Thursday morning headlines

Strike impact minimized: Sure, it's a big deal for portions of Hollywood, but it won't mean all that much for the rest of the L.A. economy, according to UCLA Anderson Forecast economist Jerry Nickelsberg. For those of us around during the 1988 strike, when we heard gloom-and-doom forecasts that turned out to be way off, Nickelsberg's projections make sense. He says that if the strike lasts as long as the work stoppage in 1988, the impact will be about $330 million, which is relatively small for L.A. It's also at odds with some of the nutty numbers being tossed around by various industry groups. From Variety:

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. recently issued the estimate of the strike resulting in $1 billion in damages to the local economy. But Nickelsburg noted that such initial forecasts may be out of whack since strikes are predictable events and those affected try to mitigate their impacts through such steps as stockpiling. "To be sure, hardships and economic dislocation occur as some people suffer from lost wages which are never recouped," Nickelsburg added. "And, one ought not to minimize the difficult situation those individuals find themselves in. But, from an aggregate perspective, once the dynamics of the strike are incorporated, this particular strike ought to have only a minor impact on the L.A. economy."

So what about the talks? The writers and media companies will meet again today. The media blackout has held up fairly well, so it's very hard to know how the sessions are going.

Ford settles rollover case: The agreement applies to 1 million people in California, Connecticut, Illinois and Texas who claimed that their Explorers were prone to flip - and it ends all outstanding rollover-related lawsuits against the company. Under terms of the settlement, owners of Explorers in model years 1991 through 2001 can apply for $500 vouchers that can be used toward the purchase of new Explorers or $300 vouchers for other Ford or Lincoln Mercury products. Wow - a whole $500 voucher for a vehicle you probably don't even want to drive. (AP)

Countrywide inquiry: This one involves whether the Calabasas-based mortgage lender has been levying unjustified fees on consumers going through bankruptcy. The U.S. trustee's office has filed subpoenas in at least a dozen cases in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, asking Countrywide for information. Countrywide says that the sweeping nature of the requests is part of an effort to poke around into Countrywide's policies and procedures. From the LAT:

At issue are fees claimed by mortgage lenders against consumers attempting to work out payment plans through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, said Michael A. Frank, a Miami-based attorney representing borrowers Manuel del Castillo and Maria E. Pena of Florida. In that case, Countrywide filed a claim stating that the couple were behind in their mortgage payments by $16,417.67, which included $11,923.85 in advances to the couple's escrow account before the bankruptcy filing and a $682.88 "insufficient funds fee." The couple objected, saying that the lender "failed to attach any backup documentation" verifying the claims. Countrywide never responded, resulting in Del Castillo and Pena winning a default judgment, Frank said.

Mixed economic news: The U.S. economy was even stronger in the third quarter than previously thought, growing at a 4.9 percent pace instead of the initial 3.9 percent estimate. More exports and inventory investment by businesses were cited for the upward revision. The fourth quarter, however, could be another story, with growth likely to slow to 1.5 percent or less. (AP)

Valley home sales plunge: October numbers were a record low, dropping 54 percent from a year ago. October's median price slipped 3.3 percent from a year earlier, to $590,000, and was off 5.4 percent from September. Sales in the San Fernando Valley have now fallen from their year-ago level for a record 25 consecutive months dating back to September 2005. Not good. (Daily News)

Big win for companies: Shareholder activism took a hit with a bitterly divided SEC voting to let companies scuttle investor attempts to nominate board members. Never mind that 34,000 letters were sent to the commission in support of more shareholder power - or the fact that the commission is short one Democrat (the vote was 3-1). From the Washington Post:

At issue was how securities regulators would respond to a court decision last year that appeared to give investors more leeway to nominate board candidates. The SEC in July proposed two opposing rules: One would have offered large, long-term investor groups more power to select board nominees by requiring companies to include those nominees in their proxy ballots. The other, approved yesterday, gives companies the authority to reject summarily any investor proposal that suggests candidates for corporate boards. Companies would not be required to consider investors' board nomination proposals or even include them on proxy statements for dissemination to other shareholders.

The A-380 junket: They'll be flying the monster jet today on a 90-minute demonstration run, with bizfolks, journos and even some residents on board for Airbus's shameless publicity blitz. The aerospace giant had wanted to include Mayor Antonio and a bunch of City Council members, but they had to decline because of a dumb ol state law that bars public officials from accepting free transportation. I mean, is that ridiculous or what? From the LAT:

Airbus, Qantas and Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX, plan to use the 90-minute demonstration flight to prove that the agency's efforts to prepare the aging facility for the massive jet are paying off. "I'm very confident that Los Angeles will be ready when it's required next year," said Wally Mariani, a senior executive vice president at Qantas, which plans to inaugurate the commercial A380 flights at LAX. The A380 that is visiting this week belongs to Airbus but is being flown by Qantas pilots to Sydney on Friday for additional testing.

Santa Monica bans jets: If youre rich enough to own a private jet, this could be the big news of the day. We're talking about luxury-class jets - the Gulfstream IV, Challenger and Citation X. They all might be prohibited to fly into Santa Monica Airport because of concerns about safety and noise. The FAA will challenge the ban, which is still subject to a second and final vote by the City Council in January. From the LAT:

The airport is unusual in its proximity to homes, the nearest of which are within 300 feet of the runway's end. The drop-off to the west, the usual direction of takeoff, is about 40 feet, the staff report states, and the airport is surrounded by urban development. "Landings and takeoffs at the airport have been likened to aircraft operations on an aircraft carrier," the report says. "There is little or no margin for error." In a letter to Mayor Richard Bloom, the FAA vowed to use "all available means" to fight the ordinance so that "no aircraft is denied access" to Santa Monica Airport. "What you are considering by this proposed ordinance is flatly illegal as drafted," said D. Kirk Shaffer, the agency's associate administrator for airports.

Sale of NBC land nears: Negotiations between NBC Universal and M. David Paul & Associates have progressed to the point where they have requested approval from the city of Burbank for the pending purchase. Santa Monica-based M. David Paul has built or acquired 2.3 million square feet of buildings in the city. (LAT)


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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Letter from Down Under: Welcome to the Homogenocene
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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
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