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Bureau warns lenders against discrimination

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration's consumer-finance watchdog says it is cracking down on lenders that discriminate against minorities and women.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a letter to lenders Wednesday that it will strictly enforce laws against discriminatory lending practices.

The agency said it will go after subtle forms of discrimination that result from lenders' policies. It said some policies appear to be fair but have discriminatory effects.

The bureau also is offering consumers information about their rights and possible warning signs of discrimination by lenders.

The bureau said it will scrutinize mortgages, student loans, credit cards and auto loans. The agency was set up after the financial crisis to protect consumers from loans and other services that include high fees and other traps.


West Herr opens new site

West Herr Automotive Group on Tuesday officially opened its new Mercedes-Benz of Rochester dealership at 4296 West Henrietta Road in Henrietta.

West Herr in 2010 bought Mercedes-Benz of Rochester and BMW of Rochester from Holtz House of Vehicles. It leased the former Mercedes-Benz facility just down the road on West Henrietta Road until the new location was completed in February. The BMW dealership is at 4250 West Henrietta Road.

The new Mercedes-Benz dealership has added seven jobs, bringing the total to 52. Earlier this year, West Herr was awarded the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cargo van franchise, which also operates out of the Rochester facility.

As part of the opening, West Herr donated $10,000 to the Bivona Child Advocacy Center of Rochester.


Internet ads bag bucks

NEW YORK (AP) -- Revenue from Internet advertising in the U.S. hit a record $31 billion last year, according to a study released Wednesday.

That's up 22 percent from $26 billion in 2010, the previous record.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, an industry group, conducted the quarterly study with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

About half of the ad revenue, $14.8 billion, came from the search category. Those are the text-based ads that are sold by Google and others and that are targeted to search terms and other keywords.

The fastest-growing category was mobile, with revenue of $1.6 billion in 2011, more than double the $600 million a year earlier.


Incubator fund pumped up

Empire State Development is pumping $4 million into a Buffalo investment fund that will invest in local small businesses involved in life sciences and broadband Internet.

SCP Buffalo Incubator will operate under the umbrella of Seed Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund that is part of a larger venture capital firm, Softbank Capital.

The incubator will look for investments in seed stage businesses with roots in the Buffalo Niagara region that have strong growth potential, the state economic development agency said.

The investment in the Buffalo incubator fund is part of a $25 million investment announced Tuesday that was spread between six investment funds statewide.

The funds come from a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department's State Small Business Credit Initiative.


Unions and Hostess clash

Ailing Twinkies maker Hostess Brands Inc. is going toe-to-toe with its workers' unions in a courtroom clash that the company said may lead to its liquidation.

Hostess is trying to persuade a federal bankruptcy judge in New York to allow it to reject existing collective-bargaining agreements with the Teamsters and bakers' unions.

The maker of Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, three years after emerging from its last bankruptcy. Its "unsustainable and uncompetitive cost structure" -- which includes expenses related to labor, infrastructure and corporate overhead -- was largely to blame, the company said.

The court proceeding on the collective-bargaining issue began Tuesday and is expected to last two days.