Newsletter: California Inc.: Top state court to hear case on disaster insurance

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a dispute over whether California can impose rules on insurance companies aimed at bettering payouts for people who lose their homes in disasters. Above, a wildfire rages in 2003 near Lake Piru in Ventura County.
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a dispute over whether California can impose rules on insurance companies aimed at bettering payouts for people who lose their homes in disasters. Above, a wildfire rages in 2003 near Lake Piru in Ventura County.
(Los Angeles Times)

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 Friday’s eye-popping announcement that the nation’s economic engine grew this summer at its fastest pace since 2014. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September, the Commerce Department said. The figure beat analyst expectations and was more than twice the lackluster 1.4% annual rate in the second quarter of the year. Growth now has improved for two straight quarters.


Go team: On Monday, the esteemed justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will be discussing … cheerleader uniforms. The justices will hear arguments over whether the stripes, chevrons and colors of uniforms worn by cheerleaders can be copyrighted under federal law. The case stems from a 2010 suit in which Varsity Brands accused competitor Star Athletica of infringing on several copyrighted designs used in its cheerleader uniforms. The case could have major implications for the apparel industry, and possibly for Hollywood costume designers as well.


Obamacare enrollment: Open enrollment for people seeking coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins Tuesday. The enrollment period, the fourth since the launch of insurance marketplaces such as Covered California, comes at a crucial moment for the health law that President Obama signed in 2010. The Obama administration, amid rising rates, is under pressure to stabilize wobbly insurance markets nationwide. It’s also making a new push to sign up more Americans for health coverage through the law, aiming to increase enrollment by about 1 million in 2017. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31.

Airport handover: After years of debate and negotiations, the city of Los Angeles will give up control of Los Angeles-Ontario International Airport on Tuesday to Inland Empire officials. The airport will fall under control of the Ontario International Airport Authority, made up of elected and appointed officials from the city of Ontario and other nearby municipalities. Among other changes, the airport will drop “Los Angeles” from its name, becoming Ontario International Airport. Los Angeles has owned the airport since 1985.

Disaster protection: The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a dispute over whether the state can impose rules on insurance companies aimed at protecting homeowners who lose their homes in disasters. In 2010, after reports of people losing their houses to wildfires only to discover that their insurance was inadequate, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones enacted regulations requiring a uniform standard for companies to calculate “replacement value” in their policies. The Assn. of California Insurance Companies protested, saying Jones had no authority to create such rules.

Movie summit: Leaders from the U.S. and Chinese film industries will gather Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles for the seventh annual U.S.-China Film Summit. Speakers and panel participants will include executives from the Weinstein Co., Amblin Partners, Alibaba Pictures and IM Global. James Wang, of production company Huayi Bros. Media, and Melissa Cobb, of China-U.S. film joint venture Oriental DreamWorks, will be honored. The event is organized by Asia Society Southern California.



Monday’s Business section visits with entrepreneur Elon Musk, who knows how to put on a show. Like a 21st century Willy Wonka, he chose an amusement park to unveil his latest attempt to energize the energy industry with a solar-powered roof you could show off to the Joneses. The move by Musk and his SolarCity comes as California’s solar industry grapples with slower growth and other challenges despite aggressive state mandates to boost the use of renewable energy. Still, industry experts expect 2016 to finish with an overall expansion of the business.


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

Next big merger? The Walt Disney Co. is an entertainment behemoth. But the Burbank corporation soon could find itself in an unfamiliar position: dwarfed. If regulators approve AT&T’s $85.4-billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc., the combined company would be far bigger than Disney. That has spurred some industry observers to speculate on whether Disney might need to pursue a significant acquisition of its own.

Hitting the road: Qualcomm boomed in the last decade as its powerful chips helped make smartphones common across the globe. But smartphones have gotten a little too common, forcing the San Diego company to look for its next gold mine. With a $38-billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors — one of the largest recorded in the industry — Qualcomm placed a bet that its future will be in cars.


VW settlement: Volkswagen took a big step toward trying to fix its tattered reputation as a San Francisco federal judge formally approved a $14.7-billion settlement of the automaker’s emissions cheating case. The deal is the largest auto scandal settlement in U.S. history and paves the way for the company to make amends to 475,000 U.S. owners of Volkswagens and Audis with 2-liter diesel engines.

Betting on Chinese: Casino operators know there’s no gambler quite like the Chinese. With their affinity for baccarat, the most lucrative game in Las Vegas, Chinese gamblers have long commanded special treatment. Yet no one in Vegas has built a casino and hotel strictly for Chinese visitors. Until now.

Redstone files suit: Billionaire Sumner Redstone is suing two former companions for what he says was elder abuse, alleging in court documents that the two women schemed to isolate him from his family as they drained his financial accounts. The ailing 93-year-old mogul contends the two women received gifts totaling more than $150 million during a five-year spree, leaving him in debt over tax obligations triggered by the gifts.


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


Somebody’s watching me: The Daily Beast says AT&T, which is seeking to acquire Time Warner, has been spying on people. “The telecom giant is doing NSA-style work for law enforcement — without a warrant — and earning millions of dollars a year from taxpayers.”

Green to the end: Bloomberg tells how eco-friendly burials are forcing the funeral industry to rethink death. “More and more funeral directors are seeing eco-friendly burial as a way to recoup income lost by the increase in cremations.”

Healing Obamacare: The New Yorker acknowledges that the Affordable Care Act has troubles, but notes that “despite their bluster, [GOP presidential nominee Donald] Trump and the Republicans don’t really have a plan to fix Obamacare.” The magazine offers three solid suggestions.

Keeping the faith: In a story headlined “Hijab in high places,” Fast Company observes that American Muslim women in U.S. workplaces “exhibit some of the qualities most essential to success: fearless drive, creative thinking, empathy and the ability to not to sweat the small stuff.”


Same old song: As Quartz sees it, the music industry has been completely disrupted (man, I hate that word) by Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, “it’s still run by the same two moguls.” That would be Lyor Cohen and Jimmy Iovine.


Self-absorbed, blustering entertainment industry execs are an easy target for ridicule. Case in point: Ari Gold from “Entourage.” But nobody, and I mean nobody, nailed it better than Tom Cruise in “Tropic Thunder.” His Les Grossman is a force of nature. (Caution: Naughty words abound.)

For the latest money news, go to Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.

David Lazarus’ column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. He also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to