GUILTY GUY: "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns and will avoid further jail time in a tax case that spanned two states and several years. Francis entered the pleas to two misdemeanor counts of filing false tax returns and one count of bribing Nevada jail workers in exchange for food. The plea agreement states Francis will pay $250,000 in restitution and receive credit for jail time served. Francis was indicted by a federal grand jury on tax evasion charges in 2007 and has spent 301 days in jail. He will receive a year of supervised release.

JOBLESS RATE: Los Angeles County's unemployment rate surged to a modern record high of 12.3 percent in August as state and local government budget cuts took their toll. The rate was up from 11.9 percent in July and well above the 8.5 percent figure of August 2008. The largest declines came in state and local government, which shed 9,000 jobs in August. The county also hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, losing 4,200 just in the last month and 39,000 jobs over the past year. Non-farm payroll employment fell 10,000 jobs in August to 3,863,000.

NEW IPO: Colony Financial Inc., a newly formed real estate investment trust, reported it raised $255 million in an initial public offering. The company, a subsidiary of Tom Barrack's Century City investment firm Colony Capital LLC, intends to acquire, originate and manage commercial real estate debt. The result was a disappointment for a company that had originally planned to raise as much as $500 million. Shares are trading on New York Stock Exchange.

STADIUM SETTLEMENT: The Walnut City Council agreed to settle a lawsuit against the neighboring City of Industry over billionaire Ed Roski Jr.'s proposed National Football League stadium. Walnut filed suit in March, contending the 600-acre Industry project should not to go forward without a full environmental impact report, which Roski's Majestic Realty Co. opposed due to cost. The settlement would allow the project to proceed as long as some measures are taken to address traffic and other issues. Walnut's hand was forced by a pending state Senate bill that would have granted an environmental exemption for the project.

CHAIS SUED: Attorney General Jerry Brown filed suit against Beverly Hills investment adviser Stanley Chais, who is accused of directing hundreds of millions of dollars of client investments to Bernard Madoff. This suit seeks at least $25 million in civil penalties, restitution for victims, disgorgement of profits and compensation, and an injunction prohibiting future violations of California law. Madoff is believed to have relied on "feeder funds" such as Chais' to attract his cash flow. Chais' attorney denied the charges.

STUDIO SHAKEUP: Walt Disney Co.'s longtime film studio chief Dick Cook has resigned, the culmination of longtime disagreements with Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger over strategic direction and management style at the film unit. Cook, 59, joined Disney in 1971 and moved up the ranks, becoming president of Buena Vista Pictures distribution in 1988.

NEW TRIAL: A federal judge threw out 50 guilty verdicts against George Torres, the founder and former chief executive of Numero Uno Markets, but has ordered a new trial on several other charges. Torres was convicted in April on 55 charges, including bribing public officials, ordering the murder of a former employee, harboring illegal aliens, racketeering and tax evasion. But the following month, Federal Judge Stephen Wilson threw out the most serious charges of murder and racketeering after evidence surfaced that the police had coached witnesses on their testimony.

DEBT OFFERING: Dole Food Co. Inc., which has an estimated $500 million initial public equity offering in the works, announced a $310 million senior note offering to reorganize its debt. The Westlake Village food producer and packager has nearly $2 billion in debt and a high-risk credit rating. Dole did not announce an interest rate on the new debt.

STAKE SALE?: Vivendi SA, owner of the world's largest music company, may decide at an Oct. 14 board meeting to sell its stake in NBC Universal, according to reports. Vivendi may choose to sell the 20 percent stake because it's considered a non-core asset that isn't performing as well as the company's majority-owned operations. General Electric Co. owns 80 percent of New York-based NBC. Vivendi obtained the stake in NBC with the sale of its media assets to GE in 2004.

DEBT REDUCTION: Shopping mall developer Macerich Co. said it paid off $446 million in term notes due next year. The Santa Monica real estate investment trust said it used $275 million in proceeds from joint venture sales as well as operating cash obtained by lowering its dividend and paying 90 percent of the dividend in stock. Macerich still has $30 million in debt that matures this year, plus $269 million scheduled to mature in 2010.

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