Week Adjourned: 2.5.10

Sticking Gas Pedal Makes Stop Optional?Top Class Actions

Toyota: “Moving Forward” Alright. This week is really the week of the Toyota class action. I have to be honest—I’ve lost count as to the number of lawsuits that have been filed, but I did see a report today that put the number at 29, and counting. That may just be some kind of world record. 

At the heart of the issue is the now infamous sticking gas pedals. (It puts a whole new spin on the expression ‘give it some gas’—and certainly creates a little irony for Toyota’s tagline: moving forward.) 

Of course, it’s not really funny, given that hundreds if not thousands or possibly millions of people will be at the very least inconvenienced by the recalls, now totalling some eight million cars—but it will also affect people’s livelihoods, and at worst there are reports of injuries. 

In the highly unlikely event you’ve not heard about this issue, you can find more out all the recalls here.  

Overdoing the Overdraft thingAgain. Yet another overdraft fees lawsuit was filed this week, this time the accused party is Fifth Third Bank. The lead plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that they were illegally charged overdraft fees for purchases made on the ATM and debit cards, even when they had enough funds in their accounts to pay for purchases. Crazy. 

And—you guessed it—bank customers were not allowed to ‘opt out’ of the overdraft protection program, which is misnamed in my opinion.  Really that should read ‘overdraft protection scam’. 

Top Settlements

BP Stands for Big Payout? It was a bit of a windfall payday this week for 10 British Petroleum employees. These guys were among dozens of employees, reportedly, that suffered sore throats and dizziness from exposure to toxic chemicals at a BP Facility in Texas during March and April 2009. 

The jury who heard the lawsuit awarded each of the 10 workers $10 million in punitive damages, and between $5,000 and $244,000 per person for medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering. The total settlement was $100 million. 

Of course BP denied any wrongdoing—that’s a no brainer. But the jury wasn’t buying. Could that have been due to the fact that this particular refinery has a poor safety record predating this particular incident? Lawyers representing the workers cited a 2005 explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170, and they contended BP had failed to take adequate steps to remedy the problems. You know, it probably would have cost less all around—to the workers and BP—if the company had addressed the safety issues in the first place.

Not-So-Cheap Labor? About 200 Spanish-speaking immigrants who were screwed out of their earned overtime wages were vindicated this week when they won their class action against Rockville-based Hann & Hann Construction Services.  

The settlement is for $600,000, and according to reports the company will pay “overtime plus 50 percent to every hourly employee who worked for the company from May 8, 2006, to May 8, 2008, who was not paid for overtime.” 

You know, there’s a potential cycle of events here. You could argue that the banks recognized a business opportunity with overdraft protection plans (so called), because seemingly thousands of people are not being paid fairly or being legally compensated for their overtime, and so they find themselves going into overdraft just to pay their bills…just a thought. But that doesn’t excuse the gouge.

That’s it for this week – see you at the Bar!

One thought on “Week Adjourned: 2.5.10”

  1. It's true, 5th 3rd Bank does rip off their customers with overdraft fees. I am a past employee of the bank. All debits are posted before deposits, and the items are rearranged in order to create more overdraft fees. This is about 70% of the fee income for this bank. This bank has a lot of hidden fees, with no opt outs. They employ younger workers, who are more concerned about making sales, rather than actually giving the customer what they really need. They pushed credit cards so badly, that employees were actually telling customers that they needed overdraft protection, only to find out it came in the form of a credit card. Which was never explained in the beginning and the customer did not sign the actual application. The branch I worked in, I replaced a younger worker, who was actually one of the top sellers of credit cards, only to find out that she had not made these sales with ethical standards. I actually cancelled several credit cards for clients(especially older clients who had no idea a credit card had been issued for their overdraft). Until they started receiving a bill from 5th 3rd. and the list goes on with this bank…….I have never seen a bank like this before, with no ethics whatsoever, supposedly they pride themselves on being an ethical workplace. Not so when your regional President curses and threatens the employees with their jobs unless t hey meet their sales goals, which are totally ridiculous in the economy in which we are in. I worked in North Carolina. They were really ticked-off at the production in North Carolina, this was to be the best Region of all, because of the transient city of Charlotte. However, when the downturn in the economy hit, NorthCarolina became one of the states with the highest rate of unemployment, two counties in this region, Cleveland county and Rutherfordton Counties were the most depressed counties in North Carolina. They did not care, you had to meet your goals any way you could. Try 32 new checking accounts in a months time for Cleveland or Rutherfordton, all that was happening was that money was being moved around from account to account, no new monies were hitting the branches, this was not good. This is the reason this bank depends on overdraft fees.

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