SC business notebook, Dec 14

December 14, 2013 

Toyota wants to settle acceleration lawsuits

Toyota will seek to settle hundreds of lawsuits involving alleged unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, according to a U.S. District Court filing in California A motion filed Thursday by Toyota and plaintiffs asks for an order to establish an “intensive settlement process” in personal injury, wrongful death and property damage cases. A Toyota spokeswoman tells the Los Angeles Times the process will make resolution of pending cases more efficient. Many of the hundreds of cases filed nationwide have been consolidated in courts in California. In October, an Oklahoma jury became the first in the country to find Toyota liable in an unintended acceleration lawsuit, awarding $3 million in damages. Toyota recalled millions of cars, starting in 2009, but has denied that electronics played any role in the problem.

Stocks close second losing week in a row

A record-breaking rally in stocks paused this week as investors contemplate what’s next for the market. Stocks closed slightly higher on Friday, but not enough to avoid a second losing week in a row. Indexes reached record highs as recently as Monday, but then declined. Investors may be nervous that stocks are overpriced, that stock prices have grown faster than justified by profits. Some are worried the Federal Reserve will decide next week to reduce its economic stimulus. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 15,755 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was flat at 1,775. The Nasdaq composite rose two points, less than 0.1 percent, to 4,001.

Poll finds California voters turning against unions

California has long been a union stronghold, but voters in the reliably Democratic state are gradually taking a more negative view of organized labor, a poll released Friday suggested. The independent Field Poll said that by a narrow margin, more voters said unions do more harm than good, as opposed to those who see organized labor as generally beneficial. The figures represent a turnaround from a 2011 Field survey, when more voters said unions resulted in more good than harm. The shift comes at a time of ongoing labor conflicts in the state and nation, often involving government employee pensions and retirement benefits. It also tracks a long-running national trend, in which support for labor unions has gradually slipped.

Chinese scientists accused of conspiring to steal seeds

Seeds may not look impressive, but in the world of agricultural research, they can mean big money. This week, federal prosecutors unveiled charges against defendants from China who are accused of conspiring to steal seeds for commercial espionage. A detention hearing is set to get underway Friday in Little Rock for one of two agricultural scientists from China accused of conspiring to take seeds from a research facility in Kansas and pass them to a Chinese delegation visiting the United States. Prosecutors said Wengui Yan and Weiqiang Zhang arranged for a Chinese delegation to visit the U.S. this year and that customs agents found stolen seeds in the delegation’s luggage before the group flew back to China. Yan, of Stuttgart, Ark., and Zhang, of Manhattan, Kan., are charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Zhang’s hearing is set for Tuesday in Kansas.

The Associated Press contributed.

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