Articles Posted in Whistleblower law

    The Food and Drug Administration regulators may  enact a ban on electronic cigarettes, if manufacturers do not stop marketing the products to teens and take significant steps tostop the teen vaping epidemic in the United States.  At a public hearing on teen vaping , FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that a full ban on electronic nicotine delivery systems  may be necessary to protect the nations youth.  E-cigarette use spiked to 78% among high school students and 48% among middle school students over the last year, making it the most popular form of tobacco use among the nation’s teens.

    Recently the Surgeon General issued a warning the public about the long-term health risks and addiction teens face by taking up the habit. Studies have also shown recently that teen use of e-cigarettes quadruples their risk of smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes later in life. Teenagers also face other health risks related to toxic chemical exposure  and respiratory side effects.

    More than 1.5 million teens began vaping from 2017 to 2018; a statistic that is startling for many regulators. For several months the agency has warned that if e-cigarette companies don’t end advertising campaigns aimed at underage users, the agency could enact a full ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products.

     A British national Nick Stride, who rendered information to an American journalist in 2-14, exposing Igor Shuvalov’s story may soon be deported along with his family from Australia according to SBS news. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/australia-reportedly-set-to-deport-kremlin-whistleblower-and-family Stride was a glazing expert hired as a contractor by Shuvalov, to work on a palace near Moscow in 2006. He is married to Russian Ludmila Kovaleva. The person who hired him was Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and has been living in Perth with his family since 2012. Mr   Stride was the source behind 2014 expose in the Foreign Policy magazine on Mr Shuvalov’s unexplained wealth.
    In that article, published in Foreign Policy (    ) it is alleged that Shuvalov, then Vladimir Putin’s economic aid and now Russia’s first deputy prime minister, used offshore companies to buy close to $2 million in building materials from a Belgian contractor to build a greenhouse on the estate. It is alleged that Mr Shuvalov, who was Deputy Prime Minister at the time, had amassed a wealth of at least $220 million through questionable business practices.Mr. Stride and his family first fled to the United Kingdom in 2010 but feared they were still “within Russian reach” sought political asylum in Australia. Their asylum bid was rejected in 2012.
    Mr Stride and his children face deportation to the United Kingdom, while his wife Ludmila Kovaleva, who is a Russian national also faces being deported. Journalist Michael Weiss, who was the author of the 2014 article, tweeted earlier this week that his source, Mr Stride, was in “immediate danger” and had asked for help.Mr. Weiss said he only revealed his source at Mr Stride’s request because of the urgency of his situation.

    Regulators found that the company had used “defeat” devices to cover up its true emissions figures, even though FCA insisted it had done nothing illegal.

    “Fiat Chrysler tried to evade these standards by installing software to cheat emissions testing,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

    fish fraudFood fraud is the act of mislabeling an edible item in order to sell cheap alternatives for a higher price, and it costs the industry around $35 billion a year. Out of all food items for sale, the easiest victim of fraud is the seafood market. This is not only due to its increasing popularity stirred by the sushi craze, but also do to where Americans receive this massive amount of fish from. Nearly 90%, or 6 billion pounds per year, of the fish eaten annually by Americans is imported, which makes it extremely susceptible to overlooked mislabeling and fraud. This is all according to reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

    The most recent findings of this fishy food fraud come from the office of the New York Attorney General. Spending the last year conducting thorough research into the subject of fish in the nation, the New York AG’s office bought seafood at 29 supermarket brands across 155 different locations. The list of fish bought included snapper, grouper, cod, wild salmon, halibut, sole, striped bass, and white tuna, assuring that the most commonly bought fish where investigated. The results were less than satisfactory after DNA testing at the Ocean Genome Legacy Center, a laboratory at Northeastern University, found that many were mislabeled. The results including 27.6% of samples sold as wild salmon, 67% of red snapper, and 87.5% of lemon sole, being marked as fish fraud. This report also shows that two-thirds of the entire state’s supermarkets had at least one occurrence of fish mislabeling. That being said, fish fraud is nothing new.

    Many citizens who are concerned about the quality of their food, or the quality of their health, may recall back in 2013 when the nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana released their findings concerning the tuna sold in restaurants and grocery stores. Oceana took a nationwide sample and found that 59% of what was categorized as tuna, was, in fact, an unappealing escolar. Escolar is not only a less appetizing alternative to tuna, but it also can lead to some unpleasant health issues such as oily rear leakage. Sadly, this was only the second largest misrepresentation of seafood in the nation, behind the time 87% of snapper was misrepresented as any of six other species. Oceana also conducted one of the biggest seafood fraud investigations from 2010 to 2012 and found that based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, 33% of the samples analyzed were mislabeled. Basically, this is no fluke, but as unsettling as this all may sound, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    According to a recent study on electronic espionage vulnerabilities, the U.S. government is significantly at risk to Chinese espionage and cyber attacks as we are so dependent on electronics and software made in China This is an increasing risk as China seeks global technological dominance, according to a study for a congressionally chartered advisory commission.

    Much of the  U.S. Government’s annual $90 billion spent on information technology is devoted to Chinese products, which creates the opportunity for China to seed U.S. government offices with spyware and electronic backdoors that can be exploited for cyber attacks, said Jennifer Bisceglie, chief executive of Interos Solutions, which conducted a recently released study.https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/Interos_Supply%20Chain%20Vulnerabilities%20from%20China%20in%20U.S.%20Federal%20ICT_final.pdf

    “They are doing it,” Bisceglie said. “We’re not even making it difficult right now.”

    The Department of Justice collected more than $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division announced today.  Recoveries since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the civil False Claims Act, now total more than $59 billion.

    Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments recovered by the Department of Justice this past fiscal year, $2.5 billion involved the health care industry, including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.  This is the ninth consecutive year that the Department’s civil health care fraud settlements and judgments have exceeded $2 billion.  The recoveries included in the $2.5 billion reflect only federal losses but, in many of these cases, the Department was instrumental in recovering additional millions of dollars for state Medicaid programs.

    In addition to combatting health care fraud, the False Claims Act serves as the government’s primary civil remedy to redress false claims for federal funds and property involving a multitude of government operations and contracts.  These areas range from defense and national security to import tariffs and small business programs.

    China’s key export companies are pushing to build and expand their factories overseas, in Cambodia and Vietnam, according to Epoch Times and other media sources. One of them, KingClean Electric Co. is a company that creates cleaning appliances and garden tools and it says its overseas business accounted for 67 percent, according to its 2017 annual report. In October, KingClean Electric’s investment plan in constructing a Vietnamese production base was reviewed and approved during a shareholders’ meeting. In November, the project was approved by the Department of Commerce of Jiangsu Province. On Dec. 25, the securities department of KingClean Electric said, “We can’t control the tariff rate because the external environment has great uncertainty. Our company’s export business accounts for a relatively high proportion. So we can only try to find a solution, do our best, and make decisions based on our development.”

    Zhejiang Henglin Chair Industry Co. Ltd. from Anji County, Zhejiang Province, is China’s largest exporter of office chairs. According to media reports, the company will invest $48 million to set up a manufacturing base in Vietnam. Zhejiang Jasan Holding Co. Ltd., a knitwear company based in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang Province, made two announcements in December that it will invest $36.23 million and $29 million to establish two companies in Vietnam.

    The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) asserts strict control on foreign exchange, companies find it difficult to send funds overseas to start factories because of restrictions on how much can be transferred out of China. However, domestic enterprises can move funds abroad through foreign trade. Foreign-invested companies can legitimately transfer their profits overseas.

    Wells Fargo Bank N.A. (Wells Fargo) will pay over $6 million to Massachusetts to resolve allegations that it violated state consumer protection laws by using various unfair and deceptive practices against customers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

    This settlement, with Massachusetts and attorneys general from 50 states and the District of Columbia, will resolve allegations that Wells Fargo opened millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, improperly referred customers for enrollment in third-party rental and life insurance policies, improperly charged auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, failed to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and incorrectly charged customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. 

    The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees and implemented an incentive compensation program where employees could qualify for credit by selling certain products to customers. The states further alleged that Wells Fargo’s sales goals and the incentive compensation program created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices in order to satisfy such sales goals and earn financial rewards. Those sales goals became increasingly harder to achieve over time, the states alleged, and employees who failed to meet them faced potential termination and criticism from their supervisors.

    JP Morgan Chase will pay $135 million to settle claims that it improperly handled thousands of transactions involving foreign companies’ shares. JPMorgan improperly provided American depositary receipts for foreign shares that weren’t in the bank’s custody. This resulted in an improper inflation of the actual number of a foreign company’s tradable shares, the Securities and Exchange Commission said .

    In the past year, the SEC has had similar settlements  with  three other banks: BNY Mellon, which agreed to pay more than $54 million; Citigroup Inc., which agreed to pay more than $38 million; and Deutsche AG , which agreed to pay more than $75 million.

    The SEC is continuing this investigation into other banks.

    Plantronics Inc’s Polycom unit, will  pay $36 million in penalties  to settle claims of bribery charges relating to Chinese officials.

    The  maker of communications products said that the misconduct had occurred before Plantronics’ acquisition of Polycom in July, and before Polycom went private in 2016. Polycom’s Chinese subsidiary had used local distributors and resellers to make payments to Chinese government officials from 2006 to 2014, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company provided discounts to the third parties with the understanding that they would use the money saved to pay officials who had control over purchasing decisions, the SEC said. When managers recorded details about the deals, they provided false justifications for the discounts, the SEC said. Without admitting or denying the SEC allegations, the company agreed to a roughly $10.7 million disgorgement, and to pay a civil penalty of $3.8 million and $1.8 million interest. The company also agreed to disgorge another $20.3 million as part of a deal with the Justice Department, which, along with the SEC, enforces the U.S. anti-foreign-bribery law.

    In a letter posted to its website, the Justice Department said it decided against bringing criminal charges against Polycom because the company, among other things, had voluntarily disclosed its conduct and cooperated with authorities.