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Overcharging vets suit

(Bloomberg) -- Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. home lender, must face a lawsuit that accuses the bank of overcharging veterans under a federal loan-refinancing program, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg in Atlanta denied Wells Fargo's bid to dismiss the complaint filed against the bank by two mortgage brokers, saying their allegations are “plausible and sufficient,” according to a decision filed this week.

The plaintiffs “have made factually specific allegations regarding mechanics of defendant's routine practice of creating false documents and making false statements to the VA in order to obtain guarantees on loans,” Totenberg wrote.

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and other lenders were accused in an amended complaint filed last year of defrauding veterans and the U.S. out of millions of dollars under a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loan refinancing program.

The lenders overcharged veterans and concealed their conduct from the government to obtain guarantees for the loans, according to the filing.

The mortgage brokers, Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, filed the complaint as whistle-blowers.

The case is U.S. ex rel. v. Wells Fargo, 06-00547, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

Airport solar

(AP) -- A 50-acre solar array proposed on vacant California airport land would provide enough electricity for 10,000 homes.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat said the project at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport is still two years away from construction.

The Sonoma County Water Agency said the renewable energy project would add jobs to the area.

The solar park would generate 20 megawatts of power.

The water agency has chosen SunEdison of Belmont to install 54,700 solar panels on the western side of the airport. The cost is about $100 million.

Homeowner relief

(AP) -- More than 570 Iowa homeowners have received mortgage relief including loan modifications and refinancing worth more than $19 million as part of a settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage banks.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says another $7 million will go to Iowa borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between January 2008 and December 2011 if their loan was serviced by one of the five providers.

The relief is part of a $25 billion national settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup, Wells Fargo & Co. and Ally Financial.

Record high pollutant

(AP) -- The U.N. weather agency said concentrations of the main global warming pollutant in the world's air reached a record high in 2011.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the planet averaged 390 parts per million of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, up 40 percent from before the Industrial Age when levels were about 275 parts per million.

WMO officials said Tuesday there was a 30 percent increase in the warming effect on the global climate between 1990 and 2011, mainly due to carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the 350 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere since 1750 “will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth.”

Moroccan electricity

(Bloomberg) -- A group led by Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power International signed a $1 billion deal to supply Morocco with electricity from the North African nation’s first solar-thermal power plant.

The government of Morocco will purchase power for 25 years from the 160-megawatt plant ACWA is developing with Spain's Aries Ingenieria & Sistemas SA and TSK Electronica & Electricidad SA in Ouarzazate for Morocco’s Solar Energy Agency.

The Riyadh-based ACWA said it selected Spain's Acciona SA and Sener Grupo de Ingenieria SA to design and build the project in September.

The plants use mirrors that concentrate sunlight to generate steam and power turbines.

The plant will capture 470,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide emission, it said.

ACWA said it intends to sign a project-financing agreement by the end of the year and start operating the plant in the second half of 2015.

Channel project

(AP) -- When the Georgia Assembly convenes in January, Gov. Nathan Deal will ask lawmakers to commit another $50 million toward deepening the river channel to the Port of Savannah to improve navigation for giant cargo ships.

The expected legislative approval would go toward the state's planned $231 million share of the $652 million project, which federal authorities have approved but not yet fully financed.

The governor's announcement immediately shifts the balance of the cost from Congress, where federal lawmakers remained locked in a stalemate over fiscal policy that goes well beyond a single state's wish list.

The project has been a Georgia priority for 16 years, but the Army Corps of Engineers gave its blessing only weeks ago.

President Barack Obama has included the dredging and expansion on his administration's list of top infrastructure priorities nationally.

But Congress won't deliver any federal tax dollars to it until fiscal 2014, at the earliest, and the Army Corps' budget requests are often not fully funded.

Indian watershed

(Bloomberg) -- India signed a credit accord with the World Bank Tuesday for the Himachal Pradesh Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project that raises to $97 million the funding for water harvesting tanks, catchment areas and drainage lines to help irrigate more land.

The $37 million in additional funding adds to the original $60 million project that helped increase farmers' yields in maize, wheat and milk, aided in higher availability of water and raised household incomes by 13 percent, the government said in an email.

The added credit comes from the World Bank's International Development Association lending arm, it said.

Housing shortage

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's central bank issued regulations on real estate financing, leasing and supervision of financial companies as the kingdom attempts to ease a housing shortage by opening up its mortgage market.

The mortgage law, which has been debated for more than a decade, will overhaul the kingdom's home-finance market, from registering mortgages to allowing judges to prosecute police officers who fail to carry out eviction orders.

The changes could boost residential lending to about $32 billion annually, according to estimates by Capitas Group International Ltd., a Saudi company focused on Islamic finance.

The rules will lead to the creation of licensed private mortgage providers as well as a state-run company for refinancing resemblingFannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) in the United States.

The Saudi Real Estate Refinancing Corp. would have minimum capital of 2 billion riyals ($533 million) and would be responsible for issuing Islamic bonds or securities backed by mortgages or real estate, according to a draft of the regulations.

Home lending in Saudi Arabia grew at the fastest pace in at least four years in the second quarter, evidence that banks in the largest Arab economy are more willing to take risk as the mortgage law progresses.

Real estate financing jumped 83 percent.

Even so, fewer than 4 percent of all home purchases in the kingdom have been funded through mortgages. The government's Real Estate Development Fund provides low-income buyers with interest-free loans.

Henderson sale

(Bloomberg) -- Henderson Group Plc's Caspar Property Fund sold its real estate to two buyout firms to repay about 167 million pounds ($265 million) of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS).

Mountgrange Investment Management LLP and Patron Capital Ltd. agreed to buy the fund's 24 remaining buildings for 184 million pounds, according to a statement Tuesday.

The proceeds will pay off CMBS sold in 2004 by Epic (Caspar) Plc.

Henderson has been selling the Caspar fund's real estate as its high level of leverage compounded the effect of a slide in U.K. property prices.

The asset manager hired Drivers Jonas Deloitte LLP in April to sell the last 24 buildings, comprising offices, stores and warehouses, in a single transaction.

The Caspar fund bought 61 properties in 2004 and financed the transaction with CMBS.

The bonds and mezzanine loans totaled about 600 million pounds, more than 80 percent of the estimated value of the properties at the time of the bond sale, according to the 2004 securitized-loan prospectus.

Most of the properties sold are in London and southeast England.

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