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.
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!
Wells Fargo playing fast and loose with customer accounts? Maybe…It got hit with a class action lawsuit this week by a former customer who claims that California’s largest bank engages in consumer banking fraud. What does that mean exactly? Well, Shahriar Jabbari of Campbell, CA, alleges that he and a nationwide class of consumers were victims of Wells Fargo’s tolerance and encouragement of abuses by workers in its branches. The specific allegations are unfair enrichment and violations of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FACTA) and California unfair competition and consumer protection laws.
Here’s the back story…according to the lawsuit, Jabbari began banking with Wells Fargo in 2011, wanting simply to open one checking and one savings account. However, shortly after opening his accounts, he allegedly noticed “some anomalies, such as unwanted fees.” Then in 2013, the lawsuit states that Jabbari visited the Wells Fargo branch in Los Gatos to ask about an unauthorized charge. That’s when an employee showed him how accounts had been opened in his name using a signature that was not his, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Jabbari discovered seven accounts issued without his permission. A few months later, he received a change of address notification showing several accounts that he had not opened and that he thought had been closed.
Jabbari alleged that bill collectors badgered him to pay fees on Wells Fargo accounts that were opened without his knowledge. The suit alleges that bank employees: Withdrew money from customers’ authorized accounts to pay for the fees assessed by Wells Fargo on unauthorized accounts opened in customers’ names without their knowledge; placed customers into collection when fees and other debts accumulated in unauthorized accounts and went unpaid; and placed derogatory information in credit reports when unauthorized fees went unpaid.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, seeks restitution from the profits Wells made on “its unfair and unlawful practices,” In addition to triple damages.
More banking misconduct…this time it’s a win for the plaintiffs…to the tune of $10.2 million—that’s the amount of the settlement agreed between the plaintiffs in a robocall class action lawsuit and JPMorgan Chase Bank NA.
The bank allegedly made unsolicitied robocalls to more than 2 million customers’ cellphones, in violation of the Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA).
According to the agreement, if approved, Chase will pay $10.2 million into a non-reversionary settlement fund, with approximately $45 to $55 to be paid to each of the 2.2 million class members.
Filed by plaintiff Sheila Allen in November 2013, the lawsuit contends JPMorgan Chase and Chase Auto Finance Corp. violated the TCPA by placing approximately 80 calls to Allen’s cellphone from July 2013 through to November 2013.
Allen alleges that the robocalls left voicemails telling her to call back certain numbers to discuss her account, even though she had no auto loan with Chase and never provided her phone number to the bank in connection with any car loan.
Despite Allen contacting Chase repeatedly, requesting the phone calls stop, nothing changed. Further, she contends she was not provided with any instructions on how to opt out of the automated calls, nor was she given the opportunity to opt out.
The case is Sheila Allen v. JP Morgan Chase Bank N.A., case number 1:13-cv-08285 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Law students will be getting some justice it seems after a $2.1 million settlement was reached in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against ExamSoft Worldwide Inc. If the proposed settlement get the final nod, it will resolve allegations that the company failed to adequately respond to glitches reported in its exam software, which prevented state bar applicants from uploading their exam answers.
The defect that triggered the lawsuit is likely ever law student’s nightmare. The target of the lawsuit was SoftTest, currently the only means by which prospective lawyers in dozens of states can take the bar exam electronically. The program failed during last week’s exams, the company acknowledged, and the lawsuit, which contained deceptive marketing and negligence claims, failed to live up to its promises that it would make exam day less stressful.
According to the terms of the agreement each member of the class would receive $90. Class members consist of applicants who took the test in 43 states in July 2014. Tens of thousands of bar exam takers paid between $100 and $150 for a license to use ExamSoft’s software, SofTest, which allegedly failed after the first day of the exam, according to court documents.
Court documents also show that in addition to the $2.1 million payment, ExamSoft has made or is making enhancements to its technology and communications practices that will enable it to better communicate with test-takers and bar examiners.
The case is Amanda West et al. v. ExamSoft Worldwide Inc., case number 1:14-cv-22950, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!
Another year, another Apple Lawsuit. Yup. This week, iPhone users in Miami filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, alleging the Cupertino-based tech giant greatly overstated the storage capacity of devices that run its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.
Lead plaintiffs filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Northern California claiming operating system itself requires a significant percentage of the storage capacity on the iPhones, iPads and iPods that run it, thereby making a large portion of the advertised space unavailable to device owners.
According to the lawsuit, in some cases, the space used is 23.1 percent. Further, the complaint alleges, Apple entices customers in need of more space to pay for extra storage on iCloud.
“Using these sharp business tactics, [Apple] gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, e.g., when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild’s recital, basketball game or wedding,” the lawsuit states. “To put this in context, each gigabyte of storage Apple shortchanges its customers amounts to approximately 400-500 high resolution photographs.”
The plaintiffs allege Apple is violating California laws prohibiting unfair competition and false advertising. They claim that reasonable consumers do not expect the “marked discrepancy” between the advertised level of storage capacity and the available level of capacity on Apple devices running the OS.
GM’s Record Year? GM must be facing some kind of record for the number of defective automotive class action lawsuits filed against it in 2014. The latest GM lawsuit, filed in December, alleges a defect in the steering system of its Chevrolet Volts which causes the steering wheel to freeze intermittently while driving. Yes—that could certainly cause a few problems.
Filed in New Jersey federal court, by plaintiffs Christopher Johnson and Tara Follari-Johnson, the GM lawsuit claims that GM knew, or should have known, about the alleged defect, but continued to sell the cars. The lawsuit further claims that the alleged defect poses a hazardous safety risk to drivers and that even when GM agrees to fix the steering system, it only replaces the allegedly defective steering rack with the same or similarly defective components.
“When class members present to GM’s authorized dealerships complaining of the steering defect, the dealerships recommend repairs such as replacing the steering rack or steering gear assembly,” the plaintiffs said. “However, these repairs only temporarily mask the problem.”
The lawsuit alleges GM is in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and in breach of implied warranty of merchantability and express warranty and common law fraud.
The plaintiffs propose to represent a nationwide class of owners and lessees of 2011-2014 Chevrolet Volt bought or leased new in New Jersey and a subclass of national class members who live in New Jersey. There are at least 100 members of the proposed class, according to the plaintiffs, and their claims are more than $5 million.
“Complaints that consumers filed with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and posted in discussion forums demonstrate that the defect is widespread and dangerous and that it manifests without warning,” the complaint states. “The complaints further indicate defendants’ knowledge of the defect and its danger.”
Wells Fargo Agreed to Pony Up $14.5 million as part of a preliminary settlement agreement reached in a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of millions of customers who alleged Wells Fargo Bank NA called them on their cellphones to collect credit card debt.
Brought by lead plaintiff Lillian Franklin, the Wells Fargo settlement motion, if approved, will resolve her suit claiming the bank violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making automated calls to alleged debtors without their consent. She filed suit in August, claiming the financial institution called her multiple times on her cellphone in 2010, to collect an alleged debt on her credit card. The calls featured a pre-recorded message and were made without Franklin’s consent, according to the lawsuit.
According to the settlement terms, a settlement fund will be shared evenly between class members who submit claims. Currently, the class consists of 4 million members. The fund will established after consideration of attorneys’ fees and administration costs, according to the motion.
The case is Franklin v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, case number 3:14-cv-02349, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks…Time to adjourn for the week. Happy New Year!
Not Paid for Prime Time? What would the week be without an employment class action? This week, among several employment class actions filed, is one against Prime Healthcare Centinela LLC alleging California labor law violations, specifically underpayment of overtime and failure to provide meal and rest breaks to 400 employees at its 12 California hospitals.
In the Prime Healthcare class action, a social worker for Prime Healthcare’s subsidiary since March 2011, alleges “In violation of state law, defendants have knowingly and willfully refused to perform their obligations to compensate plaintiffs for all wages earned and all hours worked.” And “As a direct result, plaintiffs have suffered, and continue to suffer, substantial losses related to the use and enjoyment of such wages.”
The lawsuit, Beauchamp et al. v. Prime Healthcare Centinela LLC et al., case number BC542351, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, claims that Prime Healthcare established policies under which hourly employees would be “taken off the clock” for a variety of reasons, including the indicating the end of a worker’s official shift or falsely accounting that a meal break was taken when the employee was actually forced to continue working.
According to the allegations, while Prime Healthcare frequently required its employees to work in excess of eight hours per day and over 40 hours per week, it failed to pay them one and a half times the regular hourly rate as required under California law.
Further, the lawsuit claims Prime Healthcare failed to provide its employees with accurate wage statements and failed to pay separated employees the amounts they were owed in a timely manner.
Beauchamp filed the lawsuit on behalf of all hourly, nonunionized social workers and others in similar positions, claiming the company established policies for employees to clock out when they were still working and did not compensate them for overtime hours worked.
The class action seeks to represent all hourly nonexempt social workers, discharge planners, case managers and others who worked for Prime Healthcare since April 2010, a class she estimates to include 400 people at 12 hospitals.
De-Fault of the Bank? Maybe…If the allegations in this new consumer banking and lending violations class action lawsuit prove true, then yes. Wells Fargo Bank NA is facing a potential lawsuit alleging it violated California consumer laws by billing late fees to, or foreclosing on, state homeowners who had loan modification applications pending with the bank. Something referred to as Dual Tracking. Read on.
The Wells Fargo lawsuit, Garcia et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank NA et al., case number 8:14-cv-00558, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges Wells Fargo practices “dual tracking”, which is when a bank pursues a foreclosure while simultaneously processing loan modifications. On January 1, 2013, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights was enacted, forbidding this behavior.
“Because the dual-tracking system prevents homeowners from being evaluated for appropriate loan modifications before foreclosure, it has resulted in many unnecessary foreclosures,” the lawsuit states.
Lead plaintiffs, Orange County residents Henry and Renee Garcia, allege they applied for a loan modification with Wells Fargo but that the bank charged them $840 in late fees and prepared to foreclose on the property before the application process was complete. The bank later rejected the application, verbally denied their appeal, and scheduled the home for trustee sale.
According to the lawsuit, the Garcias defaulted on the mortgage for their San Juan Capistrano, CA, home on March 6, 2013. The following month they submitted a loan modification application to Wells Fargo and over the next several months they stayed in frequent communication with bank officials.
However, simultaneous to the processing of the Garcias’ application Wells Fargo recorded a notice of trustee sale on their home, moving forward with the foreclosure process in violation of the state’s consumer protection law, according to the lawsuit. It wasn’t until the following January that the Garcias loan application was denied, according to the complaint. Garcias appealed, but the bank denied the appeal in February and scheduled a trustee sale of the property for March 5, 2014.
In their lawsuit, the Garcias seek to establish two classes: one for alleged victims of dual tracking and another for homeowners who were illegally charged late fees.
The complaint alleges violations of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights’ restrictions on dual tracking and late fees and the California Unfair Competition Law. The plaintiffs are seeking class certification, unspecified damages and restitution, and injunctive relief forbidding the bank from engaging in the alleged activity.
Next Time Ask for Directions? With a name like Compass, you’d think they’d already know how not to go astray… At any rate, here’s proof that employment class actions are worth the effort—a proposed $1.1 million settlement has been reached in a class action accusing Compass Health Inc. of California labor law violations, specifically of underpayment of overtime. Heard that one before?
Under the terms of the settlement, Compass would pay a net settlement amount of up to $700,500 to all members of the settlement class, which is approximately 2,500 current and former hourly nonexempt employees in California who worked for Compass Health between March 29, 2009 and January 6 2014.
According to the lawsuit, the workers alleged Compass miscalculated the regular rate of pay because it didn’t properly include the value of annual safety bonuses. They also claimed meal and rest period violations on the part of the defendant, as well as derivative penalty claims.
Court documents indicated that based on the number of valid claims filed, the average settlement payment would be about $425, with the highest payment being roughly $1,050, which is “an excellent result for the settlement class, particularly when compared to other, similar wage and hour class action settlements involving similar-wage workers.”
Ok—Let’s celebrate that news—Happy Easter—and we’ll see you at the bar!