National briefs: 3 million enroll in Obamacare

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WASHINGTON -- About 800,000 people signed up for private health plans through Obamacare in January, pushing total enrollment to 3 million as negative perceptions about the program give way to more practical needs.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, touted the January figures in a speech Friday in Jacksonville, Fla., which add to the 2.2 million who enrolled from Oct. 1 through December.

The agency said it expected the numbers to grow.

The acceleration may indicate increased familiarity and interest in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act among people who previously had heard only of its problems, said Ron Pollack, executive director of the advocacy group Families USA. Public opinion about Obamacare plunged after the Oct. 1 debut of the insurance exchanges greeted consumers with website breakdowns, higher prices and potentially broken promises.

McDonnell pleads not guilty

RICHMOND -- Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, once a rising star in the national Republican Party, pleaded not guilty to federal charges he used his office to help a businessman in exchange for more than $165,000 in loans and gifts.

Mr. McDonnell, whose term ended Jan. 11, and his wife, Maureen, were allowed to remain free without bail while awaiting trial after appearing today in Richmond federal court. Both were ordered by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Novak to surrender their passports. They face as long as 30 years in prison if convicted on the most serious counts.

The trial, on a grand jury indictment for fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, was set for July 28.

Port won't pick up legal tab

NEW YORK -- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says it won't pay the legal bills of a former executive accused of restricting access to the George Washington Bridge as political payback.

Traffic lane closures created days of gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., whose Democratic mayor didn't endorse Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says the agency informed David Wildstein on Friday that covering his legal expenses wasn't warranted under its bylaws. Those bylaws generally call for current and former employees to get their legal bills covered for job-related activities, but not if there's misconduct or fraud.

Audit firm settles with SEC

WASHINGTON -- The big accounting firm KPMG has agreed to pay $8.2 million to settle federal regulators' charges of compromising its independence by providing non-audit services to companies whose books it audited.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the settlement Friday with New York-based KPMG, one of the so-called Big Four accounting firms with Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The SEC said KPMG violated auditor independence rules by providing prohibited non-audit services like bookkeeping to the companies involved. The companies weren't named. In addition, the SEC said some KPMG employees owned stock in companies that were KPMG audit clients.KPMG neither admitted nor denied the allegations.

Ex-Senate aid kills self

WASHINGTON -- A former chief of staff to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who faced charges of possessing and distributing child pornography, hanged himself and died Thursday in a Maryland home, his family and police officials said Friday.

Jesse Ryan Loskarn, 35, was found dead around noon Thursday in the basement of his parents' house in Sykesville, Md., according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Loskarn died after hanging himself, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland.

JPMorgan chief's pay jumps

NEW YORK -- Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's chief executive, has been awarded total pay of $20 million for 2013, a huge increase over the amount he received for 2012, according to a regulatory filing released Friday.

The bank's board of directors approved the increase even though a steady stream of scandals and a raft of regulatory actions have in recent months cast doubt on Mr. Dimon's leadership at the nation's largest bank. The big raise for 2013 came in the face of opposition from a vocal minority of board members, who wanted Mr. Dimon's compensation for 2013 to be roughly equal to his pay for 2012, which totaled $11.5 million.



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