Fed decision awaits: And Wall Street expects another cut, which could bring the key U.S. rate to 0.5 percent, the lowest level on record. The Dow is up more than 70 points in early trading.
SAG discord builds: The union's strike authorization vote is being opposed by more than 130 stars. After a rancorous meeting in NY last night, Alec Baldwin called on the current leaders to step down - "I'm just very curious why three other major unions came to terms with the [studios] and we haven't." From the LAT:
After the meeting, an exhausted-looking SAG President Alan Rosenberg emerged saying he remains just as determined as ever to hold a strike authorization vote and blamed the internal divisions on a historical divide within the union. "There's always been a war between New York and Los Angeles, and it's tragic," he said. "I think they had the room pretty much stacked against us. . . . [The studios] know about the differences between New York and L.A. and they just wait for us to disintegrate. As long as we have this refusal to march together, we are going to be hard-pressed to make a good deal on any contract."
Another Madoff victim: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles says it lost $6.4 million, or 11 percent of its endowment, as a result of the alleged fraud. That's on top of other Jewish non-profits that have taken huge hits. "In a word, it's a catastrophe," Jewish Journal Editor Rob Eshman told the ">LAT.
The more than 30 organizations and individuals around the world identified so far as victims of the alleged deception are a diverse lot. But the disclosures by Southland Jewish organizations suggest a so-called affinity scam, in which members of a perpetrator's ethnic or religious group are targeted. The losses at the charitable organizations came to light as they began notifying their boards of directors, donors and recipients.
Best Buy makes cuts: The consumer-electronics retailer is looking to slash capital spending and offer buyouts to most any executive who is interested. The company posted a 77 percent drop in Q3 profit amid weak sales. "We believe that there has been a dramatic and potentially long-lasting change in consumer behavior as people adjust to the new realities of the marketplace," says CEO Brad Anderson. (AP)
Troubles at National Lampoon: Prosecutors allege that kickbacks were paid to a stock promoter to boost the share price of the L.A. media company. Payments were said to have been made by CEO Daniel Laikin and six others in four separate schemes to a witness cooperating with the FBI. Laikin faces as many as 25 years in jail. From Bloomberg:
The National Lampoon CEO shared confidential financial information, non-public news releases, and confidential shareholder lists, and coordinated the release of news with the illegal purchases in the stock, the prosecutor said. Barsky helped direct the purchases and facilitated the kickback payments, said [acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid in Philadelphia]. “There are rules that govern how stocks are bought and sold,” Magid said. “There are rules about the disclosing and releasing of information. There are rules about manipulating stock. But in this case, in these schemes, to borrow a line from ‘Animal House,’ ‘the rules lost.’”
Newspaper freezes pension contributions: Copley Press, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, will stop making contributions to the employee pension plan on Jan. 31 or the day of the sale of the paper, whichever comes first (does that mean a sale is near?). No word yet on 401(k) matching contributions.
Lacter on radio: This morning's business chat with KPCC's Steve Julian covers the liquidation of more retail outlets and local connections in the Madoff scandal.