Austin Straus 8:30 a.m., April 23
Penny Pritzker's La Jolla adventure
Commerce nominee's company paid money to settle suit by retirees
Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, nominated by President Obama to be Secretary of Commerce, faces a grilling confirmation process. As media are pointing out (and I noted in a 2007 Reader piece), the Pritzker family has a background of consorting with organized crime, and has used offshore tax and secrecy havens to slice their tax obligations. After her nomination, The Nation magazine did a two-part series on the family's sleazy background, but the author pointed out, "Penny is not responsible for the dodgy practices of her grandfather," the late patriarch. However, she will get grilled about the failure of a Chicago bank, and other Pritzker businesses to which she was closer. (Incidentally, as Forbes points out, she is worth $1.85 billion, 277th on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Ten members of the Pritzker clan -- known for its internal squabbles -- are on the Forbes 400 list.)
In 2006, residents of Classic Residence by Hyatt at La Jolla Village (which was headed by Penny Pritzker and now has another name) sued Hyatt/Pritzker entities for fraud and deceit, misrepresentation, elder abuse, breach of fiduciary duty and other transgressions. In 2008, the Superior Court suit was settled. Hyatt agreed to pay $2.27 million to residents, although $1.4 million went for their attorney's fees. Hyatt also agreed to have the wellness center open 24 hours a day and staffed by professionals at key hours, and put a 3% ceiling on monthly fee increases through 2013 for those suing.