March 12 (Reuters) - The following were the top stories in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.
* Bernard Madoff used his U.K. office to launder client money, authorities say. The development draws a more-direct connection between the alleged fraud and the trading operation in London.
* Life insurers are being dragged down by tumbling markets and hope a government lifeline is imminent.
* Merrill Lynch misled Congress about the timing of decisions on 2008 bonuses, New York’s attorney general alleges.
* U.S. President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy from participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.
* The Obama administration challenged other countries to respond more aggressively to the global crisis by boosting their stimulus spending, while proposing a bigger U.S. commitment of money to the International Monetary Fund.
* Nortel Networks Corp NT.TO is in talks to sell its two main businesses to rivals, a sign the firm could break itself apart rather than emerge from bankruptcy as planned.
* When Rep. Barney Frank was looking to aid a Boston-based lender last fall, the Massachusetts Democrat urged Maxine Waters, a colleague on the House Financial Services Committee, to “stay out of it,” he says. The reason: Ms. Waters, a longtime congresswoman from California, had close ties to the minority-owned institution, OneUnited Bank.
* Representatives of about 15 financial institutions will meet Thursday with New York State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo to complain about MBIA Inc’s (MBI.N) decision to split its bond-insurance unit into two companies, people familiar with the matter said.
* Japan’s economy contracted slightly less than initially reported in the final quarter of 2008, the government said Thursday.
* House lawmakers are working to split a politically charged, $40 billion effort to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of flying gas stations between Boeing Co (BA.N) and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).
* Freddie Mac FRE.N FRE.P, still suffering from the lax mortgage-lending practices of the housing boom, reported a loss of $23.9 billion for the fourth quarter and said it will need a $30.8 billion injection of capital from the U.S. Treasury.
* Biotechnology companies are gearing up for battle on Capitol Hill after Rep. Henry Waxman, the powerful California Democrat, introduced a bill that would clear a regulatory path for generic drug makers to produce copies of biologic medicines.