Feb. 28-March 6
Another Plea: A former Homestore Inc. employee pleaded guilty to a fraud charge related to inflating revenue at the online home listings service. Jeff Kalina is the fourth ex-Homestore employee to enter a guilty plea. Kalina, a former accountant in the finance department, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal securities fraud for selling $69,000 worth of stock when he knew the company’s revenue was artificially inflated.
Gas Blues: The average price per gallon of regular gasoline last week went over the $2 mark in California for the first time since the U.S. Energy Department began tracking such data seven years ago. The statewide average of $2.012 is 48 cents higher than for the like period a year ago. Gasoline prices have been sharply higher nationwide, but California typically has some of the highest prices.
Patent Complaint: Unocal Corp. was accused by U.S. antitrust officials of creating an illegal monopoly for cleaner-burning gasoline that could cost California motorists $500 million a year in higher prices at the pump. The Federal Trade Commission said the El Segundo-based company duped state regulators into adopting a pollution-control standard that conformed to Unocal’s patented refining method. The agency filed an administrative complaint seeking to strip Unocal of its power to enforce its patents and collect as much as $150 million a year in royalties. Unocal said it would be “vindicated” after all the evidence is reviewed by the courts.
Dodger Deal?: Financier George Soros has agreed to partially back a bid by New York sports executive David Checketts to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Times reported. Meanwhile, Checketts has contacted Major League Baseball officials about his interest in the team, which News Corp. reportedly wants to sell for more than $600 million.
Shipping Settlement: The city of Los Angeles plans to resume construction of a terminal in the Port of Los Angeles for China Ocean Shipping Co. after settling a lawsuit with environmental groups. The port has agreed to establish a $50 million fund to mitigate environmental and traffic effects from the planned 174-acre container terminal to be leased by China Ocean.
Alliance Ends: Hughes Electronics Corp. has ended an alliance with AOL Time Warner Inc., in which Hughes’ DirecTV unit delivers high-speed Internet access to America Online customers. Hughes and AOL already have pulled back from their venture, started in 1999, and last month sold the 80.1 million shares Hughes had acquired in the alliance. Ending the agreement releases Hughes from an obligation to spend $1 billion on marketing and development of joint services.
China Fine: Boeing Co. and Hughes Electronics Corp. will pay a $32 million fine for helping China develop rockets and missiles without the permission of the U.S. government. The government’s complaint centered on a series of incidents, including technical help allegedly given to the Chinese to find the causes of two failed rocket launches in the mid-1990s.
‘Three Strikes’ Upheld: The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, upheld California’s “three-strikes” law, affirming decades-long sentences imposed on two shoplifters. The majority dismissed claims that the law violates a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. More than 7,000 people have been sentenced under California’s three-strikes law since its 1994 enactment. In that time, California’s crime rate fell 42.1 percent.
Earnings Revision: Northrop Grumman Corp. cut its 2003 earnings forecast because of higher-than-expected debt expenses related to recent acquisitions, including TRW Inc. Net income for the Los Angeles-based defense company will be $3.65 to $4.15 a share, compared with the $4 to $4.50 estimate in January.
Council Honoree: L.A. City Councilman Hal Bernson (photo) will be honored on Thursday (13th) by the Valley Industry and Commerce Association during a membership luncheon at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge. For information: 818-817-0545.
Paper Talk: For L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan and former New Times columnist Jill Stewart headline an L.A. Press Club panel on Tuesday (11th) about the alternative press. Riordan is expected to discuss plans for his new alternative weekly, the Los Angeles Examiner. Program will be held at the Press Club (6363 Sunset Blvd.) and begin at 7:30 p.m. For information: 323-469-8180.
Awards Luncheon: The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners holds its 17th annual Hall of Fame Awards luncheon on Friday (14th) at the Beverly Hilton. Awards will be given in several categories, including Inspiration, Employer and Civic Leader of the year. Shaun Robinson of Access Hollywood will be mistress of ceremonies. From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For information: 213-489-3989.
LAVA Conference: The Los Angeles Venture Association puts on its annual Investment Capital Conference on Wednesday (10th) at the Westin Bonaventure. Daylong event features various seminars on venture capital, initial public offerings and other financing activity. Luncheon keynote is Al Checchi. For information: 888-285-1866.
Gore Talk: He isn’t quite the draw given his decision not to run in 2004 but Al Gore, along with wife Tipper, will speak on Monday (10th) as part of the University of Judaism’s Public Lecture Series at Universal Amphitheatre. For information: 310-440-1246.
Sports Beat: Very slow week. Lakers are out of town, Clippers are at home on Sunday (16th) against Toronto and the Kings are home on Monday (10th) against Detroit. There’s also the Pac-10 Men’s Basketball Tournament Wednesday-Friday (13th-15th) at Staples.
Digital TV: “The Coming Digital TV Revolution” will be discussed at UCLA’s Academic Technology Services department on Thursday (13th) from noon to 1:30 p.m. The program will focus on how TV broadcasters and the FCC are rolling out a completely new broadcasting system based on modern technology. And consumers will learn why, if they do nothing, their current TV will stop working on Jan. 1, 2007. For information: 310-825-6635.