Early this week, Best Buy’s stock price took a hit after a third quarter diminished by online retailers and Apple-loving consumers. Now TCF Bank is off 8 percent after the Federal Reserve suggested new rules to cut down on debit card fees charged to stores by … well, by TCF Bank for one. MPR’s Bill Caitlin applies a local spin to the original Bloomberg story: “Wayzata-based TCF Financial, parent company of TCF Bank, has sued the Fed to block the new rules. TCF says it is the 12th largest issuer of Visa debit cards, and received debit card fee revenue from retailers ‘of just over $100 million from a swipe fee that amounts to a little less than $0.50 per average transaction of about $35.’ Terms outlined by the Fed in documents posted on its website today include a plan with caps no higher than 12 cents per transaction. The fees currently average about 1 percent.”
The Wall Street Journal story says: “Stocks of debit-card processors and banks that issue cards got hit. MasterCard Inc. plunged $25.73, or 10%, to $223.49. Visa Inc. tumbled $9.75, or 13%, to $67.19. The card companies don’t actually collect swipe fees themselves, but the new proposed rules would loosen their control over the process and allow merchants to choose rival payment networks. Some analysts say banks will try to pass on some of their lost revenue by reducing what they pay the credit-card networks. MasterCard general counsel Noah Hanft said, ‘This type of price control is misguided and anti-competitive, and in the end is harmful to consumers.’ ” Allowing merchants a choice is “anti-competitive”?
Oh good god. On the heels of the Salvation Army bell ringer pulling bills out of his kettle with tweezers, we have the Habitat for Humanity manager allegedly ripping that group off for … $60,000. Anthony Lonetree’s Strib story says: “The former manager of a Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity retail store has been charged with swindling the operation out of tens of thousands of dollars through a scheme involving cash for fraudulent returns, authorities say. According to charges filed this week in Ramsey County District Court, Zachary L. Spader, 30, of St. Paul, made the fraudulent returns and pocketed the cash until a co-worker raised concerns to Habitat officials in May.” I know we should save our anger for Wall Street crooks, but this stuff is pathetic.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s latest target is TaxMasters, the crowd claiming to have special magic in reducing tax debts. Because, I guess, they know a guy who knows a guy … An AP story says: “The lawsuit filed today alleges that the Houston-based company collected up-front fees of as much as $8,000 while falsely claiming it could reduce tax debt by as much as 90 percent and stop the IRS from garnishing wages or making other collection efforts. Swanson says most people don’t qualify for IRS programs to reduce tax debt but the IRS will work directly with consumers on payment plans.”
Crying is in vogue, I guess. Speaker-to-be John Boehner couldn’t stop blubbering on “60 Minutes” last week. Now one of our local Ponzi schemers showed his sensitive side … as he was being sentenced to eight years in the slammer. Rochelle Olson reports for the Strib: “Gerard Cellette Jr., 46, pleaded guilty earlier this year to 36 counts of securities fraud in a scheme linked to phony contracts for his printing business. But in an unusual arrangement, he willingly went into custody a year ago to begin his sentence.” And: “In a teary, halting statement, Cellette told Larson, ‘I just want to say how sorry I am. … I just want to ask for a chance to redeem myself.’ “
“Not guilty.” That’s the plea of Michael Swanson, the St. Louis Park 17-year-old charged with killing two women in Iowa last month. The AP story reports: “The Des Moines Register says Swanson’s attorney, Charles Kenville, declined to comment on why Swanson pleaded not guilty on Thursday. His arraignment had been set for Monday.”
Jeff Larson, known in some circles for renting out his D.C. basement to then Sen. Norm Coleman, is going after Al Franken, again, says Rachel Stassen-Berger in the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” blog. The issue? Actor Eddie Izzard. He gave Franken money. But is a … foreign national? “Larson, the chair of Senate Accountability Watch, said the group has only filed one other complaint — that, too, involved Franken. Larson has long been an ally to Republican Norm Coleman, whom Franken defeated in 2008. Although foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to U.S. campaign committees, immigrants who have green cards are allowed to contribute, according to the FEC web site, and Izzard has said he has that permanent residence status. Izzard said in a 2007 newspaper piece that he has a green card and two months ago even tweeted, ‘I’m a Green Card guy paying taxes. Can’t vote. Can donate. Can talk sense” and “Yes — Green card and pay taxes’ last month in answer to a Twitter question about whether he had ‘U.S. citizenship/residency, etc.’ ” Just a question here, what’s worse? Being an “illegal” or being a “green-card-carrying liberal donor”?
The Groveland Tap is showing some bona fide holiday spirit by coming to the aid of The Nook, the St. Paul neighborhood burger joint thrown out of business by a fire earlier this week. KARE’s Dave Berggren reports: “The Groveland Tap will host “Save the Nook Saturday” this weekend with proceeds from drinks and wings going to help employees now without a place to work. The two establishments would be considered competitors, but not under circumstances like this. ‘We want to generate some hope,, says [Tap owner Stephanie] Shimp. ‘We want to help someone out during the holidays and it’s just the right thing to do.’ The news of other restaurants rallying around the Nook humbles co-owner Mike Runyon. ‘You’re so grateful,’ says Runyon. ‘Words can’t speak for how everyone has been helping us out.’ “
The Twins signed Japanese batting champion Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Terms were three years for $10 million. ESPN reports: “Nishioka had 206 hits last season, becoming the Pacific League’s first player to reach 200 since Ichiro Suzuki, now a star with the Seattle Mariners. Also Thursday, the Twins traded backup catcher Jose Morales to Colorado for minor-league left-hander Paul Bargas. The 22-year-old Bargas was 5-4 with a 3.59 ERA and five saves in 67 2-3 innings for Class A Asheville last season. He was drafted by the Rockies in the 13th round in 2009.” Uh-oh. “Nishioka” and “Ichiro” in the same sentence. Good luck, kid.