This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Federal Court in New York Dismisses Diet Pepsi Case

A federal judge dismissed a complaint accusing Pepsi-Cola Co. of misrepresenting that its “diet” drinks help consumers lose weight. In the proposed class action, plaintiffs claimed that Diet Pepsi is made with no-calorie sweeteners, which allegedly contributes to weight gain and increased risk of metabolic disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The judge rejected the plaintiffs’ studies, finding that the evidence indicated an association between the sweeteners and weight gain, but not causation. The judge also concluded that reasonable consumers understand that the “diet” label simply means low calorie. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

In a speech to the New York City Bar White Collar Crime Institute on May 9, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced a new Department of Justice (“DOJ”) policy intended to ensure coordination among DOJ departments and other enforcement agencies when pursuing penalties against corporations for violations arising out of the same conduct. The policy, incorporated into the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual at § 1-12.100, seeks to avoid imposition of duplicative penalties by “instructing Department components to appropriately coordinate with one another and with other enforcement agencies in imposing multiple penalties on a company in relation to investigations of the same misconduct.” Continue Reading DOJ Announces New Policy to Prevent Duplication of Corporate Penalties

On the heels of a recent $5 million civil penalty, the CPSC recently secured a $1.5 million civil penalty with help from the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The civil penalty concludes a long saga between the CPSC and a large arts and crafts retailer about vases with allegedly defective thin glass that rendered them prone to shattering. Continue Reading Recall Roundup: March

This past week, several consumer actions made headlines that affect the retail industry.

Hilton Reaches $700,000 Settlement with New York and Vermont Over Data Breaches

The Attorney Generals of New York and Vermont announced a $700,000 settlement with Hilton Domestic Operating Company, Inc., formerly Hilton Worldwide, Inc. (“Hilton”), over two data breaches in 2014 and 2015.

Hilton was notified in February 2015 that it had likely suffered a data breach in December of 2014. In July of 2015, Hilton was notified of a second data breach from the prior three months. Hilton did not provide notice of either data breach until November 24, 2015. New York law requires that businesses provide notice in the “most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.” Vermont requires that businesses provide notice of data breaches to the Vermont Attorney General within 14 days of discovery, and within 45 days of discovery to consumers.

Under the terms of the settlements, Hilton has agreed to pay New York $400,000 and Vermont $300,000 and to comply with certain behavior remedies related to their notification and security procedures. Continue Reading Consumer Protection in Retail: Weekly Roundup

On September 8, 2017, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and the New York City Pension Funds announced the second phase of their Boardroom Accountability Project, which will focus on board diversity and composition. Stringer sent a letter to the nominating and governance committee chairs of 151 portfolio companies held by the New York City Pension Funds, requesting board engagement regarding the director refreshment process and disclosure of a director qualification matrix that identifies directors’ relevant skills and experience and their gender and race/ethnicity. The list of companies included several major retailers and consisted of companies that have adopted proxy access in response to shareholder proposals from the NYC Pension Funds and those where the NYC Pension Funds’ proxy access proposals received majority support in 2017.  Continue Reading New York City Comptroller Launches Boardroom Accountability Project 2.0

On August 21, 2017, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Simon Property Group settled claims that it used anticompetitive tactics to prevent development of competing outlet centers close to Woodbury Common center in New York. Leases with retailers at Woodbury Common included a clause preventing the retailers from opening another location within a 60 mile radius of the outlet center—a radius that encompassed the entire New York City area.  Continue Reading Simon Property Settled with NY AG Over Outlet Centers Restrictions

Many retailers today face an increasing risk related to product recalls, which can result in extensive losses and a variety of liability claims. For example, a major supplier of meats was recently forced to recall more than seven million pounds of its product after customers found bone fragments and pieces of cartilage in their hot dogs and sausages. The large scope of this recall, and the associated challenges, is by no means unique to this company. Specialized insurance policies should provide protection to minimize most recall losses and exposure from liability claims. However, insurers often seek to rescind recall policies by asking courts to void the policies from their inception, meaning that the polices would not provide any coverage for any pending or future claims. A large number of these recall claims are being brought under New York law. Continue Reading Steps to Avoid Rescission of Recall Insurance Policies

A year ago, the United States Supreme Court held in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins that a plaintiff must do more than plead a mere statutory procedural violation to establish standing; to plead an injury in fact, a plaintiff also must allege a harm that is both “concrete” and “particularized.” Two recent decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit—one involving a rare written dissent from the denial of a petition for rehearing en banc—demonstrate the continuing difficulties courts are facing in determining what constitutes a concrete injury under Spokeo. They suggest that the Eleventh Circuit is most likely to find standing for violations of statutes that are intended to protect personal privacy or create a right to information, although judges do not always agree as to which statutes fall within these categories. Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Decisions Demonstrate Difficulties in Analyzing Standing Following Spokeo