National briefs: Consultant use under fire

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WASHINGTON -- The nation's top banking regulators voiced regret Thursday for farming out a review of foreclosure abuses to a private consulting industry, acknowledging for the first time that the government had "underestimated" problems plaguing the process.

"If we had it to do over again, we would take a different approach," Daniel P. Stipano, a senior official at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. "We're going to come up with ways to do this better in the future."

Lawmakers contended that the consulting business is fraught with conflicts. While banking regulators rely on consultants to help clean up financial misdeeds such as money laundering and foreclosure abuses, the companies remain on Wall Street's payroll.

"Consultants have a financial incentive to do things to attract repeat business," Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat leading the hearing, said to a panel of regulators who testified.

Mr. Brown also took aim at consultants. When regulators farmed out a review of foreclosure abuses to companies such as the Promontory Financial Group and Deloitte and Touche, the consultants earned $2 billion in fees while scrutinizing only a sliver of the more than 800,000 troubled loans in question.

TVA will be sold?

NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama is considering the sale of all or part of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest publicly owned U.S. power company, in a deal that may raise as much as $35 billion as the administration seeks to reduce the national debt.

A potential sale is part of a "strategic review" of the nonprofit headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. The TVA is facing increasing capital costs, according to the administration's 2014 budget proposal.

Medic saves sawed arms

LOS ANGELES -- Fire Capt. Art Hurtado was making an off-duty visit to a Home Depot store in West Covina, a suburb east of Los Angeles, when he encountered a horrific sight -- a man had deliberately cut his own arms to the bone with handsaws.

As others screamed, the veteran paramedic used materials from store shelves to stanch the bleeding. The man remained hospitalized in critical condition as investigators tried to determine why he hurt himself.

Mom releases letter

One year after George Zimmerman was arrested in the death of Trayvon Martin, a letter written by Mr. Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, has been released.

The letter, sent out via a link on Twitter, thanks supporters of her family, criticizes the media, calls the arrest "unfortunate" and says "the justice system failed us." She says her son was "an innocent man [who] was arrested for a crime he did not commit, solely to placate the masses."

Mr. Zimmerman claims he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense. His trial is set to begin in June.

Also in the nation ...

A strong spring storm that socked the Midwest with ice and heavy, wet snow made its way east, raking the South with tornadoes Thursday, with three deaths blamed on the rough weather and thousands of people without power. ... The president's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, faced tough questioning from Senate Republicans at her confirmation hearing Thursday, in a clear signal to the White House that they will continue fighting environmental regulations as vigorously as they did in the first term.



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