Herbalife operates out of headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, but also houses many employees at this building in Torrance.

Herbalife gets more bad news: Illinois AG investigation

The bad news is piling up for Herbalife Ltd.

Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan is investigating complaints that the Los Angeles weight-loss and nutrition company operates a pyramid scheme, Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Thursday.

"We've received consumer complaints and are investigating based on those complaints," Possley said.

The news follows reports that the FBI, Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission and New York attorney general were also investigating the company.

Herbalife said in a statement that its business model is legal and vowed to cooperate with the investigation while continuing to operate in Illinois, where the company said it has more than 15,000 distributors "and many more satisfied customers."

"We are confident in the integrity of our longstanding business and the company's compliance with applicable laws and regulations," Herbalife said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Illinois attorney general&...

Families get information about the Affordable Care Act at an AltaMed enrollment event Tuesday in the City of Commerce.

Obamacare enrollment nears 1.4 million in California exchange

Covered California signed up more than 200,000 consumers for Obamacare coverage after extending its enrollment deadline by two weeks, bringing the statewide total to nearly 1.4 million people.

The health insurance exchange gave people until Tuesday to finish enrolling after the state website faltered at the end of March from a crush of last-minute applicants.

By Tuesday, the latest deadline, 50,000 people picked a health plan.

Overall, the state exchange said about 85% of enrollees have paid their health premium thus far, so the enrollment tally may drop. It also said Thursday that 88% of exchange customers qualified for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Another 1.5 million have enrolled or been deemed eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for lower-income people. Enrollment in Medi-Cal continues all year.

The state said it continued to make gains among Latinos after a slow start during the fall. In the first half of April, Latinos accounted for 39% of...

Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon (right), has a gift for math in the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting."  Mathematicians have the best jobs in America, according to one report.

Report: Mathematicians have the best jobs, lumberjacks have the worst

Job hunters on the prowl for a career change might want to brush up on their math skills: Mathematicians have the best jobs in 2014, one report said.

Those who calculate theorems and deal with numbers all day are well compensated and their entire profession is poised for growth, according to the annual ranking from jobs site CareerCast.

The worst jobs in America tend to include some element of danger or instability, such as newspaper reporters, enlisted military personnel and taxi drivers.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

That is certainly true for the worst job on the list -- lumberjack.

Loggers have to deal with dangerous working conditions, low pay and a dwindling number of available positions as technology eliminates jobs.

CareerCast ranked 200 professions by considering factors such as work environment, income, stress levels, market outlook and physical demands: Are there persistent chances of getting injured? What is the outlook for growth? Does the work require frequent...

Patty Garcia, right, store manager for J.C. Penny talks with job seekers at an employment fair in Carson.

Jobless claims edge up, but 4-week average falls to prerecession level

Initial jobless claims over the previous month hit their lowest level since the start of the Great Recession, indicating the labor market might be nearing a return to normal.

The number of people filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose slightly last week to 304,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 302,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Despite the revision, the 302,000 claims in the week ended April 5 was the lowest since May 2007.

A more stable barometer -- the four-week average of new claims -- dropped to 312,000 last week. The Labor Department said that was the lowest since October 2007, two months before the start of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

"Current labor market conditions are at full-employment levels," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. "Claims are back where they were before the recession began."

Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee, cautioned that...

Rates for 30-year mortgages are at a 10-week low, Freddie Mac says. Above, a family tours a model home in San Bernardino.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage rates near low for year; 30-year at 4.27%

Mortgage rates have fallen as the spring home-buying season begins, with Freddie Mac pegging the average 30-year fixed loan at 4.27% this week, the lowest it has been since early February.

The average for a 15-year fixed mortgage was 3.33% this week, near its low for this year, according to Freddie Mac's survey of lenders released Thursday morning.

The rate for a 30-year loan averaged about 4.5% at the start of the year, more than a percentage point higher than the record lows of 2013 and 2012. Most forecasters predicted rates would continue rising as the Federal Reserve dialed back a bond-buying program designed to keep them low. 

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of mortgages

At HSH.com, another rate tracker, Vice President Keith Gumbinger said the economy's growth has been "more sideways than upwards," leading investors to pull money out of stocks recently and show more willingness to accept lower interest rates. 

"News that rates are closer to recent lows than highs might actually put a...

Chinese-American banking powerhouses East West Bancorp and Cathay General Corp. reported higher first quarter earnings. Above, East West Chief Executive Dominic Ng.

East West and Cathay banks report higher first-quarter earnings

The two largest Chinese-American banks reported higher first-quarter earnings on solid loan growth, with profit up 6% at Pasadena's East West Bancorp and 9% at Los Angeles' Cathay General Bancorp.

East West, with total assets of $27.4 billion, said Wednesday that it earned $76.7 million, or 54 cents per share. That compared with $72.1 million, 50 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. 

The results included $10.6 million in merger costs related to East West's acquisition of MetroCorp Bancshares Inc., a Texas bank, in January. That lowered per-share earnings by 4 cents.

PHOTOS: Top 10 Southern California companies

Cathay General, with $11.3 billion in assets, said it earned $31.3 million, or 39 cents a share, up from $28.8 million, or 30 cents a share.

Cathay's per-share earnings got a boost when it paid off its remaining bailout-era debt from the  federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program in September, allowing the bank to stop paying dividends to Uncle Sam. 



Medical procedures and medication cost far more in the United States than in eight other countries, a survey found.

Healthcare costs in U.S. far exceed costs in other countries, report says

An average one-day hospital stay in the United States cost $4,293 last year, six times more than it did in Argentina and nearly 10 times the cost in Spain, an industry group reported Thursday.

Medical procedures, tests, scans and prescription medicine cost far more in the United States than in eight other countries, the International Federation of Health Plans said Thursday in its annual report.

“The price variations bear no relation to health outcomes; they merely demonstrate the relative ability of providers to profiteer at the expense of patients, and in some cases reflect a damaging degree of market failure,” said Tom Sackville, the group’s chief executive.

PHOTOS: Top 10 biggest Southern California companies

The group examined healthcare costs in Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. The data were gathered by a survey of health plans in each country. Costs in the United States were based on...

March home prices in the Bay Area jumped 23% from the same period last year.

Bay Area home prices still surging, up 23% in March

Home prices in the Bay Area continued their brisk pace upward in March, according to new figures out Wednesday.

The median price of a home in the nine-county region jumped 23.2% from the same month last year, to $570,000, according to San Diego-based real estate tracking firm DataQuick. The number of sales fell 12.9% compared to last March.

QUIZ: Do you remember the biggest business news stories of 2013?

Other Western markets, including Southern California, have seen price gains over the last year, but they’ve grown faster in the Bay Area. And median prices have grown there not just because more more-expensive homes have come on the market but largely because of rising home values, according to DataQuick figures.  

While the market is hot, it’s also healthy, and firing on nearly all cylinders, said DataQuick analyst John Karevoll.

“The only part of today’s Bay Area housing market that is still somewhat off-kilter is mortgage financing, but even there things are...


Deaf college student: Is there an app to follow lectures?

Marc's daughter is attending college in Michigan. She's also deaf.

Sign-language interpreters have been provided for classes, but Marc wants to know if there's a more high-tech solution.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

Isn't there an app for this?

I put that question to the Hearing Loss Assn. of America. For its answer, check out today's Ask Laz video.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.



Workers adjust piping during a short pause in water pumping during a natural gas hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, Colo.

Petroleum group says fracking helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The American Petroleum Institute said hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is sometimes called, contributed to a 3.4% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, the trade group said in a statement.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued a report that found that greenhouse gas emissions dropped 3.4% in 2012 compared with the year before. The nation released the equivalent of 6,526 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, the lowest level since 1994. About 82% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing climate change.

The decline, environmental regulators said, was driven mostly by a switch to natural gas from coal by power plant operators. It also credited improvements in fuel efficiency for transportation and a warmer winter, which reduced demand for heating.

Photos: Top 10 Southern California companies

"America is leading the world in reducing greenhouse gases thanks, in part, to the revolution in natural gas...

Health watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest accused Joe's Crab Shack of using trans fats despite its pledge not to.

Joe's Crab Shack loads up on trans fat despite pledge, watchdog says

Artificial trans fat still lurks in our food, at least at the Joe’s Crab Shack chain, according to a health watchdog group.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday that the Houston-based seafood restaurant company uses a blend of partially hydrogenated margarine-butter blend containing dangerous levels of trans fat.

Joe’s Crab Shack, which was established in 1994, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[Updated, April 16, 3:15 p.m.: Jim Mazany, president of Joe's Crab Shack, said in a statement that the company had made "consistent progress" toward its goal of removing all trans fats from its menu prior to the CSPI's report.

"This means that, to date, there are zero trans fats in our frying oil system-wide; some of our restaurants are already fully trans fat-free; and within 90 days, we intend to be completely trans fat-free in all restaurants,” Mazany said.]

In November, the Food and Drug administration proposed new rules on trans...

The remains of a dead Joshua tree stand in Joshua Tree National Park. The majority of Californians believe the state is facing a serious water shortage.

Water shortage divides Californians on solutions and blame

The vast majority of Californians believe, unsurprisingly, that the state is in the throes of a serious water crisis. But many disagree about what can be done about it.

About 54% of Golden State voters believe farmers could cut down on their water with no real hardship by changing crops and being more efficient, according to the latest Field Poll.

Separately, two-thirds said they support voluntary water rationing, while only 27% favored mandatory cuts in water use.

Opinions also were divided when people assigned blame for the drought.

PHOTOS: World's most expensive cities

About 37% say they believe the shortage was spurred by Californians who do not use existing water supplies wisely, and 27% point the finger at a lack of storage and supply facilities in the state. Nearly a quarter blamed both for the drought.

California suffered its driest year on record in 2013, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency in the state.

Recent storms, which brought the Los Angeles region...

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