Explaining Southern California's economy

We can hear them now! Blowback forces Verizon to cancel fee

Mercer 10893

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What a difference a day makes! Exactly one day after Verizon Wireless said it was going to charge customers a $2 fee for processing credit and debit card bill payments, it backed off on the plan, after customers went ballistic.

I'm going to call myself cynical on this one and suggest that Verizon Wireless has just shot down a trial balloon. Earlier this year, big banks were also compelled to ditch plans to charge customers higher debit-card fees, so Big Red had to know what it was up against. 

But why not make the announcement, as a form of real-world market research? Customers have spoken.

Of course, the fact the the FCC said it was going to investigate the fee might have had something to do with Verizon's decision.

Read More...

Recent college grad who went to expensive college concludes that college is still worth it!

Mercer 16895

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Students throw their mortarboards in the air during their college graduation.

Here's a strange yet useful report, from the LA Times' Money & Company blog. Sarah Millar, "now gainfully employed as a research analyst at ConvergEx Group in New York," but a recent graduate of Trinity College (class of 2011) has produced, all on her own, a report analyzing whether college is worth the increasingly higher price. 

I can't track down the actual report, nor determine where the LAT got it, so I'll have to trust them on this one when they excerpt Millar's conclusion: "The bottom line of this analysis is that college pays, literally and figuratively," Millar writes.

Money & Company indicates that Millar has researched all the right government and private sources. Millar's LinkedIn profile does indicate that she's been working at ConvergEx for a few months, so it's safe to assume that she's at least somewhat trained in data analysis. Bit before landing the job, she labored as a manager at something called Johnson's Popcorn. I'm going to assume it was part-time and summers.

Read More...

Clinton speaks, rich people, the end of email: DeBord Report talks with Andy Dean

I went on "America Now with Andy Dean" again yesterday to talk about a few recent blog posts, including one on Bill Clinton's Herculean speaking fees, good rich people and bad rich people, and the end of email. The wonderfully conversational Darryl Parks was filling in for Andy, and we bantered for a while. I've embedded the broadcast, above.

I've been on this show a few times now and richly enjoyed each experience. You can check the segments out here and here.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

Read More...

Who is Steven Cohen? The lowdown on the hedge-fund legend who wants to buy the Dodgers

Mercer 17099

Harry How/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw and teammates of the Dodgers celebrate a two run homerun of Matt Kemp for a 2-1 win over the St Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on April 17, 2011.

As KPCC's Corey Moore reported yesterday, billionaire hedge fund king Steven Cohen wants to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. You'll recall that owner Frank McCourt, mired in an acrimonious divorce proceeding and dueling with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, put the team into bankruptcy in June. That desperate gambit failed and McCourt has given up the fight. The team now has to find a new owner by April 2012.

Enter Cohen, with an estimated net worth of $8 billion, but more importantly, a reputation as Wall Street's most successful — and controversial — trader. In fact, few men more perfectly represent the ascent of the swashbuckling trader on the Street than Cohen, who started his hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, in 1992. It's now worth $12-$14 billion.

With coin like that, Cohen could easily afford to bid for the Dodgers, whose value has been pegged at around $1 billion.

Read More...

Could a condom ballot measure drive the porn business into bankruptcy?

Mercer 18367

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

An empty condom package rests on a table during the shooting of a porn scene for the adult film production company Vivid, 18 May 2004, on the set in Canoga Park, California, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles.

UPDATE: Last year at Minyanville, Susannah Breslin explored allegations that the porn business, contrary to popular belief, is actually a terrible business that barely rises to the description.

Earlier today, my colleague Tony Pierce posted on the LA City Attorney office's lawsuit against a proposed ballot measure for June 2012 that would require all male porn actors on sets in Los Angeles to wear condoms in order for productions to be permitted. The measure is supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been advocating to take this issue to the voters for a while:

The foundation was only required to get 41,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. They gathered approximately 71,000. [AHF Executive Director] Michael Weinstein said they had no trouble getting enough people to sign the petition.

"It was not difficult at all," Weinstein said. "The overwhelming majority of people - liberal and conservative, of all ages and genders - understand this issue as an issue of fairness and worker protection."

Read More...