Business & Finance

The Nasdaq stock market has offered merger talks with the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), The Wall Street Journal reported, although it said discussions are at a preliminary stage. The offer comes as the technology- driven Nasdaq is still trying to recover from the collapse of the Internet stock bubble four years ago, while the NYSE is confronting questions about corporate governance, executive pay, and the behavior of specialist floor traders.

Clearing the way for California's largest utility to emerge from bankruptcy by April, a federal court in San Francisco OK'd a reorganization plan for Pacific Gas & Electric Monday and set a Jan. 2 deadline for appeals. The controversial plan would allow PG&E to charge artificially high rates through 2012 to ensure strong profits. The proposal also won approval by the state public utilities commission - although narrowly - last week.

An $80 million fine for making concealed loans to Enron Corp. was agreed to by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Monday. One current and one former CIBC executive also will pay a combined $623,000 in connection with the case, reports said. The money will go into a fund to compensate victims of Enron's misdeeds. The penalties are the latest in a series announced by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Earlier, J. P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch agreed to pay $135 million, $120 million, and $80 million, respectively, to settle charges that they participated in a scheme in which Enron used the concealed loans to inflate profits and deceive investors. The SEC said Toronto-based CIBC went along with the scheme because it wanted a greater share of the energy trader's business. CIBC will not be prosecuted for its role in the case as long as it cooperates in the ongoing investigation, the reports said.

Franklin Resources, the nation's fourth-largest mutual-fund firm, suspended three employees Monday after an internal inquiry found evidence of questionable trading, the Los Angeles Times reported. The trades involved the workers' personal retirement accounts, the company said, adding that it has received subpoenas from federal investigators in northern California and Massachusetts in connection with the wider probe into alleged abuses by the industry. Franklin is based in San Mateo, Calif.

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