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$77 million spent to fight fraud, but only $7,591 saved
Wisconsin State Journal (print only)
Launched last summer, a $77 million computer system to stop Medicare fraud before it happens had prevented just one suspicious payment by Christmas. That saved taxpayers exactly $7,591. Lawmakers had expected the system to finally allow Medicare to stanch a $60-billion-a-year fraud hemorrhage. Now they're worried that cautious bureaucrats lacking a clear strategy will compromise its performance. Medicare officials say it's unfair to grade the new technology on a single statistic. Medicare officials indicated that when other benefits of the system are taken into account, such as cases referred to investigators and changes to payment software that result in automatic denial of suspect claims, the potential savings in the first six months of operation easily exceed $20 million.

Thrivent surplus up 7% in 2011 on premium, investment gains
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans said yesterday its surplus grew about 7 percent last year as premiums and investment income rose. The total adjusted surplus, which is an indicator of an insurer's strength, increased to $5.4 billion from $5.1 billion a year earlier. "For the third consecutive year, Thrivent Financial produced outstanding results," said Brad Hewitt, president and chief executive of Thrivent Financial. In 2011, Thrivent and its members gave $175.5 million in direct support to charitable causes, schools, congregations and needy individuals, the organization said. In addition, the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation recently announced it awarded $15.1 million in grants to Lutheran institutions nationwide and nonprofits in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in Minnesota and Fox Cities area of Wisconsin. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Financial firm aiming at Gen X and Gen Y
Milwaukee Business Journal
Shawn Preisler was 23 and Ian Scott was 29 when they started their own stock brokerage firm. In hindsight, the business partners didn't know how complicated and difficult their new enterprise would be. "We were too young and dumb to think about it at the time," Scott says. Now that Preisler is 34 and Scott is 40, they believe they've built a firm that is a model for filling a gap in selling financial services to adults in their age group. Most larger financial firms target clients from the baby boom era or older who are investing $100,000 to $250,000 or more. Cedar Creek Securities requires no minimum investment and targets clients who are young professionals still building their careers and their bank accounts. While they continue growing their Milwaukee business, Scott and Preisler have ambitious plans beyond their home turf. They believe their model can be replicated in cities with large populations of young professionals, starting with Chicago. Milwaukee Business Journal

Bank of America Breaks With Fannie Mae
New York Times
Bank of America said Thursday that it would no longer sell new mortgages to Fannie Mae, underscoring tensions in a fight between giants of the home loan market over billions in losses in the housing bubble. According to market experts, the latest move represents a major escalation in a protracted legal battle over how many defaulted mortgages Bank of America will have to buy back from Fannie because the original loans had not conformed to proper underwriting standards. Bank of America was Fannie's third-largest provider last year, originating $156.1 billion in mortgages in 2011, $37.7 billion of which were sold to Fannie. Bank of America insisted its customers would not be hurt by the decision, and said it can make up for the loss of Fannie as a backer by turning to other government-sponsored mortgage buyers, the private sector, and by deploying its huge balance sheet. New York Times

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