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Misleading investors to cost JP Morgan $153.6 million

WASHINGTON (AP) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to pay $153.6 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was collapsing.

J.P. Morgan Securities, a division of the powerful Wall Street bank, failed to tell investors that a hedge fund helped select the investment portfolio and then bet that the portfolio would fail, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. Among the investors who lost money on the deal were autoworkers for General Motors, a Lutheran financial organization in Minneapolis and a retirement services company in Topeka, Kan.

The settlement announced Tuesday is one of the most significant legal actions targeting Wall Street's role in the 2008 financial crisis. It comes a year after Goldman Sachs & Co. paid $550 million to settle similar charges.

Still, the settlement amounts to less than 1 percent of the bank's 2010 net income of $17.4 billion; it equals less than what JPMorgan earns in one week.

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Rules would aid union votes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Labor regulators are proposing sweeping new rules that would dramatically speed up the time frame for union elections, a move that could make it easier for struggling unions to organize new members and cut the time businesses have to mount anti-union campaigns.

The National Labor Relations Board announced the new rules Tuesday, saying the current rules build in unnecessary delays and encourage wasteful litigation.

The proposal is expected to irritate Republicans and business groups who have complained about the board's pro-labor actions.

Most labor elections currently take place within 45-60 days after a union gathers enough signatures to file a petition, a time many companies use to discourage workers from unionizing. The new plan could cut that time by days or even weeks -- depending on the case -- by simplifying procedures, deferring litigation and setting shorter deadlines for hearings and filings.

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M&T offers credit scores

NEW YORK (AP) -- M&T Bank is offering its online banking customers their credit scores for $2.99 a month. Here's how it works:

The bank says customers with any type of checking or savings account can sign up for the service, as long as they have set up online banking. The FICO score is updated once a month and is provided by Equifax, one of the three national credit bureaus.

If there's a change in the score, customers are told the two main factors that contributed to it.

There's no obligation to stay enrolled in M&T's credit score service. A customer could sign up to get his or her score for just one month.

The $2.99 price tag should sound like a bargain to anyone who recently paid for his or her FICO score. The three credit bureaus sell score packages and monitoring services for much more. Consumers can also get their scores for a one-time fee of $19.95 from www.myfico.com.

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West Valley to lay off 40

West Valley Environmental Services over the next week will lay off 40 workers to complete a previously announced plan to reduce its work force.

The company, the federal Energy Department's prime contractor at the West Valley Demonstration Project, disclosed in March it would cut up to 65 of its more than 300 jobs as stimulus funds tied to specific projects come to an end. It already achieved some of those job reductions through attrition and voluntary separation packages taken by some employees. The work force will be trimmed to about 266 full-time employees.

But additional reductions could come when the Energy Department chooses a new prime contractor at West Valley Demonstration Project. Selection is expected soon, with the transition to the new contractor planned for this summer.

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H&M clothier to open July 7

Trendy clothing retailer H&M will open July 7 in Walden Galleria.

Sweden-based H&M sells affordable yet hip clothing for men, women and children. It will take the place of the former Bed, Bath and Beyond store on the lower level across from J.Crew.

It will be the first H&M store in Western New York. Besides several stores in Ontario, the closest H&M stores are in Victor and Rochester.

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