Monthly Archives: October 2016

Takata’s Faulty Air Bag

Posted by Xiangni Meng.

There have been at least 16 deaths caused by a ruptured Takata air bag inflator worldwide. The first U.S. death report of a Takata inflator is a 17-year-old high school senior, who died in Texas in a moderate speed crash. The most recent death in the United States was confirmed by U.S. safety regulators. A 50-year-old California woman died in a Honda Civic that was first recalled in 2008 because of a defective airbag.

The problem is that “[t]he defective air bag inflators deploy with too much force sending metal fragments flying.” This accident spurned the search and recall for noncompliant vehicles. This deficiency covers more than 60 million air bags in vehicles from BMW, Ford, Honda, Tesla, Toyota, and 12 other corporations. That is one of every five cars on the road in the U.S. The biggest recall could affect more than 100 million vehicles around the world.

Actually, about 11.4 million inflators in the United States have been fixed, while more than 20 million were left unrepaired. Takata spokesman Jared Levy said the “tragedy underscores the importance of replacing those airbag inflators that have been recalled by automakers.” However, owners can be difficult to find. Even Honda has mailed letters, placed Facebook ads, made telephone calls, and in some instances visited owners, but some owners just refuse to get it repaired. “Safety advocates have called for laws banning the sale of any vehicle until recall repairs are made, or a national requirement that recalls be done before license plates can be renewed.” Spokesman Bryan Thomas said, The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t have legal authority to order those recalling steps.

A Senate investigation and personal injury litigation have turned up company documents suggesting that Takata executives ignored their own employees and hid the potential danger from Honda, their biggest customer, as well as from U.S. regulators. It is said Takata is seeking a financial investor to help pay for huge liabilities from the world’s biggest auto recall. Also, Takata could face $200 million fine over faulty airbags.

Xiangni is a marketing major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2017.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/10/29/business/ap-us-air-bag-danger.html?src=busln

http://fortune.com/2016/10/21/takata-air-bag-deaths/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-06-02/sixty-million-car-bombs-inside-takata-s-air-bag-crisis

Greek Ship Fined for Falsifying Records and Polluting

Posted by Sarah Velez.

International business relations is a major component of the United States economy. Foreign countries send their ships to the United States to pick up shipments and deliver products. While this global trade relationship is highly beneficial, the challenges that arise as a result of compliance issues and differences in ethical standards have recently been brought to light. The article “Greek Shipping Companies Fined $1.5 Million for Pollution” written by Gene Johnson of the Associated Press, reports a case of a Greek vessel that “deliberately pumped oil-polluted water into the ocean, then repeatedly lied and falsified records in an effort to deceive inspectors with the U.S. Coast Guard.” These illegal actions led to a million and a half dollar fine to be paid by the companies that jointly own Gallia Graeca, the Greek vessel.

In October of 2015, Gallia Graeca arrived in Seattle to pick up a substantial shipment of soybeans. This ship, owned by both Gallia Graeca LTD and Angelakos SA, was routinely inspected by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Daniel Hamilton once it arrived at the port. As reported by Petty Officer Hamilton, the oil was not properly cleaned and it was actually in areas where it should not have been as a result of the poor maintenance of the oil-water separator. A deeper investigation made by the prosecutors showed that the ship had discarded “5,000 gallons of oil-fouled bilge water” (Johnson). In addition to knowingly dumping this substantial amount of oil, the engineers on the ship also presented the U.S. Coast Guard with false records and feigned the functioning of the oil-water separator. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, company executives were aware of the entire operation which shows the unethical behavior throughout the company chain.

While the Coast Guard has reported cases of sea pollution, they consider that holding corporations, as well as individuals, criminally liable is “notoriously difficult to detect and prove” (Johnson). Not only were the two companies charged with forging log books and polluting, but other involved individuals were also held accountable and the engineers on board were sentenced to jail time. U.S. District Judge John Coughenour stated that this case “will resonate with other parties in this industry and cause them to pause when they think about creating a corporate culture that encourages deception.”

Sarah is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2019.

Kantian Ethics and Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme

Posted by Lindsey Pena.

In business, ethics are strong guiding principles that aid managers, employees, and investors to correctly conduct business transactions. When ethical matters are disregarded, the end result is fraud, embezzlement, among many other illegal actions. One of these illegal actions is called a Ponzi scheme. Perhaps the most famous Ponzi scheme was devised by Bernie Madoff, a well-respected financier, who conned investors out of an estimated $65 billion. Madoff was caught in December of 2008 and charged with 11 counts of fraud, perjury, theft, and money laundering. He ultimately faced 150 years in prison as a result of his decades long Ponzi scheme.

Because of the magnitude of this Ponzi scheme, eight years later, the consequences are still being addressed. Recently, the estate of Stanley Chais, one of Bernie Madoff’s friends, agreed to pay the victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme $277 million to settle claims that insisted Chais profited from the scheme. Irving Picard, a trustee liquidating Madoff’s firm, has recovered more than $11.2 billion for the investors who were conned. They achieved this my suing the banks and offshore accounts that hid the money in addition to investors who profited from the fraud. In the 2009 lawsuit against Chais and his wife, Picard claimed that they “reaped about $1 billion in profit from fake securities transactions at Madoff’s firm.” Chais also reaped rewards through fees that he would earn when he gave his customer’s money to Madoff’s firm. In addition to this, Chais was also sued by the SEC in 2009 because he “steered assets from three investment funds to Madoff, “despite having clear indications Madoff was engaged in fraud.”

Chais, along with five of Madoff’s employees, were not the only ones who received consequences. Thousands of innocent investors trusted Bernie’s reputable, veteran background hoping to make profit from their investments. While reading this article, I could not help but to think about the Kantian ethics which states that a person should evaluate their actions by the consequences if everyone in society acted the same way. Bernie Madoff made the exception for himself when he decided to execute the treacherous plan and the consequences of his actions will cost him the rest of his life.

Lindsey is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2019.

 

Acquisition of ICANN: A Legal Issue

Posted by Enerd Pani.

During the beginning of October, there was a vast change where control of the internet source code was transported from the United States, to what most likely will be the United Nations. The result is that countries not only in Europe, but all over the world can vie for control of the internet. Arguably unscrupulous countries such as Russia, China and Iran can cause issues with human rights violations and can censor areas of the internet in other countries, not only within their own home country. The second issue is that the President did not ask Congress for approval to give a piece of U.S property to overseas forces. The following action has been criticized as going against US interests, and mitigating any form of American supremacy.

Still, some people see this as a necessary step. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration believes the chance of government intrusion to be “extremely remote” (BBC). The issue arises when multiple shareholders with many different ideas on how the internet should be maintained all vie for control of singular entity. These “stakeholders include countries, businesses and groups offering technological expertise” (BBC). One might wonder how such a important function can be put within the control of so many groups with different interests. There has even been calls by Russia and China for the Domain Naming Server to be put under the control “by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union” (BBC). The request put forward shows the desires countries with very shady human rights have towards getting control of such a important tool for free speech.

Many groups had argued that a delay on the acquisition should have been placed. The critics of the movement “argue that once the transition takes place it is irreversible, and that it would be prudent to temporarily maintain existing U.S. government authority” (fas 18). It would seem very controversial to transfer over such a valuable asset when there may not be any chance to change a decision. Also questions arise on how the “.mil” and “.gov” domains should be handled. These domains are sole property of the U.S Government, and cannot be used in any other way.

To conclude, the “giveaway” of ICANN is one shrouded in uncertainty. No one can be sure if the new stakeholders of the internet will continue to monitor it ethically. There has been major concern about some countries abusing the power of internet control, but many companies like the NTIA assure that they are looking to “protect U.S consumers, companies, and intellectual properties” (fas 12). It can be argued that ICANN was transferred unethically, though now the deed is done. The future will tell if this move will either effect, or mitigate personal freedoms on the internet.

Enerd is a finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Sources:

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44022.pdf

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37114313

Apple Phones May Have Battery Issues

Posted by Kristina Volta.

In light of the recent events of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones setting on fire, many people have been looking to Apple as an alternative. However, the new news of Apple’s IPhone 7 catching flame has many consumers nervous. The most recent case was when an Australian surf coach, Matt Jones, left his phone under a pair of pants in his car while he taught a lesson. When he returned to his car he found that his car was full of smoke and where his phone was had been burnt up and the pants that had been on top of the phone were on fire. This is concerning for Apple whose stock has dropped .41%. This is going to be a knock to Apple’s popularity, especially after seeing the negative kickback that Samsung has been facing for a similar problem.

Apple has been investigating this report, challenging that he was not at the car when the fire started. Many people are beginning to believe that there is a possibility that Apple’s IPhone 7 has a similar Lithium-ion battery, which can become “unstable” when it’s put in certain situations. There is a chance the phone became too hot wrapped up in the pants in the car and that could have been the reason the phone caught fire.

Even though these claims haven’t been solidified yet, this could still cause a major setback for Apple and their products. Although there haven’t been many claims about Apple phones catching fire, the fear consumers now have could be significantly detrimental to their sales of the IPhone 7. Not to mention, if the case does come out to show that it was the IPhone’s battery that caught fire, Apple will be held liable for it.

When companies put out products their consumers and shareholders are putting faith in the company that they are purchasing a safe good unless otherwise mentioned. Lithium-ion batteries have been known to have issues for other products like “Tesla cars, Boeing jetliners, Hewlett Packard laptops and Hoverboards” as well as other IPhones. There was a case in March of an IPhone 6 bursting into flames on a flight to Hawaii. This is concerning for not only Apple, but also any other company who is or plans to use Lithium-ion batteries. This is a risk these companies are taking considering the clear unpredictability of the safety of these batteries.

Kristina is a marketing major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Sources:

http://fortune.com/2016/10/21/apple-iphone-7-explodes/

http://www.breitbart.com/california/2016/10/21/2nd-fire-apple-iphone-7-threatens-mass-recall/

Charges Made in Samarco Dam Collapse Case

Posted by Caroline Weeks.

On November 5, 2015 a dam in the Brazilian city of Mariana collapsed, resulting in multiple causalities and irreparable damage to the surrounding cities and ecosystems. In total, nineteen people lost their lives. The collapse also “released a torrent of sludge that washed away villages, displaced hundreds of people, and traveled more than four hundred miles through southeast Brazil’s Rio Doce basin before reaching the Atlantic Ocean.” It is said that this is “believed to be the biggest disaster of its kind anywhere.” The yearlong criminal investigation into the collapse recently ended and has resulted in homicide charges being filed against twenty one people in connection with the disaster. Some of the people charged are “current and former top executives of mining giants Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd., and Samarco Mineração SA.” In addition, employees of a consulting firm that performed checkups on the dam were charged with “presenting false stability reports.” This disaster is an example of companies being concerned solely with short run profit maximization and an inherent lack of corporate social responsibility.

The federal prosecutor in Brazil has stated that “the motivation of the homicides was the excessive greed of the companies.” It has been detailed that the victims were killed by the “violent passage of the tailings mud” and that they “had their bodies mutilated and…dispersed across an area of 110 kilometers.” These innocent employees died a cruel and painful death at the hands of corporate greed. Samarco focused on short run profit maximization and did not take into account the effects of their actions. The prosecutor says that there is evidence that Samarco, and its shareholders, were “aware of chronic structural problems” as early as April 2009. If this is true, the company knew about critical problems with the structure for more than 6 years and chose to continually ignore the warnings. The board not only failed to make the facility structurally sound, but responded to these structural issues by “pressuring the company to extract more iron ore.” If the company had simply taken head to these warnings they would’ve prevented the loss of innocent lives, the damage of surrounding communities, and incredibly expensive lawsuits along with a permanently tarnished reputation. These findings show the goal of the company was to maximize profits as quickly as possible. They did not take into account the repercussions of a dam collapse and innocent people paid the price for their greed.

This fatal event also details Samarco’s lack of corporate social responsibility. The company chose to focus on profits and purposely chose to ignore the issues with their facility. The company did not act ethically and they certainly did not take into account the surrounding communities. As a result of the dam collapse, families have lost their homes, and even entire communities have been washed away. Not only have these villages been destroyed, but so has the surrounding ecosystem. The river “is still tainted a rusty red form the sediment” that washed through the river basin after the dam collapsed. If the company had acted ethically, they could’ve saved lives and communities. This disaster is a prime example of executives acting carelessly in the hopes of inflating their bank accounts.

Caroline is a mathematical finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

 

Wells Fargo’s Employees Fraud with Customers

Posted by Gurpreet Kaur.

CNN Money released an article on Well Fargo’s employees secretly withdrawing money from customers’ bank account and transferring to new accounts since 2011. The article was published on September 8th of this year and Wells Fargo bank was forced to fire 5,300 employees in Los Angles for setting up accounts for customers. This fraud was taking place without any of the customers’ knowledge. After this fraud, many customers were fumed because their bank accounts were unsafe. The employees’ fraud was unethical and illegal because they were creating credit card accounts without letting their customers know.

Brian Kennedy, a Maryland retiree, was one of the victims and he told CNN Money “he detected an unauthorized Wells Fargo account had been created in his name about a year ago. He asked Wells Fargo about it and the bank closed it.” Wells Fargo’s customers had trust in the bank. The victims of this fraud could have filed for refunds, but it wasn’t necessary because Wells Fargo agreed to refund 5 million dollars to them. The settlement in Los Angles required Wells Fargo to warn their California customers to shut down their unrecognized accounts. The fraud caused the bank to unemployed 5,300 workers over these five years.

Richard Cordray is the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and he said, “Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses.”  Those employees transferred funds from customers’ accounts without their knowledge to new accounts they created. Customers were upset because they were facing overdraft fees and insufficient fees. Wells Fargo stated, “We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request.” Wells Fargo’s market valuation was the highest in America, but the fraud led to lawsuits against Wells Fargo. In May 2015, “Feuer’s office sued Wells Fargo for authorizing accounts” and “after filing the suit, his office received more than 1,000 calls and emails from customers as well as current and former Wells Fargo employees about the allegations.”

Gurpreet is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2019.

 

Wells Fargo – Pressure From the Top Down

Posted by Anna Fintor.

Wells Fargo is currently involved in a legal scandal in which it is said to have opened bank accounts and credit cards without the costumer’s consent. According to Reuters, “The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators ordered United States’ third-largest bank by assets to pay $190 million in fines and restitution to settle civil charges.” The scandal has been going on for several years and there were as many as 2 million accounts opened illegally.

Wells Fargo has been known for its “high-pressure” sales culture, which one of my personal friends who has worked in one of the branches can account for. The Bloomberg article I have read describes how anonymous users have been posting cartoonish videos on YouTube presenting the negative work atmosphere at Wells Fargo. The videos show how management pressured and threatened workers that if the unreasonable goals were not met the workers would be let go.  It is suspected that the videos were created by employees as far back as in 2010.

While reading the articles, I remembered one of the discussions from class of how in large corporations top executives can pressure the bottom level workers to commit the illegal activity. One of the YouTube videos shows that bankers received $5 McDonald’s gift cards for opening a new account, while the executives received generous bonuses. In my opinion that’s very unethical and just wrong.

In the recent weeks the CEO, Jhon Stumpf has resigned and Wells Fargo continues to be under investigation. I feel like this situation is going to hurt Wells Fargo not only financially but also create bad reputation. Due to the popularity of social media, the videos will spread to a vast number of the population, including to those who may not be keeping up with the news.

Anna is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2018.

Sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-10-21/psst-regulators-watch-videos-for-bank-scandal-after-wells-fargo

https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-10-21/psst-regulators-watch-videos-for-bank-scandal-after-wells-fargon fines and restitution to settle civil charges

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-wells-fargo-accounts-california-idUSKCN12J2O

 

At Wells Fargo, Complaints About Fraudulent Accounts Since 2005

Posted by Alexa Constantine.

The New York Times on October 11th of this year released the article describing Wells Fargo’s fraud scandal that was brought to the public eye last month. The ethics scandal came to light last month, but the fraud has been going on for years, maybe even a decade with the first report in 2005. Julie Tishkoff in 2005 wrote to the Wells Fargo human resources about how she saw employees setting up sham accounts, forging customer signatures, and the sending out of unsolicited credit cards. Her complaining went on for four years. Tishkoff was not the only employee who was complaining to the internal ethics hotline, the human resources department, and to the managers and supervisors.

In 2011, John G. Stumpf, the board chairman, received at least two letters from Wells Fargo employees describing the illegal activities they have witnessed. Mr. Stumpf became president the year Julie Tishkoff wrote to human resources. In September of this year, Mr. Stumpf testified in front of Congress, twice, stating that, “he and other senior managers only realized in 2013 that they had a big problem on their hands — two years after the bank had started firing people over this issue.” In 2013, Wells Fargo launched the internal investigation within their company for the fraud they realized that was happening. But by then, the prosecutors and regulators caught on and in May of 2015 a lawsuit was filed. The Los Angeles city attorney filed the lawsuit for the creation of unauthorized accounts against Wells Fargo. The case was settled this September of 2016.

After the lawsuit settled, Mary Eshet, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said, “We have made fundamental changes to help ensure team members are not being pressured to sell products, customers are receiving the right solutions for their financial needs, our customer-focused culture is upheld at all times and that customer satisfaction is high.” And since September 8th, Wells Fargo will pay $185 million in fines for the opening about two million customer accounts and credit cards without authorization. Wells Fargo is taking responsibility for the scandal and is making changes to the company.

The scandal still continues after the settlement. Former employees whose are suing Wells Fargo state that many of the managers at the branch level and the people who heard their ethics complaints are still employed. The employees who complained and brought to light the fraud within the company lost their jobs shortly after they complained. Between 2011 and this year, Wells Fargo terminated the employment of 5,300 workers, “around 10 percent of those worked at the branch manager level or above, according to the bank, but only one — an area president — had a high-level management role.” The whistleblowers lost their jobs while the people who should have acknowledged the fraud kept their jobs. Mr. Stumpf acknowledged the outrage of former employees about how the bank should have heeded what they said were warning and taken action earlier by saying, “We should have done more sooner.” Mr. Stumpf’s answer does not satisfy former employees.

Alexa is an accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2019.

Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

Posted by Kayla Caveny.

The United States and Europe both have emissions standards for their vehicles. The standards are in place to limit the amount of pollutants the vehicle may make. However, there is a way to bypass those standards, illegal of course. This certain device is called a “defeat device,” which is any apparatus that unduly reduces the effectiveness of emissions control systems under conditions a vehicle may reasonably be expected to experience.

On September 18, 2015 U.S and European officials accused Volkswagen and Audi of installing these defeat devices within numerous diesel cars made between 2009 and 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the cars that were tampered with “included software that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants.” The vehicles that were effected only release the EPA’s emissions standards when the car is actually being tested. The vehicle actually produces nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the “legal” standard. Because of these vehicles being tampered with over 11 million Volkswagen and Audie’s have now been subject to recall. Volkswagen did admit to not complying with governmental standards. However, the makers of Volkswagen and Audi told the owners of these cars that “this is an emissions issue, your vehicle is safe to drive.”

Volkswagen and Audi’s actions have now caused several lawsuits, especially within the state of Tennessee. Most of these lawsuits are against Volkswagen and many of the dealers within the United States. According to John Willis, a lawsuit in Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Federal Court included seven plaintiffs who sued Volkswagen’s parent company and a Tennessee based dealer for fraudulent concealment and violating Tennessee consumer protection law. They thought they were purchasing “green” vehicles that met or exceeded federal emissions standards.

The plaintiffs believe that once Volkswagen completes a government mandated recall to remove the illegal defeat devices, the cars will not perform as they were designed. In the end Volkswagen has a settlement of 10 billion for vehicle buybacks, lease terminations, and owner compensation, as well as a 2.7 billion dollars towards environmental programs to reduce polluting nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere. Volkswagen must also spend another 2 billion to promote zero-emission vehicles, which is even more than what they had originally planned to spend on the technology.

Kayla is a marketing student at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

References:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772

http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/faq-volkswagen-diesel-emissions-settlement.html