INSIDER TRADING: The U.S. Department of Justice has charged Scott London, a former KPMG auditor who has admitted passing inside information about his clients to a friend, with criminal insider trading. London is accused of passing inside information about Herbalife Ltd. and Skechers USA Inc. to Encino jeweler Bryan Shaw, who used the information to make an estimated $1 million in stock trades. KPMG has resigned as the outside auditor to both companies.
PINK SLIPS: Walt Disney Co. has begun a new round of layoffs in its studio unit as part of the Burbank entertainment giant’s further attempts to cut costs. The layoffs will affect about 150 people at Disney’s movie studio. Disney’s Lucasfilm Ltd. division earlier announced layoffs in its video game unit. The cuts stem from an audit ordered by Chief Executive Bob Iger last year to identify potential cost savings and redundancies as the studio puts greater emphasis on digital distribution rather than DVDs.
JAKKS UP: An investment company controlled by Patrick Soon-Shiong has increased its stake in Jakks Pacific Inc. from 9 percent to nearly 14 percent. The L.A. billionaire’s California Capital Z LLC bought 3 million shares of the Malibu toymaker at prices between $10.30 to $10.52 a share. Soon-Shiong’s West L.A. tech holding company, NantWorks LLC, has a joint venture with Jakks to develop and sell toys and other products using NantWorks’ iDream image recognition technology.
BACKING OUT: Merz Pharma Group has withdrawn its $22-a-share offer for Obagi Medical Products Inc., leaving the Long Beach dermatology company with a sweetened $418 million offer by its original suitor, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. of Montreal. Merz, of Frankfurt, Germany, had topped Valeant’s original offer for Obagi, prompting the Canadian company to boost its offer to $24 a share. Obagi’s board last week approved an amended deal for the higher amount.
HOTEL CONTROVERSY: Save Westwood Village has sued UCLA in an attempt to block the university’s proposed 250-room hotel and conference center. The group, with membership including residents and competing hotels, contends that the on-campus facility and would not be financially viable if required to pay the same federal and local taxes required of commercial hotels.
GROCERY FIGHT: The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance L.A. and Southeast Asian Community Alliance have sued the city of Los Angeles seeking to block the opening of a Wal-Mart Inc. grocery store in Chinatown later this year. The groups, which failed in earlier efforts to block building permits for the project at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues, now contend that a redevelopment vote should have been required.
ACQUISITION: Cetera Financial Group is buying Tower Square Securities and Walnut Street Securities from financial services giant MetLife Inc. The El Segundo broker-dealer services company said that Tower Square and Walnut Street, which are affiliated with more than 800 financial advisers and registered reps, and have a significant presence in the Midwest and Northeast, will become part of its Cetera Advisor Networks LLC. Cetera Financial said that after the deal closes it will serve more than 7,000 advisers and have more than $130 billion in total client assets.
MOCA BOARD: The board of downtown L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art has elected three new trustees, including two well-known local businessmen. Stanley P. Gold is chief executive of Disney family investment firm Shamrock Holdings Inc. Bruce Karatz, retired chairman and chief executive of KB Home, is a contemporary art collector. Also joining the board is philanthropist and art collector Orna Amir Wolens. The additions come less than a month after MOCA turned down a merger offer from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to remain independent.
UNION GAIN: Employees at two Hyatt hotels in Long Beach, the 528-room Hyatt Regency Long Beach and the 138-room Pike Long Beach, have voted to be represented by Unite Here Local 11.
NEW ROUTES: American Airlines has announced the expansion of its service at Los Angeles International Airport with nine new destinations. The Fort Worth, Texas, airline, which began LAX service to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., earlier this month, now will fly from Los Angeles to eight other destinations this year, including Eugene, Ore.; Pittsburgh; Indianapolis; and Columbus, Ohio. A new flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil, will begin Nov. 21, pending government approval. The new markets will bring the airline’s reach from LAX to 51 domestic and international destinations.
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