Monthly Archives: December 2016

Apple Owes $2 Million for Not Giving Workers Meal Breaks

Posted by Kesha Patel.

In 2012, four employees of tech giant Apple filed a lawsuit against their employer in San Diego. Apple allegedly failed to give their employees proper meal and rest breaks in addition to not paying them in a timely manner. In 2013, the case became a class action lawsuit that included about 21,000 employees who had worked at Apple between 2007 and 2012.

California law states that any employee that works for five hours or more must get a thirty-minute meal break; any employee that works for four hours is required to get a 10 minute rest break.

Jeffrey Hogue, an attorney representing the class action said the $2 million verdict had came but Apple could owe more. Although Apple made scheduling changes in 2012, the aura of secrecy keeps its employees from discussing the company’s working conditions.

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

Ethical Impact on Driverless Cars

Posted by Michael Cappelluti.

It is no surprise that our society is on the brink of a technological revolution. It is projected that “65% of elementary school students will hold jobs that do not exist yet when they enter the workforce” (Frank Diana). By 2029, Ray Kurzweil predicts we will have technology that will allow us to live forever. While these technologies may benefit us, our society will be forced to react to these changes. Ethics and law will be crucial in making these reactions a reality. A more pressing issue, though, is the introduction of autonomous vehicles on the road. The article, “Law & the Problem of Autonomous Cars” by Nicholas Stringfellow, offers a legal perspective on the implications of this new technology.

Autonomous vehicles will disrupt many aspects of law, but the article starts off by discussing statutory law. Stringfellow believes that the state and federal levels of government will have to create a body of law about self driving cars—specifically about what happens when the “autopilot system” fails and the passengers are forced to disengage the autopilot and take control. Four states currently have a statutory law for autonomous vehicles, but they differ in some ways. Some states require a person to sit in the driver’s seat in case something were to go wrong, whereas some are more lax about an “emergency driver.” A huge ethical issue will be whether the car is programmed to defend the passengers at all cost, or, from a utilitarian standpoint, make whatever decision will save the most lives in the scenario.

The article also goes on to discuss Tort law, specifically, products liability law. “Injured persons could bring manufacturing defect, design defect, failure to warn, or breach of warranty claims [to a court]” in the instance of an accident (Stringfellow). Courts will be forced to respond by “adopting a negligence standard, a strict liability standard, or by refusing to impose liability on carmakers.” Essentially, if a car is programmed to protect the most amount of lives in a situation—what happens? For example, if a car spins out of control onto the sidewalk to avoid a fatal accident pile-up on the road ahead, will the pedestrians killed by the disoriented car be able to file a law suit? These questions are unknown, at this point. This topic will be heavily discussed by futurists, ethical analysists, and lawyers in the near future—and this will pave way to the future of how we transport ourselves as human beings.

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

 

The Three Stooges of Bucks County

Posted by Brennan Smith.

A judge, a deputy constable, and a supervisor of all police, fire, and emergency operations walk into a bar…

Although a common play on the setup of a hysterical joke, the indictment of John I. Waltman, Robert P. Hoopes, and Bernard T. Rafferty is not something the members of Bucks County and Lower Southampton Township are laughing about. The three men named are the judge, supervisor, and deputy constable—respectively—referenced above, who just got indicted for money laundering.

Here’s what happened: “The trio conspired to launder about $400,000 in funds represented by investigators to be the proceeds of health care fraud, illegal drug trafficking and bank fraud, according to a federal court indictment unsealed Friday morning, a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The men allegedly took laundering fees of $80,000,” (theintell.com). In order to launder the money, the trio went through a series of processes. One source of revenue, and by far the most prominent one, was through Raff’s Consulting LLC—a company with which Rafferty had full control—with which the three used “bogus documents” in order to turn a profit.

To understand how they did this, the facts of the case must be examined. Per the research done by theintell.com, Robert P. Hoopes would arrive to an office building in an unmarked Lower Southampton Township Police car, exchange the false documents for $100,000 cash, and bring the money back to the car (where John I. Waltman and Bernard T. Rafferty would be waiting). From there, Waltman and Rafferty would go to the Philadelphia Credit Union to deposit the money—after paying Hoopes and pocketing their own cuts—into the Raff’s Consulting LLC accounts. The operation lasted from June 2015 to November of 2016 with the trio laundering $400,000 between June and August of 2016—earning $80,000 in laundering fees (Philadelphia.cbslocal.com).

Because of their crimes, the FBI was forced to get involved and finally caught them in an undercover sting. The three will each face one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and three counts of money laundering. District Judge John I. Waltman has been suspended without pay, with the other two removed from their positions.

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

Sources:

http://www.theintell.com/news/crime/bucks-county-district-judge-constable-lower-southampton-public-safety-director/article_f23e17b6-f07a-5e1b-8abb-6edf11a47ecc.html

(Article)

http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/12/16/authorities-judge-director-of-public-safety-deputy-constable-charged-with-conspiracy-money-laundering/

(Article)

Ex-U.s. Tax Court Judge, Husband Indicted in Tax Evasion Case

Posted by Carlos R. Rodriguez.

The article “Ex-U.S. Tax Court Judge, Husband Indicted in Tax Case” written by The Associated Press mainly discusses the topic of how a former U.S. Tax Court Judge, Diane Kroupa and her husband, Robert Fackler have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, tax evasion, making and subscribing false tax returns and obstruction of an IRS audit, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced. The charges were brought in Minnesota and allege that the couple conspired to evade at least 400,000 dollars in federal taxes. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger stated that “Tax laws apply to everyone, and those of us appointed to federal positions must hold ourselves to an even higher standard.”

Diane Kroupa was served as a tax court judge by then-president George W. Bush in 2003 and retired in 2014. The charges brought on her and her husband allege that between 2004 and 2010, the couple understated their taxable income by about $1 million and they owe at least $400,000 in taxes. Also, federal prosecutors accuse Kroupa and Fackler of fraudulently deducting at least $500,000 of personal expenses they listed as expenses at Fackler’s consulting firm, and another $450,000 in purported business costs for which clients had reimbursed Fackler, the Star Tribune reported. Kroupa also failed to report about $44,520 that she received from the sale of land in 2010 in South Dakota instead of claiming it as an unrelated inheritance which was stated in the court documents.

In my opinion, as a Tax Court judge, Diane Kroupa should be held to a higher standard of ethics. Also, any tax cases for which she was present should be investigated because Diane’s judgment is clearly out of line if she is found guilty for these charges. Given her comprehensive understanding of tax laws, it should be obvious to her that reporting personal expenses as business expenses is a way to defraud the IRS and it was done intentionally in order to evade taxes. Going forward, a solution to an issue of this nature should be that government officials should be checked for things like tax evasion more often because if their moral judgment is incorrect, their decisions can be detrimental to the country as a whole.

Carlos is a graduate accounting student with a certificate in forensic accounting at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2017.

SEC and GlaxoSmithKline

The regulatory process and its role in the legal system is a fundamental concept in business law. Federal, state and local governments received the authority to regulate activities from Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Article 1 Section 8 also referred to as the Commerce Clause or Necessary and Proper Clause dictates the enumerated powers of Congress in professional and private settings.

The regulatory process is performed by administrative agencies. Some commonly recognized administrative agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The recent GlaxoSmithKline bribery scandal focused on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) administrative agency. The mission of the SEC is to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” (Securities Exchange Commission)

The SEC recently alleged that GlaxoSmithKline’s Chinese subsidiary had engaged in bribery activity for four years, 2010 to 2013. The SEC accused GlaxoSmithKline subsidiary of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the SEC, GlaxoSmithKline’s subsidiary had been providing foreign officials and health-care professionals with gifts incongruous to the law. These gifts included shopping trips, cash, travel, entertainment, etc. for the purpose of boosting sales. Further, the SEC suspected that GlaxoSmithKline’s subsidiary deceptively recorded these payments as expenses. The bribery scandal investigation eventually captured the attention of a second agency, the U.S. Department of Justice.

GlaxoSmithKline has not admitted nor denied these bribery charges, but has agreed to pay $20 million to settle the matter. Nonetheless, this is not GlaxoSmithKline’s first bribery settlement. In 2014, the company paid $491.5 million and several managers were convicted with charges and suspended imprisonment for a similar matter. Since the 2014 bribery controversy, GlaxoSmithKline stated it “installed several reforms, including shifts to the compensation of sales representatives and the end of payments to health-care practitioners for advocating for Glaxo products to other prescribers.” (Minaya)

My opinion on the matter is that GlaxoSmithKline was rightfully accused by the SEC and DOJ, specifically for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Act has a firm anti-bribery provision that GlaxoSmithKline and its Chinese subsidiary had a legal and ethical responsibility to follow. The fact that GlaxoSmithKline and its subsidiary’s records were not a true representation of its payments is a clear piece of evidence suspecting its violation. In addition, having read the SEC order and learned that GlaxoSmithKline had engaged in this activity before, I believe that the company and the subsidiary did participate in bribery.

Melissa is a marketing major with dual minors in public relations and legal studies at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.

Ethics and the Sub-Prime Mortgage Issue

Posted by Joseph Locorriere. 

The fundamentals of business, something that America has practiced for decades and which was proven to be the correct way of managing a business, include running an ethical business, such as taking proper care and recognition of employees and customers as well as the surrounding environment. However, as America continues to stray farther from these values, businesses continue to find themselves in situations which is tantamount to malpractice. It is no longer as common to see businesses acting ethically as it was like years in the past, mainly due to short run profit maximization. Morgan Stanley, one of the top banks in the country has once again acted unethically towards customers. Like many instances, this business was focused on volume of sales and not ethics, also considered short-run profit maximization, due to the sole fact of making as much money as possible without concern of the public good.

Similar to the 2008 occurrence of selling faulty loans such as NINA loans (No Income, No Asset) or sub-prime mortgages that intentionally fooled the buyer into thinking they would afford their mortgage, Morgan Stanley sold Security Based Loans (SBLs) to customers, allegedly breaching their fiduciary duty. Brokers were incentivized by a $5,000 bonus for meeting loan quotas, which was intended for boosting the companies’ volume of sales. By incentivizing the employees with a bonus they disregarded customers overall satisfaction; instead they focused primarily on volume. Although Morgan Stanley boosted their profits by $24 million in new loan balances, they are being taken to a court of law for business malpractice. Morgan Stanley states that, “The securities-based loan accounts were opened only after discussing the product with each client and obtaining their affirmative consent” (Zacks.com). Although this may stand true, it still violated Morgan Stanley’s fiduciary duty to customers of informing them of their investment.

It is unfortunate to see businesses continue to perform unethically towards customers, as well as employees. Longevity, reputation and long-run profit maximization are no longer commonly displayed. Morgan Stanley in this case should have stayed with giving a bonus, but should have not forgotten about the fundamental values they hold as a broker, which is to inform clients on investments, whether it be positive or negative news. Sadly enough, this is another example of America’s current business strategy that fails to be aware of the public good.

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

The Ethical Battle of the Music Industry

Posted by Matthew Rachek.

One of the biggest issues that industries of all kinds deal with constantly is being able to filter out counterfeits from their marketplace. Counterfeits and other forms of knock-offs are not good for the market because they drive profits away from those that deserve the reward and often times fund criminal organizations.

The music industry has dealt with counterfeits since its existence. With the continued growth of technology and new ways for consumers to listen to their favorite artists, it has become harder and harder for the in the industry to regulate how the money is coming in. In fact often times, counterfeit CDs or knock-off streaming services do not compensate the artist at all.

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal on October 30, 2016, it explained how these music “pirates” have been flooding online retailers such as Amazon.com, “with counterfeit CDs that often cost nearly as much as the official versions and increasingly are difficult to distinguish from the real goods.”

The good news is that Amazon.com has recognized the problem an is making the right ethical decision by making sure that their stakeholders all receive the product they are expecting to receive at checkout. By doing this they are also trying to ensure that the artist and producer of the music receive proper compensation for their work so that the money does not make its way into the hands of the music pirates.

In a statement released by Amazon.com they wrote, “We are constantly innovating….to improve the ways we detect and prevent counterfeit products from reaching our marketplace. We work hard on this issue every day….” One of the ways they ensure that customers, a stakeholder, is satisfied with their product is by offering refunds for any product that is not as advertised. While this may initially hurt Amazon.com’s bottom line this is an essential moral decision because in the long-run consumers will be more likely to trust Amazon.com and buy other products off the site.

As technology continues to find new innovations it is almost certain that counterfeits and pirates will new be completely taken out of the market place, especially in the music industry. However it is very reassuring for a large company like Amazon to take nope of the issue and try to take steps to solve the issue.

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

Sources:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-struggling-to-keep-counterfeits-off-market-retailer-says/

http://www.wsj.com/articles/boost-in-online-pirated-cd-sales-deal-another-blow-to-music-industry-1477867243

Accountant Admits Stealing $3 Million from Grain Shipper

Posted by Emanuel Sanfilippo.

On Monday the 28th, Diane Backis, a corporate accountant in New York, admitted to stealing at least $3.1 million from Cargill Inc., an agricultural business giant. In doing so, Backis caused $25 million in losses to Cargill’s grain shipping operations at the Port of Albany according to the Associated Press. Diane Backis pleaded guilty in federal court in Albany to mail fraud and a false income tax return. According to U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian, Backis diverted customer payments to her own accounts over a 10 year period and caused $25 million in losses to Cargill Inc.

“Backis, 50, was an accounting department manager at Cargill’s Albany grain elevators at the port whose duties included creating customer contracts, generating invoices and processing payments.” Backis admitted in court that she sent customers invoices for animal feed prices much lower than what her employer paid, in doing so, she caused the company millions of dollars in losses in inventory. She tricked consumers into sending the payments directly to her bypassing Cargill’s corporate controls. In an essence, Diane Backis basically used her ability to access inventory and money from Cargill to sell their inventory privately for personal profit.

The Associate Press states how the tax fraud charge refers to Backis’s 2015 individual income tax return on which declared $61,208 in income and omitted more than $450,000 she received that year from stealing Cargill customer payments. In accordance with Backis’s guilty plea, she has to pay $3.5 million in restitution to Cargill and she has to forfeit her house, an investment brokerage account and her pension benefits from Cargill. According to Pete Stoddart, a Cargill spokesperson, Cargill has audited its controls and trading systems and confirmed that it was an isolated incident only affecting that one location and Cargill customers were not adversely affected. Diane Backis faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced on March 28th.

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