Disability-Claim Judge Has Trouble Saying 'No' - (online.wsj.com) Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits will often appeal to one of 1,500 judges who help administer the program, where the odds of winning are slightly better than even. Unless, that is, they come in front of David B. Daugherty. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the administrative law judge, who sits in the impoverished intersection of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four. For the first six months of fiscal 2011, Mr. Daugherty approved payments in every one of his 729 decisions, according to the Social Security Administration. The judge has maintained his near-perfect record despite years of complaints from other judges and staff members. They say he awards benefits too generously and takes cases from other judges without their permission. Staffers in the Huntington office say he hears a disproportionate number of cases filed by one area attorney. Mr. Daugherty has been known to hold hearings for as many as 20 of this lawyer's clients spaced 15 minutes apart.
Munich Re unit says the company-paid prostitute party was "killer fun" - (www.businessinsider.com) Munich Re had to fire executives who were responsible for hosting a company-sponsored sex party. Now, photos and details of the party are public in the German Handelsblatt paper. A unit of the Dusseldorf, Germany-based insurance company invited 100 of its top performers to enjoy 20 pre-paid prostitutes at a party in Budapest, Hungary in 2007. The company later bragged about the party in their magazine, HMI Profil. It was "killer fun," the magazine wrote, according to Der Speigel's translation.
Row within Europe over Greece - (www.ft.com) The European Central Bank has criticised proposals for a possible restructuring of Greek sovereign debts, laying bare a behind-the-scenes row between ECB technocrats and European Union politicians over Greece’s debt crisis. The ECB officials warned that any move to delay repayments would be a dangerous distraction from Athens’ economic and fiscal reform plans. This month Jean-Claude Trichet, ECB president, walked out of a meeting hosted by Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister. According to people familiar with events at the meeting, Mr Trichet was angry at talk of a so-called “soft” restructuring that could involve an extension of Greek debt maturities. After a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, Mr Juncker said a soft restructuring of Greek debt would be an option once Athens had taken further steps to bring its public finances under control.
Japan Falls Into Recession After Economy Shrinks 3.7% - (www.bloomberg.com) Japan’s economy shrank more than estimated in the first quarter after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disrupted production and prompted consumers to cut back spending, sending the nation to its third recession in a decade. Gross domestic product contracted an annualized 3.7 percent in the three months through March, following a revised 3 percent drop in the previous quarter, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. The median forecast of 23 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 1.9 percent drop. The March disaster hit an economy already weighed down by years of deflation and subdued consumer spending, and slashed profits at companies including Toyota Motor Corp. as factories were shut.
Greek Government Bonds Fall on Reprofiling; Spanish, German Debt Declines - (www.bloomberg.com) Greek 10-year bonds slumped for a fourth day on concern that a potential extension of the nation’s bond maturities would deter the European Central Bank from accepting the debt as collateral. The spread, or yield difference, between benchmark Greek debt and German bunds widened for a fourth day. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet told finance ministers this week that, shouldGreece be given more time to repay debt, the central bank would revoke a special arrangement under which Greek debt is accepted as collateral, Financial Times Deutschland, citing unidentified officials. Spanish bonds fell as the nation sold less bonds than the maximum target. German bunds dropped as stock gains eroded demand for the safest assets. “This further underlines the clear divisions within euro- area officialdom as regards how to deal with Greece’s debt funk,” said Richard McGuire, a senior fixed-income strategist at Rabobank International. “A refusal to accept Greek debt as collateral would result in an unsustainable bout of illiquidity in the Greek banking sector. The mixed messages underpin the risk of further peripheral tension as the market frets over this apparent policy disarray.”