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March 2016 Archives

Wave of FINRA Arbitration Claims Expected From Bad Bets on Energy

Investors across the country have been shocked to see the real impact that the dropping price of oil has had on their retirement savings. Many investors do not closely monitor their retirement funds and only become aware of the losses incurred when reviewing their year-end statements or when filing tax returns in April with their accountants. Because of the extent of the losses that many investors have uncovered, FINRA has received many oil-related arbitration demands.

Ninth Circuit Undoes Arbitration Order, Citing 'Sham' Contract

The Ninth Circuit recently overruled an arbitration clause that would have forced ItalFlavors LLC to arbitrate its claims against Caffe Vergnano USA Corporation in a case arising from a failed venture to open a Caffe Vergnano franchise in Caifornia. The Ninth Circuit's three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the agreement to arbitrate claims cannot be enforced because it was merely a sham to help one of the franchisees, Hector Rabellino, obtain a visa for work within the United States.

ALJ Says Nursing Home Violated NLRA

A New Jersey nursing home has found itself in hot water due to its actions in handling an employee strike. Administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board, the Honorable Michael A. Rosas, sided with employees by saying that Alaris Health at Castle Hill ("Alaris Health") committed unfair labor practices by failing to reinstate workers who went on strike.

Department of Justice Subpoenas Alere in FCPA Probe

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a subpoena to Alere Inc. ("Alere" or the "Company") this March in connection with potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA"). Alere operates primarily as a provider of point-of-service diagnostic devices and services for issues such as malaria and HIV. The launch of this investigation follows the Company's announcement that it is being acquired by Abbott Laboratories for $5.8 billion, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

Honest Company Called Out For Being Dishonest About Product Ingredient

In recent years, it's been revealed that many of the ingredients that are used to make the foods we eat and the products we use are actually bad for us. As American consumers grow increasingly concerned and aware of the health risks associated with many of the synthetic and artificial chemicals that are used to make our food a certain color and our lotions a certain consistency, many are turning to more natural alternatives.

Institutional Investors Bring Suit Against Volkswagen in Midst of Emissions Scandal

The fallout from Volkswagen's emissions scandal was propelled to new heights when institutional investors filed a $3.6 billion suit against the company in Germany's Regional Court in Brunswick in mid-March. For months, Volkswagen has been responding to allegations and legal actions arising as a result of its "Clean Diesel" engines not performing as advertised. Volkswagen defrauded consumers by equipping some vehicles with technology designed to falsely represent the outcomes of emissions tests.

UC Berkeley Comes Under Fire for Handling of Sexual Harassment Claims

The statistics are troubling; with an estimated one-fifth of all female college students reporting being the victims of sexual assault during their college careers. As these startling numbers have come to light, there's been an outcry on campuses across the country as students demand that college administrators do more to both prevent sexual assaults and punish those who are accused of committing such acts.

Valeant CEO Seeks to Reassure Investors

Canadian pharmaceutical firm Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. ("Valeant" or the "Company") has seen better days. Since late September, Valeant's stock dropped approximately 85 percent, from nearly $200 per share to $26.98 per share at the end of March 18, 2016. Unsurprisingly, the drastic drop in stock value was paired with an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), which caused skittish investors to question the viability of Valeant moving forward.

Bill Impedes Progress of DOL Initiative to Expand Overtime Coverage

The House of Representatives put forth the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in significant part, to block the Department of Labor's ("DOL") new rule to extend overtime provisions to a more expansive group of workers. If implemented, DOL rule is expected to extend overtime pay to an estimated five million additional workers. The opposition to the rule is premised on the idea that these significant increases would unduly burden small businesses and that DOL rule making is not the appropriate manner in which to do so.

Shareholder Class Certified Against Urban Outfitters

Recently, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Mark A. Kearney, certified a class of shareholders that charged Urban Outfitters ("Urban" or the "Company") and its officers (collectively, "Defendants") with engaging in a fraudulent scheme to artificially inflate the Company's stock price, which later led Urban's stock to plummet by 13%.

SFMS Files ERISA Class Action Against DST Systems, Inc.

On March 14, 2016, Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP, on behalf of Plaintiff, Clive Cooper, and similarly situated participants and beneficiaries of the 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan (the "Plan") of DST Systems, Inc. ("DST" or the "Company") from March 14, 2010 and onward, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Case No. 1:16-cv-01900). The Complaint asserts claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. against DST; Ruane Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc. ("RCG"), an investment firm that serves as an investment adviser and fiduciary to the Plan; the Advisory Committee of the Plan (the "Advisory Committee"); Gregg Wm. Givens, a member of the Advisory Committee; the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors of DST; and Directors of DST, including Jerome H. Bailey, Lynn Dorsey Bleil, Lowell L. Bryan, Gary D. Forsee, Charles E. Haldeman, Jr., and Samuel G. Liss (collectively, "Defendants").

Mercedes Accused of Similar VW-Style Kill Switch

A class action lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District New Jersey against Mercedes-Benz ("Mercedes" or the "Company"), alleging that the Company created a similar device to that of Volkswagen's controversial "defeat device." According to the Complaint, the device allows Mercedes' diesel engine models to ace emissions inspections, but, in reality, pollute the environment at a level higher than permissible under federal standards.

CVS Hit With "Sugar Pill Remedy" Suit

A putative class action lawsuit was recently filed against CVS Health Corp. ("CVS" or the "Company"). Plaintiff, Heather Saal ("Saal" or the "Plaintiff"), claimed the deceptive packaging on CVS Flu Relief ("CVS Flu Relief" or the "Product") misled her to purchase the Product which are essentially sugar pills. The suit, filed in the Northern District of California, asserted violations under various statutes, including the Business and Professions Code and Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and seeks declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2201.

Plaintiffs Allege Fraud in Class Action Lawsuits Against Trump University

The country is in the midst of what many contend is the most unexpected and uproarious Republican presidential nomination showdown in U.S. history. The man at the center of all the controversy and fanfare is none other than television reality star and New York City real estate mogul Donald Trump. While Trump's presidential aspirations were initially laughed off by the majority of politicians and pundits, now the clear front-runner in the Republican presidential nominee race, it appears as though Trump may have the last laugh.

Avon Employees Settle Class Action Against Their Employer

While they may not be as common in corporate America as they used to be, pensions can be a strong incentive for employees to stay with a particular company. In some instances, a pension will provide guaranteed income to a retired employee for a number of years after their service to the company has ended. Some employers pay a lump sum as a pension payment when employment ends.

Whistleblower awarded $55M in largest kickback case settlement in U.S. history

From pharmaceutical companies to those that manufacture and sell medical devices, when it comes to providing hospitals and individual doctors with the types of equipment and medical drugs they need to help save patients’ lives, there are literally billions of dollars at stake. Unfortunately, some companies will go to great, not to mention illegal, lengths to ensure that they receive a piece of the pie.

Trading Woes End in Huge Victory for SEC

A jury in New York found two brokers liable, Daryl Payton ("Payton") and Benjamin Durant ("Durant"), for insider trading on Monday February 29, 2016. The jury found that Payton and Durant had improperly purchased shares of SPSS, Inc. ("SPSS") based on confidential tips about the acquisition of SPSS by IBM Corp. ("IBM"). The two brokers made a significant profit on the trade, but could not hide from the watchful eye of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"). The verdict was a huge victory for the SEC, given that a 2014 decision in the Second Circuit made it much harder for the government to win insider trading cases when the subject of the suit was more than one layer from the original source of the tip. Moreover, under the new standard, the government must now demonstrate that the source received a benefit and/or reward beyond mere friendship.

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Certiorari to 7th Circuit Consumer Protection Case

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court (the "Court") refused to hear a landmark Seventh Circuit case, a decision that will shake-up eligibility rules regarding class action lawsuits. The Court denied certiorari despite the fact that the Seventh Circuit's decision deepened a circuit split as it challenged the "heightened ascertainability" requirement adopted by the Third Circuit.