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GM and DaimlerChrysler to create hydrogen fuel vehicles

Compiled from staff and wire reports The Spokesman-Review

General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG have signed agreements with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over the next five years, the automakers said Wednesday.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, plans to build a fleet of 40 hydrogen fuel vehicles. Under the program, GM will spend $44 million to distribute the vehicles in Washington, D.C., New York, California and Michigan. The Energy Department also will provide $44 million in the deal, which is set to expire in September 2009.

DaimlerChrysler, which has the largest fleet of fuel cell vehicles of any automaker, will invest more than $70 million in its partnership with the Energy Department, the German-American company said.

“If our research program is successful, it is not unreasonable to think that we could be approaching commercialization and mass marketing of these kinds of vehicles in maybe 15 years,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said at the National Hydrogen Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. which coincided with the automakers’ announcements.

Bodman said “learning demonstration teams” involving ChevronTexaco, Hyundai Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler, BP, Ford Motor Co., Ballard Power Systems, GM and Shell will evaluate the fuel cells under hot and cold conditions, consider production options and hydrogen infrastructure.

Regulators worried about banking

Federal regulators expressed concerns Wednesday over some check cashers, money transmitters and others being cut off from banking services and said they hope to soon issue provisions to address the problem.

Some banks are closing the accounts of some of these “money-services” businesses out of fear they might run afoul of regulations aimed at catching money-launderers and terrorist financiers. Banks as well as money-services businesses have asked federal regulators for help.

“Money-services businesses are losing access to banking services as a result of concerns about regulatory scrutiny, the risks presented by money-services business accounts and the costs and burdens associated with maintaining such accounts,” the banking authorities acknowledged in a joint statement Wednesday.

The statement was issued by the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration.

Regulatory guidance will be issued shortly to address the problem, the statement said. That guidance could come at the end of April, an official from one of the regulatory authorities said.

“We anxiously await their announced federal guidance. This will allow bankers to serve the various communities that have been harmed by the confusion and ambiguity that previously surrounded all money-services business accounts,” said John Byrne, director of the American Bankers Association’s center for regulatory compliance.

Mining company restates losses

Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. has restated its 2004 net loss to $16.9 million, or 8 cents per share, company officials announced Wednesday.

The mining company had previously reported its net loss as $12.2 million, or 6 cents per share. The additional, non-cash charge results from a reduced tax benefit at the company’s Chilean mining operations, said Tony Ebersole, director of investor relations. The adjustment occurred because of a change in the company’s tax rate, he said.

AIG delays filing annual report

Amid widening government probes into its financial practices, insurance giant American International Group Inc. acknowledged Wednesday it had improperly booked transactions with a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that artificially boosted its reserves.

AIG also said that it had not yet completed an in-house review of its accounting and would have to delay filing its annual report until April 30. New York-based AIG earlier had said it expected to file the report on March 31.

The disclosures came as the Securities and Exchange Commission and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer were preparing to question AIG’s former chief executive officer, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, and Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and CEO, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, next month about the controversial reinsurance deal. Buffett is to speak with investigators on April 11, and Greenberg the following day.

Berkshire Hathaway has said that Buffett was not aware of how the transactions were structured “or on any improper use or purpose” of the transactions.

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