World and Nation

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Consumer agency seems to soften limit on credit cards fees

In one of the first tests of its willingness to show its muscle, the new agency created to protect consumers declined Thursday to put up a fight.

The agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, introduced a proposal that would make it easier for credit card issuers to charge fees before borrowers’ accounts were officially open.

The bureau, which began overseeing many consumer financial products last year, said it was issuing the proposed rule in response to a federal court decision that challenged how the Credit Card Act was being applied. The act, which took effect in February 2010, put several rules in place aimed at curbing abusive lending practices.

—Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times

School coaches face new scrutiny on reporting sex abuse

The case of Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator for Penn State’s football team accused of dozens of counts of child sexual abuse, is working its way through the courts. But the case is having a lasting impact on thousands of other coaches, both volunteer and paid, who find themselves facing new scrutiny from parents, sports organizations and even state legislators.

Since the Penn State scandal came to light in November, lawmakers in more than a dozen states — including New York, California and Pennsylvania — have introduced bills singling out coaches, athletic directors or university officials to be “mandated reporters” if they suspect child abuse or neglect. In the past month, such bills have already been signed in Virginia, Washington and West Virginia, with several other states expected to soon follow suit.

While the bills vary, some would impose significant punishments, including fines, felony charges and potential prison time, for coaches or officials who violate the new laws on reporting.

Taken as a whole, the bills are meant to guard against a recurrence of the seemingly lax response from Penn State officials — including the late football coach Joe Paterno — that critics of the university say allowed Sandusky to continue abusing children for years after suspicions arose.

“What we saw in Penn State was a conspiracy of silence, and that’s what my bill is directly aimed at,” said state Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat who introduced a bill in Pennsylvania in mid-November. “I want to stop institutions that keep sex abuse under wraps.”

—Jesse McKinley, The New York Times

Argentina reportedly has oil firm in its sights

RIO DE JANEIRO — The fate of Argentina’s largest oil company, YPF, was thrown into doubt on Thursday, as reports that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was preparing to nationalize the company drew a warning from Spain that it would consider such a move a hostile action.

Argentina would take control of 50.01 percent of the shares in YPF, which is controlled by the Spanish energy giant Repsol, according to copies of legislation sent to Congress and published in the Argentine news media. The move reflects the resurgence of resource nationalism in a country that has seen the discovery of huge shale oil fields.

Compensation for the shares remains in doubt; a tribunal and state energy officials would determine the valuation of the stake, the legislation said. The bill, which could still be modified in important ways, would also allow Argentina’s government to take control of shares in YPF owned by Argentina’s Eskenazi family.

—Simon Romero and Emily Schmall, The New York Times