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Tesla to cut 601 jobs in Bay Area, a sign of more problems for EV maker

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Tesla to cut 601 jobs in Bay Area, a sign of more problems for EV maker

In the fourth straight week of layoff announcements, Tesla said it is now concentrating on reducing staff at its Bay Area facilities as part of a larger move to cut jobs globally.

State filings show that Tesla is planning to lay off 378 employees at its Fremont facilities and 233 at its Palo Alto offices.

The layoffs will occur over a 14-day period starting June 20.

An email to Tesla officials requesting comment was not immediately returned.

The layoffs come as the company struggles with flagging sales, top executives fleeing, a declining stock price and quality problems with the new Cybertruck. The low-cost Model 2 recently promised by Chief Executive Elon Musk also appears to be dead.

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It is not immediately clear which positions are being cut. The San Francisco Chronicle reported they would include technicians, electricians, software engineers, plumbers and athletic trainers.

On April 15, Musk announced in an email to staff that Tesla was cutting more than 10% of its workforce, citing job overlap and the need to reduce costs.

A week later, Telsa said it was laying off 3,332 workers at its facilities and offices in Fremont, Palo Alto, Burbank and Lathrop.

Including the latest cuts, Telsa has announced 3,933 layoffs this year in California.

“As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity,” Musk wrote in the April email.

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“As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10% globally,” he continued. “There is nothing I hate more, but it must be done.”

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Would breaking up Live Nation and Ticketmaster actually lower concert ticket prices?

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Would breaking up Live Nation and Ticketmaster actually lower concert ticket prices?

The U.S. Department of Justice’s effort to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster has been a long time coming, following years of complaints from concertgoers who say they’ve been squeezed by exorbitant prices and hidden fees when trying to buy passes to see Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and other music megastars.

Ever since the government cleared the merger of concert promoter Live Nation and ticketseller Ticketmaster in 2010, there have been demands from consumer advocates to cleave them. The Justice Department argues that the combination is a monopoly that has resulted in harm for music fans and has clamped down competition in the multibillion-dollar live music market.

Live Nation says the arguments are off-base and will probably fail in court. Either way, it will take a long time for the case to wind through the legal system.

Why is the government suing Live Nation?

The Justice Department has raised concerns that Live Nation and Ticketmaster have retaliated against competitors and new entrants and locked out competition with exclusionary contracts.

“The result is that fans pay more in fees, artists have fewer opportunities to play concerts, smaller promoters get squeezed out, and venues have fewer real choices for ticketing services,” said Atty. Gen. Merrick B. Garland. “It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster.”

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Beverly Hills-based Live Nation, the world’s largest concert company, has long been a target for government scrutiny.

When the U.S. approved the 2010 merger, it did so after the companies agreed to a settlement meant to ensure fair competition in the ticketing marketplace and prohibit Live Nation from retaliating against venue owners that decided to defect to competitors. The consent decree was extended and amended in 2019.

But this time, the government is going hard at the company. In its Thursday lawsuit, the U.S. accused Live Nation of various anticompetitive practices and said the company uses its market dominance to impose fees on consumers and pressure artists to use its services.

The suit comes amid a wave of antitrust action from the Biden administration, which has sought to curb the power of conglomerates and Big Tech. The U.S. government has filed other cases against tech giants including Apple, Amazon and Google, taking them to task for their alleged impact on competition.

Live Nation said that the lawsuit will not solve issues related to ticket prices, service fees or access to in-demand shows.

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“Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster’s market share and profit margin,” Live Nation said in a statement.

Would breaking up Live Nation lower prices?

Several industry observers who spoke to The Times expressed doubt that the lawsuit would significantly reduce prices for consumers.

Brandon Ross, an analyst at research firm LightShed Partners, said that artists decide how much they want to charge for a tour and then the promoter buys the tour from them. Due to Live Nation’s large scale, it is able to take a lower profit margin, with most of the money going back to the artist, Ross added.

“There is an efficiency in having a large player in the industry,” Ross said. “If that goes away, then that’s going to come out of either the artist’s take, or the artists are going to charge consumers even more.”

Artists like Swift and Bruce Springsteen are able to charge big sums for tickets because the concerts are one-time events, and some people are willing to pay. Because of supply and demand, tickets resold on the secondary market can be much higher than face value.

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But James Sammataro, co-chair of Pryor Cashman’s music group, said he believes the lawsuit could address issues such as excess ticketing fees.

“What’s really harming the consumer is all these excess fees and the restrictions on getting the tickets,” Sammataro said. “For most artists, these ‘increased prices’ aren’t really benefiting the artists. In many cases, it’s alienating their core ticket buyers and their core audience.”

There is a larger issue in the music industry of concert tickets being bought at face value by scalpers and resold on secondary markets for astronomical prices.

It’s leading to two classes of music fans: those who can afford to pony up and those who can’t.

Meanwhile, many promoters left the industry after getting clobbered by the pandemic, which shut down or restricted many live events. Some smaller music artists have also been hurt by the lack of competition among promoters and are not given opportunities to play at larger venues, Sammataro said.

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“The overall effect is that it leads to a very tilted playing field where it’s difficult for promoters to compete,” Sammataro said. “And when you have a lack of competition, essentially like the basis of predatory pricing, ultimately there’s going to be long term gouging.”

Could the company actually be broken up?

Anything is possible, but there is one thing everyone agrees on: This legal battle will be a long fight.

“Antitrust litigation can be long and protracted,” said Eric Enson, an antitrust partner at Crowell & Moring. “I expect that this will be a matter of years and not months.”

Music industry expert Bill Werde, who runs the music business program at Syracuse University, cautioned that splitting up such a large enterprise wouldn’t be easy, and it’s unclear what the businesses would look like after being disentangled from one another more than a decade after merging.

“They make their margin in ticketing and sponsorships, so if you break up this company, … I don’t know how Live Nation the concert promotion business necessarily lives and thrives independent of this high-margin ticketing business,” said Werde, who also publishes a weekly newsletter.

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But even if it could lose, there are reasons the government might be motivated to go after the company in an election year. As Werde and other experts were quick to point out, there’s nothing that unites people like hating Ticketmaster.

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With new Charter Spectrum distribution deal, Paramount breathes a sigh of relief

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With new Charter Spectrum distribution deal, Paramount breathes a sigh of relief

Paramount Global and Charter Communications have agreed to a new distribution deal for Paramount’s CBS network and cable channels, easing a concern that had threatened to complicate the media company’s sale talks.

The last three-year contract covering CBS and Paramount’s 25 cable networks expired April 30, but the two sides continued negotiations, sparing Charter’s Spectrum customers from another disruptive blackout. Last summer, a breakdown in separate talks between Charter and Walt Disney Co. resulted in Disney channels, including ESPN, going dark for 10 days for Spectrum subscribers.

While Paramount has less pull than Disney, the company still benefits from the strength of its CBS network and its entertainment schedule; news programs, including “CBS News Sunday Morning” and “60 Minutes”; and sports, including golf and the NFL.

As part of the deal, the companies said ad-supported versions of Paramount+ Essential and BET+ Essential would be included at no additional cost to Charter’s Spectrum TV customers. Charter also will make Paramount’s direct-to-consumer products available for purchase to its Internet-only customers.

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“This innovative deal celebrates our mutual commitment to deliver flexibility, choice and value for audiences everywhere, and we look forward to bringing even more of our fan-favorite programming to Spectrum customers through our direct-to-consumer streaming services for the first time,” Ray Hopkins, Paramount’s president of U.S. Networks Distribution, said in a statement.

The Charter deal marked the first major accomplishment for Paramount since Chief Executive Bob Bakish was ousted late last month and three division leaders, comprising the “Office of the CEO,” began running the company.

For investors, it was a shot of good news during a turbulent cycle as Paramount board members have been mulling whether to pursue a complicated and controversial two-phase merger with David Ellison’s Skydance Media or accept a separate buyout bid from Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Global Management.

Sony and Apollo have offered $26 billion, including the assumption of debt. Sony and Apollo are known to be cost-conscious buyers; they want to scrutinize Paramount’s financial picture, including details of the Charter distribution pact, before arriving at a valuation, according to people close to the process who are not authorized to comment publicly.

Both Charter and Paramount had plenty to lose if they had been unable to reach a new agreement.

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Charter’s stock has tumbled more than 25% year-to-date, weighed down by concerns about weakness in its broadband internet and wireless phone business, as well as further erosion in pay TV subscribers — a trend that has had wide-reaching financial implications.

Audiences have been migrating away from general-entertainment cable channels, including BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, making them less valuable to distributors such as Charter.

Analysts have long viewed Paramount’s channels as among the weakest in the industry because they largely run low-cost reality programming, a genre that television executives say has suffered from oversaturation and higher-end competition from streaming companies, such as Netflix.

Recent Nielsen ratings shows how Paramount’s cable channels have fallen out of favor with audiences. Only three of the company’s channels — TV Land, TV Land Classic and Nick at Night — rank in the Top 20, in terms of total viewers. TV Land plays reruns of series including “King of Queens,” “Seinfeld” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Comedy Central and the Paramount Network lag behind, rounding out the Top 30.

Connecticut-based Charter’s executives, including Chief Executive Christopher L. Winfrey, were loath to agree to a new pact that would significantly raise fees for subscribers who continue to pay for their channel bundles. Winfrey also has demanded that programmers give Spectrum customers access to subscription services that provide network programming.

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“From the outset, Paramount has embraced Charter’s goal of evolving the video distribution model, and we have appreciated their willingness to collaborate on a solution that benefits our mutual customers and the video industry as a whole,” said Tom Montemagno, Charter’s executive vice president of programming acquisition.

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How a worker who suffered a microfracture of his foot ended up with a $58-million payout

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How a worker who suffered a microfracture of his foot ended up with a $58-million payout

For eight years, Lancaster resident Pablo Scipione and his attorneys pushed for compensation the 46-year-old independent contractor said he was owed due to a workplace accident in early 2016.

In that accident, he slipped, fell and suffered a microfracture to his foot, according to his lawsuit, but that was only the start of his troubles.

Scipione sued the company he was providing services for — Osaka, Japan-based transportation and manufacturing company Kinkisharyo — for negligence shortly after the workplace fall, his lawyers said. But he eventually developed a debilitating medical condition due to the injury, according to court documents, leading the skilled tradesman to quit his job. He asked his legal representation to seek a settlement of $3 million in July 2022 to pay mounting medical bills.

The offer was rejected by Kinkisharyo’s defense team, according to Scipione’s attorneys.

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That decision backfired for Kinkisharyo on Tuesday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded Scipione $58.35 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Calls to Kinkisharyo’s legal team, Los Angeles-based Husch Blackwell, were not returned.

Khail Parris is a partner at Lancaster-based Parris Law Firm, and was lead attorney along with Alexander Wheeler for the plaintiff.

Parris said $54.15 million was awarded in compensatory damages for past lost earnings, future lost earnings, future medical expenses and past and future pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $4.2 million in punitive damages.

Parris said he was a little surprised by the payout since juries can be “unpredictable.”

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“I’m happy the jury heard my client,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The defendant took a very aggressive stance on this case and dragged it out for eight years. The jury felt like enough was enough.”

Scipione was employed by railroad contractor Altech Services at the time of the accident, according to court documents. His duties included supervising teams of electrical technicians also employed by Altech, documents say, and his specialty was electrical troubleshooting.

Scipione was dispatched to Kinkisharyo’s Palmdale train yard around 2 a.m. on Feb. 2, 2016, for repair work, according to the lawsuit. He was instructed that it needed to be done within three hours.

Unbeknownst to Scipione, the train he was going to work on was wet after undergoing a recent water tightness test, according to testimony from a Kinkisharyo senior safety manager. That person said the train did not dry for the minimum of two days before Scipione went to work on it.

The Kinkisharyo employee also conceded that there were other safety issues in Scipione’s workspace, including poor lighting.

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Scipione climbed to the top of the rail car and slipped and fell atop the vehicle, causing the microfracture to his left foot, according to court documents. Though Scipione went home after the accident, he came back to work the next day.

Nearly three months after the injury, Scipione was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, court documents say. The Mayo Clinic describes the syndrome as “a form of chronic pain” that usually affects an arm or a leg and typically develops after an injury. The Mayo Clinic added that “the pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.”

“The defendants fought us at every corner for eight years to help my client receive proper compensation and medical care,” Parris said. “Things didn’t turn until their safety manager conceded that the factory had been unsafe.”

Part of Scipione’s struggle was finding care through workers compensation insurance. Letters were presented in court that showed denials of care as the process of determining if Scipione was an actual employee of Kinkisharyo or Altech dragged out.

“The jurors were 12 little guys and saw a fellow little guy going up against a big corporation,” Parris said. “They stood up for one of their own.”

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