Posts from May 2016.
Time 2 Minute Read

Seattle may be the next municipality to propose a predictable scheduling ordinance requiring employers to provide advanced notice of work schedules and compensation in the event schedules are changed. The Seattle City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee recently initiated regular meetings to discuss the issue of “Secure Scheduling,” and confirmed plans to continue discussions over the next several months to further develop the proposed ordinance. The Mayor’s office is also pursuing its own inquiry into this issue. 

Time 2 Minute Read

As we previously reported, the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo v. Robins has been nearly universally lauded by defense counsel as a new bulwark against class actions alleging technical violations of federal statutes. It may be that. But Spokeo also poses a significant threat to defendants by defeating their ability to remove exactly the types of cases that defendants most want in federal court. The decision circumscribes the federal jurisdiction, with all its advantages, that defendants have enjoyed under Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) for the past decade.

Time 4 Minute Read

This past week, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) of the BBB issued a number of opinions and recommendations.

NAD Recommends Clorox Packaging Change

The NAD has issued a recommendation that The Clorox Company modify its packaging and a package insert to ensure consumers understand that Clorox’s zinc pyrithione works to prevent odors on the drawstring of the company’s “Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring Bags.”

The issue was not whether the product worked as described, but whether the branding and description led consumers to believe that the product protected against food-borne or disease-causing bacteria or germs.

NAD’s conclusion was that “the combined design elements, in the context in which they are found on the product packaging, reasonably conveyed a confusing, if not inaccurate, message as to the specific antimicrobial protection offered...[and] that consumers could reasonably understand ‘antimicrobial protection’ to mean protection from bacteria and germs rather than odor produced by bacteria and germs on the drawstring.”

Time 2 Minute Read

A world of driverless, or autonomous, cars is much closer than we may think, and it will leave an indelible mark on retail real estate development, according to a GlobeStreet interview with Angelo Carusi, a principal at architecture and design firm Cooper Carry. According to numerous automobile industry experts, driverless cars will be in use and on the roads within the next 10 years.

Time 7 Minute Read

This past week, the following regulatory and consumer actions made headlines:

Cheez-It Whole Grain Crackers ‘Not Ready,’ lawsuit claims

The Kellogg Company is being sued over its “whole grain” Cheez-It crackers. According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the claim that these crackers are whole grain is “false and misleading, because the primary ingredient in Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers is enriched white flour.”

While the Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers do contain some whole wheat flour, plaintiffs argue it is almost negligible. A comparison of the Cheez-It Original crackers and the Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers shows identical nutritional values in every category, except fiber. The Original crackers contain “less than 1g,” while the Whole Grain crackers contain 1 gram.

Plaintiffs argue the Cheez-It claims are thus misleading, and have caused consumers to purchase or pay a premium for a product, that they otherwise would not have paid. The Kellogg Company has denied any misconduct, including any alleged impropriety in its labeling.

Time 4 Minute Read

As we previously reported, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia had granted the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the proposed Staples-Office Depot merger. Earlier this week, Judge Sullivan released a public version of the opinion supporting his decision.

Time 6 Minute Read

On May 16, 2016, the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, Case No. 13-1339, a case that businesses and the plaintiffs’ bar have been following closely, due largely to its potential effect on class actions predicated on alleged statutory violations and seeking solely statutory damages. In an opinion authored by Justice Alito, the Court held that a plaintiff must do more than plead a 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.” However, the Court did not apply its holding to the facts, instead remanding for further analysis by the Ninth Circuit. While both plaintiffs’ attorneys and defense attorneys are claiming a “victory,” Spokeo provides some ammunition for businesses that find themselves facing so-called “no-injury” class action lawsuits predicated on consumer protection statutes. 

Time 5 Minute Read

This week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:

Mortgage Scammer Under Water After FTC Settlement

On May 9, 2016, the FTC announced that it is returning $1.87 million to 1,630 consumers who lost money in the Expense Management America telemarketing scheme that never provided debt or mortgage relief services after absconding with homeowners’ up-front fees. The repayment to consumers is a capstone on a three and a half year joint effort with the DOJ, FBI and HUD to crack down on mortgage scammers taking advantage of distressed homeowners. Related efforts, underway since 2008, resulted in a new FTC rule providing increased protection to homeowners by prohibiting any collection of fees until the homeowner has an acceptable written offer from their lender. In prosecuting Expense Management America, the FTC worked closely with various enforcement agencies in Canada to track down and prosecute the scammers.

Time 4 Minute Read

Earlier this month, teen clothing retailer Aéropostale filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, seeking to immediately close 154 of its over 800 stores located throughout the United States and Canada. Many of these stores are located in smaller shopping malls, which have been hit the hardest by the shift to online shopping.

The continued march of retail bankruptcies since 2015 includes Sports Authority, Vestis Retail Group, Inc. (the operator of Sports Chalet, Eastern Mountain Sports, and Bob’s Stores), Radio Shack, American Apparel, Quicksilver, Wet Seal, Delia’s and PacSun.

Time 2 Minute Read

The due date for the next Form SD filing for those public companies required to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) on the inclusion of conflict minerals in their products is May 31, 2016.


In response to a challenge of the SEC conflict minerals rule by a coalition of trade associations, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion in April 2014. That opinion upheld parts of the rule, but also effectively struck down on First Amendment grounds the portion of the rule that required companies to describe their products as “DRC Conflict Free,” “DRC conflict undeterminable” or “not found to be ‘DRC Conflict Free,’ ” as the case may be. On rehearing in August 2015, the D.C. Circuit reaffirmed its April 2014 decision. The D.C. Circuit then denied an SEC and NGO’s petition for rehearing en banc the following November. Finally, in March 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch notified Congress that the federal government would not petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. The deadline to file the petition passed in April. Thus, the appellate process has been exhausted.

Time 2 Minute Read

On May 11, 2016, Hunton & Williams LLP and client Axalta Coating Systems, LLC, a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, were named 2016 ACC Value Champions by the Association of Corporate Counsel (“ACC”). The two were recognized for their efforts in driving significant legal process improvement and savings, which resulted in exemplary change management and a comprehensive approach to value.

Time 2 Minute Read

On May 10, 2016, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court of the District of Columbia held that the Federal Trade Commission had “met their burden” to show a reasonable probability that Staples’ acquisition of its rival, Office Depot, would likely cause competitive harm and that a preliminary injunction to halt the deal was in the public’s interest. Shortly after the court issued the preliminary injunction blocking the proposed merger, Staples announced that it was abandoning the transaction. 

Time 3 Minute Read

As reported on the Hunton Insurance Recovery blog, the New York Court of Appeals held that each of several excess liability insurers can be wholly responsible for the entire extent of their policyholders’ asbestos liabilities. The Court further held that “vertical” exhaustion would apply; rejecting the insurers’ attempt to apply “horizontal” exhaustion before upper-layer policies must respond.

Time 2 Minute Read

The 2016 proxy season is in full swing, and similarly to 2015, the number of shareholder proposals has increased. According to a report by The Manhattan Institute's Proxy Monitor, for Fortune 250 companies with annual meetings scheduled on or before April 30, there was a 7.5 percent increase in shareholder proposals compared to last year. Many of these proposals involve environmental, political and social issues, among others.

Time 4 Minute Read

This week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:

Federal Trade Commission:

FTC Obtains Multimillion Dollar Judgment Against Repeat Offender

At the FTC’s request, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a $13.4 million judgment against BlueHippo’s CEO, Joseph Rensin, as well as finding Rensin, BlueHippo Funding LLC and BlueHippo Capital LLC, in contempt for violating a 2008 federal court order concerning BlueHippo’s operation of a deceptive computer financing scheme. The FTC charged BlueHippo with contempt in 2009, alleging that the company contracted with thousands of consumers to finance new computers, but failed to provide those computers, in addition to having a deceptive refund policy. In July 2010, the Court issued an order partially granting the FTC’s motion for contempt. The FTC appealed the compensatory sanctions portion of that order, and in August 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the damages portion of the order and remanded the case for a reconsideration of damages. The contempt judgment will go towards consumer redress.

Time 2 Minute Read

On May 2, 2016, the Supreme Court declined to review the D.C. Circuit’s January 2015 ruling upholding a 2013 FTC decision finding that POM Wonderful, LLC (“POM”) misled consumers in advertising that its 100% Pomegranate Juice and POMx supplements could prevent, treat or reduce the risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and erectile dysfunction.

Time 1 Minute Read

Recently, HoneyBaked Foods, Inc., Wornick Foods and Foster Farms have been in the news because of different kinds of contamination claims. Syed Ahmad and Matthew McLellan, attorneys on Hunton & Williams LLP’s Insurance Coverage Counseling and Litigation team, authored an article entitled A Primer On Insurance Coverage for Food Contamination Losses, which provides an overview of insurance protection for food contamination issues that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers may encounter. The article describes the insurance coverage available under traditional ...

Time 5 Minute Read

This post has been updated. 

In the midst of the press and politics currently surrounding the issue of bathroom policies and laws with respect to transgender employees, it is helpful to remember that government organizations have been issuing guidance to employers to assist them in dealing with these issues, especially in places where gender identity and expression constitute protected characteristics under anti-discrimination laws.

Time 5 Minute Read

This week, the following consumer protection actions made headlines:

Self-Regulatory Decisions:

Steuart’s Pain Formula Referred to the FTC

The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) referred Steuart Laboratories, Inc., the producer of Steuart’s Pain Formula, to the FTC for the second time after it failed to provide the NAD with substantiation for challenged claims. Steuart was initially referred to the NAD by Steuart’s competitor, EuroPharma, Inc., who challenged several efficacy and testimonial claims.

Time 2 Minute Read

On April 27, 2016, a federal district court judge in the Western District of Washington ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) had proven that had engaged in unfair business practices in billing Amazon account holders for in-app charges without express, informed consent to such charges. At the same time, the judge denied the FTC’s request for a permanent injunction against Amazon, finding no cognizable danger of a recurring violation. The judge ordered additional briefing on calculating monetary relief.


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