Daily Briefing

DAILY BRIEFING

November 20, 2008

Audit questions state spending, marketing

The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development spent $184,000 on poker tournaments, catered cruises, parties and other marketing events between 2004 and 2007 that were not "adequately evaluated and documented," according to a legislative audit released yesterday. The report also said the department paid employees with no job duties, bought airline ticket upgrades without required approval and gave tax breaks to firms without verifying their eligibility. David Tillman, a department spokesman, said yesterday that the agency agreed with the "lion's share" of the audit and "is looking forward to implementing some additional measures to make sure that when state money is invested to attract and grow companies, that those dollars are well spent." The department disagreed, however, with an audit finding that it regularly failed to verify the eligibility of companies receiving state tax credits.

Capital News Service

State auto insurer pulls rate cut proposal

Maryland's auto insurer of last resort withdrew a proposal to reduce its rates this week, saying volatility in the market cut its surplus by more than $25 million in September and October. The Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, a state-controlled fund that covers drivers who have been rejected by private-sector companies, had filed to reduce its rates by an average of about $120 per policy in order to make insurance more affordable during a period of rising gasoline and food prices. The average MAIF policy is about $2,400 a year. The agency's surplus was less than $145 million at the end of October; officials said they hoped to revisit the rate-slashing proposal within six months.

Laura Smitherman

SEC puts off vote on rating-agency rules

WASHINGTON : The Securities and Exchange Commission delayed a plan yesterday to adopt new rules aimed at stemming conflicts of interest in Wall Street's credit-rating industry. The commissioners decided to take up the new rules at the same time as other proposals that could bring significant changes for the credit-rating industry, which has been widely criticized for its role in the subprime mortgage debacle. The agenda item was pulled from yesterday morning's meeting shortly before it started.

Associated Press

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