Money Minute: U.S. Set to Lift Disco-Era Oil-Export Ban

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After a 40-year ban, a few companies have been given the green light to export unrefined oil, which could lead to higher gas prices in the U.S.

Two Texas energy companies: Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) and Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) have reportedly just been told they can export an ultra-light oil that has become abundant thanks to the shale oil boom. For four decades there was a ban on exporting that kind of oil.

The Commerce Department says energy companies have improved their processing of the oil that now qualifies it for export. Experts say this could lead to a big chunk of the 3 million barrels a day of oil pumped from shale being exported and that could lead to higher gas prices here in the U.S.

Walgreen (WAG) is the latest U.S. company trying to dodge paying U.S. taxes by buying a foreign company and relocating its headquarters abroad where the taxes are lower. Under pressure from shareholders to boost profitability, the drug store chain is considering buying the remaining 55 percent of Alliance Boots it doesn't already own and moving its headquarters to Switzerland. Doing so-called "inversions" has been a hot tactic among the pharmaceutical industry but it is unusual for a U.S. based retailer to ponder moving abroad.

Here on Wall Street on Tuesday stocks took a breather with the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) falling 119 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) losing 18 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) down 12 points.

Bernard Madoff's accountant is headed for prison. Paul Konigsberg who provided tax and accounting services to Madoff for about two decades pleaded guilty to cooking the books and falsifying records. He also faces a minimum fine of $4.4 million to help compensate the victims of the Ponzi scheme. That's just a drop in the bucket when you consider victims were swindled out of billions of dollars. Konigsberg faces sentencing on Sept. 19.

And finally, Whole Foods Market (WFM), which some people call "whole paycheck" because items there are on the pricier end, is being fined $800 million for overcharging customers in California. Inspectors found that food weighed less than advertised and cashiers included the weight of salad bar containers when weighing salads. Prosecutors said that violates consumer protection laws. All Whole Foods stores in California will now face random audits. Whole Foods says it cooperated with the investigation and said prices were right 98 percent of the time.

-Produced by Karina Huber.


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