Monthly Archives: December 2015

Martin Shkreli Arrested on Fraud Charges

Posted by Katie Kim.

On Thursday, Martin Shkreli, a 32 year-old pharmaceutical executive, was arrested by the federal authorities on securities and wire-fraud charges stemming from an alleged Ponzi scheme he ran as a hedge-fund manager. What the young executive was doing was taking out loans from investors to start a new pharmaceutical company and using that money to pay off his debt from his hedge-fund. Martin Shkreli committed “fraud in nearly every aspect of hedge-fund investments and in connection with his stewardship of a public company,” said the director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Andrew J. Ceresney.

Shkreli was already notorious for price-gouging during his time at Turning Pharmaceuticals. His idea was to acquire decades old drugs and raise the price of it to $750 from $13.50 per pill. The current charges are not related to Shkreli’s work as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals.

The federal authorities say that Shkreli was running three schemes that had connections to one another, he defrauded investors and used stock and cash from an unrelated pharmaceutical company to cover up the money he lost. The Brooklyn US attorney filed a seven-count criminal indictment and the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a related civil complaint on alleged securities fraud against Shkreli. Federal officials painted Mr. Shkreli’s business dealings as “a securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed.”

Shkreli was released on a $5 million bail, secured by a bank account and his father and brother. The authorities also arrested Evan L. Greebel who served as an outside counsel to Retrophin, the company Shkreli previously worked for. Shkreli treated Retrophin like his “personal piggy bank” where he used $11 million to pay back shareholders of MSMB funds.

Katie is an accounting/finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2018.

Samsung Appeals to Supreme Court Over Feud With Apple Dealing With Design Patents

Posted by Katie Kim.

In the technology industry, two leading companies may be heading to the Supreme Court over the design of smartphones. There is no confirmation of whether or not the case will be accepted, but the Supreme Court has not taken a design patent in over a century.

A few weeks ago, Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages over a design patent but did not agree to it as part of a settlement. Apple took Samsung to court on the grounds that Samsung intentionally and knowingly copied Apple’s iPhone designs. Apple prides themselves on their innovation and when the threat of copycats infringe on their innovations it takes away from their profits. Apple submitted evidence that showed the evolution of the Samsung product increasingly resembled the Apple iPhone

At trial, Apple convinced the jury that some of the designs Samsung used on their smartphones, like the rounded rectangular corners and touch screen made of smaller icons, were taken from and patented by Apple.

On the other hand, Samsung argued that the law under design patents was misapplied. The law is meant to protect “ornamental” features that are not part of the products intended function. Samsung lawyers feel that this should have been made clear to the jury.

On Monday, Samsung filled an appeal to the Supreme Court. The company argues that the legal framework behind designed patents is flawed and out dated for the modern digital world. “The law was written for a time long before the smartphone was invented,” said Mark A. Lemley, a law professor and director of the Stanford University program in law, science and technology. If Samsung is left to stand with a sweeping rule against it then it will “lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies.”

Katie is an accounting and finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2018.

Draft Kings, Fanduel Granted Emergency Stay to Continue in N.Y.

Posted by Stephen D’Angelo.

Just six hours after New York Attorney General placed a temporary injunction, which would stop sites like Fanduel and DraftKings from doing business in New York, an appellate court saved them by issuing an emergency temporary stay that will allow New Yorkers to continue to use Fanduel and Draft Kings until further notice. This stay will last at least till the end of the year which is likely when a permanent decision will be made, “Eventually, both sides will go before a panel of four or five appellate judges” Randy Mastro said, from an outside council for DraftKings.

The State of New York is likely to win the case because of the wording of their law on gambling. Fantasy football gambling sites commonly use the defense that they don’t take wagers, they take entry fees. In many states, this allows them to continue to do business. But, New York is stating that their penal law does not refer to “wagering” or “betting.” Instead it states that a person, “risks something of value.”

Although New York has the upper hand, the laws in place are very vague. The statement regarding risking something of value had no relation to online fantasy sports gambling when created. It was worded this general because that would include gambling bookies in a gambling law. I personally do not believe that Fantasy sports gambling will be shut down in New York. The NBA, NHL, and MLB all own equity in Fanduel and the likelihood of the 600,000 New Yorkers who play daily fantasy to not be able to in the New Year is very slim.

Stephen is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

Uber’s New Drivers Agreement Could Undermine Judge’s Ruling In Class Action Lawsuit

Posted by Stephen D’Angelo.

Friday morning, two days after the judge presiding the Uber class action lawsuit decided that drivers attempting to arbitrate can be included in the law suit, Uber sent drivers a new agreement. The document undermined the judge’s ruling by revising the arbitration clause.

Liss-Riordan and her team are filing an emergency motion that will be heard in front of Judge Edward Chen next Thursday; it asks the court to block Uber from enforcing this new driver agreement. “Uber has tried to fix the problem that Judge Chen ruled made the agreement unenforceable,” Liss Riordan told TechCrunch in an email.. The Private Attorney General Act gives “a private citizen the right to pursue fines that would normally only be available to the State of California. It also allows that private citizen to “seek civil penalties not only for violations that he personally suffered” but also for violations of “other current or former employees.”

According to Chen’s Wednesday ruling, the Uber driver agreement of 2014 and 2015 illegally waived drivers’ rights under PAGA, which informed Judge Chen’s decision that the arbitration clause could not be honored because it contained an illegal provision. This was the reason for the provision of the agreement, to quickly remove the illegality and include new provisions to the agreement.

The Private Attorney General Act protects uber drivers from what uber has tried to prevent, a large action against the company. Uber has agreed to resolve any claim against the company but only on an individual basis. Uber’s driver agreement provision also attempts to prevent workers from participating in any class collective or representative action against the company. Uber also rewrote the agreement to remove a requirement that arbitration between a driver and the company remain confidential. The language makes it clear that the agreement goes into effect only when a driver accepts it  not when a revision is published, therefore, protecting drivers who previously signed the agreement.

Stephen is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

The Fall of a Coal “Kingpin”

Posted by Dan Udvari.

On December 3, 2015 Donald L. Blankenship – the CEO of Massey Energy, Co. – was convicted of a single misdemeanor for conducting a conspiracy to violate safety rules in his coal mines just before the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that occurred on April 5, 2010.

Massey Energy was the fourth largest publicly traded coal extractor by revenue ($2.69 billion) in the United States. It was founded in 1920 by the Massey family and operated in Richmond, Virginia. The company consisted of approximately 5800 employees right before Alpha Natural Resources acquired the company for 7.1 billion dollars. Interestingly, 99% of the shareholders voted in favor of the acquisition, which shows how poorly the company was governed by management. Don Blankenship took control over the company in 1992 and created a culture that favored profits over safety. In total, the coal extractor giant had around 369 citations and orders, which totaled a staggering 10.8 million dollars.

On April 5, 2015 a massive explosion in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia occurred that killed 29 people. This tragedy was the worst since the 1970 Hyden disaster. Massey Energy operated the Upper Big Branch Mine and later turned out that they operated the mine in a manner that was against several rules set up by the MSHA. The investigation later determined that the ventilation system in the mine did not work properly and failed to get rid of the toxic gases that caused the explosion. Massey intentionally neglected all the safety rules and citations issued by the MSHA for the purpose of increasing profits. However, this case goes deeper than one thinks. According to reports, Massey Energy is very influential on political figures and officials in West Virginia. Using this power, they were able to bribe and manipulate MSHA regulators so they look the other way when inspecting the mines.

In November 2014, Don Blankenship, was indicted by a federal jury on four criminal counts including conspiracy to violate safety laws, securities fraud, defrauding the federal government, and making false statements to the SEC. Even though he was charged with these, he was only found guilty of one on December 3, 2015. Had he been convicted of all four, he could have been sent to prison for approximately thirty years. Now, he is only serving one year in jail.

I do not believe that Blankenship should only serve one year in jail. It seems unfair to those who had lost their lives because of profits. It baffles me that people as greedy as him get away with conspiracy and murder charges. It seems that money can literally buy your freedom in the United States. All you need is a good lawyer or lawyers.

Dan is a graduate accounting student with a certificate in forensic accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

 

 

Eminent Domain

Research project posted by Rafael Gabrieli.

Eminent Domain

Part I:

Eminent domain is the power to take private property for public use by a state or national government. There would be just compensation for the private property seized, however, many problems arise from this act. The way that eminent domain works is that it is backed by the Fifth Amendment to the US.  Constitution, which is that your state government has power over all property in the State, even private land. The land can be taken without the consent of the owner, as long as he or she is justly compensated. The purposes for which eminent domain vary, however, it has to be used for a public good somehow. This means that roads, courthouses, schools, or any other infrastructure that can benefit the public will come into place of the land that the government took using eminent domain. The state government or national government is able to use eminent domain for large-scale public works operations or even growing freeway systems.

Part II:

Pros:

In Houston, Texas, land was obtained by the use of eminent domain in order to create the Minute Maid Park baseball stadium, which has benefitted the surrounding community immensely. The baseball stadium brings millions of people each year to downtown Houston. What is amazing to see is to compare it with the Houston community before the stadium was built, which was very barren and unsocial.

The I-85 widening project in Concord, North Carolina will reshape the way inhabitants travel around Concord. The inhabitants are being justly compensated, and some are even getting 5%-10% more than the initial appraisal value. This new freeway widening will allow traffic to be lessened during rush hours, which posed a big problem for the city during the past couple of years. It is a necessary and responsible use of eminent domain.

Cons:

Private property could have sentimental value, like a house that has been in the family for generations. This is the case with the Keeler family from Claverack, New York, who lived in their house for four generations and were being forced out due to the state’s plan to expand power lines. Another problem with eminent domain is that the price that the owner feels he deserves is more than what is being offered to him. This happened to Rich Quam, owner of a house in Fargo, North Dakota since 1997. The town stated that his backyard could become structurally unstable, so the city offered him an amount to buy the property from him. Rich Quam declared it an insult however, because the amount did not reflect the years of hard work he put into renovating the house, adding a second level and a garage. A third problem is the simple desire to not want to abandon a profitable business, which almost occurred a couple years back to Perry Beaton, property co-owner of a Burger King that the city of North Kansas City was attempting to seize from him.

Part III:

In Economic Justice for All, it is stated that the common good may sometimes demand that the right to own be limited by public involvement in the planning or ownership of certain sectors of the economy, which is essentially the basis for eminent domain. Catholic support of private ownership does not mean that anyone has the right to unlimited accumulation of wealth, rather, it states that “no one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities.” Thus being the Catholic Social Teaching stance on Eminent Domain: if it is for the public good, an individual should be more than willing to give up his property that is not essential to his well-being in order to further the development of society and his surroundings.

Works Cited

Clayton, Adam. “Family Rallies to save Farmland from Eminent Domain.” Columbia-Greene Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

“Economic Justice for All.” Wall Common Good Selected Texts. N.p., n.d. Book. 10 Mar. 2016.

Lewis, David. “Eminent Domain: Still A Useful Tool Despite Its Recent Thrashing.” Planetizen. Planetizen, 5 Sept. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Messina, Ignazio. “City Threatens Eminent Domain.” Toledo Blade. N.p., 26 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Reaves, Tim. “Making Way for the Freeway: Eminent Domain Claims Homes.” Independent Tribune. Independent Tribune, 7 June 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Ross, John. “Hands Off! North Kansas City Loses Eminent Domain Case « Watchdog.org.” Watchdogorg RSS. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

A Sister’s Fight for Justice

Posted by Sydney J. Kpundeh.

The famous over the counter drug Tylenol was at the center of a case that was brought before a Pennsylvania federal district court in early November. The case involved a lady who had taken Extra Strength Tylenol for many years to treat various conditions. In Mid-August of 2010, she underwent lumbar laminectomy surgery and afterwards she was instructed by her doctor to take Regular Strength Tylenol in conjunction with Lorcet, a prescription drug containing acetaminophen, but not to exceed 4 grams of acetaminophen in a 24-hour period. For approximately two weeks, she used the Regular Strength Tylenol, as instructed, until the bottle ran out, after which she began using Extra Strength Tylenol. At some point, she stopped taking the Lorcet due to its side effects. On August 29, she unfortunately was diagnosed with acute liver failure and died two days later.

After her passing, her sister filed a products liability lawsuit, “including claims for defective design and negligent failure to warn against McNeil, which manufactures the drug, and Johnson & Johnson, McNeil’s parent company.” Her sister insisted that the defendants knew that Tylenol could cause liver damage when taken at or just above the recommended dose. Also, she claimed defendants were liable for the her sister’s death because they had failed to warn her of the “risks of injury and/or death.” The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the sister had not offered sufficient evidence to support her failure to warn claim.

Under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine, there are two factors that must be shown to find the scope of a manufacturer’s legal duty. The first is that there is some potential danger and the second is that there is a possibility of a different design to avert that danger. In this case, sufficient evidence was presented to show that the manufacturers knew or should have known that Extra Strength Tylenol could cause liver damage. The facts also showed that the manufacturers were working to find a substitute. Finally, the evidence also showed that the plaintiff’s sister died of acetaminophen-induced liver failure after taking Extra Strength Tylenol as directed.

Sydney is a political science major with a minor in legal studies at Seton Hall University, Class of 2016.

A Father’s Battle

Posted by Sydney Kpundeh.

A disgruntled New Jersey father has brought products liability design defect and failure-to-warn claims against The New Jersey Port Authority Transit Corporation to recover for injuries arising out of a take-home asbestos exposure. The case’s premise surrounds the father’s daughter, who started to exhibit signs of mesothelioma, which he claims were a result of secondary exposure to friable asbestos fibers through direct contact with her father and while washing his asbestos-laden work clothing. The father is an employee of the Port as a train operator, yard operator, and supervisor. His job duties included the repair and maintenance of asbestos-contaminated air brake systems on the Port’s multiple unit locomotives. When his daughter’s symptoms started worsening, he filed a product liability design defect and failure-to-warn case against the Port and various manufacturers of locomotives and locomotive brake shoes. He claimed that his daughter’s injuries could have been caused by her exposure to asbestos dust created when he replaced the brakes on cars he worked on after hours.

When the case was put before the court, all parties moved for summary judgment. The Port’s argument was that federal legislation and court precedent preempted state tort claims related to locomotives. The automobile defendants argued that there was no evidence that the father’s contacts with automotive brake dust were sufficiently frequent, regular, and proximate to establish causation.

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the injuries were preempted by the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) under the doctrine of field preemption. The court ruled in such direction because they examined a number of previous decisions that had been considered in the scope of the LIA’s preemptive effect and found that the only way to ensure uniformity is that they must rule the same way.

The failure-to-warn claims that the father filed against the various manufacturers and sellers of asbestos-containing automobile brakes were dismissed summarily because there was insufficient evidence of medical causation linking their products to second-hand exposure. “[T]he evidence showed that the father replaced brakes shoes contaminated with asbestos on four occasions over a period of eight years.”

When he was asked about these times, he could not recall the names of the manufacturers of the replaced brake shoes nor could he recount the number of times he installed new brakes manufactured by the named defendants. Therefore, “it was clear that even if the father was exposed to one of each of the automotive defendants’ products over the eight-year period in question, this exposure was so limited that it failed to meet the frequency, regularity, and proximity test that is required for this type of case.” Hence, this is why the case was dismissed.

Sydney is a political science major and legal studies minor at Seton Hall University, Class of 2016. 

Lumber Liquidators Sued for Defective Flooring from China

Posted by Melissa Nomani.

Lawsuits filed against Lumber Liquidators claim that homeowners who put certain laminate flooring into their home are being exposed to high levels of formaldehyde. This puts them at risk and also lowers the value of their property. As of this July, the number of lawsuits filed against the company has gone up from only a mere ten in June. Many lawsuits began being filed after a 60 Minutes episode that aired on March 1, 2015, exposing the high levels of formaldehyde in laminated flooring made in China. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and has been linked to cancer and respiratory problems. A study done by 60 Minutes showed that 30 out of 31 of the tested flooring samples (all of the sample were Lumber Liquidators products).

According to a study conducted by 60 Minutes, 30 of 31 flooring samples from Lumber Liquidators did not meet formaldehyde emissions standards. It is estimated that thousands of people have Lumber Liquidators flooring in their homes. Some lawsuits claim that homeowners have suffered from respiratory problems after installing the laminate flooring.

Another issue that has risen is that Lumber Liquidators is being accused of false advertising and selling products comprised of particles that come from endangered habitats and trees. The US Department of Justice is investigating the company for their alleged use of wood. The wood was illegally cut down from Russia–this directly violates the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act does not allow for the importation of products made from woods that are illegally logged.

Furthermore, this past May, Lumber Liquidators CEO, Robert Lynch, resigned. During this month the company also announced that it would be suspending the sale of flooring from China. The company offered homeowners free  indoor air quality screening, if they had purchased laminate flooring from China.

The number of lawsuits against Lumber Liquidators continues to grow.

Melissa is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2018.

Farmers Suing Syngenta

Posted by Melissa Nomani.

Farmers across the United States are filing suits against Syngenta. As stated in the article, “The lawsuits allege the biotechnology company’s genetically modified Agrisure Viptera and Duracade seeds contaminated US corn shipments, making them unacceptable for export to China.” China does not allow the importation of GMO products that it has not tested. In February of 2014, China learned that the corn shipments from the U.S. contained Viptera. Agrisure Viptera is a seed that is genetically modified (known as MIR162) to prevent damage to crops by earworms and cutworms. As a result, China has rejected corn imports from the U.S.

Over 1,800 suits have been filed. Lawsuits filed against Syngenta state that the company put seeds on the market even though there was no approval from foreign markets. This has led to some farms having great financial losses. Even farmers who do not use GMO seeds could be affected due to accidental contamination from other fields. Syngenta has tried to refute the lawsuits by stating that they are not responsible for protecting farmers from GMO seeds. This arguments were rejected in September by Judge Lungstrum, who refused to dismiss the suits.

It has been estimated by The National Grain and Feed Association that as of April 2014 almost $3.0 billion worth of losses were caused by Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera MIT162 corn seed.

The first of the lawsuits are expected to go to trial in June 2017.

Melissa is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2018.