July 2 – 8
Corporate Case: Former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lay pleaded not guilty in a Houston federal court to charges that he was involved in a wide-ranging scheme to deceive the public, company shareholders and government regulators. The charges against Lay follow those against former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey.
Tech Suit: A judge granted final approval to a $1.1 billion settlement between Microsoft Corp. and California consumers, who accused the software giant of violating state antitrust and unfair competition laws. California Superior Court Judge Paul H. Alvarado said the settlement amounted to “fair, reasonable and adequate compensation” for more than 14 million eligible consumers. The settlement stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 1999 on behalf of California consumers and businesses that bought Microsoft’s operating system, productivity suite, spreadsheet or word processing software between February 1995 and December 2001.
Gas Update: The downward slide continues for local gasoline prices. For the week ended July 5, a gallon of self-serve regular in Los Angeles was $2.223, down from $2.263 a week earlier, according to the Energy Information Administration. That marks the fifth consecutive week of falling gas prices. The statewide average was $2.204, down from $2.237 a week earlier.
Plant Probe: The Federal Trade Commission has launched a formal antitrust investigation into Shell Oil Co.’s plan to close its Bakersfield refinery, an agency official told the Los Angeles Times. State officials believe the closure will reduce the state’s gasoline supply. Reduction in refinery production and capacity could add to inflationary pressures on retail gas prices.
Health Takeover: California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi threatened to scuttle the proposed acquisition of WellPoint Health Networks by Anthem Inc. by blocking the purchase of a WellPoint subsidiary. The commissioner wants Anthem to agree to spend as much on health care for uninsured state residents as it spends on executive pay before he allows the deal to move forward.
Writers Vote: U.S. Department of Labor officials met with Writers Guild of America members to review the ground rules for the union’s coming election. The guild agreed to Labor Department oversight in March after Victoria Riskin’s election was determined invalid. Ballots will be mailed after a “candidates night” on Sept. 1. Votes will be counted Sept. 21.
Setting Sail: Walt Disney Co., buoyed by the success of its Florida-based cruise business, will begin passenger service out of the Port of Los Angeles next year. The 2,600-passenger Disney Magic ship will run weeklong voyages to Mexico from May through August as part of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland.
Ratings: Neilsen Media Research switched to the controversial “people meter” system in the Los Angeles market. The new meters have been installed in nearly 800 homes, modernizing the previous system of handwritten diaries collected several times a year during “sweeps” months. Some minority groups have argued the new system will undercount them.
Preview: July 12 – 18
Talking Point: Town Hall Los Angeles presents U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein discussing “Iraq: A Failure of Intelligence” on Saturday (17th) over lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel. For information: 213-489-4387.
Economic Reports: Tuesday (13th): ICSC-UBS store sales index, Redbook retail sales index, May trade deficit; Wednesday (14th): June import prices, June retail and food sales; Thursday (15th): initial jobless claims for July, May business inventories; Friday (16th): June Consumer Price Index.
Sports Beat: The Dodgers are at home against the Diamondbacks Thursday through Sunday (15th-18th); the Angels play the Red Sox Thursday through Sunday (15th-18); the Sparks face Sacramento on Saturday (17th); the Galaxy are away.
World Music: Hamza El Din, the founder of modern Nubian music, joins forces with Joan Jeanrenaud, founding cellist of the Kronos Quartet, for string music at the Skirball Center on Thursday (15th). For information: 310-440-4500.
L.A. Movies: The Valley Industry Chamber of Commerce has organized a session Thursday (15th) on “How Filming Friendly Benefits All of Us” as part of the organization’s efforts to stem the tide of runaway production. For information: 818-817-0545.
Serious Sounds: The Alexander String Quartet, widely admired for its Beethoven CD cycle, performs at the Ford Amphitheatre Monday (12th). For information: 323-461-3673.
Corporate Numbers: A wide range of companies report quarterly earnings this week. Among the local firms that will release figures are: j2 Global Communications (19th), City National Corp. (14th) and Smart & Final Inc. (15th).
Tennis, Anyone?: The Mercedes-Benz Cup hits the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA (12th-18th). Taking to the courts will be international stars such as Mark Philippoussis, Sjeng Schalken, Paradorn Srichaphan and Xavier Malisse, plus three-time champion Andre Agassi, defending champion Wayne Ferreira and 2003 finalist Lleyton Hewitt. For information: 310-824-1010.