Audit Notes: Mortgage Charges, BP Testimony, Ad Revenue

The Washington Post calls the charges against Lee Farkas “to date the biggest criminal case related to the crisis that nearly brought down the financial system.”

This one’s a win for the Special Inspector General of the TARP Neil Barofsky:

Prosecutors said the scheme was discovered after Neil Barofsky, Treasury’s special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, began investigating last year inaccurate statements that Colonial’s parent company made in its application for bailout funds.

— The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that BP officials’ testimony is contradicted by recently released internal communications:

Last month, Mark Hafle, BP’s senior drilling engineer for the oil well that’s now spewing millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, testified in Kenner that he and his team believed they had worked in concert with a contractor to come up with the safest possible design for encasing the well with cement and steel tubing so that “all the concerns had been addressed.”

But now, e-mail messages released by congressional investigators paint a different picture of Hafle’s confidence in the troubled well.

They show Hafle expressed concerns in the week before the April 20 disaster on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, calling the Macondo well 5,000 feet below that rig “a crazy well.”

Nice catch.

— Bloomberg has some interesting data on the FT’s online revenues in a story about Murdoch’s Times of London going behind the paywall:

“If you want to get into a battle on volume, Facebook has already won,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of Pearson Plc’s, alluding to the world’s largest social-networking site. “You can gain a lot more on yield,” and by offering advertisers information on paying visitors, he said…

While the site usually charges about 35 to 40 pounds in fees from advertisers for every 1,000 views of a story, some parts of command “much higher” rates, according to Grimshaw. That compares with as little as one pound for less focused sites, he said.

The FT’s website has succeeded in striking a balance between mass-market appeal and winning money from subscribers, said Alexander Wisch, a media analyst at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research in London. “They are able to draw ads and get the eyeballs, and at the same time to monetize subscriptions.” Specialized publications “do draw audiences, and they draw audiences that pay.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.