Newsletter: California Inc.: Car industry is rolling into town with L.A. auto shows


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.

It’s Cyber Monday, which is expected to be the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. Adobe Analytics says Americans will spend $6.6 billion online today, more than a billion dollars more than on Black Friday and up 16.5% from a year ago. This year, crowds at some L.A.-area stores on Friday were noticeably thinner. Fun fact: “Cyber Monday” was coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005 when staffers noticed that online sales had jumped after the Black Friday weekend.



New cars: The automotive industry is coming to town this week, followed close behind by car lovers. AutoMobility L.A., a four-day press and trade event, will run Monday through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Vehicle debuts are expected from dozens of carmakers, including Jaguar, Porsche and Land Rover. Immediately after that event, the Los Angeles Auto Show launches and will run from Friday through Dec. 10 at the same venue.

Fed head: On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Jerome Powell as the replacement for Janet L. Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve. Powell, a former investment banker and the only Republican on the Fed board, has closely aligned himself with the cautious policy moves and positions forged by Yellen. He has shown he is in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Vegas visits: The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is expected to release its tourism numbers for October this week, likely on Tuesday. The monthly release of visitation volume and hotel occupancy rates will be the first since a gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino killed 58 people attending a music festival on the ground below. Executives from MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts have said booking trends for groups remained strong despite the deadly Oct. 1 shooting.

Opioid crisis: U.S. senators will hear from drug addiction experts Thursday during a hearing on “The Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis.” Representatives from healthcare and drug programs in four states will address the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Last week, a White House group said the opioid drug epidemic cost the U.S. $504 billion in 2016. Companies that make those pain medications traded sharply lower the same day.



Monday’s Business section delves into the growing problem of hackers getting their mitts on people’s credit card numbers. A new batch of start-ups has emerged to help put consumers’ minds at ease. They’ll let you create “virtual cards” — new credit card numbers that link to a real payment account but that expire after a single transaction or are locked to a single online merchant, making them useless to would-be thieves.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

Leadership change: President Trump named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney acting chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Richard Cordray suddenly announced that Friday would be his last day as director. Before exiting, Cordray appointed a new deputy, Leandra English, in hopes of keeping an ally in charge until a permanent chief is nominated and confirmed. The dual appointments set up a legal clash, with the White House claiming Mulvaney’s appointment is on solid legal ground. Late Sunday, English filed a federal lawsuit challenging the administration’s appointment of Mulvaney.

Falls from grace: Two high-profile media names abruptly left their jobs. Charlie Rose’s CBS News career came to an unceremonious end when the network fired him over allegations of sexual harassment. On the same day, John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, announced he is taking a leave of absence, citing unspecified “missteps,” according to a memo to staff.

Internet rules: The chairman of the FCC proposed repealing the net neutrality rules for online traffic, setting the stage for a vote next month to roll back the controversial Obama-era initiative. The move by Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by President Trump, triggered another round in a fight dating to 2003 over whether the government should be actively involved in assuring the unfettered flow of information on the internet or leaving it to market forces.

Uber hack: The ride-hailing company admitted that hackers stole personal data belonging to 57 million customers and drivers in October 2016. But instead of reporting the breach, it concealed it for more than a year and paid the hackers $100,000 to erase the stolen data. Uber fired its chief of security in response, and new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over after the incident took place, promised that the company will learn from its mistakes.

Merger suit: The U.S. Department of Justice sued to block AT&T’s proposed $85-billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. — one of the largest media mergers in American history — arguing that a bulked-up AT&T would stifle competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. The lawsuit sets the stage for a high-stakes showdown and immediately fueled questions about whether President Trump was using the nation’s top law enforcement agency to settle scores with perceived rivals.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Debt trap: Fall behind on your student loans, and it’s pretty well-known your credit could get ruined, the New York Times reports. But how about losing your ability to make a living? “Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts.”

Fashion show flop: When Victoria’s Secret tried to hold a fashion show in Shanghai, it failed to account for the inexplicable ways of Chinese bureaucracy, Bloomberg says. News releases were blocked by the government. Celebrities, fashion journalists and bloggers who wanted to cover the event were denied visas. Music headliner Katy Perry was barred because Chinese officials saw a political message in a dress she had worn in a previous concert.

Hoop dreams: Foreign teenagers hoping for a shot in American basketball are getting ripped off by U.S. prep schools and academies, Deadspin reports. “Many pay exorbitant fees for academic courses that are often worthless or don’t even exist, jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility and, in the case of international players, putting them at risk of violating immigration laws.” Some of the teens end up living in squalor, and some are even jailed or deported, Deadspin found.

Say what? The Daily Beast got more than it expected when it decided to profile Scott Rogowsky, the host of the trivia app HQ, a fast-rising online game. HQ Chief Executive Rus Yusupov went ballistic when he found out that the Daily Beast had interviewed Rogowsky. Yusupov was enraged to learn that the magazine was going to quote Rogowsky as saying — gasp! — that he “enjoys making people happy and giving them the trivia they want.”


Yeah, where does Scott Rogowsky get off trying to make people happy? Let’s nip that in the bud. And while we’re at it, what about the Turtles, Bobby McFerrin and those shamelessly cheerful New Seekers? Why can’t they be total downers like the Jim Carroll Band and Beck?

For the latest money news, go to Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.