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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened a new front in the widening investigation of insurance brokerage fees, launching a probe of Hartford Life, a unit of the Hartford Financial Services Group. The Hartford announced the investigation in a filing with the SEC released Friday. The probe, launched by the federal regulatory agency's Division of Enforcement, focuses on the Hartford-based company's use of "directed brokerage" in connection with its mutual funds, the insurer said. A "directed brokerage" is a practice in which mutual fund companies steer trades to brokers as a reward for selling their funds to retail clients.

Vanessa Castagna, recruited by J.C. Penney Co. to revive its sagging department stores five years ago, has left the company weeks after being passed over for the retailer's top job. Castagna was an executive at Wal-Mart Stores in 1999 when Penney hired her to lead its department store division.

Struggling automotive supplier Visteon Corp. told its 8,300 white-collar workers that it plans to offer buyouts to a "significant" number of employees by year's end. The company warned that it might lay off employees if too few of them accepted the buyouts, which will be based on seniority. Details of the "voluntary termination incentive" program will be disclosed Monday. Visteon operates a plant in Depew.

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