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SEC Unveils Its Stance on Social Media; Cyprus Update; The Great Housing Debates

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SEC Unveils Social Media Rules: The Securities and Exchange Commission has decided that companies can use Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to disclose key information about operations. But there's one catch: investors must be told what handles, Facebook pages, etc. these updates will be posted to. According to the Post, this disclosure rule essentially mimics the guidance issued by the SEC regarding company websites in 2008. Regarding the new social media rule, one former SEC enforcement official tells Dealbook, the "they did a really good job of splitting the baby." But this Journal blog hints that the SEC's clarity on social media may not be a game-changer. "While companies may now feel freer to use Facebook or Twitter to disseminate key information, in practice many are likely to play it safe and won't rely solely on social media sites as a distribution channel for such news," the author writes.

Barclays' Pay Culture: A new report, commissioned by Barclays former chairman following the bank's involvement in the Libor-rigging scandal, finds it was "a culture of high pay and short-term incentives" that "brought the bank into disrepute," the Journal reports. According to the FT, the report found compensation at Barclays for an elite "'group of 70' was consistently and significantly above the median compared to peer banks." Said Barclays current chairman Sir David Walker in a statement quoted by both news outlets, "the report makes for uncomfortable reading in parts."

Cyprus Update: The International Monetary Fund will give Cyprus €1 billion in aid to supplement the €9 billion bailout the country received from the Eurozone. In return, the Journal reports, "Cyprus will have to push cuts and savings worth 4.5% of annual economic output by 2018, on top of cuts worth 5% of GDP through to 2015." The IMF's announcement comes a day after the resignation of Cypriot finance minister Michalis Sarris, the FT reports.

The Great Housing Debates: Fannie Mae reported a record $7.6 billion in fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday, bringing its 2012 earnings to $17.2 billion. The government-sponsored enterprise, which still owes taxpayers $117 billion, also said it expects to remain profitable in the future. Per Dealbook, Fannie's profits "will intensify the debate" over just how involved in the housing market the government should remain. Said Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in a statement, "I'm glad Fannie Mae is showing an increase in income, but we have to remember that this is largely because we have crowded out private capital and made Fannie or Freddie the only viable execution option for new loans." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Obama administration officials are working to get banks to lend to consumers with weaker credit in order to bolster the economic recovery. This move is sure to reignite the debate over whether government policies perpetuated the housing crisis in the first place. Writes one Post reader in the comments section: "It's too bad we don't have any real life experience to determine how this may work out." It's also sure to contribute to ongoing discussions of "too big to jail." According to the article, housing officials "are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default."

Wall Street Journal

Wells Fargo's "mortgage gamble" is paying off. Now the bank and other mortgage lenders will have to figure out what to do once "the refinancing boom wanes."

Bank of America has agreed to a $165 million settlement with the National Credit Union Administration in order to settle allegations that "the bank played down the risks of poor-quality mortgages packaged into securities."

Glenn Stevens has been reappointed to lead the Reserve Bank of Australia for an additional three years. The move is meant to "help give certainty to financial markets."

Financial Times

Royal Bank of Scotland has tapped Nathan Bostock, its head of risk and restructuring, to succeed Bruce van Saun as its finance chief.

New York Times

As part of Dealbook's ongoing coverage of women on Wall Street, Irene Dorner, the chief executive of HSBC USA, tells the site that she and the other few women in Wall Street's C-suites should have been better role models for the generation that followed. This sentiment echoes a stance Dorner shared when she gave the keynote address at American Banker's 2012 Most Powerful Woman in Banking gala.

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The Seven Largest Sanctions-Related Fines Against Banks

The Justice Department announced a criminal plea and settlement with BNP Paribas on Monday, in which the French bank will pay nearly $8.9 billion to settle charges it willfully continued to do business with countries and entities on the U.S. sanctions list. It was the largest sanctions fine in the Justice Department's history more than four times larger than #2 on the list. The following are the largest penalties paid by banks for sanctions violations.

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