Last-minute rush: Today will be the busiest shipping day of the year, with the Postal Service expecting 1 billion cards, letters and packages to be mailed out. FedEx expects to handle 11.3 million packages, the most ever processed in a single day. Consider yourself warned.
Sluggish holiday shopping: November's numbers were quite good, but sales have taken a significant drop in December. Thatís not a huge surprise, but it has retailers preparing for the worst. Of particular note: Spending on womenís apparel dropped nearly 6 percent during the first half of the Christmas season, compared with a year earlier. That could mean big-time discounts for the final week of holiday shopping. (NYT)
Lots of noise in writers strike: Unfortunately none of it points to a breakthrough. The guild says it will pursue a quixotic divide and conquer strategy in which it tries to make deals with media companies rather than rely on contract talks involving the umbrella group serving the networks and studios. That comes as David Letterman's production company seeks an interim deal with the guild in order to get back on the air (other talk shows are expected back in early January, with or without writers), and the guild files a National Labor Relations Board complaint against the media companies. Meanwhile, according to the WSJ, a number of showrunners have been told of plans to send out force majeure letters, which would enable the studios to cancel production deals (the force majeure clause goes into effect six weeks into a labor action). All this would suggest lots of pressure on the WGA to start thinking about a deal.
Maguire wants to go private: Enough of this trying to satisfy Wall Street business - real estate mogul Rovert Maguire tells the WSJ that he's lined up investment firm Colony Capital and the Qatar Investment Authority as partners for a bid to buy the company and take it private. Maguire wouldn't talk price, other than to tell the Journal that the deal is "fully financed." Based on the current stock price, the company could be worth at least $6 billion, including debt. You might recall that Maguire has been under attack from a group of big shareholders not happy about the slumping stock price.
Set against a backdrop of straitened credit markets, the Maguire Properties story is one of missed opportunities and unfortunate timing. Just a year ago, when credit was plentiful and office-building prices were soaring, Mr. Maguire quietly put his company on the block, hoping to cash out at a high price. But he wound up getting only one disappointingly low bid. While most of the dour real-estate headlines recently have been about the problems racking the residential market, Maguire Properties' shares have tumbled partly because earlier this year it purchased a group of buildings in nearby Orange County that housed a number of subprime-mortgage lenders -- right before many of them went bust.
Burkle's murky financing: Still no details on how and when former President Bill Clinton plans to pull back from his business ties with L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle, but Bloomberg reports that Clinton has a financial stake in three entities registered in the Cayman Islands by Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. LLC. That seems to conflct with Sen. Hillary Clinton wanting to "close the loopholes"' for "people who create a mailbox, or a drop, or send one person to sit on the beach in some island paradise and claim that it is their offshore headquarters." Well, she wanted that stuff in 2004. A Clinton campaign spokesman said the funds are designed for foreign investors.
Paul Roth, an attorney with Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP in New York, said companies that organize outside the U.S. often do so because ``it's more attractive'' to foreign investors, who can ``make sure they're not subject to U.S. taxation.'' Foreign registration may also make it easier for U.S. tax-exempt entities such as pension funds to invest ``in certain strategies,'' he said. These tax benefits -- which are legal and common practice for many investment firms, particularly hedge funds -- have drawn attention from lawmakers and candidates.
Runway slugfest: LAX officials want to speed up the reviews on how to make the airport's north runways safer (there have been a bunch of close calls because the two runways are too close together). Of course this has community activists up in arms because the likely solution will be to push the runways closer to homes. The original plan was to have NASA study the matter, but that's gotten bogged down and the airport folks want to move forward with their own environmental review. From the LAT:
The environmental review, required under state and federal law, will consider ways to improve north airfield safety and the likely effects of each method. Such a study is expected to take about two years, making commissioners reluctant to wait until the NASA study delay can be resolved.
Malpractice disclosure: This involves the long-running debate over whether attorneys should be required to tell their clients when they don't carry malpractice insurance. A California bar committee voted 4-3 to require disclosure in writing only when it's "reasonably foreseeable" that a lawyer will represent a client for more than four hours. Several state Bar governors expressed concerns that the original proposal could force attorneys to disclose a lack of insurance during casual talks at parties or friendly phone calls for advice. From The Recorder:
The proposal for mandatory disclosure of lack of insurance has been touchy ever since it was introduced during a meeting in mid-2006. It is intended to give the public some idea whether they have financial recourse if their attorney commits an act of negligence -- such as missing a crucial filing date -- that ruins their case. Once word got out, however, lawyers from around the state objected for fear disclosure would encourage malpractice suits, brand them as less professional than attorneys with insurance and drive up their business costs.