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Week in Review

Friday, Nov. 21

San Diego Dodge Closes: Showing effects of the automobile industry downturn, San Diego Dodge of National City is going out of business.

Lane Pierson, who owns the company, declined to comment. However, the company’s Web site thanks customers for 17 years of business and states that the dealership will close its doors Nov. 30.

, Connie Lewis

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Mortgage Sting: Five San Diego mortgage loan employees, who were netted in a national mortgage fraud sting in June, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt said Nov. 20.

A joint probe earlier this year by the Justice Department and FBI, called “Operation Malicious Mortgage,” led to more than 400 indictments of real estate professionals, including six employees of Creative Financial Solutions, a local mortgage brokerage. A sixth employee remains at large.

, Ned Randolph

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Artes Explores Bankruptcy: San Diego-based Artes Medical, maker of the “smile lines” wrinkle filler ArteFill, said Nov. 21 it will cut jobs and explore liquidation.

Artes said it was exploring bankruptcy because of liquidity concerns driven by lower consumer spending, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It also said it will reduce its work force to fewer than 15 employees.

, Heather Chambers

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Unemployment Rises: San Diego County’s unemployment rate shot up to 6.8 percent in October, compared with September’s revised 6.5 percent, and well above last October’s rate of 4.8 percent, according to the latest state Employment Development Department report released Nov. 21.

The regional rate was below the 8 percent unemployment for California, yet above the national rate of 6.1 percent.

Over the past month, the area added 300 jobs to bring total nonfarm employment to about 1.3 million. However, over the past 12 months, the area has shed 12,200 jobs, down nearly 1 percent from the nonfarm employment in October 2007.

, Ned Randolph

Monday, Nov. 24

Vical Scales Back: Vical, a San Diego-based biotech developing DNA vaccines, said Nov. 21 it planned to cut 20 percent of its work force and close a research facility in an effort to preserve capital.

The restructuring will eliminate 29 positions, leaving the company with about 120 employees.

Vical President and CEO Vijay Samant said the company needed to reduce spending and focus efforts on advancing late-stage programs, including an experimental treatment for advanced metastatic melanoma and DNA vaccine for cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpes family. The restructuring efforts are expected to save Vical $4 million a year.

, Heather Chambers

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U.S. Bank Expands: U.S. Bank, with 49 offices in San Diego County, gained 12 new ones here after it acquired the deposits of two savings banks , Downey Savings & Loan and PFF Bank & Trust , following the takeover of the lenders by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Nov. 21. U.S. Bank, headquartered in Minneapolis, obtained $16.5 billion in assets, and assumed $14.8 billion in liabilities from the two banks. The 12 offices belonged to Downey. PFF had no local offices.

, Mike Allen

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Wedbush Snaps Up First Wall Street: First Wall Street Corp., a San Diego brokerage founded in 1982 and one of the largest locally owned brokers, entered into an agreement to be acquired by Wedbush Morgan Securities, based in Los Angeles and one of the largest independent investment banks on the West Coast, the parties said Nov. 24.

Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close at the end of December, were not released.

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Novocell Appointment: Alan Lewis, CEO of the privately held stem cell engineering company Novocell, has been named president and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

He will begin his new career at the New York City-based nonprofit on Jan. 1.

Lewis, who joined Novocell in February 2006 as CEO, guided the company through significant research milestones.

, Heather Chambers

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New Funding: Awarepoint said Nov. 25 that it closed on a Series D financing round of $13.3 million.

The San Diego company makes technology that tracks the location of hospital equipment with radio-frequency tags. Such real-time location systems, abbreviated RTLS, can also track people.

Joining in the latest round of financing was Cardinal Partners of Princeton, N.J., and Venrock of Palo Alto. Avalon Ventures of San Diego is a repeat investor.

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