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SmartLine hires ex-CFO at Sam's Club

Maarten Jager, the former chief financial officer at Sam's Club, is leaving Walmart Inc. to become chief financial officer at San Diego-based warehouse club chain SmartLine Inc.

Jager, 52, had been in the chief finance role at Sam's Club since 2015 before being replaced earlier this year by Steve Schmitt, who had previously been Walmart's vice president for investor relations.

The company said at the time that Jager would remain with Walmart in a new role in the international division.

Jager had been with Walmart since 2014 and previously held roles as vice president of finance and chief financial officer for Walmart Asia.

-- Robbie Neiswanger

Sources: Wells Fargo faces huge fine

WASHINGTON -- Wells Fargo & Co. could be fined several hundred million dollars by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the bank's mortgage-lending and auto-insurance practices, sources said.

The agency is in talks with the San Francisco-based bank over penalties for the problems, Reuters reported Monday, citing two unidentified people with knowledge of the discussions. Mick Mulvaney, the agency's acting director, is pushing for fines as large as $1 billion, Reuters said.

An agency spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mulvaney, also the White House budget director, has been critical of how aggressively the agency was run under President Barack Obama's administration. But the large fines would align with President Donald Trump's statement in December that Wells Fargo would face stiff penalties for charging fees to certain homebuyers to secure low mortgage rates. Trump said on Twitter that regulators would "make penalties severe" when companies are "caught cheating."

In 2016, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million to settle investigations by the agency, the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer into the creation of millions of unauthorized accounts.

Wells Fargo also has been accused of forcing auto-loan customers into unneeded insurance policies and charging improper fees to some mortgage borrowers.

-- The Los Angeles Times

Novartis to buy gene-therapy company

GENEVA -- Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis said it has agreed to buy the U.S.-based gene-therapy company AveXis Inc. for $8.7 billion, part of its goal to become a leader in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

The two companies say their respective boards have voted unanimously to approve the deal, to be paid for through cash and short-term borrowing.

The tender offer for $218 per share announced Monday marks a whopping 88 percent premium from AveXis' closing price in Nasdaq trading on Friday.

Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis called the deal set to close in mid-2018 a "financially attractive acquisition with multi-billion dollar peak sales potential" even if it isn't expected to add to core operating income until 2020.

The lead AveXis gene-therapy candidate is for spinal muscular atrophy Type 1, which Novartis called the top genetic cause of death in infants, in which "nine out of 10 infants do not live to their second birthday or are permanently ventilator dependent."

The top executive for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Paul Hudson, said the deal to bring in AveXis "would support both our ambition to be a leader in neurodegenerative diseases and our Neuroscience franchise priorities to strengthen our position in devastating pediatric neurological diseases such as SMA."

-- The Associated Press

Oklahoma quakes prompt order on well

COVINGTON, Okla. -- The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has directed a wastewater disposal well to reduce its volume of injection after more than a dozen earthquakes rattled part of northwest Oklahoma since Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded three quakes Monday, including one near Covington now rated magnitude 4.5 after a preliminary rating of 4.3. Magnitude 3.3 and 2.8 quakes were also recorded Monday in the area about 55 miles north of Oklahoma City.

Garfield County Emergency Management Director Mike Honigsberg said there were no reports of injury or severe damage. Damage typically begins with magnitude 4.0 or stronger earthquakes, but Honigsberg noted that the area is very rural.

Many of the thousands of earthquakes in Oklahoma in recent years have been linked to wastewater injection by oil and natural gas producers.

-- The Associated Press

Iran vows to stabilize slumping currency

Iran's government said it will step up efforts to steady its currency after it weakened to a record, a slide that has rattled businesses and prompted some dealers to stop selling dollars and euros.

The rial, which had plunged to 50,000 rials to the dollar in February, depreciated to 60,000 on Monday on the unregulated market, according to Tasnim News agency and other reports.

The slump comes as President Donald Trump's administration nears a critical decision on its participation in Iran's nuclear deal, and political feuding at home raises pressure on President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a stronger economy for ordinary Iranians. Traders have also been accused of deliberately driving the currency lower with speculative bets.

"We will certainly use all of the state's strengths and capabilities in order to, God-willing, steady the market," government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said in a statement shown on state TV. "We accept that this situation is not a good one and it's against what we want."

Rouhani met with officials to discuss ways to intervene and stabilize the currency, Nobakht said. The measures will be implemented in coming days, he said without elaborating.

One foreign-exchange trader in Tehran alluded to Iran's growing confrontation with the U.S., where the administration has promoted Iran hawks into top foreign policy and security jobs.

-- Bloomberg News

Business on 04/10/2018

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