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Quick takes: Countrywide, Intel and SEC cooperation deals

The story: SEC makes concession in Countrywide case, Mozilo says

"Countrywide Financial Corp.'s former chief executive officer, Angelo Mozilo, said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission now admits the home lender wasn't hiding from investors that it was originating risky mortgages. ...

'The undisputed evidence establishes, and the SEC now admits, that stockholders understood Countrywide's underwriting guidelines expanded over time,' lawyers for Mozilo and the two other defendants said in the filing."

Who: Edvard Pettersson of Bloomberg

The takeaway: If it's true the SEC has conceded that the public knew the extent of Countrywide's losses, that could be a fatal blow to the case. But that's far from clear. The SEC might acknowledge the public was aware that Countrywide was facing challenges, but still maintain that the company misled shareholders about the extent of the worsening financial picture as a result of exotic loan products. We won't know until the agency files a respond Aug. 16.

The story: Intel agrees to settle anticompetitive charges

"The Federal Trade Commission is banning tech giant Intel from a slew of practices deemed unfair and deceptive as part of an antitrust settlement over charges that the firm exploited its dominance in the chip market to elbow out competitors.

The FTC doesn't have the authority to fine the company -- unless it violates the terms of the settlement -- but the agency outlined a deal Wednesday checking Intel's business practices. Officials said the deal would immediately benefit consumers buying computers by increasing competition in the chip-making business."

Who: Jia Lynn Yang of The Washington Post

The takeaway: Intel's trouble might not be over with this settlement. The Department of Justice is still looking for a big victory as antitrust chief Christine Varney, a former FTC member, overhauls the division. Read her first speech in her post last year for a sense of what she's thinking.

The story: It pays to cooperate with the SEC

"A new study finds that it may pay -- at least in dollar terms -- to help the SEC by sharing results of internal investigations and keeping the public informed when something has gone awry. Rebecca Files, an accounting professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, claims that while cooperating with the SEC increases a company's likelihood of getting sanctioned, being both cooperative and forthcoming in information shared with investors can result in lower penalties."

Who: Sarah Johnson of CFO.Com

The takeaway: This is good news and bad. It's good news because it makes clear that there's an incentive for a company accused of wrongdoing not to fight the regulator in an investigation. It's bad because it means that companies might be able to escape tough sanctions by agreeing to cooperate, which means that they might not ever face real consequences for misconduct.

By Zach Goldfarb  |  August 4, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
Categories:  SEC  
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Next: Congress to hold hearing on SEC and FOIA

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