Hagens Berman Blog

Whistleblower News: Wage Theft, SEC Charges Merrill Lynch

by HB Whistleblower Legal Team

06/12/2018

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Brookdale Senior Living must face $35m whistleblower lawsuit - 6th Circuit

A federal appeals court on Monday revived a whistleblower lawsuit accusing Brookdale Senior Living Inc of submitting claims to Medicare for home health services even though doctors failed to timely certify that patients were eligible to receive them. read more »

U.S. SEC charges Bank of America subsidiary $15 million for RMBS trader lapses

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday said Bank of America subsidiary Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. will pay $15 million to settle charges that staff misled clients into overpaying for Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS).

Merrill Lynch agreed to repay more than $10.5 million to its customers and to pay penalties of approximately $5.2 million. The SEC found that Merrill Lynch traders and salespersons convinced the bank’s customers to overpay for RMBS by deceiving them about the price Merrill Lynch paid to acquire the securities. read more »

Runaway Billionaire: Meet The CEO Whose Company Descended Into Fraud, Embezzlement and Betrayal

Red carpets are rare in St. Paul, Minnesota. But last summer, Ben Affleck, Caitlyn Jenner, the first lady of Zambia and 1,500 other do-gooders filed into the Saint Paul RiverCentre to raise money for people in countries like Malaysia, Ghana and El Salvador to get hearing aids. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler performed “Dream On,” but the gala’s ringleader, no doubt, was the billionaire Bill Austin. From under a cloud of white hair, Austin stood onstage, grinning, and thanked his fourth wife, Tani: “You have lifted me higher. You have allowed me to be part of a greater gift, to touch more lives than I ever could alone.”

Over the past 50 years, Austin has built an estimated $1.6 billion fortune with Starkey Hearing Technologies, expanding a small shop into the largest hearing-aid manufacturer in the U.S., with estimated revenues of some $850 million. He succeeded by working nearly nonstop to create—and sell—innovative products like his customized in-the-ear hearing aids. Some of the planet’s most visible people—including five presidents, two popes and Mother Teresa—were Starkey customers.

But Austin’s new ambitions are even loftier: to help the world’s poor hear. Over the past dozen years, he has traveled roughly 25 days a month with his nonprofit, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, handing out hearing aids to the penniless, a quest he says is directed by God. It’s a worthy goal: Around 466 million people worldwide—and a third of adults over 65—suffer from disabling hearing loss. It’s also a way for the 76-year-old Starkey CEO to transform himself from a pedestrian midwestern medical-device maker into a cosmopolitan, world-improving type of billionaire. read more »

Cheesecake Factory held jointly liable with contractor for $4.2 million in janitorial wage theft case

In a case that could prove to be a model for holding businesses responsible for abuses by their contractors, the Cheesecake Factory Restaurants Inc. chain has been found jointly liable with a janitorial services firm for wage theft violations totaling $4.2 million, the California Department of Industrial Relations said Monday.

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su said the wage theft citation was the largest she knows of in the janitorial industry. “We do feel that this is a significant step in sending a message about abuse of contractors and subcontracted workers,” Su said in an interview.

Cheesecake Factory said in a statement that it takes “matters of this nature very seriously” and it is continuing to “review the allegations and will respond to the wage citation within the time provided.”

Cheesecake Factory had a contract with Americlean Janitorial Services Corp., which provided workers to the restaurant from subcontractor Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning.

An 18-month investigation by Su’s office found that janitors at eight Southern California Cheesecake Factory restaurants — in Brea, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, Escondido and San Diego — worked without proper rest or meal breaks. Each worker also logged up to 10 hours of unpaid overtime each week because the workers were not allowed to leave after their eight-hour shift until a Cheesecake Factory kitchen manager reviewed their work, which would “frequently lead to additional tasks” the workers had to complete, according to a statement issued by state officials.  read more »