All is not Well at Wells Fargo? Not by a long shot. Employees from Wells Fargo Bank have filed an employment class action lawsuit alleging they were pressured into unethical sales conduct under threat of retaliation if they failed to cooperate.
Specifically, the Wells Fargo employees claim they were forced to inflate sales figures by opening new customer accounts that customers had not agreed to and to open accounts for non-existent customers. Further, the lawsuit claims that employees who did not engage in this alleged behavior were threatened with discipline or termination. Employees who did participate were rewarded, the lawsuit claims. Read on…
The alleged misconduct involved Wells Fargo employees having to set up a target of eight accounts, or “solutions,” per customer, which is far greater than the industry standard of three accounts per customer. The employees allege that these sales goals were impossible to meet without engaging in underhanded behavior.
The Wells Fargo lawsuit asserts that Wells Fargo’s motive was to increase its stock price by setting unrealistically high sales goals for its employees.
Wells Fargo allegedly aggressively and unlawfully encouraged sales misconduct among its employees by threatening retaliation against workers who refused to engage in the sales misconduct. Those employees were allegedly “routinely counseled, warned, written up, demoted, placed on performance improvement plans, forced to quit, denied promotions, or fired as a result of not meeting sales goals, even though they could have easily met such goals by engaging in Sales Misconduct,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs seek to represent a Class encompassing all current and former U.S. employees of Wells Fargo who were subject to the sales goals described in the lawsuit and who were not terminated for engaging in sales misconduct.
Several subclasses have also been proposed in this action, which would represent employees who suffered adverse employment actions for failing to reach sales goals, who reported their concerns about the alleged unlawful sales conduct, or who had their employment terminated or who were let go for reporting or refusing to engage in the alleged misconduct.
The plaintiffs are seeking an award of damages, including two times the amount of back pay for alleged violations of the Dodd-Frank Act and treble damages as applicable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. They also seek reinstatement for eligible Class Members under the Dodd-Frank Act.
Not Painting a Pretty Picture…And another employment suit filed this week—this one by employees of Behr Paint, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law. The defendants are Behr Process Corp., Behr Paint Corp. and Masco Corp.
According to plaintiff Ryan McBain alleges he was employed as a field representative by the defendants and assigned to different Home Depot stores. He claims his responsibilities were answering customer inquiries, replenishing stocks and maintaining store displays. He alleges he was required to prepare time-consuming reports and shuttle between stores and was misclassified as exempt from overtime pay and was not provided with proper meal and rest periods.
In the Behr lawsuit, McBain claims the defendants failed to adequately compensate him for his work as a field representative. The lawsuit also claims that the defendants allegedly failed to keep accurate payroll records of hours worked, meal periods taken, and overtime worked by their employees, refused to pay any overtime compensation to employees for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week and refused to provide adequate meal and rest periods.
The plaintiff is seeking a trial by jury and seek judgment in his favor, designate collective action, declare misclassification of class members, unpaid wages, liquidated damages, civil penalties, unpaid wages from meal/rest periods not taken, reimburse business expenses, interest, costs and expenses of action, attorneys’ fees and other relief as the court deems just.
FYI – The case is U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case number 3:16-cv-07036.
Meanwhile, North of the 49th…VW managed to reach a $2.1 billion settlement in the Canadian class action pending over the so-called Volkswagen and Audi defeat devices that temporarily reduced vehicle emissions enabling the diesel engines to pass regulatory emissions tests.
Additionally, the settlement terms stipulate that Canadian owners of diesel-equipped vehicles made by Volkswagen AG will be able to sell their cars back to the auto maker.
The settlement will cover approximately 105,000 Canadians who bought Volkswagen or Audi vehicles equipped with 2.0-liter diesel engines between 2009 and 2015. Each class member will receive $5,100 to $8,000 in compensation. Class members who decide to sell their vehicles back to Volkswagen Canada will receive a payment in addition to the value of their car.
The settlement is expected to receive final approval from Ontario Superior Court and the Superior Court of Quebec pen in March, 2017, after which class members will receive payouts.
The settlement is valued at $2.1-billion if all eligible owners apply and receive the full amount they are entitled to and all eligible vehicles are traded in. It will be among the largest amounts paid out in a class-action suit in Canada.
That’s a wrap for 2016!!! Happy New Year – to you and yours. See you at the bar.
Getting Burned on Fire Damage Claims? Los Angeles resident, Ismael Frias, believes so. He filed a bad faith insurance class action lawsuit against a Farmers Insurance Co., unit alleging it illegally limited coverage of wildfire smoke damage by not providing adequate notice that it had changed its policies and stating that the damage was “not actual fire damage.”
Frias, who lives in the suburb of Sylmar, states in his Farmers lawsuit complaint that Mid-Century Insurance Co., applied a “Wildfire Smoke Sublimit” of $5,000 to his claim under his homeowner’s insurance policy, without clearly notifying him. Mid-Century allegedly added the sublimit to the policy when Frias renewed in March, but failed to clearly notify him of the change. Additionally, the suit states that the sublimit is in violation of California insurance law which standardizes fire damage policies.
“The purported $5,000.00 Wildfire Smoke Sublimit violates Insurance Code section 2071, is not reflected on the declarations Page, is not plain, clear and conspicuous, and is unenforceable,” the lawsuit states. According to the complaint, Frias claimed for damages he experienced as a result of a wildfire on July 23, 2016. On that date, the massive Sand Canyon Fire was raging through the mountains north of Sylmar. Ultimately, the fire scorched almost 65 square miles before fire crews were able to contain it in August, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Frias received a letter from Mid-Century in September, stating the damage to his home wasn’t “actual fire damage” and thus was subject to the $5,000 sublimit, according to the lawsuit.
Frias is claiming breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Act.
The lawsuit seeks to establish a class of California homeowners who had policies containing the wildfire smoke sublimit and who had submitted claims for wildfire odor, soot, smoke, char or ash damage. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney’s fees, according to the complaint.
“As a result of defendants’ conduct, plaintiff and members of the class and subclass have been damaged, including but not limited to, paying insurance premiums for coverage rendered illusory by the unlawful Wildfire Smoke Sublimit,” the complaint states.
It’s VW Pay Up Time. It’s been a week of whoppers. Starting with a rather speedy settlement on the consumer end of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Short version, a $14.75 billion settlement between consumers, the federal government and Volkswagen has been granted final approval. The deal includes an aggressive timeline for VW to begin buying back cars that have the infamous emissions cheating software, known as “defeat devices”.
Under the terms of the deal, VW will set aside $10 million to buy back its vehicles with the defeat devices from consumers.
Additionally, VW must spend $2.7 billion to mitigate the effects of the emissions from cars equipped the so-called defeat devices, and $2 billion over the next 10 years in projects that support the increased use of zero emission vehicles.
Starting in mid-November, Some 475,000 owners of affected VW and Audi 2.0L diesel vehicles will be able to seek buybacks of their cars or have them fixed. Additionally, most plaintiffs who bought their cars before last September, will receive payments of $5,100 to $10,000. About 336,000 car owners have registered for benefits under the settlement and only 3,300 have opted out, according to court papers signed by the judge.
Of note, 3.0 liter six-cylinder diesel vehicles equipped with the defeat devices are not included in this settlement. VW said it is still working toward a resolution with owners of those vehicles.
The multidistrict litigation is In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:15-md-02672, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Big Talc Powder Settlement. A $70 million award has been granted court approval for a woman in California who sued Johnson & Johnson (J&J) alleging J&J Talc Powder caused her cancer. The suit alleged “negligent conduct” in making and marketing its baby powder.
The case was brought by Deborah Giannecchini of Modesto, California, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. She is one of nearly 2,000 women who have filed similar lawsuits, and thousands more are under review by lawyers.
Giannecchini’s win follows earlier awards against J&J for $72 million and $55 million. The $72 million award was granted in February to relatives of a woman who died of ovarian cancer, and the $55 million award to an ovarian cancer survivor.
Talc is a mineral often used to absorb moisture in cosmetic products. Since the 1970s, studies have suggested that talc could be linked to ovarian cancer, according to the lawsuit. Lawyers argued that Johnson & Johnson knew of those studies but put profits ahead of human life by continuing to market their talc products for feminine hygiene use.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the Bar!
Travel Insurance Woes…A consumer fraud complaint against American Airlines took off this week, alleging the airline markets travel insurance as a pass-through charge paid to a third party but doesn’t disclose its profits.
Filed by Kristian Zamber, the multi-million dollar complaint asserts American Airlines misled its customers about its interests in selling the insurance policies and that it aggressively marketed travel insurance sold through its website.
The American Airlines lawsuit is seeking class certification, a jury trial and injunctive and equitable relief for alleged unjust enrichment and violations of Florida’s consumer protection statutes prohibiting companies from posing as revenue conduits.
According to the complaint, Zamber paid roughly $24 to purchase travel insurance in April for a domestic flight from Tampa to Pennsylvania. American Airlines stated the policy had no affiliation with the airline, but instead came from Allianz Global Assistance, with plans underwritten by Jefferson Insurance Co. or BCS Insurance Co. But in reality, the policy sales contributed to a “hidden profit center” for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, the complaint states.
The complaint also claims the airline forces customers to choose whether or not to purchase trip insurance policies before allowing them to complete online ticket purchases. Yup—been to that destination….
Touch Disease has Spread North of the border. Apple is facing a defective products class action lawsuit in Canada over allegations that it’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models have a defect which effectively results in the smartphone freezing or not responding to touch commands.
Following on from a similar defective products lawsuit filed in the US, the Canadian lawsuit claims Apple was aware of the problem but failed to take action to remedy it.
Filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan, the Canadian iPhone complaint would include all Canadian iPhone 6 and 6 Plus customers. It alleges that Apple was negligent because it supplied a defective phone, “knowingly and intentionally concealed” from customers the defect and failed to provide a proper remedy.
According to attorneys who filed the Canadian complaint, Apple has so far only offered its customers around $300 as compensation.
Shortly after the product was launched in 2014, one of the plaintiffs in the class action alleges she bought the iPhone 6 for around $200, hundreds of dollars less than the regular price because she locked into a two-year phone plan contract. Then, a few months after the warranty had expired on her phone, it began to intermittently freeze up and failed to respond to touch commands.
The lawsuit alleges that that the underlying problem is the touchscreen controller chips in the phone’s motherboard, which are not properly secured and can malfunction with regular use.
Here’s a whopper—but then the size of the Volkswagen defeat device scandal is, likely, unprecedented. A $1.2 billion settlement has been reached between Volkswagen AG and 650 US VW franchise dealerships, ending litigation brought by the dealerships over the VW emissions scandal. Specifically, the dealerships alleged that the value of their businesses had decreased as a result of Volkswagen’s attempts to cheat on vehicle emissions tests through its so called “defeat devices.” According to documents filed Friday in California federal court, the deal will provide an average payout of $.185 million to each Volkswagen-branded franchise dealer in the US.
Additionally, the VW settlement provides for VW buying back from its franchisees, affected vehicles that can’t be put into emissions compliance, using the same terms granted to car owners as part of the tentative consumer settlement.
“This recovery to the franchise dealer class is outstanding, particularly given the immediate need for cooperation among Volkswagen and its franchise dealers to effectuate the terms of the $10 billion-plus consumer class action settlement that is presently pending approval before this court,” the motion states. “Without any obvious deficiencies, the settlement agreement readily meets the standards for preliminary approval.”
Further, there will be no claims process, as dealerships that don’t opt out of the settlement will automatically receive a cash payment based on a formula of 71 times the monthly support payment VW made to dealers in November 2015. Take it or leave it? Almost.
The MDL is In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:15-md-02672, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the Bar!
Pampers Not So Pampering? The makers of Pampers Natural Clean baby wipes, Procter and Gamble (P&G), got hit with a consumer fraud class action complaint this week, over allegations its advertising ain’t clean.
Filed by Veronica Brenner, on behalf of all others similarly situated, the proposed Pampers wipes class action lawsuit claims that due to the false claims made by P&G, Brenner was misled into buying Pampers Natural Clean baby wipes.
Specifically, she alleges that testing of the wipes revealed they contain unnatural and harmful ingredients such as phenoxyethanol, which allegedly could cause harm to consumers, especially infants.
Brenner is seeking a jury trial and is seeking compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages, injunctive relief enjoining the defendant, interest, restitution and any other forms of monetary relief, court costs and any further relief the court grants.
The case is US District Court for the Central District of California Case number 8:16-cv-01093-CJC-JCG.
VW To Pay…So, by now almost everyone must be aware that Volkswagen (VW) has reached agreements with the United States and the State of California, and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that will see it stump up $14.7 billion—the largest such payout of its type in US history—to end consumer fraud allegations over the now infamous VW emissions scandal.
Now, just to be clear, the settlements do not resolve pending claims for civil penalties or any claims concerning 3.0 liter diesel vehicles. Nor do they address any potential criminal liability. So stay tuned on that front.
The information on the settlements is provided more comprehensively on our dedicated Volkswagen emissions settlements page—BUT the super short versions are that VW will offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 model year 2009-2015 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the US, and spend up to $10.03 billion to compensate consumers under the program. In addition, the companies will spend $4.7 billion to mitigate the pollution from these cars and invest in green vehicle technology.
Additionally, the settlements partially resolve allegations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the California Attorney General’s Office and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) under the Clean Air Act, California Health and Safety Code, and California’s Unfair Competition Laws, relating to the vehicles’ use of “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests. The settlements also resolve claims by the FTC that Volkswagen violated the FTC Act through the deceptive and unfair advertising and sale of its “clean diesel” vehicles.
The affected vehicles include 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel models of Jettas, Passats, Golfs and Beetles as well as the TDI Audi A3.
The Buyback option: Volkswagen must offer to buy back any affected 2.0 liter vehicle at their retail value as of September 2015 — just prior to the public disclosure of the emissions issue. Consumers who choose the buyback option will receive between $12,500 and $44,000, depending on their car’s model, year, mileage, and trim of the car, as well as the region of the country where it was purchased. In addition, because a straight buyback will not fully compensate consumers who owe more than their car is worth due to rapid depreciation, the FTC order provides these consumers with an option to have their loans forgiven by Volkswagen. Consumers who have third party loans have the option of having Volkswagen pay off those loans, up to 130 percent of the amount a consumer would be entitled to under the buyback (e.g., if the consumer is entitled to a $20,000 buyback, VW would pay off his/her loans up to a cap of $26,000).
The EPA-approved modification to vehicle emissions system: The settlements also allow Volkswagen to apply to EPA and CARB for approval of an emissions modification on the affected vehicles, and, if approved, to offer consumers the option of keeping their cars and having them modified to comply with emissions standards. Under this option in accordance with the FTC order, consumers would also receive money from Volkswagen to redress the harm caused by VW’s deceptive advertising.
Consumers who leased the affected cars will have the option of terminating their leases (with no termination fee) or having their vehicles modified if a modification becomes available. In either case, under the FTC order, these consumers also will receive additional compensation from Volkswagen for the harm caused by VW’s deceptive advertising. Consumers who sold their TDI vehicles after the VW defeat device issue became public may be eligible for partial compensation, which will be split between them and the consumers who purchased the cars from them as set forth in the FTC order.
Wells Fargo SPAM Settlement… Another settlement to report this week—on the spam text messaging front. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (Wells) has agreed to a preliminary $16.3 million settlement to end claims it made unauthorized calls to customers’ cell phones using an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS), in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).
The lawsuit, originally filed on April 14, 2015, alleged that the calls at issue were, without exception, non-emergency, debt-collection calls and texts made in connection with Home Equity Loans and Residential Mortgage Loans.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Wells would pay a non-reversionary cash sum of approximately $16,319,000, which, after deductions for costs and attorney’s fees, would be distributed on a pro rata basis to the Class Members who file qualified claims. The expected per-class-member cash award, while dependent upon the number of claims, may be in the range of $25 to $75.
The proposed Settlement Class is defined as: All users or subscribers to a wireless or cellular service within the United States who used or subscribed to a phone number to which Wells made or initiated one or more Calls during the Class Period using any automated dialing technology or artificial or prerecorded voice technology, according to Wells available records, and who are within Subclass One and/or Two.
Subclass One consists of “persons who used or subscribed to a cellular phone number to which Wells Fargo made or initiated a Call or Calls in connection with a Residential Mortgage Loan.”
Subclass Two consists of “persons who used or subscribed to a cellular phone number to which Wells Fargo made or initiated a Call or Calls in connection with a Home Equity Loan.”
Heads Up—a person who is a member of both Subclasses is eligible to make two claims on the Settlement Fund. The three Class Representatives are seeking awards for their time and effort on behalf of the Class, and Wells has agreed not to object to such incentive payments to be paid to Davis, Markos, and Page from the Settlement Fund provided that the payments do not exceed $60,000 in the aggregate or $20,000 for each Class Representative, subject to Court approval.
The case is Markos v. Well Fargo Bank, N.A. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Case No. 1:15-CV-01156).
Ok, that’s a wrap folks… Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July…. See you at the Bar!
Yes, it’s time for a flashback Friday! Remember all those great Volkswagen ads of years gone by? Simple. Witty. Dare I say…trustworthy. Best of all, they poked humor at themselves. They totally got how folks were like “wtf??” when they saw a car that resembled something you’d step on in a heartbeat. And they ran with it. Yesiree…totally ran—straight to the bank. And flower children everywhere made the VW Bug the automotive emblem of their age. Complete love-fest.
But that was then. Fast-forward to September 18, 2015 when news broke about something called a “defeat device“. It sounded like something you’d grab in Minecraft to kill the Ender Dragon—but alas, it turned out to be much more sinister. As we all now know, it’s what VW installed in its diesel autos to suppress emissions so that the cars would pass emissions testing on a dynamometer—aka a stationary “rolling road” used to test cars (and no, we didn’t know what that was either until a week ago). Those emissions, however, when on an actual road, were spewing upwards of 40x more toxic fumes than permitted. Uh-oh! Where’s the love now folks? To die-hard VW fans, it’s a jilt they’ll never get over.
And now there’s a stack of Volkswagen lawsuits piling up.
But it’s worth looking back…at some of those VW ads of yore, and imagining those same ads circa 2015. Yes, the ads on the right are totally fake–just to be clear. But it’s easy to see how they could well be art imitating life right now… so here goes…