Monthly Archives: November 2016

West Virginia Chemical Spill

Posted by Ethan James.

There was a chemical spill into the Elk River, two years ago, that came from a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries. This spill caused a temporary shutdown of businesses within the region around the river, as well as many residents of the Charleston area needing to go to the emergency room with symptoms of rashes and nausea. The damages caused by the chemical spill hurt the local economy and people, so a class-action lawsuit was ensued.

The lawsuit was against Eastman Chemical and West Virginia American Water Co., as through the actions of both companies lead to damages against the people of the Charleston area. “The suit alleged the water company was unprepared for the spill and that Eastman Chemical didn’t advise Freedom of the dangers of the coal-cleaning agent,”(Michael Virtanen). There is a fear that Eastman did not properly warn the water company of the damage to others or how to properly contain it. In addition, the water company was said to be “unprepared for the spill”(Michael Virtanen), in both the damages that were inflicted on the tanks and how to proceed with the consequences of the spill.

The U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver approved a $151 million dollar settlement that involved both companies, splitting the settlement. West Virginia American Water Co. is going to pay $126 million, while Eastman Chemical will proceed to pay $25 million. “The money will be distributed to affected residents and businesses through an application process to be determined later,”(The Associated Press). There has been an update to proceedings within the water company in order to avoid a repeat of the damages that occurred, while the chemical company has placed new regulations on inspections in order to better advise companies of their products.

Ethan is a management, finance, and ITM Majors and legal studies minor at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.

Used Cars and Recall Safeguards: Putting Drivers at Risk

Posted by Patrick Cleaver.

Every law is made to help the public, to protect the safety of the driver, and deliver a reliable car. The car industry knows they make mistakes and are responsible for fixing the damages for free when such mistakes occur and cars get recalled. However, does a used owner know that he/she is able to get his/her car fixed for free once it had been recalled? Most people do not know that a dealer will fix the car for free after it has been recalled, so the damages are never fixed. The car, marked as dangerous, is instead sold at auctions and then sold again without ever being properly taken care off. While this may end up with nobody getting hurt, doing leaves a huge risk at the buyer’s expense.

Delia Robles was one of the unfortunate people who had been taken advantage of by this system and it ended up costing her much more than she bargained for, getting killed by a defective airbag. Ms. Robles was driving a 2001 Honda Civic on her day off from work when she hit a pickup truck. An accident that would normally end with her walking away unscathed turned into her death bed. The car she was driving has been sold five times over a fourteen-year span and was most recently bought by her son who had no idea that the car was not safe. The information which had not been released to him is that the car was never fixed after it had been recalled for problems with its airbags.

The car was equipped with Takata airbags which “have been linked to 15 deaths.” The airbags were not safe due to being made out of product that wore out over time. That meant that the airbag was a time bomb waiting to explode and Ms. Robles is the one who triggered it. When hitting the truck the Honda had released its airbags which burst and sent metal pieces flying at and killing Ms. Robles.

The issue at hand is that there are no safeguards which prevent deaths like these from occurring. The previous owner is not reliable for not fixing the car like a dealership would be had this happened to a new car. That owner is also not responsible for informing the new owner of the risks they are taking by buying the car. The auction simply sells the car “as is” and does not say whether or not the car is safe to buy.

While there are no federal laws protecting the consumer of accidents in used cars, there are state laws which are implemented in order to keep people safe. According to the New York State law, a seller is not allowed to conceal a material defect because that is a fraudulent action. Also, the New York State auctions are not allowed to sell vehicles “as is” unless they are government agencies. This is a step forward towards the right (safe) way, but does not fix the problem because the Department of Finance takes advantage of it. This department still allows clear negligence by huge companies which can lead to more incidents like the one Ms. Robles experienced. CarMax is a great example of this problem. “CarMax, one of the country’s largest used-car dealers, advertise that their vehicles pass rigorous safety tests – even if the cars have unrepaired problems for which recalls have been issued.” These companies are basically misleading the customers, making people believe that their cars are safe when in reality they could be death traps.

No malice can be proven in the case of Ms. Robles since it has had so many past owners and neither her son, nor the owner before him were aware of the recall on the Honda. Unfortunately, Ms. Robles was a victim of a broken system and now the 50 year old will never get to see her three grandchildren grow up.

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

Ellis v. Cartoon Network, Inc.

Posted by Matthew Cassidy.

In 1988 the Video Privacy Protection Act was passed by Congress to prevent private information about tape rentals or sales records from being released to the public. The case involves a man named Mark Ellis who downloaded the Cartoon Network Application on his Android smartphone in order to watch shows on that network.

The app is able to track viewer history and an Android phone I.D.; it then sends the information to an analytics company named Bango. Bango is a very advanced organization that can not only monitor customer behavior, but also link user’s information about the user through the Android I.D.

Cartoon Network’s third party partner, Bango, violated the Video Privacy Protection App by gathering personal identification from the Android user’s I.D.  The court weighed its opinions on another case called Re Hulu Privacy Legislation that involved the Privacy Protection Act. This case helped Cartoon Network by providing the true definition of a subscriber to just visiting a website. Therefore, Ellis was not “committed” to the application, so therefore the Privacy Protection Act did not apply to him.

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

Pepsi Vows to Improve Health of Drinks by 2025

Posted by Matt Gilbert.

PepsiCo is beginning to take its health push seriously, stating last month that it plans to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in its products by the year 2025. The company’s newest aspiration comes as a response to growing world obesity and its striving to be in better accordance with global health standards. It also comes in light of recent discoveries that Pepsi’s juice brand, Naked, was mislabeled to say that it included less sugar than it actually does. This was a massive roadblock in Pepsi’s success as it was marketing Naked juices as a healthy, low-sugar alternative, when in actuality it had extremely high levels of sugar.

This misinformation opens a larger can of worms as to the duty of companies to warn its customers of the dangers of its products and where the line of general knowledge and the withholding of information. Essentially where does the fault go from the customer to the company? This is not a straight forward issue by any means and both sides could be argued. If the business at fault knew the true information and knowingly withheld it from the customer, then that becomes a major issue.

It also brings up an interesting and complex discussion as to if Pepsi should be obligated to improve the overall health of their products. The general public knows and acknowledges the fact that soda as a whole is not good for one’s health, so is it really Pepsi’s obligation to attempt to make it healthier when the nature of the product is to be unhealthy? What it really comes down to is where the legal responsibility of the company ends and where its moral obligation to the well-being of its customers begins. The law places baseline guidelines on the standards that need to be achieved, but in many cases that simply isn’t enough. For example, Samsung began testing their batteries internally after the debacle with their batteries even though the law doesn’t require them to go to such lengths.

Pepsi’s commitment to reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks comes at a time when the social norm is with low-calorie healthy alternatives. That being said, the legality of the situation comes into play with whether or not Pepsi needs to make such a change and where the line between customer knowledge and company deception is drawn.

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

UPS’ Tobacco Tax Lawsuit

Posted by Charles Matta.

UPS (or United Parcel Service) is known worldwide as the world’s largest package delivery company and provider of supply chain management solutions. There is no questioning the success that this company has had, but is there a question of their morality? Recently, UPS was supposed to be looking for clues and observing its trucks thoroughly for illegal transportation of products. It was found that UPS had been illegally transporting untaxed cigarettes from Indian reservations to customers throughout the state of New York. And while they were supposedly “observing the trucks” it was in fact believed that they had “turned a blind eye” and now the tax regulators of the state of New York are asking for the judge to impose an 873 million dollar penalty.

An eight day federal civil trial occurred with closings statements regarding the issue saying that UPS “had a corporate culture that favored sales opportunities over a responsibility to help New York enforce tax law.” The article states that this happened because: “Tobacco retailers located on upstate reservations were given price discounts for shipping in volume. Delivery drivers were allowed to accept iPads and other gifts from shippers. Account executives, whose compensation was tied to keeping big accounts, ignored signs that some customers signing delivery contracts dealt in cigarettes.” The lawyers of New York City and New York State are saying that UPS must be held accountable for what they determine to be about a decade’s worth of misconduct.

On the other hand, UPS has argued that it did follow the rules and restrictions applied to the company, but they can only do so much about policing its 1.6 million daily shippers are sending in sealed packages. In its legal filings, its lawyers said the city and state have offered no proof it “knew or consciously avoided knowing that any shipper was shipping cigarettes.” Now, UPS has terminated contracts with shippers who were known to be violating these packaging rules. “The state and city impose some of the highest taxes on cigarettes in the country in an effort to halt tobacco use,” and because of this, there are 28,000 deaths annually which causes tax payers 10.4 billion in health care related costs. One account executive writes “’I wish UPS would just take the high road, and say NO TOBACCO, NO ACHOHOL (sic), PERIOD.” UPS needs to be more strict on what is or isn’t successful and must find a way to monitor their business operations better.

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

 

 

Workplace Respect at McDonald’s

Posted by Michael Ragone.

Recently, McDonalds workers have opened up explaining in detail, sexual harassment incidents that they have experienced while at work. Until last year, under the law, McDonald’s could not be held accountable for labor violations in franchise owned stores. With that being said, McDonalds still ignored all serious instances. Most of the incidents, had to deal with employees being touched, grabbed and slapped, which of course is a clear violation of any moral values. In a video that was shared most of the statements were, “Grabbed my waist, tried to kiss me, touched my breast, grabbed my leg.” “Grab, touch, rubbing up, no, this is not okay.” Some workers were even shown pornographic images from their supervisors. Where in one case, a women’s boss offered her one thousand dollars in exchange for oral sex. This sparked an activist group, “Fight for 15” because of the 15 different claims.

In a recent study, “two in five women working in fast food reported experiencing some sort of sexual harassment ” which is an extremely high percentage. Men and women should be able to work in a safe environment with rules and codes of conduct. In a statement, McDonalds tried to distant themselves from their franchises trying to make them look independent. Fight for 15 is planning protests nationwide over McDonald’s handling of sexual harassment. When women employees went to speak up and report the incidents they were punished with their hours and pay being cut. One of the managers said, “You shouldn’t have flirted with him.” Not in any way is it the employees fault and they shouldn’t have to work in hostile working environments. When you have to live pay check to pay check and barely make enough to get by, speaking up means putting your job at risk.

If McDonalds ignores these harassment claims, their long term reputation and profit maximization will deteriorate. In order to make the work environment safer, there should be people who employees can report problems to right away. The employees affected by this harassment “aren’t seeking monetary damages” and only seek for “McDonald’s to enforce its publicly stated no-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.” This would of course mean that anyone who was proven to be harassing employees in any way would no longer be able to continue employment. When natural law is considered, these workers should all have equal rights to earn a living without worrying about a possible threat to them. This problem is even worse for “immigrant workers” says the Fight for 15 because they are not fully aware of their rights and thus leaving them more vulnerable for exploitation. It is also common that women did not want to speak out in fear of losing their jobs, and of course this would mean not being able to support themselves and possible loved ones. By re-enacting the zero tolerance policy, women will be able to go to work feeling like they are equal to everyone because harassment rates will plummet.

Michael is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Legal Skirmishes Erupt Over Voting Rules as Election Day Nears

Posted by Zachary Lucanie.

Historically, presidential elections have brought Americans to their feet as they stand behind their candidate to hold the highest position in American politics. Given that the president is elected once every four years it is important to many Americans that the office is held by the candidate that will solve the issues most prevalent to them. One of the great privileges that an American has is the Constitutional right to vote, with the Fifteenth Amendment ensuring that every vote counts no matter what ones race or skin color. With that, there are still many Americans that pay no mind to elections and abstain from voting. The circumstances have changed, however, in the current presidential election between Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Many feel that this election has broader implications for the country and that the electing of the wrong candidate could leave the country in turmoil. Along with protesting and campaigning on behalf of their candidate, Americans feel the best way to stop the candidate that they disagree with is to get out and vote. This has brought many voters, some who have never voted before, out to the polling booths which was seen in the primaries. Now, as we close in on Election Day and as voters begin preparing to elect their candidate, many individuals are beginning to question the legitimacy of the voting process. Although this is occurring in states all over the country, there are disputes occurring in swing states especially due in part to the potential weight that their vote could hold. Whether the claims hold legitimacy is not clear cut and many have turned to the law to rectify the issues they see in the voting process.

One state that is experiencing legal trouble is Texas, where voting-rights advocates have pointed out to state officials that “several counties opened the state’s early voting period October 24th with incorrect signs indicating that voters must show photo identification to cast a ballot” (Kendall). This was a problem to many given that earlier in August a court had determined that there would be exceptions made for people that had sufficient reasoning for not obtaining a form of government issued identification. The signs that were mistaken put out at these polling sites meant that there would be some residents who wouldn’t be able to cast their ballot. Many polling sites claimed this to be an oversight and that the placement of the signs were not intentional. With that said it is still unlawful and since shedding light on the issue the signs have been fixed.

Another state that has seen questions of voting rights was Ohio. State Democrats and a pair of homeless advocacy groups appealed to the Supreme Court in an effort to stop state requirements which they believe could lead to absentee and provisional ballots being rejected if voters make mistakes on the forms. If this problem goes unaddressed it is predicted that thousands of Ohio ballots will be disallowed. “Justice Elena Kagan has asked the state to submit a legal response by Monday” (Kendall). Secretary of State Jon Husted disagreed with the Democrats initiative saying that allowing these ballots to count would be “injecting chaos” (Husted) into the election. Husted stated that “Election officials need a way to confirm that a person is a qualified, eligible voter before counting a ballot”.

“Arizona Democrats are awaiting an appeals-court ruling on their challenge to a GOP state law that makes it a crime for get-out-the-vote operatives to collect and deliver absentee ballots filled out by voters” (Kendall). Democrats fear that if residents are unable to go out and vote that their votes will not be counted. They are also concerned that a large burden will be placed on neighbors, activists and campaigners who will have to go out and collect ballots for those that cannot get out and vote. A trial judge ruled in favor of the state, the reason being that Arizona has been known to have cases of legitimate voter fraud and ballot tampering.

Being a swing state, Pennsylvania is placed under the microscope when it comes to voting and voter legitimacy. Most recently “A Pennsylvania federal judge will consider a GOP challenge to state rules that say residents are eligible to monitor elections only in the counties in which they reside” (Kendall). Due to the power that Pennsylvania has in the deciding of an election, many Republicans feel that it would be wise to place poll watchers in heavily Democratic urban areas to make sure that elections are conducted fairly. Some people, including Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro Cortes feels that the Republicans could “compromise the fundamental rights of voters actually trying to cast peaceful votes.”

As the election begins to narrow down there is widespread implications of voter fraud and voter rights violations across the country. It is up to courts and lawmakers to ensure that every single American has the right to vote for who they want, it is a fundamental right that this country was founded on.

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

Johnson & Johnson’s “Cancer Powder”

Posted by Nick Mitwasi.

Throughout the years, there has been numerous lawsuits towards Johnson & Johnson for their use of talcum power in their products, specifically baby powder, for women have been suing the company on claims that it is the link to their ovarian cancer. In this year alone, the company was forced to give up $55 million in May to a woman in St. Louis, Missouri and $72 million to another family also in St. Louis. In addition, just a couple of days ago, a woman was awarded $70 million in California against Johnson & Johnson. Yet, in all of these cases J&J has continued to defend that their product is completely safe.

Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder has dominated the market in the past, and thus is the main reason as to why it is going to defend its products in the mist of all these lawsuits they are being slammed with. In the first case in which Johnson & Johnson was involved, they were sued by Diane Berg for gross negligence and fraud; she was a frequent user of the product and never was informed that long term use of the product can cause cancer. After she sued, the company offered an “out of court settlement of $1.3 million” (Huffington Post); however, she declined and simply wanted to inform the public through her suing the company that this is something people must be informed about.

The main problem, though, with all these lawsuits is that there is no scientific evidence that the product does indeed cause cancer; it is the fact that Johnson & Johnson are not informing their customers that there is a possibility that their product will do harm. This has been damaging the company’s reputation as more and more lawsuits are being filed to different law firms about the same situation. This is still an ongoing situation and time will only tell to see how Johnson & Johnson reacts to the overflow of negativity towards one of their mainstay products.

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

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3882192/Cancer-patient-contracted-disease-using-Johnson-Johnson-talcum-powder-wins-70million-payout-company.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toby-nwazor/the-talcum-powder-lawsuit_1_b_10609474.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-baby-powder-cancer-lawsuits/

Samsung Struggles to Remain Ethically and Legally Just

Posted by Joe Casey.

In the business world the line to remain ethical and make profit is thin. In the recent months Samsung has toed the line with the ethical standards of business due to their latest smartphone repeatedly catching fire all throughout the world. Samsung acting as swiftly as possible called for a quick recall of 2.5 million units of this phone however, the recall has gone anything but quick.

While Samsung seemed to be gaining ground on Apple in the smartphone business, they have produced their newest phone the Samsung Galaxy Note 7; the issue that has risen is that these phones are beyond unsafe and yet people still seem to be using them even after the initial recall. Due to the recall, Samsung has seemingly alleviated the possibility to be liable for any lawsuits that will come after the recall has been issued but the harm that was done prior to the recall has in estimate, “further dented Samsung’s reputation and shaved as much as $14 billion off its market value” (Times).  One of the many issues that face Samsung is that it seems they have wavered from government recall protocol and instead are trying to “save face” by venturing out on their own and advertising to bring the devices back for a change of battery when the issue is much more complex. The first recall while slow had seemed to stop the issue of their exploding phone as soon as October 1st.

Five days had passed since the recall seemed to fully become effective, until October 6th when the first report of a replacement phone being defective hits the news. This stream picks back up and again Samsung is forced to stop producing the phone all together making it the largest smart phone recall to date. Finally, on October 11th “Samsung announces it is stopping all sales of the phone while it investigates the problems.”(BBC). While Samsung at first was able to stay ethical, they decided to find an immediate solution due to the money they would lose and are now dealing with a larger problem all together.

This hit is only the beginning in the repercussions after this will be seen further in the court system yet their ethical standing to act as quickly as possible even though it went against the governments wishes on how to handle the recall was best for their business. Instead of staying unethical and ignoring the problem they chose to deal with it head on.

Joe is a sports management major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/16/business/samsung-galaxy-note-recall.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37615496

Embezzlement: Could it Happen to You?

Posted Layla Alzahrani.

Embezzlement is money stolen by an unethical person. According to the article, 40 percent of small businesses in the United States will be targeted for average loss of $ 140,000,00.00, but embezzlement is only reported two percent of the time. Most of the embezzlers are trusted and long-term employees or family friends, or relatives. Victims’ trust usually is shattered after embezzlement happened, especially if embezzlers are their friends or relatives. According to forensic psychologists, victims have lack of judgment to discover the perpetrators before embezzlement happens.

It is difficult to discover employees who follow no pattern and offer no outward signs. Embezzlement sometimes is committed by people who do not have previous criminal records and and may have reputations beyond reproach. There are warning signs, however, that can show as evidence of employees’ behavior before the theft is uncovered, such as: enthusiastic employees who ask questions about business processes and procedures; employees who have excessive debt because of divorce or drug abuse; and employees who refuse to take time of their job, and who want to work when no one is around. Usually embezzlers have a hostile attitude if they get questioned about financial transaction.

Moreover, there are three factors must be present before a person can commit fraud; they are need, opportunity, and rationalization. Some examples of need are addiction to drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Rationalization appears when an employee believes that his/her illegal action fits within a personal code of conduct or ethic, which means that an embezzler steals because they see that as situational fraud. However, embezzlement can be discovered if accountants find amounts of expenses that are not consistent with historical norms or budget, documents are missing or incomplete, problems of bank reconciliations, and documents are adjusted without adequate support.

Preventing embezzlement can be difficult because there is no sure-fire method that can prevent it. Some examples that make it difficult to prevent fraud are issuing fictitious checks, invoking products that a company does not need it, issuing cashing checks for return products that not actually returned, forging checks and destroying them, and charging patients more than a duplicate invoice. There are some precautions that clients can take to prevent fraud such as doing an extensive background check before hiring an employee, tracking a person’s checks and verifying them, making bank deposits nightly, reconciling the bank and credit card statements, and requiring vacations. Those handing funds must be closely and routinely monitored in a company to insure that all profit within the practice and not in someone’s pocket.

Layla is a graduate accounting student with a concentration in forensic accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

Source:

Tranyor, Robert M. (2016) Embezzlement Could it Really Happen to You?, Audiology Today, Vol. 28. No. 4.