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    Madoff Trustee Passes Halfway Mark in Repaying Ponzi Victims

    The trustee unwinding Bernard Madoff’s $17.5 billion fraud is passing the halfway mark in his quest to repay victims, after an appeals court ruling freed up more cash. Former customers of the convicted con man are set to receive a new round of payments totaling $1.25 billion — the second largest such distribution since the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history unraveled more than six years ago. The payout, which needs approval from the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan, will boost the amount returned to victims to about $8.22 billion — or more than half the lost principal of approved claims totaling $13.6 billion, the trustee, Irving Picard, said Wednesday in a statement. More on Bloomberg Business here.

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    U.S. Plans Stiffer Rules Protecting Retiree Cash

    Federal regulators on Tuesday proposed rules, more than four years in the making, to provide greater consumer protection for retirement savings, requiring a broader group of investment professionals to act in their customers’ best interests when handling their retirement money. The financial services industry can be a minefield for ordinary investors, who often cannot tell whether their advisers are putting the investors’ interests first; the legal term for this is fiduciary duty. The rules, proposed by the Labor Department, which oversees retirement accounts, are part of the Obama administration’s declared mission to support the middle class. The proposed rules would eliminate some of the loopholes that allow brokers to avoid acting as fiduciaries when providing advice on retirement money held inside accounts like 401(k)’s and in individual retirement accounts, which hold roughly $7 trillion, as estimated by the Federal Reserve. More in the New York Times here.

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    Judge Approves Second Payout to MF Global Creditors

    NEW YORK—A judge Wednesday said MF Global Inc. could distribute more than $480 million to unsecured creditors of the collapsed brokerage, bringing their recoveries to about 74% of what they are owed. “The results to date in these cases have certainly surprised me,” Judge Martin Glenn of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan said. “Enormous progress has been made.” Creditors should begin receiving the money 14 days after the judge signs the order. These creditors will have received nearly $1 billion after the payout, an outcome many considered unthinkable when the brokerage’s parent imploded into bankruptcy in the fall of 2011. More in the Wall Street Journal here.

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    SEC panel to call for better Wall Street disciplinary database

    A panel of investor advocates said on Thursday they were developing a proposal for U.S. securities regulators that will make it easier for retail investors to conduct online background checks of financial professionals before hiring them. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee discussed the recommendation amid concerns about elderly investors who are often prime targets for fraudsters. It plans to vote on its recommendation in July. More on Reuters here.

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    SEC’s Head of Compliance, Andrew Bowden, to Leave

    WASHINGTON—A top Securities and Exchange Commission official who made headlines for criticizing the private-equity industry last year is planning to leave the commission. The SEC announced Tuesday that Andrew Bowden will step down from his post as head of the SEC’s Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations at the end of April, to return to the private sector. More in the Wall Street Journal here.

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