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.
Trading resumes Monday after news that hurricanes Harvey and Irma walloped the labor market, causing the nation to lose jobs for the first time in seven years. Total nonfarm employment declined by 33,000 jobs in September compared with an upwardly revised gain of 169,000 the previous month. The Labor Department said 1.5 million workers — the most in 20 years — were not at their jobs during the survey week last month because of bad weather.
Goodbye Columbus: Los Angeles city workers will have the day off Monday, but don’t even think about calling it Columbus Day. The City Council re-designated the holiday Indigenous Peoples Day, bowing to activists who see the explorer as a symbol of genocide. To ease resistance to the change, the Council named Oct. 12 as Italian American Heritage Day. Federal workers also have Monday off — but for them, it’s still Columbus Day.
What a blast: SpaceX will have a doubleheader of launches this week. The Hawthorne-based company is set to launch a rocket with 10 commercial satellites for Iridium Communications from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday. Then, on Wednesday, SpaceX will launch a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center carrying a European-built television broadcast satellite. The launches will be SpaceX’s 14th and 15th of the year.
Water plan: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether it will contribute $4.3 billion to a proposed re-engineering of the the state’s water system. That amount would pay for about 25% of the California Waterfix, a $17-billion proposal to construct two massive tunnels that would change the way water supplies move through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Backers of the plan are worried that not all water districts will agree to share the cost.
Love is all around: The Paley Center for Media will present a salute to women in the television industry on Thursday at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. The event, called “Paley Honors in Hollywood: A Gala Celebrating Women in Television,” will feature a tribute to comedy icon Betty White. Presenters and participants include Kristin Chenoweth, Nadia Comaneci, Allison Janney, Debra Messing, Rita Moreno, Wanda Sykes and Lynn Whitfield.
Signing deadline: Gov. Jerry Brown faces a deadline Sunday to act on bills approved by the Legislature before it adjourned. One prominent business measure would force pharmaceutical companies to justify big price hikes on drugs. Other high profile bills include one that would deny access to the California ballot for any presidential candidate who won’t release personal tax returns — a not-so-subtle jab at Donald Trump’s refusal to do so in 2016.
Monday’s Business section looks at the challenges faced by U.S. manufacturers. Case in point: Whirlpool, which has filed an unusual trade complaint against South Korea’s Samsung and LG, which it says have dumped washing machines into the United States at below fair-market prices. Trade experts say the case could result in the Trump administration slapping penalties on imports of washers and key parts from anywhere in the world. The White House is “open for business in terms of these petitions,” one expert says.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Harassment claims: Harvey Weinstein, the pioneering independent film executive, was ousted from his company after a blockbuster news report that detailed decades of sexual harassment accusations against him. The New York Times said that the allegations were levied by actresses including Ashley Judd, as well as former employees of Weinstein Co. and the executive’s former company, Miramax. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements over the alleged harassment, the paper said.
Contraceptive coverage: The Trump administration said it will limit an Obama-era rule that employers must provide women with contraceptives as part of their health plans, giving a broad exemption for executives or owners who have religious or moral objections to doing so. The Obama administration treated birth control as preventive care that must be covered by health insurance and gave female employees access to the full range of contraceptives at no cost.
Payday lending: The top consumer financial watchdog issued tough nationwide regulations on payday and other short-term loans, aiming to prevent lenders from taking advantage of cash-strapped Americans. The long-awaited rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the first such broad federal regulations — would require lenders in most cases to assess whether a consumer can repay the loan.
Wells Fargo: CEO Tim Sloan appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the Wells Fargo chief should be fired for a steady stream of new revelations about irregularities at the bank since its accounts scandal erupted last year. Afterward, Wells Fargo took action on one issue, saying it will refund fees assessed to mortgage borrowers whose delays in completing their loan applications were primarily the bank’s fault.
Downtown project: The owner of a two-block stretch just south of downtown is seeking to either sell or bring in a partner to develop a massive $1.2-billion mixed-use project that would include a hotel, shops and residences. The site south of the 10 Freeway is now occupied by parking lots and just one main building, the 12-story Reef/LA Mart, which houses home furnishings showrooms and space for creative businesses and events.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Hard labor: In attempt to keep individuals convicted of low-level crimes out of prison, some judges are sending people to “rehab” facilities that are really just work camps for private industry, reports Reveal. “The beneficiaries of these programs span the country, from Fortune 500 companies to factories and local businesses. The defendants work at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Oklahoma, a construction firm in Alabama, a nursing home in North Carolina.”
Exploiting the elderly: The New Yorker reports on private “guardians” in Las Vegas who have misused laws meant to protect the elderly, abruptly removing the seniors from homes, isolating them from their adult children and seizing their assets. While Nevada has belatedly moved to prevent such abuses, the magazine says, the mistreatment has left “a generation of ill and elderly people who were deprived of their autonomy, and also of their families, in the final years of their lives.”
Tech fight: The bitter feud between Apple and Qualcomm over the iPhone’s wireless modem could have a deep impact on the cellular phone business, says Bloomberg. Apple wants Qualcomm to lower the price it charges for the $18 part. Qualcomm contends that Apple has been using its influence to get Korean government regulators to intimidate Qualcomm on antitrust grounds. The feud could come to a head next year in a San Diego courtroom.
An agent’s path: The New York Times profiles Charles D. King, formerly Hollywood’s top African-American talent agent and now the 48-year-old founder of a media start-up called Macro. “In King’s own career, breaking down barriers has meant keeping cool and taking his lumps — some of them simply for being an outsider — as he studied the business and fought his way up from a subminimum-wage position in the William Morris mailroom.”
If there’s a character that Hollywood knows well, it’s talent agents. “Jerry Maguire” is a prominent case in point. Better still, Matthew McConaughey in “Tropic Thunder,” Woody Allen in “Broadway Danny Rose” and Martin Short in “The Big Picture.” Of course there’s also Jeremy Piven in “Entourage,” but I can’t provide a link and still keep this newsletter’s PG rating.
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.