Bad Apple! It seems Apple may be entering the ever-growing list of wage and hour offenders. This week, a class action lawsuit was filed against the tech giant, alleging that Apple store staff are not paid for the time they spend undergoing bag searches, as required by the company’s policy.
Apple has a policy of requiring its retail store employees to undergo two mandatory bag searches per day. Two former Apple store employees from New York and Los Angeles filed a complaint in San Francisco federal court on Thursday regarding this policy. They allege they had to stand in lines up to 30 minutes long every day for store managers to check their bags and ensure they weren’t smuggling home stolen goods. The Apple unpaid wages lawsuit claims that the cumulative time employees spend having these bag searches done totals dozens of hours of unpaid wages, roughly $1,500 per year.
“Apple has engaged and continues to engage in illegal and improper wage practices that have deprived Apple Hourly Employees throughout the United States of millions of dollars in wages and overtime compensation,” the complaint reads.
“These practices include requiring Apple Hourly Employees to wait in line and undergo two off-the-clock security bag searches and clearance checks when they leave for their meal breaks and after they have clocked out at the end of their shifts.”
According to the complaint, Apple’s retail stores employ some 42,400 people in 13 countries. The retail outlets generated net sales of $156.5 billion in 2012. Most hourly workers make between minimum wage and $18.75 per hour and work 40 hours per week.
Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle, the two former employees who filed the wage and hour lawsuit, worked as “specialists,” essentially an in-store customer support position. The Apple lawsuit describes the bag searches as “required but uncompensated security checks,” claiming that Apple violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and New York labor law, and California labor law.
Off-label Drug Marketing Saga Continues—this week, it’s news that Pfizer will have to pony up $491 million to settle criminal and civil charges relating to its off-label marketing of Rapamune. The US Justice Department had claimed the drug company marketed the kidney-transplant drug for patients who received non-kidney organ transplants.
The Justice Department began its investigation over four years ago, and Pfizer inherited the probe when it bought Wyeth in 2009.
According to the Justice Department, Wyeth trained sales reps to push Rapamune for unapproved uses and offered bonuses to persuade them to flog the drug for patients it wasn’t cleared to treat. “This was a systemic, corporate effort to seek profit over safety,” U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats said in a statement. “Companies that ignore compliance with FDA regulations will face criminal prosecution and stiff penalties.”
Under the Pfizer Rapamune settlement agreement, Pfizer’s Wyeth division pleaded guilty to a criminal misbranding violation under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act. The deal includes a criminal fine of $157.58 million and asset forfeiture amounting to $76 million, or $233.5 million total. Civil payments to the government and states add another $257.4 million, for a total of $490.9 million. Okee dokee…
Looks like Chester Career College hit the Learning Curve on this one—at a cost of $5 million. That’s the settlement that was just approved ending a financial consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against the college, formerly known as Richmond School of Health and Technology. The lawsuit alleged that the for-profit college practices predatory lending practices affecting thousands of students, primarily African American students, while offering sub-par education.
The back story—Chester Career College purportedly offers classes leading to careers in nursing, massage therapy and other medical-related fields, and specifically targeted inner city students with ads on hip-hop stations and other media aimed at their demographic. According to the lawsuit, the college enrolled “almost exclusively” students who qualified for federal financial aid, primarily in the form of student loans.
The Chester Career College settlement, approved by US District Judge John A. Gibney, will also see the school reimburse more than 4,000 students and for attorneys’ fees and requires Chester Career College to institute changes that will provide prospective students with “much more transparency” before they enroll. Further, the settlement also provides for continued tracking of students and career placement “to strengthen the school” and its educational mission as it moves forward.
Here’s the skinny—the settlement covers students enrolled at the school from July 2004 through February 2013. Students who qualify for claims will receive settlement notices by mail. Any money left unclaimed from the remaining funds in the escrow account after one year will be donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to assisting the economically disadvantaged.
Ok folks, have a good one—see you at the bar!
What’s in an Expiration Date? According to three separate consumer fraud class action lawsuits filed this week, a whole lot of questionable motivation.
Filed against Pfizer (which makes Advil), Bayer (which makes Bayer aspirin) and Johnson & Johnson (which makes Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom medications), the drug expiration date lawsuits allege the drug makers use “unconscionable, unfair, deceptive, unethical and illegal” means to promote the sales of their products. Specifically, the lawsuits claim that the these means involve the utilization of expiration dates to get consumers to throw away products that have passed their expiration dates, even though the companies know “that if stored properly these medications can and do remain chemically stable, safe and effective long after those dates.”
According to the consumer fraud lawsuits, studies by the Food and Drug Administration, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University have found 90% of more than 100 prescription and over-the-counter drugs were fine and could be used for as much as 15 years after their expiration dates: this excludes certain drugs like tetracycline, nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics.
The lawsuit claims that the purpose of the expiration dates is “[T]o increase defendants’ sales and profits because consumers have to purchase replacement medications for those they have thrown out.” The class is seeking actual and punitive damages for consumers that purchased products from Pfizer, Bayer and Johnson & Johnson.
And Speaking of Drug Marketing… A $15 million settlement has been reached in the consumer fraud class action against Bayer regarding allegations of false advertising around certain combination aspirin products that were sold without FDA approval.
The lawsuit, entitled In re: Bayer Corp. Combination Aspirin Products Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation, alleges Bayer violated state consumer fraud and deceptive business practices acts, express and implied warranty statutes, and unjust enrichment laws in connection with the sale and marketing of Bayer Women’s Low-Dose Aspirin plus Calcium and Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage.
If you purchased Bayer® Women’s Low Dose Aspirin + Calcium or Bayer® Aspirin with Heart Advantage, you may be a member of the Bayer Heart Advantage Class or the Bayer Women’s Class (collectively referred to as the “Settlement Classes”) – and thus eligible to receive money from the settlement – depending on (1) which Combination Aspirin Product you purchased, (2) whether you purchased it for personal, family or household uses, and (3) when it was purchased. Each Settlement Class only includes purchases of specific Combination Aspirin Products during specific periods of time.
If you purchased one or more of the Combination Aspirin Products for personal, family or household uses then you are eligible to participate in one or both of the Settlement Classes described in this Notice, provided that your purchase occurred during the time periods specified for each Settlement Class.
Class Members of the Bayer combination aspirin class action settlement include US consumers who purchased one or more of the following combination aspirin products for personal, family or household use during the following time period:
Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage Settlement Class: Purchase Date: January 1, 2008 to July 20, 2012
Bayer Women’s Low-Dose Aspirin plus Calcium Settlement Class: Purchase Date: January 1, 2000 to July 20, 2012
To learn more about making a claim and to download forms go to the Bayer Combination Aspirin Class Action Lawsuit Settlement at BayerCombinationAspirinSettlement.com.
Convenience Food not so Convenient… A proposed settlement has been reached in a discrimination class action lawsuit pending against Burger King. The lawsuit, brought by individuals who use wheelchairs and scooters for mobility, allege that they encountered access problems at certain California Burger King leased restaurants.
Specifically, the Burger King class action lawsuit alleges individuals who use wheelchairs and scooters for mobility have been subjected to discrimination at the restaurants that allegedly contain unlawful architectural barriers to access. The Burger King ADA lawsuit sought to remove the alleged barriers, and monetary damages for Class Members denied access to restaurants on or after October 16, 2006.
The proposed settlement terms includes a total of $19 million for monetary relief, which will provide an estimated average recovery per class member of over $8,200, after deductions for attorney’s fees and costs.
Burger King Corporation and the restaurant operators deny they did anything wrong. The parties have reached a settlement of this case. It is now up to the Court approve the proposed settlement.
To find out more and to obtain claim forms for the Burger King wheelchair class action, call 1-888-569-9477.
And on that note—I’ll see you at the bar. Have a great weekend!
Seems Green Mountain may have been Roasting More Than Coffee. The company got hit with a securities class action lawsuit this week alleging it has been cooking the books.
The class action is brought against GMCR, certain of its officers and directors, and the underwriters of the Offering for violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. GMCR, based in Waterbury, Vermont, is a leader in the specialty coffee and coffee maker businesses.
FYI—GMCR produces coffee, tea and hot cocoa from its family of brands, including Tully’s Coffee(R), and manufactures the popular Keurig single-cup brewing systems that use “K-Cup” portion packs.
The lawsuit alleges that, during the Class Period, certain defendants systematically and strategically manipulated GMCR’s revenues. To do so, defendants used one of GMCR’s key fulfillment vendors, M. Block & Sons (“MBlock”), as a captive warehouse to harbor expired, excessively manufactured, or otherwise unsold product. Pursuant to the fraudulent scheme, GMCR improperly booked revenues associated with falsified sales orders for hundreds of millions of dollars in K-Cup and Keurig Brewer products, which resulted in the material overstatement of the Company’s profits, inventory, and product demand levels. GMCR also fraudulently overstated its assets in proportion to its fictitious revenues by carrying the proceeds of phantom sales as assets on its balance sheet throughout the Class Period.
On October 17, 2011, David Einhorn, a prominent activist investor, released a comprehensive report, including witness testimonials by former GMCR and MBlock employees, disclosing GMCR’s misconduct and questionable relationship with MBlock. Following the release of the report, the price of GMCR shares fell approximately 10% from its closing price of $92.09 on October 14, 2011 to close at $82.50 on October 17, 2011, the next trading day, on unusually heavy trading volume.
On October 19, 2011, after Einhorn’s presentation was more widely distributed, the price of GMCR common stock fell another 15% to close at $69.80 on October 19, 2011, on unusually heavy trading volume.
Finally, on November 9, 2011, GMCR announced disappointing earnings results and skyrocketing inventory. On this news, GMCR shares dropped 40%, from a close of $67.02 on November 9 to a close of $40.89 on November 10, 2011, on extremely heavy trading volume.
The securities lawsuit has been brought on behalf of purchasers of the common stock of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (“GMCR” or the “Company”) between February 2, 2011 and November 9, 2011, inclusive (the “Class Period”), including purchasers of GMCR’s common stock pursuant and/or traceable to the Company’s public offering on or around May 5, 2011 (the “Offering”).
HRT Breast Cancer Settlement. This one was all over the news this week. Three women who filed lawsuits against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Pharmacia Upjohn alleging that their diagnoses of breast cancer were directly attributable to their use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) drugs, were awarded $72.6 million by a jury in Philadelphia hearing their consolidated lawsuit. The jury awarded $20 million to Ms. Elfont, $27.85 million to Ms. Kalenkoski and $24.75 million to Ms. Mulderig, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The three women filed individual lawsuits in July 2004 against Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Pharmacia Upjohn, both of which have since been acquired by Pfizer.
The back story, in brief, is that Elfont, 66, had taken hormone therapy drugs for over two years before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. Sixty-eight year old Kalenkoski was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, having taken Prempro for over four years, while Mulderig, also 68, took Premarin and Provera for 11 years before she received her breast cancer diagnosis, the PennRecord reported. It’s tragic and shocking.
According to a Bloomberg News report, Pfizer’s Wyeth and Upjohn units have lost 10 out of the 18 hormone therapy cases against them in civil court trials since 2006. Earlier this year Pfizer announced it had settled a third of the pending Prempro cases, it had set aside $772 for related claims, Bloomberg reported.
Another Bank Biggie this Week… Bank of America (BofA) agreed a $315 million settlement in a securities fraud class action lawsuit that alleged the bank was misled about mortgage-backed investments sold by its Merrill Lynch unit. The settlement needs court approval in order to fly–and guess who’s making that decision? US District Judge Jed Rakoff–so all bets are off that this one get’s approved…
The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi pension fund led the lawsuit, alleging that the investments contained questionable subprime mortgages written by lenders Countrywide Financial Corp., First Franklin Financial, and IndyMac Bancorp – IndyMac went under in 2008.
Ok – That’s enough for this week. See you at the bar.
Recently it was announced, in a joint statement by Health Canada and Pfizer Canada, that Thelin (sitaxsentan) was being taken off the market in Canada, as well as every country in which it had been sold, due to risk for potentially fatal liver damage.
Never heard of Thelin? There’s a reason for that. Thelin is not available in the US. Never was. That’s because the FDA refused to approve the drug designed to treat pulmonary hypertension. In the view of the FDA, the benefits did not outweigh the risks.
In a bid to win FDA approval for marketing Thelin in this country, Pfizer Inc. launched a series of clinical trials. However, those trials have been abandoned following the deaths of three trial participants.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, liver damage was a known complication of Thelin. However, in announcing that it was abandoning further clinical trials, Pfizer noted that it had discovered a ”new potentially life-threatening idiosyncratic risk” of liver injury among patients that is difficult to predict or guard against.
Thus, there will be no further clinical trials, and Thelin will be coming off the market in Australia, Europe and Canada where it had been previously approved. Given the known risks associated with Thelin, Canadians are wondering how Thelin ever won Health Canada approval in the first place.
The FDA has been maligned, chastised, ridiculed and kicked to the curb over the appearance of lax oversight both in the approval, and ongoing supervision of drugs and medical devices. And to be sure, much of that criticism is warranted.
However, on this occasion the FDA stuck to its guns and has been vindicated. There can be Read the rest of this entry »
It seems that every month practically, one pharmaceutical company or another makes the news for bending rules around marketing. Mis-marketing, which could also be called consumer fraud, can result in serious, if not life-changing consequences for people making decisions about their health.
Recently, I came across a list of the largest settlements paid by 11 pharmaceutical companies for bending the rules. The fines total a staggering $6 billion. The more frequent offender, according to the company that compiled the list, is Eli Lilly. They paid more than $1.4 billion in fines all for various violations for just one drug—Zyprexa.
These drugs are used to treat everything from schizophrenia to epilepsy to diabetes, and the consequences of not having the correct information may have resulted in serious adverse health events, possibly even death for some.
Not surprisingly, people tend to be very interested when the big boys get caught behaving badly, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that we feel our trust has been betrayed. We trust drug companies, and the medical profession in general, to give us the straight goods because it’s a matter of life and death. Why would you not be straight about that? Well, the answer is, not surprisingly, money. And lots of it. But eventually the offenders do get caught. And that leads to drug lawsuits, criminal investigations and ultimately, very large fines.
So, without further ado—here’s a list of the big offenders—who took them on, what for and how much they paid, with acknowledgement to FiercePharma.com who actually did the homework on this.
With: U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
When: Sept. 30, 2010
Why: Novartis agreed to a $422.5 million settlement with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for its off-label promotion of Trileptal and other allegations against Diovan, Exforge, Sandostatin, Tekturna and Zelnorm. (oh, and ps, Novartis is recruiting for a Senior Brand Manager for Prevacid…)
With: Dept. of Justice
When: Sept. 15, 2010
Why: After marketing Levothroid, an unapproved thyroid drug, Forest Labs received a $313 million penalty. The settlement also covered Forest’s off-label use of Celexa for children’s use.
With: Dept. of Justice
When: Sept. 1, 2010
Why: Allergan’s was fined $600 million by the Department of Justice. The settlement was broken into two parts: $375 million in fines and $225 milion in civil penalties, all of which stemmed from its off-label use of Botox for headaches, pain management and cerebral palsy.
With: U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts
When: July 15, 2010
Why: Elan received a $203.5 million fine for its marketing of Zonegran, an epilepsy drug.
Johnson & Johnson
With: Department of Justice
When: April 29, 2010
Why: Though J&J is most recently famous or a rash of phantom recalls, two of the troubled drugmaker’s subsidiaries received a $81 million penalty for off-label promotions of Topamax, an epilepsy drug.
With: U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia
When: April 27, 2010
Why: In the same week as the J&J settlement, AstraZeneca was fined $520 million misleading doctors and patients about the safety of its antipsychotic drug Seroquel.
With: Twenty-three states
When: Jan. 7, 2010
Why: In a case involving 23 different states, Abbott Laboratories and its partner, Fournier Industrie et Sante, were ordered to pay $22.5 million for blocking the states from obtaining a cheaper alternative for its cholesterol drug, TriCor. (btw, Abbott Labs is the one who brought you beetle parts in Similac, causing the recent Similac recall…)
When: Sept. 29, 2009
Why: A total of 13 states total had filed suit against Eli Lilly for Zyprexa marketing issues, but the company was ordered to pay $25 million to Connecticut in this ruling.
With: West Virginia Attorney General
When: August 21, 2009
Why: In another Zyprexa case, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw levied $2 billion in fines against Eli Lilly. In the end, the company agreed to $22.5 million in fines.
With: 35 states’ attorney offices
When: July 15, 2009
Why: Following a 35 state investigations into the Enhance study of Vytorin, Merck paid $5.4 million in fines, without admitting fault in the cases.
With: Department of Justice
When: May 28, 2009
Why: In an agreement with the federal government, Sanofi paid $95.5 million total, to the federal government, state Medicaid agencies and other public health service agencies, all for its subsidiary Aventis’ nasal spray price inflation between 1995 and 2000.
With: U.S. Attorney’s office in Colorado
When: Jan. 29, 2009
Why: After seven years of off-label promotion on nine of its best-selling drugs, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was ordered to pay $400 million to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Colorado.
With: Department of Justice
When: Jan. 26, 2009
Why: Right after acquiring Wyeth, Pfizer dropped a bombshell in its fourth quarter earnings report; the company was charged $2.3 billion for off-label promotions of its COX-2 drugs.
With: Department of Justice
When: Jan. 15, 2009
Why: In the first Zyprexa settlement (and one of three on our list), the Department of Justice levied $1.4 billion in fines against Eli Lilly. Also, as part of the settlement, the company pled guilty to a misdemeanor: violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.