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Business briefs

For Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By Star-Advertiser Staff and News Services

LAST UPDATED: 10:23 a.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012

Toyota to pay record $17.35 million fine for recall delay

For the fourth time, Toyota has agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the automaker delayed a safety recall. In a news release Tuesday morning, the safety agency said Toyota would pay $17.35 million, the maximum allowed by law.

Toyota did not admit any wrongdoing and said it was paying the fine to avoid a continued dispute with the safety agency. The automaker said the same thing when agreeing to pay the three previous fines, which totaled $48.8 million. The recall the safety agency said was delayed occurred last June and covered 154,036 sport utility vehicles — the 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h — to fix a problem that might allow the floor mat to become snagged on the gas pedal.

Scam uses threat of delinquent electric bill

Hawaiian Electric Co. warned electrical customers Tuesday about an apparent telephone scam involving callers who say the customer's electric bill is delinquent and subject to disconnection. The caller instructs customers to make payments at certain retail stores using specific debit card services and then provide the caller with a confirmation number that gives the scammer access to the customer's funds.

Hawaiian Electric asked customers "not to provide personal, confidential or financial information to any unidentified individual." People are also urged to be cautious when responding to phone calls and to report any suspicious activity to police.

Call Hawaiian Electric's customer service at 548-7311 with any questions.

HSBC case fell short of promise, critics say

NEW YORK » When the Justice Department announced its record $1.9 billion settlement with British bank HSBC last week, prosecutors called it a powerful blow to a dysfunctional institution accused of laundering money for Iran, Libya and Mexico's murderous drug cartels.

But to some former federal prosecutors, it was only the latest case of the government stopping short of bringing criminal money laundering charges against a big bank or its executives, at least in part on the rationale that such prosecutions could be devastating enough to cause such banks to fail.

They say it sounds a lot like the "too big to fail" thinking that kept big but sickly banks alive on the support of taxpayer-funded bailouts. They call the latest cases "too big to jail."

U.S. trade deficit narrows to $107.5 billion

WASHINGTON » The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed in the July-September quarter to the smallest level since late 2010, but the improvement might not last.

The deficit fell to $107.5 billion in the third quarter, down 9 percent from the second-quarter imbalance of $118.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the lowest trade gap since the final three months of 2010.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade. It tracks the sale of merchandise and services between nations, as well as investment flows. Economists watch the current account as a sign of how much the U.S. needs to borrow from foreigners.

Homebuilders' confidence hits 6-year high

LOS ANGELES » Confidence among U.S. homebuilders inched up this month, to the highest level in more than 6 1/2 years, as builders reported the best market for new homes since the housing boom.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Tuesday increased 2 points to 47 from a revised 45 in November. That's the highest reading since April 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.

Readings below 50 suggest negative sentiment about the housing market. It has been trending higher since October 2011, when it stood at 17.

Quarterly earnings for Oracle rise by 18%

SAN FRANCISCO » Oracle quarterly earnings rose 18 percent as companies splurged on more software and other technology toward the end of the year.

The results announced Tuesday are an improvement from Oracle's previous quarter, when the business software maker's revenue dipped slightly from a year earlier.

The latest quarter covered September through November. That makes Oracle the first technology bellwether to provide insights into corporate spending since the Nov. 6 re-election of President Barack Obama and negotiations to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff began to heat up in Washington.

Both Samsung and Apple score victories

SAN FRANCISCO » The world's top two smartphone makers have each scored significant victories on different continents that will enable Apple and Samsung to keep selling their products without legal interference this holiday season.

Late Monday a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., rejected Apple Inc.'s demands to block U.S. sales of three smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Corp.

The ruling came weeks after a jury found that Samsung infringed six Apple patents.

Hours later Samsung announced it was dropping its demands that several European countries prohibit sales of Apple smartphones that Samsung claims infringe its patents.

As a result, Apple phone sales will continue in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

On the Move

Pyramid Hotel Group has announced Viktor Schmidt as executive chef for Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keau­hou Bay on the Kona Coast of Hawaii island. He was previously executive chef at the Hilton Prince Kuhio in Hono­lulu.


Lyon Associates has announced Westley K.C. Chun as its vice president, engineering manager. He was previously a director and chief engineer for the City and County of Hono­lulu, Department of Facility Maintenance. Prior to working with the city, Chun was a client service and senior project manager for CH2M Hill as well as a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in northern Af­ghani­stan.


Integration Technologies has appointed Branden Baker as its new president. He was previously regional director of IT for Hyatt Resorts Hawaii, where he served as the primary lead for all IT at the resorts in Waikiki, Maui and Kauai.

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