Money Minute: BNP Latest European Bank on U.S. Hotseat

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France's largest bank is just the latest European bank to find itself in the hot seat for its actions stateside.

Less than a week after Barclays was sued by New York's Attorney General for misleading clients about high frequency traders and roughly six weeks after Credit Suisse (CS) admitted guilt in helping U.S. clients evade taxes, France's BNP Paribas has pleaded guilty to violating sanction laws in the U.S. France's biggest bank has agreed to pay an $8.9 billion fine for transferring money through its New York offices on behalf of countries like Sudan and Iran. Six other banks have settled similar charges, but BNP is the first to admit guilt and it is paying the largest penalty ever for such a crime. It has also agreed to suspend its dollar-clearing business for a year starting in January. And that may prove to be most damaging of all as it will seriously impede their ability to do business with international clients.

A new government report says more than a million people could lose their federally insured pension plans in the next few years. Those at risk are people who have multi-employer pension plans, plans put together by a group of companies along with a union. Ten million Americans have them. They were traditionally seen as safe investments. But a combination of an aging population, deregulation, fewer unions and two market crashes have made it hard for these funds to replenish themselves.

Here on Wall Street on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 25 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 10 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) dropped almost 1 point.

In a decision that could have wider implications, the Supreme Court of New York has just upheld a lower court's ruling that towns in New York state have the right to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders through zoning ordinances. There is currently a moratorium on "fracking" in New York but the decision could set a precedent for other towns across the nation seeking to keep drillers at bay. The fracking process is controversial with environmentalists saying it contaminates local water supplies. But the President supports fracking and it has lead to a boom in the energy sector putting the U.S. on track to surpass Saudi Arabia's oil and gas output over the next two years.

And finally, reporting on corporate earnings may not be what drives a cub reporter to get into journalism -- it's not exactly exciting -- but it still pays the bills. However, maybe not for much longer. The Associated Press just announced it is automating the bulk of its earnings stories. Software designed by Automative Insights will allow the AP to go from producing roughly 300 earnings stories a quarter to 4,400. The AP says no one is being fired and humans will still write earnings reports for marquee companies like Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB). The robots begin taking over the rest this month.

-Produced by Karina Huber.

7 Simple Strategies for a Frugal, Prosperous Life
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Money Minute: BNP Latest European Bank on U.S. Hotseat

Securing a favorable interest rate is a prime way to maximize savings. On a major loan repayment like a mortgage, a little upfront effort can save you considerable amounts for years to come. To cash in on this frugal hack, you need to get your credit in shape. That means checking your credit history, making payments on time (and in full), and reducing your debt to available credit ratio as much as possible. It means paying down your balances on all your credit card accounts. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest payments and the higher your savings.

Adjust your withholding exemptions so that your payments to Uncle Sam match your actual tax liability, and you won't wind up with a big refund come April. As exciting as it is to get that big check in the mail, that's money you've been loaning to the government for free rather than having it grow in your own savings and investment accounts. As of the start of April this year, the average tax refund was $2,831. That's $235 a months' worth of money that could be working for you.

Just 10 to 20 minutes on the phone with your cable company, cell phone rep, or any other service provider can result in recurring monthly savings through old-fashioned negotiation. If you're not getting anywhere after asking for a lower rate, ask for the cancellation (or retention) department and see what offers start to come in. If you're unable to haggle down to get the savings you want, you can always shop providers to get your service elsewhere -- probably with a new-customer discount rate, too.

While bulk buying can sometimes lead to unnecessary purchases and overspending, it's a great strategy for savings on nonperishable items like paper products, cleaning supplies and alcohol. When you stock up, you save on the unit price and the trips to the store to restock.

Other than the obvious benefits of reduced health care costs over time, exercising and living a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle can provide some more immediate savings on your insurance premiums.

More stuff equals more to maintain, clean and devote time and energy to. From the size of your home to the size of your clothing collection, more "stuff" generates more expenses. Downsize and watch your savings soar.

For each year after full retirement age that you delay taking Social Security benefits, you accumulate a permanent increase in your benefits of 5 to 8 percent until age 70. This one strategy can increase your Social Security retirement income by more than 25 percent. It would take a lot of penny-pinching to add up to that kind of income boost.
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