SEC Issues Largest Award Ever at $278 Million, Federal False Claims Exceed $2.2 Billion for Fiscal Year 2022
The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a press release on May 5th, 2023 to announce their largest ever award, over $278 million, regarding an unnamed case. The award is more than twice the size of the previous largest award, $114 million awarded in October 2020.
Amazon, the largest online retailer, has been accused in multiple lawsuits of selling “suicide kits” to vulnerable teens and young adults. The lawsuits accuse Amazon of selling and continuing to sell highly concentrated sodium nitrite, an industrial chemical that is lethal to ingest. The complaint alleges despite Amazon receiving notifications of children dying after purchasing sodium nitrite, they continued to offer it for sale.
The complaints further alleges shoppers on Amazon.com who typed “sodium nitrite” in the Amazon search bar received “sodium nitrite suicide” as an autocomplete prompt, and Amazon recommended additional products including a book on suicide and medication to assist in keeping sodium nitrite down during a suicide attempt.
Amy Eskin, a partner at Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky LLP, was appointed by the Honorable Carolyn Kuhl of the Los Angeles Superior Court to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the California Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) 5255, Social Media Cases which involves cases of children and young adults harmed or driven to suicide by social media algorithms.
Garment Workers Get $892,784 Back After 2022 Garment Industry Investigation by Department of Labor, Hourly Wages as Low as $1.58 Per Hour
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the United States Department of Labor performed 50 randomized investigations in 2022 of apparel contractors throughout Southern California, to evaluate the frequency of wage theft and worker safety violations. The Department of Labor had previously done this in 2016.
Violations were discovered in 80% of 2022 investigations, leading to $892,000 in back pay and liquidated damages for 296 employees. The average return of unpaid wages to each worker was over $3,000.
The California Department of Industrial Relations reported 400 judgments in the 4th quarter of 2022, after excluding duplicates. The total value of all judgments was $9,124,809.
Security Guards and Patrol Services had the largest number of judgments as an industry category (28). Home Health Care Services had the largest total value of judgments at $1,209.284. Food service can be categorized under multiple different industries, and in total is a large source of wage claims and wage judgments. Adding together “Full-Service Restaurants”, “Restaurants and Other Eating Places”, “Limited—Service Restaurants” found 44 judgments totaling $931,577 in judgment totals. The largest individual wage judgment listed was for $326,800, in the Home Health Care Services industry.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Bittrex, Inc., its co-founder and former CEO William Shihara, and its foreign affiliate, Bittrex Global GmbH, with operating an unregistered national securities exchange, broker and clearing agency. Bittrex is a crypto asset trading platform.
The SEC alleges Bittrex facilitated the buying and selling of crypto assets, including crypto assets that the SEC allege are in fact securities. From 2017 to 2022, the platform earned at least $1.3 billion in revenues from transaction fees while servicing investors (including U.S. investors) without registering with the SEC. The SEC also alleges that Bittrex and CEO Shihara deleted “problematic statements” from public channels that could have lead to SEC investigation of unregulated security offerings.
California expanded pay-data reporting requirements for large private employers. Employers with 100 employees, of which any are in California, are subject to EEO-1 reporting obligations under federal law but could satisfy California requirements by submitting their federal EEO-1 report. The EEO-1 included pay data by job category, sex, race, and ethnicity. The next pay data report is due on May 10, 2023. Reviewing the available 2020 data, Schneider Wallace discovered these pay disparities between men and women at large California employers:
The Supreme Court ruled on February 22nd, 2023 that workers earning daily rates are not exempt salaried workers and are therefore owed overtime. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal overturned the original decision the employee was exempt, ruling the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) did not allow day-rate or daily-rate workers to be considered the equivalent of salaried workers. The Supreme Court affirmed, 6-3, and held that daily-rate workers are entitled to overtime regardless of executive job titles or high earnings.
AbbVie Agrees to $2.7 Million Settlement for False Claim Act Whistleblower Lawsuit over Humira Prescriptions
Pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. has agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle a whistleblower False Claims Act lawsuit, which alleged that the company used unlawful kickbacks to encourage medical providers to prescribe its drug Humira. Federal prosecutors have announced multiple settlements in 2023 for False Claim Act allegations, a list of 12 including the Humira settlement are listed here.
Consumer Product Safety Commission Warning About E-Bikes, E-Bike Battery Fire in NYC Kills Two Children
On December 20th, 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a memo calling the rate of e-bike battery fires a “crisis”. This is referencing both the amount of property destruction and injuries and death being caused by lithium-ion battery fires in e-bikes. Recent e-bike fires have made the news after battery explosions have caused house fires, injuries and death. On Monday April 10th, 2023, a 7-year-old boy and his 19-year-old sister died after being trapped in their Queens, New York City apartment when an e-bike battery exploded. The fire, described by the FDNY Chief as like an explosion, had blocked their only exit.