Week Adjourned: 2.10.17 – Yahoo, Raisinets, Deja Vu Dancers

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Yoohoo! Another Data Breach Lawsuit for Yahoo….Cast your mind back to 2015—end of the year—and an announcement by Yahoo concerning two major—and I do mean major—data breaches. Well, the Internet giant just got hit with a class action lawsuit brought by a small business owner in Texas who alleges his identity and information for his websites and online advertising, which he runs through Yahoo, were compromised during the two large data breaches the Internet giant disclosed in 2015. You knew more were coming…

Specifically, Brian Neff claims that Yahoo and its subsidiary, Aabaco Small Business LLC, breached its contract and negligently allowed hackers to access data on a billion Yahoo users during the two breaches.

Filed in California federal court, the lawsuit claims Yahoo failed to protect the “treasure trove” of personal information he provided to the company in order to set up and pay for an account in 2009. The theft of that data has resulted in a number of fraudulent charges on his bank accounts, as well as an unauthorized card being opened in his name.

In September 2015, Yahoo announced that in late 2014, information from 500 million accounts was stolen. While that Yahoo data breach was considered to be the largest in history, in December Yahoo then revealed that in 2013, hackers had stolen account data for one billion of its users in 2013.

Neff alleges that while Yahoo claims that the data taken was just email addresses and passwords, not bank account information, at this early stage it is unknown whether Yahoo’s descriptions of the breadth of the breaches are accurate.

“Given that more than three years elapsed before Yahoo disclosed the 2013 data breach and more than two years passed before Yahoo disclosed the 2014 data breach, Mr. Neff is rightfully skeptical of Yahoo’s self-serving statements,” the complaint states.

Neff states that in addition to paying Yahoo thousands of dollars “for services that subjected him to a security breach,” he was also the victim of actual identity theft as a result of either or both of the hacks. According to the complaint, Neff has incurred fraudulent charges on his Capital One credit card and his Chase debit card, both of which were on file with Yahoo to pay for the website services. Yahoo was the only company to which Neff had given that information to, the complaint alleges.

Further, the Yahoo lawsuit states that concurrent with the fraudulent charges, an unauthorized credit card account was opened at Credit One Bank in his name, and additional charges were made to that account.

The complaint includes claims for breach of contract, breach of implied contract, negligence, fraudulent and negligent inducement, and violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law.

Head’s up, Neff is seeking to represent a national class of Yahoo and Aabaco small business customers whose personal identifying information was disclosed in the 2013 or 2014 data breaches.

The case is Brian Neff v. Yahoo Inc. et al., case number 5:17-cv-00641, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

And what about those Raisinets? No—not talking about exotic dancers or cheerleaders, but the little chocolate covered goodies contained in arguably short supply but a rather large box. Read on.

Nestle is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed by a customer who alleges the company under-fills its boxes of Raisinets, deliberately deceiving customers as to the quantity of product they are actually buying.

Filed by Plaintiff Sandy Hafer, the Raisinets lawsuit asserts that the opaque packaging of Nestle USA Inc.’s Raisinets candies leads customers to believe they are buying a full box of the chocolate-coated raisins. According to the lawsuit, however, the boxes are only 60 percent full. Hafer claims that this underfilling is intentional and enables Nestle “to reduce its food product costs to the detriment of unwitting customers, who are not receiving the full benefit of their bargain.”

“Unbeknownst to consumers, who cannot see the contents inside the products’ packaging at the time of purchase, approximately 40 percent each [Raisinets’] packaging is non-functional slack-fill, empty space which serves no functional purpose under the law,” the complaint states.

Hafer claims that had she known that the Raisinets box she purchased was underfilled, she would not have bought it. This deception, she asserts, is a violation of California’s false advertising and unfair competition laws.

Hafer, a California resident, is bringing the putative action on behalf of herself and other Raisinets consumers who have similarly found their candy boxes underfilled. Hafer wants the court to restore the money she and consumers allegedly lost as a result of such deceptive practices.

The case is Sandy Hafer v Nestle USA Inc., case number 2:17-cv-00034, in United States District Court for the Central District of California. 

Top Settlements

Deja Vu Dancer Settlement in the Works… These dancers may be dancing for joy soon, or relief perhaps. A $6.M million preliminary settlement has been reached in an employment class action lawsuit filed by dancers at the gentleman’s club chain Deja Vu Consulting Inc. In the more than one dozen complaints, the dancers alleged they were misclassified as independent contractors. The settlement covers between 45,000 and 50,000 dancers at 64 clubs nationwide.

According to the terms of the settlement, the funds will be divided into two pools. The first pool, consisting of $2 million, includes $30,000 in rewards for two proposed class representatives, up to $50,000 in settlement notice and administration costs, and about $935,000 for dancers who opt for cash payments.

The second pool, consisting of $4.5 million, will be divided into credits toward dancers’ rent for stage time or other fees dancers pay the club for the right to perform, depending on the structure of an individual club’s operation. The credit amounts will range from $200 for workers who performed at a club for at least one month to a maximum of $2,000 for dancers who performed for 18 months or longer.

Further, in the hopes of resolving misclassification claims going forward, the settlement also includes injunctive relief in the form of a new process for evaluating employment status. This process involves an evaluation period, after which dancers at the clubs covered in the settlement, will meet with management and answer an economic realities test-based questionnaire designed to determine whether or not a dancer is better classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Those classified as employees will be paid a minimum wage and take home their tips, less the legal costs of their employment and other fees. By contrast, independent contractors will have more freedom to set their hours and pick their costumes.

If the Deja Vu settlement receives final approval, it will cover all former and current dancers who worked at 64 Deja Vu-affiliated clubs across the country, over three class periods that vary depending on the clubs’ geographic location and whether the class members are involved in other lawsuits against Deja Vu.

A fairness hearing is scheduled for June 6, 2017. The case is Jane Doe et al v. Deja Vu et al., case number 2:16-cv-10877, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ok – That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 12.16.16 – Yahoo, DeVry, Gold Trading

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Yoohoo! Yahoo Breach…Again! Just in case you missed this—Yahoo got hit with a data breach class action lawsuit filed by a user who claims the internet company was negligent in protecting its customers data. Earlier this week, Yahoo revealed it had been the target of a data breach which affected 1 billion users. Yup—that’s ONE BILLION users.

Filed by New York resident Amy Vail, the suit alleges negligence, breach of express and implied contract, and violation of California’s unfair competition law.

In a statement issued Wednesday, December 14, 2016, Yahoo stated it believes that in 2013 hackers stole personal information related to 1 billion of its users by hacking their email accounts. This incident is separate from a similar one which Yahoo made public in September. However, the lawsuit contends that Yahoo has said some of the activity from both data breaches may be connected to a single state-sponsored actor.

According to the lawsuit, Yahoo does not know who took the information, and has been unable to identify the intrusion in which it was taken.

“As a result of defendant’s failure to maintain adequate security measures and timely security breach notifications, Yahoo users’ personal and private information has been repeatedly compromised and remains vulnerable. Further, Yahoo users have suffered an ascertainable loss in that they have had to undertake additional security measures, at their own expense, to minimize the risk of future data breaches,” the lawsuit states.

Yahoo revealed earlier this year that “state-sponsored actors” had hacked similar types of data from 500 million of its users in late 2014.

In a recent press release, Yahoo also noted that an investigation into the 2014 breach revealed the hackers’ ability, in some cases, to fake online “cookies”, enabling them to access users’ accounts without a password.

Vail is represented by Lee Cirsch, Robert Friedl, and Trisha Monesi of Capstone Law APC. The suit is Vail v. Yahoo, case number 3:16-cv-07154, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Top Settlements

Teaching by Example? (Or Not…) A $100 million settlement has been reached between DeVry University and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations of for-profit education fraud, specifically, that the for-profit university used false statistics about its graduates’ job placement rates in order to lure students and increase enrollment.

According to the terms of the DeVry Settlement, DeVry will pay $49.4 million, which will be distributed by the FTC, and forgive $30.4 million in student loans and $20.2 million owed by former students. DeVry also said it had agreed to change its practices to “maintain specific substantiation” about graduates’ outcomes.

The FTC filed the lawsuit against DeVry in January, claiming the for-profit school deliberately misled customers through advertising claims it made in print, radio, online and TV that 90 percent of its graduates landed jobs within six months of initiating a job search.

Additionally, the suit claimed DeVry misled students when it claimed that its bachelor’s degree graduates had 15 percent higher incomes a year after their studies ended than graduates of all other colleges and universities, the FTC stated.

The terms of the settlement now “prohibits DeVry from including jobs students obtained more than six months before graduating whenever DeVry advertises its graduates’ successes in finding jobs near graduation.”

Further, the settlement stipulates that DeVry must notify students who are receiving debt relief, as well as credit bureaus and collections agencies. DeVry has also agreed to release transcripts and diplomas that they had been withholding from students who had outstanding debt.

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. DeVry Education Group Inc. et al., case number 2:16-cv-00579, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

All is Not Gold…? And the final biggie to report this week: a $60 million settlement has been granted preliminary approval, potentially ending an antitrust class action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank AG which claims the bank engaged in illegal price-fixing of the gold market.

The lawsuit was brought by investors and traders in March 2014, alleging UBS Deutsche, HSBC, Societe Generale SA, The Bank of Nova Scotia and Barclays conspired to manipulate the London gold fix, which is used as a benchmark to determine the price of gold and gold derivatives.

Under the terms of the preliminary agreement,  the class would include anyone who sold physical gold or derivatives based on gold or bought gold put options on COMEX or other exchanges from January 1, 2004, through June 30, 2013.

The MDL is In Re: Commodity Exchange Inc., Gold Futures and Options Trading Litigation, case number 1:14-md-02548, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Cha Ching! That’s a wrap folks! See you at the Bar!!

Week Adjourned: 10.4.13 – Yahoo, LG Washers, Citizens Financial Group, Vytorin

The latest class action lawsuit news for the week ending October 4, 2013. Top class actions include Yahoo, LG Washers, Citizens Financial and Merck’s Vytorin

Yahoo LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Oh Yoo-Hoo Yahoo! This One’s for You! Yahoo following in Google’s footsteps? Umm, maybe…Yahoo got hit with a proposed Internet Privacy class action lawsuit this week, in case you missed it.

The Yahoo privacy lawsuit alleges Yahoo illegally reads, copies and analyzes emails in direct violation of California’s Invasion of Privacy Act and the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Specifically, John Kevranian and Tammy Zapata, named plaintiffs in the action, allege Yahoo accesses Yahoo Mail users’ emails in order to make money on targeted advertising, profiling, data collection and other services.

According to the lawsuit, entitled Kevranian et al. v. Yahoo Inc., case number 5:13-cv-04547, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Yahoo put in place a new email system which became the default interface for all Yahoo users in May 2011. At the time, Yahoo said the system could “look for keywords and links to further protect you from spam, surface photos and in time, serve users with Internet-based advertising,” the lawsuit states. After a short grace period, all Yahoo email users were switched to the new version. Any of this sounding familiar?

Short version: The lawsuit states that Yahoo told its email account holders that the new email search capability looks for patterns, keywords and files in users’ communications, and that the automated system would scan and analyze all incoming and outgoing email, instant messages and other communications content sent and received from a user’s account in order to personalize his or her experience. “In employing the above described device, plaintiffs and the class allege that Yahoo intentionally intercepts and reviews the content of their electronic communications for financial gain.”

Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs allege “Yahoo’s acquisition and use of content from plaintiffs’ and class members’ email sent to Yahoo Mail users, and those emails sent from Yahoo Mail users to plaintiffs and class members, is not necessary to the transmission of email or to the operation the electronic communication service known as Yahoo Mail,” the lawsuit states.

Might be time to start writing more interesting emails…

LG Spinning Washer Efficiency Claims? And now—from “dirty laundry” to clean—or not…LG Electronics USA Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp got hit with a defective products class action lawsuit this week, alleging the companies manufactured and sold defective washing machines.

The LG defective washer class action lawsuit, entitled Laury Smith v. LG Electronics USA Inc., et al., Case No. 4:13-cv-04361, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleges the defendants misrepresented LG’s top-loading washing machines as being “high efficiency” , claiming the machines featured “extra high” spin speeds of 1,050 to 1,100 revolutions per minute. The lawsuit contends, however, that the machines tended to fall apart at high speeds. That’s useful!

The defective washing machines named in the class action are LG models WT5001CW, WT5101HV and WT5101HW; and Kenmore Elite brand models 29002, 29272 and 29278.

And the laundry list of charges (ok—that’s bad) are… unjust enrichment, breach of warranty, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and California’s False Advertising Law. Got all that?

Top Settlements

Who Knew? Even Bankers get Screwed on Unpaid Overtime…This week, an $11.5 million settlement was proposed in an unpaid overtime class action lawsuit pending against RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc. The lawsuit is brought by employees against the financial institution and two of its subsidiaries alleging they failed to adequately compensate employees for overtime pay.

All six of the complaints, which have been consolidated into one lawsuit, entitled Cuevas v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc. et al., 1:13-cv-03871, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges RBS violated federal and state laws throughout New England and the Northeast and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

One of the lawsuits, filed by Kevin Martin in Pennsylvania in 2010 on behalf of all nonexempt employees working at Citizens Bank retail branches and its two subsidiaries, RBS Citizens NA and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, alleged Martin worked in excess of 40 hours per week but RBS prevented him from recording the additional work hours. Martin also alleged he was required to work through his breaks without pay, and that the institution erased or changed his recorded time to reduce his reported overtime hours.

The class or collective members involved in the litigation include some 5,827 employees such as assistant branch managers or hourly employees. Under the proposed settlement terms, the payout will cover class members’ payments, attorneys’ fees, litigation costs and enhancement awards, with assistant branch managers averaging an award of $2,000 and hourly employees averaging an award of $850.

Additionally, the 10 plaintiffs named in the action and who initiated the six lawsuits, will each receive $7,500. A further 36 people who testified at or provided a deposition for one of the case’s three-week jury trial will receive $1,500. Well done!

Big News for Vytorin. This one’s definitely a biggie…: A $688 million Vytorin settlement has been approved by a federal judge effectively ending claims that Merck & Co. Inc. and its subsidiary Schering-Plough Corp. concealed test results on the efficacy of their anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.

Back in 2008, New York Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo began investigating whether Vytorin’s marketing campaign violated the state’s laws regarding false advertising. Specifically, officials were concerned that, despite results from a study that found Vytorin was no more effective than generic drugs.

This whopper of a settlement was initially proposed in February—interestingly—just prior to the class action’s trial date. Neither Merck nor Schering-Plough admits any wrongdoing—why would they?

The settlement will end claims against the companies for the vast majority of the class, except for 187 plaintiffs who opted out, according to court papers.

Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Have a good one—see you at the bar !