LA Biz Observed archive

Mark Lacter covered business, the economy and more here from 2006 until his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
The entire LA Biz Observed archive — more than 10,000 blog posts by Mark — remains online and available.
February 2009

Why SEC missed Madoff

Whistleblower Harry Markopolos tells "60 Minutes" this Sunday that the agency has too many lawyers - and not enough financial sleuths.

Dow barely above 7000

A 120-point drop on Friday left the benchmark index at 7062 - down an astounding 937 points for the month, or 11.72 percent.

Insult to injury

A $27 million retirement package for the CEO of homebuilder Ryland Group? What possible justification is there to receive so much money?

Unemployment at 10.5%

The really bad news is that a whopping 86,100 payroll jobs were lost from the previous month. L.A.'s economy just fell like a rock.

*Latham's Black Friday

This morning's blood-letting at the L.A.-based powerhouse Latham & Watkins eclipses anything the legal industry has seen.

Friday morning headlines

Economy falls further than first thought, local gas prices take small dip, L.A. hotels not as bad off as other cities, and Elie Wiesel on Madoff.

Pay model returns

The Long Island newspaper Newsday will begin charging online readers, a strategy that has mostly failed for daily newspapers.

'Sad day for justice'

We're not talking Madoff or Stanford but the law firm of Irell & Manella, which was slammed by a federal judge for "ethical failures."

Feds mess up on IndyMac

A Treasury Department report says they failed to catch the warning signs leading up to the collapse of the Pasadena-based thrift.

Big jump in jobless claims

California had the largest number of mass-layoff cuts in January, but the percentage change from a year ago is much lower than the U.S.

Thursday morning headlines

GM loses big, B of A chief talks up Countrywide, Leno in the Writers Guild hot seat, and L.A. may be getting a film czar.

Figuring out 'stress tests'

The Treasury Department announced how it plans to measure the health of U.S. banks, the first step towards stabilizing the banking system.

LAT building off market

The Times headquarters complex, better known as Times Mirror Square, was supposed to have helped generate income for Tribune Co.

Wednesday morning headlines

Rumors about Murdoch interested in LAT, LAX and Ontario traffic fall, SEC probes OC lender, and Schwarzenegger backs jobless funding.

Citi deal is near

The U.S. Treasury and Citigroup are close to an agreement that would give the federal government a 40 percent stake in the banking giant.

*Hearst may close Chronicle

That's the threat anyway. The media giant says that "significant" cuts will be needed in order to meet near-term cost savings.

Good day for stocks

Shares of the major banks rose substantially. I’m not sure that’s a vote of confidence or simply a sigh of relief.

Face it, print is dying

Former LAT executive says lip service was paid to digital media, and money and time was wasted on experiments and lots of talk.

Tuesday morning headlines

Bernanke says recession will end this year, L.A. home prices keep falling, TV viewing at all-time high, and Ticketmaster settles complaint.

So-so results on Oscars

Number cruncher Nate Silver got four Oscar picks right and two wrong. He suspects that his model relied on too much subjectivity.

Dow down to 7114

The bottom won't be 7000-7500, but some level even lower. Maybe a lot lower. And the worst of it is that Obama’s crew really seems adrift.

Chernin leaves News Corp.

Rupert Murdoch's right-hand man supposedly couldn't agree on contract terms. There's been speculation that he might want out.

Monday morning headlines

U.S. could buy big stake in Citi, SAG turns down offer, angel investing slows in Socal, and Slumdog's huge return.

Pimco too powerful?

The OC-based bond giant has been hugely successful. The firm's flagship mutual fund earned 4.8 percent in 2008.

Taking the city for a ride

A local development firm somehow has six supergraphics on one of their office buildings, instead of the three they were allowed.

Got $85 million?

That's what L.A. developer Mohamed Hadid is asking for a 48,000-square-foot Bel-Air mansion. Property has a 20-car motor court.

Friday morning headlines

Markets are shaky, SAG talks break down, Oscar advertising is off, and Westfield malls to reduce hours (and yes, I'm looking for good news).

Show biz restraint

Should we tone down the excess or should we pump up the glamour so that the little people can break away from their drab lives?

Deciphering budget mess

It's the same old story: a supermajority requirement to approve the budget, an unwieldy initiative process, and a polarized legislature.

Grand Avenue update

Developer Related Cos. can defer the 250K-per-month penalty stemming from delays in breaking ground on the $3 billion project.

L.A. prices keep falling

Here's a sobering stat: In January 2008 the median price of an L.A. County home was $458,000. Last month it was $300,000.

Thursday morning headlines

Countrywide name being phased out, recession hits supermarkets, port activity still down, and new LAX service to smaller cities.

*Budget deal approved

Senate passage was assured after Democrats got the support of Republican Abel Maldonado, who bargained for a bunch of provisions.

GOP's 'math problem'

Brush-up course might be needed for those Republicans who claim that a $41 billion deficit can be closed without raising taxes.

Which homeowners to help

The plan will help people who bought homes that they should have known they would never be able to afford.

Four-star review

The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Bev Hills gets the sort of accolades that any restaurant owner - or chef - would kill for.

Wednesday morning headlines

Obama announces housing plan, state Republican leader is ousted, new forecast sees end-of-year bottoming, and local activist speaks up.

Nate Silver's Oscar picks

The super-statistician from the Web site is onto other number-crunching - specifically, this Sunday's Academy Awards.

Where's the outrage?

The state of California is on the verge of financial collapse – and not many folks seem concerned. Maybe they don't think it matters.

Eateries feel the heat

Restaurant and hotel employees spoke of smaller tips, fewer work hours, and more cost-conscious customers.

Tuesday morning headlines

Carmakers to submit restructuring plans, more budget drama in Sacramento, trouble in Silicon Valley, and SAG resumes contract talks.

Ready with the pink slips

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing layoff notices to 20,000 state workers, an action he has delayed since Friday.

'Broad-based mess'

That's how NYT columnist Paul Krugman describes the economy, and he says the trouble is deeper than most people realize.

Rosenberg loses in court

The SAG president is challenging the board's firing of executive director Doug Allen. Meanwhile, contract talks resume tomorrow.

Next step in Sacramento?

Democrats in the state Senate might just decide the pass the budget with a simple majority (a two-thirds "supermajority" is needed).

Friday morning headlines

State budget battle gets ugly, California could receive $26 billion from feds, bad times for restaurant chains, and Grand Avenue update.

Cramer defends Geithner

It's a big switch for CNBC’s "Mad Money" host, who up to now has not been a fan of the Treasury Secretary.

Living next to Buffett

Up for sale in Laguna Beach is a 6,000-square-foot house that just happens to be next to the one owned by the Oracle of Omaha.

Latest on state budget

The needed three Republican votes in the Assembly appear in hand, but the Senate is another matter. Vote is expected this weekend.

Thursday morning headlines

Another big foreclosure month, Edison cuts solar deal, Viacom earnings tumble, and Katzenberg tries to clarify.

Good night for restaurants

But any Saturday is the busiest night of the week - much better to have Valentine's Day fall in the middle of the week.

Nearing budget deal

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders have settled on at least the framework for closing a $42 billion budget gap.

Wednesday morning headlines

Bankers testify on bailout, another state budget plan is readied, anger at Motion Picture home, and Mervyns might have new life.

Anybody for Volcker?

Geithner outlines a less-than-convincing plan for dealing with toxic banks assets and keeps saying this is complicated stuff. We know that.

Tuesday morning headlines

Lukewarm response to bank plan, Live Nation-Ticketmaster deal announced, L.A. gas prices shoot up, and Grammy's get big audience.

Slow on the M&A front

Last week marked the first time since 1993 that weekly deal volume had failed to top $1 billion in the U.S.

Monday morning headlines

Latest rescue plan for banks, corporate profits fall 32 percent last year, Live Nation-Ticketmaster deal is near, and Doug Allen fired, again.

Not an L.A. kind of guy

The list of Bernie Madoff's 13,567 investment victims confirms that Southern California was not an especially large base of operations.

No doubt about stimulus

With unemployment at 7.6 percent, there’s little for Congress to do now other than vote for the plan and hope for the best.

Scamster update

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 16 investors is just the latest allegation of investment-related misdeeds.

Branding Bev Hills High

Looking to capitalize on its famous alums, the school board wants to license products under the BHHS brand.

The Boss is steamed

A ticket glitch over the weekend has Bruce Springsteen blasting Ticketmaster and warning about a possible merger with Live Nation.

Chow vs. Chow

Philippe Chow, who left his post as chef of NY's Mr. Chow a couple of years back, wants to expand to Bev Hills.

Major music deal

The merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation, both locally based companies, could be announced as early as this week.

CA's dubious distinction

For a while we were neck-and-neck with Louisiana, but California can now lay claim to the worst credit rating of all 50 states.

Disney's weak results

The Mouse House earned 41 cents a share in its first quarter, down from 63 cents a year earlier.

Bad times for the rich

The number of million-dollar homes sold in California last year plunged 42.5 percent, the lowest sales count since 2003.

Tuesday morning headlines

New survey shows home price tumble, Hollywood talks delayed, warehouse space opening up, and Macy's cuts will hit customers.

Buying into distress

Ryland Group and Oaktree Capital join forces in a new firm that will acquire and develop distressed residential real estate projects.

Monday morning headlines

Mattel takes an earnings hit, Westside home prices start falling, January is strong box office month, and bottleneck over jobless claims.