporate America are benefiting major, multi-billion dollar corporations that haven’t paid a dime of U.S. income taxes in years, like GE and Boeing. In other words, taxpayers spent six times more on giving free money to companies making record profits than we did to making sure the people who were laid off by these corporations can still feed their families. $205 billion in corporate goodies was okay with Speaker Boehner, but $60 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief apparently wasn’t.

One of the most egregious giveaways included in the New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff deal negotiated between Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell is an extension of a loophole that allows corporations to book U.S. profits in overseas, tax-free bank accounts. Today, U.S. companies have up to $2 trillion offshored thanks to loopholes like the one in this deal, at the same time Congress is talking about raising the Medicare eligibility age to avoid a fiscal meltdown. Instead of making us give up the pensions and health care that we paid for, why not hold rich companies to the same standards as everyone else when it comes to paying taxes?

The dominant topic in the news media for the next few weeks will be raising the debt ceiling. But what likely won’t be talked about is the fact that our debt can be easily taken care of by lowering unemployment. The whole reason the economy is in the tank is because of less demand due to more people spending less money. When more people are working, more people are spending money at local businesses, who will then hire more workers to meet demand, meaning less government money is spent on sending unemployment checks, meaning less debt. It’s basic math.

During FDR’s administration, the economy was recovering until the neoliberal economists in his White House convinced him that cutting spending and lowering the deficit was a bigger priority than creating jobs, which then led to the recession of 1937-1938. The economic recovery was at its peak when FDR cut the unemployment rate in half largely through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration from 1935-1943, which provided jobs aimed at revitalizing infrastructure, parks and communities. Adjusted for inflation, the WPA would cost roughly $1.5 trillion today. That seems like a large figure, but we could fund that by simply levying a small sales tax on all Wall Street trading of stocks, bonds, options and futures — just like ordinary Americans pay when purchasing goods and services. Such a financial transaction tax would generate $150 billion a year, or $1.5 trillion in ten years. Not only would such a program lower the unemployment rate, but the resulting economic boom would largely benefit the 99 percent of Americans that the latest jobless “recovery” of the last few years left behind.

You can count on the corporate-owned media to make the debate into whether or not we have to give up on Social Security or Medicare, instead of talking about the egregious billions that we’re throwing at America’s richest corporations, or the high volume of tax-free trading done that really only benefits the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. That’s why we have to do everything we can to change the conversation between now and the end of January. The best way to do this is with creative, direct action.

Since the 113th Congress is being sworn in this month, and President Obama’s inauguration is set for the 21st, we should organize nationwide actions dubbed as the “Crowning of America’s Corporate Welfare Kings.” Over the next several weeks, activists can don royal garb, roll out the red carpet and get members of the House and on record saying that they will support ending corporate welfare and implementing a financial transaction tax rather than ask us to give up Social Security and Medicare benefits. And if they don’t agree to it, we’ll know that they side with Wall Street over their own constituents, and make a pledge to vote them out of office in the next election cycle. An action could even be as simple as pointing a cell phone camera at a member of Congress and asking them to take a position on the record.

We don’t have to make the same mistake of letting the politicians and the media set the tone for debate like we did in the last debt ceiling debacle. This time, we’ll come loud and strong and let them know we’re paying attention. And once we set the tone, we win.