🗞️ Texas takes Meta to court, The Trumps are called to answer tax questions, and the Sacklers cough up another $1.5 billion.
This week: Texas upholds its biometrics privacy law, Donald Trump and family are subpoenaed, and the Sacklers race for a settlement. Plus, Arent Fox enters the metaverse, and using data for a stronger hire.
Has Meta (aka Facebook) violated the biometric privacy of millions of Texans? The state's attorney general thinks so, filing a suit against the company in a state court this week. The Texas AG claims Meta has violated the state's Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act (or CUBI) when it scanned Facebook users' photos without their consent.
According to The Verge, Texas is one of three states (along with Illinois and Washington) that has enacted biometric privacy laws. Texas's suit seeks $25,000 per CUBI violation, plus an additional $10,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act—which, all told, could be hundreds of billions of dollars in fines against Meta.
Texas claims that Meta had been using the biometric data to enrich itself, and did so without consent.
The Illinois Suit
In 2015, Chicago attorney Jay Edelson filed a class action lawsuit against Meta (then called Facebook) on behalf of 1.6 million Illinoisans "alleging the social media giant’s use of facial tagging features without consent was not allowed under Illinois privacy law," reports the Chicago Tribune. The case was finally settled in a federal court in 2021 to the tune of $650 million. Meta said in a statement at the time that it was pleased to have settled so that it could "move past this matter."
While Meta has stopped automatically tagging users' photos on Facebook in November, the company as a whole has shifted its focus away from the product and has begun heavily investing in its "metaverse" strategy, which includes a virtual reality platform. Of course, Meta has made no promises to respect biometric privacy in the metaverse.
Former President Donald Trump and two of his children, Ivanka and Donald Jr., have been ordered to answer questions under oath, ruled a New York State judge last week. The subpoena is in connection to an ongoing tax fraud case brought against the former president looking into whether he inflated asset values to receive favorable loans, then deflated their value on tax filings.
Judge Arthur Engoron stated that NY AG Letitia James has uncovered "copious evidence of possible financial fraud" that has entitled her to question members of the Trump family. "She has the clear right to do so," Judge Engoron added, notes the NY Times.
However, Trump's lawyers have argued that the financial records were truthful and "attempts to pick them apart over what they characterized as minor mistakes or omissions were politically motivated," says the AP.
Bye Bye Mazars
This ruling comes about a week after the Trumps' longtime accounting firm, Mazars, sent a letter to the Trump Organization stating that the financial documents it prepared from 2011 to 2020 "should not be relied on" and severed ties with the company. The shocking announcement came a year after the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was indicted on tax fraud last summer by the Manhattan DA.
If history is any predictor here, Trump and Co. will appeal appeal appeal and this case may go on for a very long time. That being said, a mounting pile of evidence, plus associates who have all been indicted and/or convicted, may finally be changing the tides on the former president's litigation luck.
How about another $1.5 billion? That's the offer by the Sackler family to settle with state attorney generals over thousands of lawsuits in regards to the family's ties to Purdue Pharma and its role in the opioid crisis. The additional sum would bring the settlement up to nearly $6 billion, and the family hopes to bar all future cases should the state AGs accept.
According to NPR, this "protection was contained in the original bankruptcy settlement but prompted the objecting states to file an appeal" because they felt it did not do enough to hold the family (which made billions off the sale of opioids) accountable.
A Public Nuisance
The Sacklers and their company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, are not the only ones coming under fire for the opioid crisis. A series of lawsuits across the country have been brought against other Big Pharma companies like Teva and Johnson & Johnson, as well as retailers like CVS and Walgreens. The central argument in all these cases is that these firms acted as a public nuisance in their push to make and sell opioids to the general population.
With thousands of lawsuits still making their way through the court systems, and a potential settlement of billions of dollars, it’s clear that whatever the outcome here, it will be momentous. The question remains, however, if the current and future victims of the opioid crisis will ever get justice.
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Virtual Shopkeep: Arent Fox has purchased virtual property and opened a virtual office inside the metaverse, notes ABA Journal. The firm advised PwC on purchasing metaverse property before it made the digital leap itself.
Crunching Numbers: Think data-driven hiring is impersonal? Think again, says Law.com, arguing that the practice can actually strengthen relationships with potential hires.
🎧 Music We’re Working To
Today we’re listening to Morgan Nieman, a L.A based DJ and EDM producer. Better known as Ducky, she’s been playing at clubs since she was 13 and has been cosigned with Skrillex and NPR music. While most of her releases contain upbeat, vocal tracks, Profundidades shifts in the opposite direction. Described as funk, this album covers only 6 songs, all vocal-free and less than 2 minutes each.
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