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Duluth Diocese Insurer Agrees to Pay $15 Million

A major insurance settlement will bring another $15 million to victims of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Duluth, N.D., the Duluth News Tribune. The settlement with Continental Insurance Company will more than double the pool of funds made available for the 125 claimants in the diocese's bankruptcy, increasing the total to $24.2 million. The agreement, filed on Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, makes Continental the fourth of five insurers to come to terms with the diocese, which filed suit in June 2016 to force coverage of claims. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel is expected to approve the agreement at a June 28 hearing, along with the $250,000 settlement reached with Church Mutual Insurance Company last week.

Bill to Privatize Puerto Rico Power Utility Doesn’t Factor in Its Bankruptcy

The bill passed to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) does not address the utility’s fate under the bankruptcy process and would create a public energy measure separate from the utility’s proposed integrated resource plan (IRP) that is due in October, Caribbean Business News. As a matter of fact, Siemens, the company hired to create the IRP, which is PREPA’s blueprint for the use of resources for the coming years, began hearings and meetings to receive feedback on the document, which some stakeholders described as a trampled and confusing process because they were not provided any background or information on which to base their opinions. Ramón Luis Nieves, San Juan’s former Popular Democratic Party senator, who is now a lawyer in private practice, said the privatization bill does not even discuss the bankrupt utility’s $9 billion debt. If enacted, the legislation would create a working group that must produce a document within 180 days to define the island’s energy public policy and its regulatory framework. While the government will be able to ascertain the market in which to sell PREPA, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) must certify that the sale’s contracts comply with the documents created by the working group.

Magnolia Petroleum Sees Potential Sale of North Dakota Assets to Avoid Bankruptcy

Magnolia Petroleum plc, a U.S.-based oil and gas E&P company, has announced that it has signed a non-binding agreement with a third party for the sale of all its wells in which it has varying interests in North Dakota, being approximately 31 wells, for a total consideration of $1.5 million, according to a press release. In addition, the company announces the sale of its 100 percent interest in the Roger Swartz #1 well in Oklahoma for approximately $30,000. The proposed disposal is in line with the company’s debt reduction program and, subject to shareholder consent and completion, will substantially clear a large portion of the outstanding $2-million balance of the reserve-based lending facility of its wholly owned operating subsidiary, Magnolia Petroleum, Inc. As detailed in the company’s announcement of June 7, 2018, the Company embarked on a debt reduction program in response to the bank’s decision not to extend the lending facility and its requirement that the full outstanding amount be repaid or refinanced by July 9, 2018.

Fitbit's Six Current, Ex-Staff Indicted in Jawbone Trade Secrets Case

​Six former and current employees of Fitbit Inc. were ​charged in a federal indictment for possessing trade secrets stolen from rival Jawbone, according to a statement yesterday from the Department of Justice, Reuters reported. The indictment filed in San Jose, Calif., alleges each defendant was aware that the trade secrets were stolen and that they were being possessed without authorization. The individuals had all worked for the now-defunct San Francisco-based Jawbone, owned by AliphCom Inc., for at least a year between May 2011 and April 2015, before being employed by Fitbit, it said. Each of them has been charged with one or more counts of possession of trade secrets and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on July 9, the DoJ said. Jawbone sued Fitbit in May 2015, just weeks before the wearable device maker’s IPO, alleging Fitbit engaged in a clandestine effort to steal talent, trade secrets and intellectual property. However, the companies reached a global settlement agreement resolving all outstanding litigation in December 2017.

Commentary: Home-Equity Loans May Now Be a Lot More Expensive

For years, Americans could borrow against their homes to pay for a new car, college tuition, or even a trip to the Caribbean, and then deduct the interest on those loans. However, last year’s tax overhaul prohibited interest deductions for home-equity loans and home-equity lines of credit, known as Helocs, unless the funds are used for certain types of home improvements, according to a Wall Street Journal commentary. The change took effect for 2018 and will affect many people. As of March, there were 4.2 million home-equity loans with balances totaling $127 billion, and 9.3 million Helocs with loan balances totaling $419 billion, according to Equifax Inc. The prior tax law allowed homeowners to deduct interest on up to $100,000 of home-equity debt used for any purpose.

Analysis: The Bank Branch Is Dying—Just Not at These Banks

Banks across the U.S. have closed nearly 9,000 branches this decade. Yet many smaller banks are in building mode, a sign that broader economic growth is taking hold and community lenders are recovering after lean post-crisis years, the Wall Street Journal reported. More than 1,200 banks expanded their number of branches from 2012 to last year, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Many of those are tiny—their assets averaging $1.65 billion, or less than 0.1 percent the size of the nation’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Still, the number of small banks adding to branch counts is meaningful, exceeding institutions closing locations over the same time frame by more than 200, according to the FDIC data.