Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.
I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.
In coming days, the Federal Reserve will start reducing the trillions of dollars in bonds it bought to stimulate the economy — another milestone in the central bank’s efforts to return to a normal monetary policy after the Great Recession. The move comes amid uncertainty at the bank. There are several vacancies on the Fed board, and there could be a change in leadership early next year if President Trump decides not to renominate Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen.
Getting bigger: The Anaheim Convention Center — already the biggest such facility on the West Coast — gets even bigger Tuesday when a 200,000-square-foot expansion officially opens. The new North building, the seventh expansion in the 50-year history of the convention center, will bring the site to 1.8 million total square feet, including over a million square feet of exhibit space. Officials say they’ve already booked 75 events for the new space.
Electric cars: What role should California’s public utilities play in supporting the use of electric vehicles? Should they build and maintain charging stations throughout the state? The public will get a chance to weigh in when the state Public Utilities Commission holds two community meetings on “transportation electrification plans.” The first will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 634 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, and the second will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 276 Fourth Ave., Chula Vista.
Hear this: Music sales could surge Friday with the release of albums by several high-profile artists. Miley Cyrus’ “Younger Now” will feature 11 tracks, including one with her godmother, Dolly Parton. Shania Twain’s “Now” is her first new collection in 15 years, and will be followed by a 2018 concert tour. Demi Lovato’s 12-track “Tell Me You Love Me” will be her sixth studio album. And “Let’s Play Two: Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field” features music from a 2016 concert.
‘Feud’ feud: The producers of the Emmy-nominated docuseries “Feud: Bette and Joan” will be in a Los Angeles court on Friday trying to convince a judge to dismiss a lawsuit against them by actress Olivia de Havilland. FX Networks and Ryan Murphy’s Pacific 2.1 Entertainment Group were sued by the 101-year-old “Gone With the Wind” star over her depiction in the show. If the case is not dismissed, a trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 27.
Obamacare challenge: Republicans attempting to roll back the Affordable Care Act face an end-of-the-week deadline to get their bill through the Senate. With 52 GOP senators, the repeal can only pass if at least 50 of them vote for it, and they must do so before Saturday, when the arcane budget window known as “reconciliation” closes. After that date, the bill would need an unattainable 60 votes to overcome a certain Democratic filibuster.
Only days after monster storm Irma made landfall in Florida, canceling and delaying thousands of flights, the head of the world’s largest airline voiced glowing optimism about the future of air carriers. “I feel as good about this business as I ever have,” said Doug Parker, the chief executive of American Airlines. How could that be when some fear that travel disruptions could become a regular occurrence amid quickening climate change? Chalk it up to science, technology and profits.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
SEC hacked: The nation’s top financial markets regulator revealed that its computer system was hacked last year and that private information might have been used to make “illicit gains” through stock trades. Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said in a statement posted on the agency’s website that officials learned last month that the “previously detected” 2016 incident may have been exploited by the hackers for financial gains.
HP cutbacks: Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. reportedly is planning to lay off at least 5,000 employees, or about 10% of its workforce. The job cuts, which will occur in the U.S. and abroad, are expected to begin before the end of the year. HP Enterprise was created in 2015 as a result of Hewlett Packard Co.’s split into two companies. HP sells personal computers and printers; HP Enterprise focuses on commercial technology services and products.
Offensive terms: Advertisers on Facebook no longer can use offensive search terms such as “Jew hater” and “how to burn Jews” to target specific audiences, the company announced. The new policy comes a week after ProPublica published a story demonstrating how advertisers could reach thousands of Facebook users by entering hateful search terms on the social network’s advertising platform. The ads would reach users whose Facebook profiles included those search terms as a field of interest.
Building ban: The Redondo Beach City Council has placed a nearly one-year moratorium on mixed-use development in response to residents’ concerns over traffic and crowding. The 10-and-a-half-month ban puts a brake on projects that combine retail and office with housing. The timeout is meant to give the city breathing room to hammer out new rules for its mixed-use zones that would lessen the impact on schools, infrastructure and city services.
Exec erupts: The board of Los Angeles-based KB Home said it’s punishing CEO Jeffrey Mezger for an obscene rant directed at neighbors Kathy Griffin and Randy Bick by taking away 25% of his annual bonus. But that may not mean much, notes columnist Michael Hiltzik, because Mezger hasn’t gotten a bonus since 2014. “Losing 25% of nothing is pretty painless.” Meanwhile, Mezger’s salary — he received total compensation of $28.2 million from 2014 through 2016 — was untouched.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Land rush: Florida continues to build, even as the risk of catastrophic storms grows and environmental problems widen, reports the New York Times. New condominiums and houses have been built at a brisk pace since the last recession, many near the coast or in sensitive wetlands. “Real estate still reigns supreme. There is simply too much money in it, and the spoils funnel into government at every level. High-rises today swallow up whole neighborhoods.”
Comeback story: Since taking over Microsoft in 2014, CEO Satya Nadella has brought new life to a tech firm that seemed to be fading from the spotlight, says FastCompany. “Nadella has not only restored Microsoft to relevance; he’s generated more than $250 billion in market value in just three and a half years — more value growth over that time than Uber and Airbnb, Netflix and Spotify, Snapchat and WeWork. Indeed, more than all of them combined.”
Selling solar: Tesla’s purchase of SolarCity last year — initially puzzling to many — is starting to make sense, reports Bloomberg. In the face of shrinking demand for solar panels, many companies in the business are looking for outside marketing alliances. Tesla is already doing that with its SolarCity assets. “Solar companies hope the alliances will solve a problem long bedeviling installers: customer-acquisition costs that often run 20% of expenses, sometimes exceeding the panels themselves.”
Empty homes: Out-of-town investors are leaving scores of empty, deteriorating homes in some vacancy-plagued cities, reports the New Republic. “The housing crash of 2008, combined with the relative ease of buying property online, has ushered in a new era of real estate speculation. With millions of homeowners unable to pay their mortgages and taxes, abandoned properties are increasingly put up for auction in online tax sales, enabling out-of-state investors to snap up houses, sight unseen.”
Like all denizens of the Southland, I’m a student of, and expert in, traffic issues. So it was a pleasure to come across a portfolio of old-timey photos from Curbed Los Angeles showing the evolution of transportation over the decades. The horse-drawn carriages on Long Beach are cool enough, but my favorite image is the pile of discarded streetcars — a sad reminder of a great city’s wrong turn from public transit.
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.