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Citigroup Shareholders Dismiss Executive Pay Plan

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Citigroup Inc. investors rejected the bank's $15 million pay package Tuesday for its chief executive, Vikram Pandit, a first among the six largest U.S. lenders.

The shareholder vote, which comes amid a rising national debate over income equality, suggests that anger over pay for chief executives has spread from Occupy Wall Street to wealthy institutional investors, the New York Times said.

About 45 percent of the votes favored the plan, which Citigroup had argued would help attract and retain top talent, the San Francisco Chronicle said.

"C.E.O.'s deserve good pay but there's good pay and there's obscene pay," said Brian Wenzinger, a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a Philadelphia money management company that voted against the pay package.

Though the vote isn't binding, outgoing Chairman Richard Parsons said changes will be made.

"That's a serious matter," Parsons said during his final Citigroup shareholders' meeting as chairman. The board will seek a more quantitative, formula-based method for setting top executives' pay, he said.
"We're going to have some more conversation with our shareholders, make sure we understand their concerns and then fix it," he said.

Shareholders rarely vote against compensation plans, the Times said. The votes are part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that mandates that public companies include "say on pay" votes for shareholders to express opinions about compensation.

The rejection is a rarity for companies in the U.S., which temporary imposed pay curbs on financial firms as part of the industry's $700 billion U.S. bailout in 2008, the Chronicle said. Only 41 firms among the Russell 3000 Index failed last year to win a majority for executive pay plans, according to Ted Allen, a spokesman for ISS Proxy Advisory Services. Just three have been rejected this year, none of them at banks, Allen said.

Mega Millions winners come forward

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Two public school teachers and a school administrator who call themselves "The Three Amigos" are sharing the spoils of last month's record Mega Millions jackpot, Maryland Lottery officials said Tuesday.

The Maryland winners claimed their proceeds Monday and chose to remain anonymous, said. The lottery agency shared some details in a news conference, however, including the fact that each of the three friends works multiple jobs to make ends meet.

The three friends - a woman in her 20s, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 40s - work in Maryland's public education system, said.

"If it can't be you, these people are precisely the people you would want to see win," Maryland Lottery director Stephen Martino said.

Lottery officials said the three winners each contributed $20 to purchase 60 tickets at three different locations.

The night of the drawing, the woman who purchased the tickets laid them out on her floor, watching the winning numbers come in, said. After collecting herself from a state of disbelief at realizing she'd won, she called her two friends right away.

According to the Maryland Lottery, the winners chose the cash option of $158 million. After taxes, they will take home just under $35 million each.

The winning Maryland ticket is one of three nationally that split the $656 million jackpot, the biggest in Mega Millions history, said.

The trio plan to invest their winnings, but they also plan to fulfill a few dreams. The man told lottery officials that he planned to help his children with college expenses, pay off his house and buy his sister a house. One woman planned to go backpacking through Europe with her brother and the other woman plans to tour Italy's wine country.

A small experimental plane crashed into a Florida supermarket Monday, injuring five people and sending shoppers running, authorities said.

Several people in the Northgate Shopping Center in DeLand dialed 911 to report the crash, Time said. Callers said the plane showed signs of trouble before it hit the roof of the supermarket of the Florida-based Publix chain about 40 miles north of Orlando.

Three customers were hurt, and two people aboard the plane were hospitalized in Orlando, CBS News said. All injuries came from burns, said Luke Schiada, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The amphibious Sea Wind 3000 plane encountered problems shortly after taking off from the DeLand Municipal Airport, less than two miles from the shopping center, CBS News said.

WKMG Orlando reported the people in the plane as Thomas Rhoades and Kim Presbrey, according to police. The three customers who were in the store and injured have been identified as Lisa Cordova, April Morris and Brendan Beitler. Both Cordova and Morris were later released from the hospital while Beitler is in stable condition, CBS News said.

Broadcast station WFTV said on its website that Publix employees saw the pilot and a passenger climb from the plane with their clothing on fire. The report added that a manager in the supermarket meat department was able to put out the fire in their clothes and rush them outside for help, Time said.

The plane did not have a black box but investigators may be able to use the plane's GPS sytem to learn more about what happened, Schiada said.

The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical Tuesday that a key component of President Barack Obama's sweeping health care law is constitutional, the Pioneer Press said.

In an intense interrogation of the government's lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the justices posed repeated and largely unanswered questions about the limits of federal power, the article said.

Afterward, the court seemed split on the same questions that has divided political leaders and the country: whether the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, the Press said.

The health care law championed by Obama and passed by a Democratic- controlled Congress in 2010 may need to receive a judgment that there is something unique about the health care market that allows such regulation.

Several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, seemed receptive that parts of the law can survive even if the centerpiece is found unconstitutional, The Associated Press said.

When Washington attorney Paul Clement argued the whole law should fall, even conservative justices questioned whether that would have been Congress' intent, USA Today said.

Roberts said many provisions in the bill "have nothing to do with any of the things we're talking about" as being tied to the requirement that most Americans buy insurance. But he also noted many of them were needed to get the entire bill passed, thereby tying them to the whole law.

The justices currently are considering at least three options: Keeping the rest of the law intact, eliminating the insurance market changes that are dependent on the mandate, or killing the entire law. They could also invent a solution of their own making, USA Today said.

U.S. to impose tariffs on solar panels from China

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The United States Commerce Department said Tuesday it would impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China after concluding illegal export subsidies were provided to manufacturers there.

A coalition of seven U.S. manufacturers, led by SolarWorld, has asked for duties of more than 100 percent on Chinese panels and cells, an article said. Commerce will impose duties of 4.73 percent on imports by Trina Solar, 2.9 percent on Suntech, and 3.59 percent on all others.

The Commerce Department will decide in May whether the Chinese government, which provided the subsidies, is "dumping" solar panels into the United States below their actual cost, the Times said. A finding of dumping would result in additional tariffs, the New York Times said.

There is no question that solar panels from China currently control about half the American market, while panel makers based in the United States hold less than one-third, the Times said. American imports of Chinese solar panels have soared to $2.65 billion last year from $21.3 million in 2005.

Despite opposition of the imports from American manufacturers, users of solar energy have benefited from the low-cost Chinese solar panels, the Times said. An American industry group composed of companies that sell and install solar panels said Tuesday they were pleased with the relatively small size of the tariffs, having braced for higher ones.

"This is a huge victory for the U.S. solar industry and our 100,000 employees," said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. "Given all our expectations, this is really good news."

On a global scale, low-cost Chinese panels have driven down the cost of solar energy by two-thirds in the last four years, narrowing but not eliminating the wide price gap that used to separate solar power from electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.

Plunging prices however, have led to bankruptcy for three American solar panel manufacturers since last August, including Solyndra, which cost the federal government more than $500 million.

Earthquakes awaken San Francisco Monday

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Two earthquakes struck just seconds apart on the Hawyard Fault near El Cerrito Monday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A 4.0 magnitude temblor struck near the Mira Vista Country Club in the El Cerrito hills at 5:33 a.m., eight seconds after a 3.5 quake hit a quarter-mile to the northeast. Each quake had a depth of 5 1/2 miles, the San Francisco Chronicle said.

The shaking was felt within a 60-mile radius, from Santa Rosa in the north to Santa Cruz in the south, a CBS report said.

A 2003 USGS report said the Hawyard Fault had the highest chance - 27 percent - of producing a large earthquake of magnitude-6.7 or higher in the Bay Area within 30 years.

"We know that the Hayward Fault is the really important fault in the Bay Area," USGS seismologist David Schwartz told KGO-TV on Monday. "These earthquakes, these 4's, are just an indication of ongoing activity, ongoing stress on the fault. They do nothing to relieve the liklihood of something larger happening."

Susan Torres, 72, who lives near the golf course, knew it was an earthquake immediately.

"It like thunder going through the house," she said. "I was thinking that the house was going to come down."

The Chronicle said the quakes gave Starbucks employees in El Cerrito a pretty good jolt.

"Everything was moving, for a minute maybe," an employee said who believed the quake was harder than a previous swarm of quakes centered in Berkeley last year.

Albany, El Cerrito and Richmond police dispatchers received no reports of injuries or major damage, the Chronicle said. In Berkeley, a water pipe at an apartment complex broke, causing minor water damage, a dispatcher said.

Third student dies after shooting at Ohio high school

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Three students have died and three others seriously injured after a shooting rampage Monday at a high school near Cleveland.

One student, Russel King Jr., 17, died early this morning of gunshot wounds, the New York Times said. Demetrius Hewlin also died Tuesday. The third student, Daniel Parmertor, 16, died on Monday.

The three victims were seated at a cafeteria table when the suspect pulled out a .22-caliber gun and began firing, witnesses said.

Tim McKenna, chief of police in Chardon, said the suspect in the case would be in court for a hearing Tuesday. The police did not offer any information about a possible motive or how the suspect obtained a gun.

The family of the suspect, T.J. Lane, 17, of Chardon Township, made his identity public Monday night when their lawyer Robert Farnacci read a statement saying the family is mourning "this terrible loss for their community."

Witnesses said that Lane was not a student at the school but knew some of the victims. Lane attends nearby Lake Academy, which is for students with academic or behavioral problems, the Star Tribune said.

Residents offered prayers to the families of those killed and wounded while the community offered grief counseling to students, staff and others at area schools, the Tribune said.

"We're not just any old place, Chardon," Chardon School Superintendent Joseph Bergant II said. "This is every place. As you've seen in the past, this can happen anywhere, proof of what we had yesterday."

Student Nate Mueller said he was at the table in the cafeteria where victims were shot.

"My friends were crawling on the floor, and one of my friends was bent over the table, and he was shot," he told The Plain Dealer. "It was almost like a firecracker went off. I turned around and saw (Lane) standing with a gun and I saw him take a shot."

Mueller told the Cleveland newspaper that Lane would wait at the school to take a bus to Lake Academy. He also said that King had recently started dating Lane's ex-girlfriend.

Lane "was silent the whole time," Mueller said. "That's what made it so random."

Dow Jones breaks 13,000 for first time since 2008

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The Dow Jones industrial average crossed 13,000 on Tuesday for the first time since before the 2008 financial crisis, the Guardian said.

The Dow passed 13,000 for about two hours into the trading day, then quickly dropped back. The last time it was above 13,000 was May 20, 2008, four months before the Lehman Brothers investment bank went under.

The Dow fell as low as 6,547 on March 9, 2009, the Star Tribune said. It has almost doubled since then.

Analysts said the 13,000 level is a psychological milepost, but in a market built on perception, it could influence more cautious investors to pump more money into the stock market.

US stocks were boosted by a long-awaited bailout deal from Greece, aimed at preventing a potentially catastrophic default, the Guardian said.

Under the bailout deal, Greece will get €130bn, or about $172bn, from other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. It will also owe €107bn less to investors who own its government bonds, the article said.

European markets fell after the Greece deal was announced. Stocks were down almost 4% in Greece, a little more than 1% in Spain and less than 1% in France and Britain.

Investors noted that Greece remains in deep recession, the Tribune said. Its bond investors will take a 53.5 percent loss on the face value of their bonds, which could discourage future investment.

The U.S. stock market has climbed steadily this year, primarily because of optimism about the economy, the Tribune said.

On Tuesday, the Guardian said, US markets enjoyed strong earnings reports from several big-name companies, including Home Depot and Dollar Thrifty.

Overall, though, investors seemed comfortable moving money into the higher-risk stock market and out of safer investments like government bonds. The yield on the government's benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 2.05% from 2.01% Friday, a sign that fewer investors wanted the bonds.

Congressional leaders are close to closing a deal Wednesday that would extend a payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits through 2012.

Details in the bipartisan agreement still need to be worked out though, a Star Tribune article said. Both sides felt that the agreement was probably the best deal they could get.

House Republicans said they would offer a bill to extend the $100 billion payroll tax rollback for millions of working Americans without requiring spending cuts. The package will block a 27 percent cut in doctor's Medicare reimbursements that are to occur on March 1.

"I do expect, if the agreement comes together like I expect it will, the House should vote this week," House Speaker John Boehner said.

A vote would most likely happen by Friday, a New York Times article said, before Congress will recess for a week.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats were pleased the package will extend the payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits. She feels that the agreement status is "way down the road" from where it was a few days ago.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said there were "just a couple of little wrinkles" left to be resolved Wednesday.

Lawmakers said the details of the savings to be used to pay for about $50 million of the roughly $150 million package still need to be determined.

"I think a lot of people realize Congress is not enjoying a great reputation," Baucus said. "Both sides recognized the need to get this done," he said.

Mortgage deal to help struggling homeowners

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An settlement between the government and major banks could benefit up to 1 million homeowners, state and federal officials said Wednesday.

Up to $25 million could be awarded to delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure in the latest government effort to stop the housing market's decline, a Star Tribune article said.

California and New York, the two biggest holdouts, are expected to join the deal, said a person close to the matter. Florida is also expected to join after resolving civil government lawsuits over foreclosures and servicing misconduct by major U.S. banks, said another person related to the deal in a Chicago Tribune article.

The article said the significance of the deal would fall considerably if the Florida and California did not join.

The announcement would end over a year of negotiations between state and federal officials and the banks, who have been accused of unlawful documentation to deal with the large amount of foreclosures, the Tribune said.

Five core group of banks are involved in the settlement talks including Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Ally Financial Inc. The banks have been accused of using unlawful documentation to deal with the large amount of foreclosure, the Tribune said.

In addition to the 1 million homeowners expected to see lenders lower their mortgage debts, 300,000 homeowners are expected to refinance their homes at lower rates while 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September 2008 and the end of 2011 will receive checks for approximately $2,000, the Star Tribune said.

A handful of other states that are hesitant to sign, including Delaware and Massachusetts, are expected to also participate in the settlement, said the first person familiar with the incident.

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