Folks, it pains me that we must once again subject ourselves to a Class Action Roundup full of Equifax news items. Let’s rip the band-aid off quickly then, shall we?
The data breach that keeps on giving
After looking into four high-ranking executives’ peculiarly timed sales of company stock back in late July—as well as its chief legal officer’s approval of those trades—a special committee convened by Equifax has cleared the individuals of any wrongdoing. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes the special committee conducted dozens of interviews and combed through “more than 55,000 documents” in its investigation. Equifax ruled the four execs did not have knowledge of the unprecedented data breach when they sold a combined $1.8 million in shares. But Equifax and those steering the company are far from out of the woods, as the Los Angeles Times reported last week that the beleaguered credit reporting firm’s interim Chief Executive Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. announced on an earnings call that senior leadership will not being received incentive-based bonuses for 2017. Barros added Equifax will soon release a free tool that allows consumers to lock their accounts to prevent others from obtaining credit data or opening separate accounts in their names. So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. You know that long blog post we’ve been continually updating that lists every proposed federal class action filed against Equifax so far? Turns out we’re roughly 100 lawsuits short, according to a Chicago Tribune write up on Equifax’s third-quarter earnings report released last week. The Tribune writes Equifax is staring down more than 240 consumer-filed class actions, notwithstanding litigation brought by aggrieved shareholders and financial firms. Included in that earnings report were revelations that Equifax has received subpoenas from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, though SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has neither confirmed nor denied the agency is investigating the aforementioned execs for insider trading. Finally, Barros, speaking at a Senate hearing last week, did not offer any guarantee that consumers who use Equifax’s products will together be able to sue the company through class action litigation. Yahoo Finance writes the in-the-works credit lock program could entail users to—surprise—agree to forced arbitration to handle any disputes. “I believe consumers have a choice to choose the products that they need,” Barros preemptively told lawmakers. “We work according to the law and we use the tools that the industry uses to have arbitration in place.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren: Navient Threatens Protections for Student Loan Borrowers
In an interview published November 2 by the International Business Times, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that student loan heavyweight Navient should not be allowed to be a government contractor on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. According to Senator Warren, Navient, through its acquisition of online lending group Earnest, has positioned itself to quietly strip back protections in place for student loan borrowers nationwide.
Speaking on repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers versus those for private loan borrowers, Senator Warren told IBT:
“The fear is Navient will do this because Navient can make money off it, but the difficulty for the people who have been shifted over is that they lose many of the protections that federal law gives to them on federal loans. So long as a student holds a loan that is a federal student loan, there is a public service loan forgiveness loan program available, there are income driven [sic] repayment options, there is a borrower defense if the college cheated the student—there are protections put in place. But those critical federal protections disappear if the loan is refinanced and taken private. That could matter to many students whose loans, if Navient is successful, are shifted from being federal loans to loans that are held privately.”
Read Navient’s response to Senator Warren’s stance—and its comments on protecting lenders versus protecting consumers—in writer David Sirota’s piece for the International Business Times.
LuLaRoe Co-Founders Call $1B Pyramid Scheme Class Action “Uneducated Opinion”
Responding to a recently filed proposed class action lawsuit seeking more than $1 billion in damages, LuLaRoe’s co-founders sat down with CBS News to refute the plaintiffs’ allegations that the multi-level marketing company is nothing more than a standard pyramid scheme.
“We have a multi-billion-dollar business. It was not built by tricking people into giving us their money,” LuLaRoe co-founder Mark Stidham told CBS.
Amid reports of some of LuLaRoe’s roughly 80,000 consultants going bankrupt due to having so much unmovable inventory—not to mention the Corona, California company’s required $5,000 initial investment to start selling its products—the lawsuit charges the leggings retailer has violated federal racketeering laws, as well as duped non-employee distributors into believing they could earn full-time profits while only working part-time. Distributors have the opportunity to make more money in the form of “bonuses” by recruiting others to join their team.
On the lawsuit’s claims that LuLaRoe’s setup “only profited a few and only made payments to consultants based on how much product those consultants and their recruits purchased on a regular basis,” Stidham said “What that is is an uneducated opinion. They haven’t looked at who we are because we sell product through to a consumer, and it’s a highly desirable product. This is not a pyramid scheme.”
Head over to CBS News to read more from LuLaRoe’s co-founders and on the proposed litigation.
Trump’s Signature Is Final Nail in the Coffin for Consumer-Friendly CFPB Class Action Rule
Despite Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s personal appeals, President Trump on November 1 signed the repeal of the CFPB’s pro-consumer rule that would’ve allowed individuals to band together to handle disputes with financial institutions through class action litigation. PBS writes no journalists were present at the signing.
Thus marks the end of story that, particularly in the wake of September’s Equifax data breach, provided consumers with a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, they would be able to sidestep the forced arbitration policies wielded by just about every credit card company, bank and credit monitoring firm. The Republican-led Senate just voted by an ultra-slim margin to strike the rule back in October.
Today, word came out that Cordray informed CFPB staff of his intention to step down from the post at the end of the month. No further information has come out on whether the speculation is true that he plans on running for governor in his home state of Ohio.
Wage and Hour Case Claims Facebook Misclassified Managers to Avoid Paying Overtime
A report from Ars Technica details a proposed class action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs allege Facebook misclassified salaried client solutions managers and countless other workers to avoid paying overtime wages. Pointing toward an alleged “systematic, companywide wrongful classification” system for workers with an array of managerial job titles, the plaintiffs argue their true work duties do not exempt them from time-and-a-half hourly pay for all hours worked past 40 during each workweek.
Ars Technica senior editor David Kravets has more over at the publication’s website.
NYT Report: League is Blocking Families’ Access to $1 Billion Concussion Lawsuit Settlement
The New York Times on Monday published a report saying the families of former NFL players have run into a “succession of roadblocks” in trying to access their shares of the roughly $1 billion concussion lawsuit settlement. According to the Times, many of the families’ valid claims have been rejected or otherwise wrapped up in a supposedly unreasonable claims process.
Merely 140 out of 1,400 total claims have been approved thus far, the Times says, a number that legal experts have pegged as unnervingly low. The claims that have been approved so far are reportedly worth $195 million, yet the NFL has written out checks for only $100 million from the total settlement amount set aside.
“The league has appealed eight awards that the administrator granted, and 12 players have appealed their awards, calling them too low. The administrator also randomly audits 10 percent of all claims,” Times reporter Ken Belson says.
Despite telling retired players they would receive quick payouts, the league has put in place so many trapdoors and safeguards, plaintiffs’ lawyers say, that many players have had to go above and beyond in collecting old paperwork, finding new doctors to confirm their long-established diagnoses, and spending hours writing up appeals.
Belson’s piece over at NYTimes.com is a must-read.
24 Hour Fitness Patrons Could See Refunds Following $1.3 million Settlement with DA’s Office
Consumers with memberships to 24 Hour Fitness may be able to share in a tentative $1.3 million settlement reached between the gym chain and the Orange County (CA) District Attorney’s Office, along with the Contra Costa DA, at the beginning of November. The settlement puts to rest allegations that 24 Hour Fitness misled gym goers regarding the fixed annual renewal rates of their memberships, the Orange County Register writes.
The lawsuit claimed 24 Hour Fitness did not make clear in customers’ contracts, nor to sales reps, that annual renewal rates could increase. Some customers saw their annual renewal rates balloon by more than 300 percent.
Orange County Register reporter Kelly Puente has more on the deal.