May 18, 2010
A jury awarded $540,000 to three former Texas Southern University student activists Thursday and let the school know that retaliation against whistle-blowers won’t be tolerated.
“We wanted to send a message that this should not happen again — the violation of First Amendment rights and the false arrest,” one juror said after the jury added $350,000 in punitive damages to the $190,000 they awarded the trio last week to compensate them for being kicked out of school and temporarily charged with a crime after helping uncover a financial scandal.
After deciding the extra damages Thursday afternoon, 10 jurors were grilled by the attorneys on their thoughts. Several said they were impressed by the young men. Juror Donnie Mathis hugged the three and said she was proud of them.
William G. Hudson, Justin R. Jordan and Oliver J. Brown sued the TSU regents, then-President Priscilla Slade and other university officials in 2005. If the case holds on appeal, they will collect their money from four officials, though the school could indemnify the officials and pay the costs.
The men have been credited with helping topple Slade, who entered into a plea bargain and agreed to repay $130,000, and the ex-chief financial officer Quintin Wiggins, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Slade was dropped from this civil suit. Wiggins, dean of students Willie Marshall, police officer Deneen Ford and ex-human resources director Keefus Falls were the four the jury found against.
A federal judge ruled yesterday that Native Americans suing the U.S. government over mismanaged royalties collected from gas and oil companies that drilled on their lands are entitled to $455 million — far less than the $47 billion they were seeking.
The ruling is the latest — and probably not the last — chapter in a 12-year legal dispute that U.S. District Judge James Robertson compared to Charles Dickens’s legal tome, “Bleak House,” in a January opinion.
Robertson’s ruling yesterday focused on how much royalty money was withheld from trust accounts managed by the Department of Interior on behalf of half a million Native Americans and their heirs over the past 121 years.
The Native Americans’ attorneys said that the government had badly mismanaged the trusts and that there was a shortfall of nearly $4 billion. At a June bench trial, the lawyers said the Native Americans were owed $47 billion, a figure that represented the “benefit” the government received from improperly using the missing money. That figure was lower than the $58 billion estimate given before the trial started.
Article: Washington Post
Vietnam veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange have a significantly greater risk of prostate cancer, especially the most aggressive form of the disease, a new study contends.
The findings are the first to connect the now-banned herbicide with this form of cancer, the researchers said.
“Veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have a twofold higher risk of prostate cancer,” said study lead author Dr. Karim Chamie, a resident physician in urology at the University of California, Davis, Department of Urology and the VA Northern California Health Care System. “The cancer they get tends to be more aggressive, a higher grade, and is more likely to spread or have spread at the time that they present to their urologist.”
“A lot of veterans don’t get their care through the VA [Veterans Administration],” Chamie added. “This message needs to go out to their physicians and their urologist in the private community to know that this is a large risk factor.”
Article: Washington Post
Veronica Kelly got one of those calls every parent dreads.
Her 16-year-old daughter and a teenage friend were detained at JCPenney for allegedly stealing a pair of sunglasses last March. When Kelly arrived at the store, the security guard told her that her daughter’s friend was the one with the sticky fingers. Charges were later dropped.
Then the letters and phone calls started. Palmer Reifler & Associates, a civil recovery firm in Orlando, Fla., said a payment of $202 by Kelly could avoid a potential lawsuit by JCPenney. When she balked at the first letter, the amount increased to $477.
Kelly didn’t know what to do. The single mother from Allentown, Pa., feared law enforcement would come to her home and further embarrass her family if she didn’t pay the law firm. Instead, she turned to Miami-area attorneys who are seasoned in consumer rights lawsuits.
She is now the plaintiff in a potential class-action lawsuit assigned to U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno in Miami. The complaint accuses the law firm of mail and wire fraud in a scheme to shake down millions of people across the nation.
The firm says it’s working well within the law and has defended litigation elsewhere claiming consumer fraud. On its Web site, it tells retailers: “Don’t absorb your losses, recover them.”
Kelly said she felt she was being strong-armed when her daughter had done nothing wrong.
“When these letters first started coming, my daughter and I both lived in a constant state of anxiety and fear,” Kelly said. “I felt as if they were trying to take advantage of me and extort money from me without any justification. I knew I had to fight back.”
The lawsuit is muscular and aims high, seeking treble damages under the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO.
The lawsuit filed by attorneys Lance Harke and Adam M. Moskowitz also asks for an injunction to put a halt to the Palmer firm’s collection business. “This scheme has been challenged by consumers across the country but has not been stopped, either because the wrong legal theory was used and/or the case was settled,” the 18-page lawsuit reads. “This lawsuit seeks to stop this practice, once and for all.”
She was a bankrupt pal of several U.S. presidents. His firm had been suspended from government-financed housing projects for repeatedly violating regulations.
This change order, approved by the Navy in August 2007, forgave $14 million in cost overruns and delays on the Navy privatized housing project in the Pacific Northwest.
There are 2 paths when blowing whistle; on neither is success likely
Together, they and others formed a company that won billion-dollar Defense Department contracts and took ownership of 8,000 military homes, including 3,000 in Washington. The result was a spectacular failure that has cost taxpayers millions and delayed new home construction and renovations.
In Snohomish County, land sits empty where 141 Navy homes were scheduled to be finished by the end of September. Elsewhere in Western Washington, most of the 464 homes for military families on Whidbey Island and at Bangor came in five months to a year behind the original construction schedule.
Projects at Air Force bases in Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and Massachusetts and at an Army base in Missouri failed. Many houses simply weren’t built. At Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, only two of 400 homes were built. Lenders withdrew, costs skyrocketed, and some delays are being measured in years. The projects have either been sold to other companies or are being offered for sale.
The company in charge, American Eagle, was a newly formed consortium of the Shaw Group, a government contracting giant, and Carabetta Enterprises Inc., led by Salvatore Carabetta of Connecticut. American Eagle was managed by Kathryn Thompson of Dallas.
Thompson, a major fundraiser for President George H.W. Bush, counted as friends a long list of political luminaries, from Newt Gingrich, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. Carabetta’s real estate company had once filed for bankruptcy protection and had been suspended from government housing programs for two years in the 1990s because it improperly diverted millions from federal housing projects, drawing a public apology.
Also in the mix was an influential retired Air Force general and a lieutenant colonel, who signed a deal with American Eagle that would pay $200,000 if the company’s first project at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida was signed, which it was.
And there was even an argument over an expensive toilet.
A Seattle P-I investigation of American Eagle’s independent transactions with the Army, Navy and Air Force revealed a flawed military selection process – driven by a desire to privatize government functions, prestigious connections and smart marketing.
Article: Seattle PI
Lots of curious people run their names through Google to see what interesting things they can find. But nobody expects to find a bank document with their Social Security number on it.
That’s what happened to Carla and Henry Redillo.
Information from an internal auditing document belonging to Central Florida Healthcare Federal Credit Union accidentally got posted online where anyone could see it. The document may have been there for up to three weeks.
Almost 200 accounts may have been affected. Information revealed included Social Security numbers, credit-union account numbers, birth dates, loan balances, and types of vehicles belonging to car-loan customers.
“Words can’t even describe how you feel,” said Carla Redillo, who also saw her address and credit-union account number online.
She and her husband filed a lawsuit against the credit union earlier this week. Their attorney, James Frazier, hopes to make it a class-action suit.
The Redillos want Central Florida Healthcare Federal Credit Union to provide fraud and identity-theft monitoring and reimbursement of expenses they might incur. The lawsuit may later seek punitive damages, Frazier said.
The credit union is investigating the incident, which it discovered July 30 after hearing from the Redillos’ attorney. The Redillos found the information online July 28 but were so unnerved by seeing their information online that they went straight to an attorney instead of contacting the credit union.
The credit union took the document off the site minutes after learning of the breach.
CEO Trudy Prince — whose personal information also appeared online — said the problem arose after switching to a new company that was hosting the credit union’s Web site. She would not identify the company, which the credit union has stopped working with because of the problem.
Article: Orlando Sentinel
Calling the lender’s practices “oppressive, unethical, immoral and unscrupulous,” Connecticut joined California, Florida and Illinois among U.S. states suing Countrywide, which last year made one in six U.S. mortgage loans.
Washington state has separately announced plans to fine Countrywide and possibly revoke its lending license.
Bank of America Corp paid $2.5 billion in July for Countrywide, which was the nation’s largest mortgage lender.
“Countrywide conned customers into loans that were clearly unaffordable and unsustainable, turning the American dream of homeownership into a nightmare,” said Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, in a statement on Wednesday. He also called Countrywide “an insolvency enabler.”
Connecticut is demanding that Countrywide make restitution to affected borrowers, give up improper gains, and rescind, reform or modify all mortgages that broke state laws.
It is also seeking civil fines of up to $100,000 per violation of state banking laws, and up to $5,000 per violation of state consumer protection laws. The state filed its lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court.
The blood test that millions of men undergo each year to check for prostate cancer leads to so much unnecessary anxiety, surgery and complications that doctors should stop testing elderly men, and it remains unclear whether the screening is worthwhile for younger men, a federal task force concluded yesterday.
In the first update of its recommendations for prostate cancer screening in five years, the panel that sets government policy on preventive medicine said that the evidence that the test reduces the cancer’s death toll is too uncertain to endorse routine use for men at any age, and that the potential harm clearly outweighs any benefits for men age 75 and older.
“The benefit of screening at this time is uncertain, and if there is a benefit, it’s likely to be small,” said Ned Calonge, who chairs the 16-member U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. It published the new guidelines today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “And on the other side, the risks are large and dramatic.”
The task force and other groups concluded previously that it was unclear whether the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, test outweigh the risks. The new review of the scientific literature found no evidence to alter that assessment for younger men. It did find enough new data to recommend for the first time against screening for older men.
Article: Washington Post
A $50 million wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against multimillionaire John “Jay” Brooks and six others in connection with the murder of Derry resident Jack Reid.
The lawsuit comes as Brooks, 56, of Las Vegas, prepares to go on trial for allegedly arranging Reid’s murder in June 2005 and delivering the fatal blow to Reid’s chest with a hammer. The suit was filed on behalf of Reid’s former wife and five children.
Jury selection for Brooks’ capital murder trial begins Monday. If convicted by a jury, he could face the death penalty. Although New Hampshire law permits murderers to be sentenced to death, the state has not executed anyone since 1939.
Brooks is eligible for the death penalty because his case allegedly involves murder-for-hire and kidnapping in the commission of a murder.
The civil lawsuit names seven people, five of whom are facing murder charges for playing a role in luring Reid, 57, to a horse farm in Deerfield, then bludgeoning him to death.
Brooks’ wife, Lorraine, is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit. She was not charged in connection with the murder, but the lawsuit describes her as someone who controls some of her husband’s assets, including real estate and bank accounts.
It also names Michael Connors, 54, who lent Brooks the horse farm where Reid was lured and killed. He was not charged in the case, but is expected to be a key state witness in Brooks’ murder trial. Connors used to be the chief financial officer of Brooks’ company, PolyVac Inc.
The lawsuit targets a number of Brooks’ assets as well, including two limited-liability real estate companies and a revocable trust held by Lorraine Brooks.
Article: Eagle Tribune
A fired bank executive who became the first person to win protection under a federal law that shields whistleblowers — those who report corporate wrongdoing — only to see his victory overturned, suffered another setback in a federal appeals court Tuesday.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not reinstate David Welch to his job, ruling that he failed to explain how his employer’s alleged shoddy accounting practices could be considered a violation of federal law.
Welch was dismissed as chief financial officer of Cardinal Bankshares Corp. in 2002 after reporting what he said were misclassifications in financial reports that essentially overstated the bank’s earnings by $195,000. Cardinal is the holding company for the local bank in Floyd, population about 400, in southwestern Virginia.
A federal administrative law judge ruled in 2004 that Welch should be reinstated under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted two years earlier in response to corporate scandals at Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and other companies. The law required more stringent accounting practices and offered protection to workers who point out violations.
Since Sarbanes-Oxley was signed into law, more than 1,000 self-professed whistleblowers have come forward, and most have seen their cases rejected. Welch was the first to win his case before an administrative law judge, but that decision was reversed in June 2007 by the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board.
The appeals court affirmed the board’s decision, saying Welch “utterly failed to explain how Cardinal’s alleged conduct could reasonably be regarded as violating any of the laws” covered by Sarbanes-Oxley.
Article: Law.com« Older Posts — Newer Posts »