Newsletter: California Inc.: A totally #MeToo moment for movie capers


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 with the tail wind of a strong jobs report on Friday. Employers added 223,000 jobs, helping lower the unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8%. President Trump, who learned about the report Thursday night, tweeted Friday morning that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers,” a break in protocol that prompted some investors to trade on the anticipated good news.



Interest rate debate: The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that tests whether there’s any limit to the interest lenders in California can charge on consumer loans. The case involves Orange County lender CashCall, one of many lenders that offer loans at annual interest rates topping 100%.

Tesla board: Tesla’s board will vote Tuesday on possible changes. An investment group and a shareholder proxy advisor are raising a ruckus. They want the following voted out: Antonio Gracias, venture capitalist and early Tesla backer; Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk’s brother; James Murdoch, the rich and fabulous media mogul.

Eye on Apple: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference takes place all week in San Jose. The company historically has used WWDC as an opportunity to announce new software and updates to its laptops, tablets and phones.

Consumer credit: The latest stats on consumer credit will be released Thursday. In March, total consumer debt rose by $11.7 billion to reach $3.875 trillion. However, while overall debt is increasing, total revolving credit — primarily outstanding credit card balances — has declined for two months in a row.

Stick ’em up: The Warner Bros. “Ocean’s” heist franchise is getting the reboot treatment, again, this time with a female-led cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna. Directed by Gary Ross, “Ocean’s 8” comes more than a decade after the successful but decidedly bro-y Steven Soderbergh trilogy ended.



Monday’s Business section looks at a growing problem in the aviation world: Airlines’ insatiable demand for pilots is sabotaging flight schools’ ability to train new ones. Carriers are raising wages and hoarding every available pilot — including the instructors schools rely on to teach incoming students. The very pilot pipeline that is supposed to meet decades of projected labor shortfalls is being squeezed. Some schools have been forced to scale back operations or turn down qualified students because they do not have enough instructors.


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

King Coal: President Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take immediate action to stem the closures of coal-fired and nuclear power plants, which face stiff competition from cheaper gas and renewable energy sources. Trump, who has big support in coal country, said the older plants would help provide a strategic electric-generation reserve.

Twitter effect: Roseanne Barr’s now notorious racist tweet got her top-rated “Roseanne” reboot canceled by ABC, but it cost others a lot more. Hundreds of L.A.-area production and technical personnel saw there jobs disappear in a flash after just one season on the air. “It was frustrating, and I was really angry,” said one worker.

Regulatory rollback: The Federal Reserve Board took the first step toward loosening the Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks with federally insured deposits from trading for their own profit. Still, the changes fall well short of what Republicans and industry executives sought — a gutting of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act rule intended to prevent a repeat of the excesses that caused the financial crisis.

Heaven sent?: On a hillside next to the Angels Flight railway, developers want to erect a $1.2-billion residential, hotel and retail complex anchored by a skyscraper of at least 80 stories. The process could take several years, but the developers, a trio of minority-owned firms, plan to file an application with the city next month to start the official approval process for the project dubbed Angels Landing.

Beyond the midway: The home of the Los Angeles County Fair has released a strategic plan promising lower entrance prices, more music and food events and a bike path, among other changes. The 58-page strategic plan outlines more than a dozen projects to boost the popularity of the Fairplex in Pomona and make the county-owned facility a regional hub for food, music and job training.


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

Hurricane Harvey: An intriguing profile from the New York Times of L.A. spinmeister Michael Sitrick and the hassle of Harvey Weinstein. “Until a few weeks earlier, Mr. Sitrick’s crisis management firm, Sitrick and Company, had been managing Mr. Weinstein’s unprecedented crisis. Mr. Sitrick had dropped Mr. Weinstein, but he couldn’t say why.”

Both sides now: From the Wall Street Journal, a glimpse at Amazon’s powerful cloud-computing business. “When Amazon launches in your space, you’re stupid if you don’t get scared by that,” one competitor observes, “because they do tend to outcompete everyone.”

Missing the mark: The New Yorker’s John Cassidy lays out why President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs will hurt America’s allies more than China. “China only exports about $3 billion worth of steel and aluminum to the United States, whereas Canada and the European Union between them export more than $20 billion worth.”

Science! The Atlantic explains why rich kids are so good at the marshmallow test. A new study suggests “the capacity to hold out for a second marshmallow is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background — and, in turn, that that background, not the ability to delay gratification, is what’s behind kids’ long-term success.”

Taste test: Integrated Beverage Group has a business making cheap knockoffs of popular, expensive vintages, using chromatography and other scientific techniques to replicate the chemical composition of pricey wines — at half the price. Wired explains how even master sommeliers sometimes can’t tell the difference.


Bloomberg pulls out the stops with a multimedia presentation that uses the video-game format to illustrate the challenges of running an American mall. Fittingly, they’ve employed an old-school design rather than something more modern. Game on!

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

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