Monday morning headlines

Stocks getting battered: A downgrade of Citigroup, a big write-down at Swiss Reinsurance and rising oil prices are among the explanations. The Dow is down about 170 points after almost two hours of trading.

Resumption of talks: Both the writers and the media companies will lay out their positions in advance of next Monday's resumption of talks, according to the WSJ. Supposedly, that will avoid any surprises. By the way, both Leno and Letterman saw ratings increases during the first week of the strike, but "The Daily Show" was way off from year-earlier levels. (Variety)

Lead law: Mattel Inc. and 19 other companies are being accused by California AG Jerry Brown of making or selling products that contain "unlawful quantities of lead." The suit, to be filed under the state's Proposition 65 law, would force manufacturers and retailers to adopt procedures for inspecting products to make sure they are safe. Barring that, they would be required to warn consumers that the items contained chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. "They are going to eliminate the lead or eliminate the product," said Brown. "But, going forward, we want to prevent these kinds of things from happening." (LAT)

Tough CEOs: None of this warm and cuddly stuff -- the more successful chieftains are the ones who have not-so-popular traits, according to new study by three University of Chicago business-school professors. Among those mentioned in the study are persistence, attention to detail, efficiency, analytical skills and setting high standards. Less important are strong oral communication, teamwork, flexibility/adaptability, enthusiasm and listening skills. (WSJ)

On the road again: The Auto Club expects a small increase in the number Socalians traveling by car to holiday destinations, even with higher gas prices. The overall top five destinations, whether by car, plane or boat: Vegas, San Diego, Grand Canyon, SF and Hawaii.

Women to watch: Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures and Julia Stewart of IHOP are the two locals to make the WSJ's list of hot-shot women. In 2007, such a list should be anachronistic, but sadly, a woman CEO remains a big deal. Topping the list of 50 was WellPoint CEO Angela Brady. (You might recall that WellPoint had been based on Woodland Hills until its merger with Anthem moved the combined operations to Indianapolis.)

General counsel and government-affairs strategist before the promotion, she was chosen over several more senior and more visible executives. Her appointment, announced in February, took Wall Street by surprise. But her public-relations savvy and ability to court legislators and regulators -- not to mention her hands-on experience running a health plan -- made it clear to the board that she was "what WellPoint needed going forward," a person close to the selection process says.

"Lust, Caution" caution: Here's one more reason not to illegally download Ang Lee's steamy spy thriller: your computer may be exposed to viruses, especially in China where the movie is a big hit. Perhaps one explanation for all the downloading is that Chinese censors have clipped seven minutes of the really graphic stuff. (Reuters)

Univision Music loses appeal: Prices are being shaved by at least $50 million because of concerns over artist contracts and an investigation of payola. A half-dozen financial and strategic suitors remain involved in the bidding, and the NY Post reports that Universal Music has the inside track (it already has a distribution deal with Univision). SonyBMG and Warner Music are also in the running.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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