🗞 Alex Jones Pays for His Billion-Dollar Lie, Apple's New Strategy, & Wall Street's Texting Faux Pas
This Week: Alex Jones gets his comeuppance for years of profiting off tragedy, Apple continues to put pressure on unionization attempts, and the dos and donts of Wall Street texting. Plus, a Kentucky judge finds himself in a new mess, and how to label Tofurkey.
It's been 10 years since the horrors of Sandy Hook. Now, 8 victims' families have won a long and hard-fought legal battle that will award them some $1 billion, and leave conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones in financial ruin. Last week, a jury in Connecticut (where the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings took place) awarded 15 plaintiffs the enormous sum for damages sustained by Mr. Jones who, within hours of the mass shooting, called the massacre a hoax. He continued to make this claim for years on his popular radio show, Infowars, which enjoyed large profits.
As The New York Times reports, a forensic economist estimated in August that Jones's media empire may be worth a combined total of $270 million, far short of the billion-dollar award. Furthermore, Jones has "claimed that a debt of $54 million — owed to a company he controls — had made him insolvent."
Meanwhile The Times notes that, also in August, Jones filed for bankruptcy in federal court. However, the victims' families have since then said that the talk radio host has "systematically transferred millions of dollars" to himself and his family to hide his assets.
"Every day in that courtroom, we got up on the stand and we told the truth," said Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie was killed in the school shooting, and who won the largest award in the case. "Telling the truth shouldn’t be so hard, and it shouldn’t be so scary."
But the right-wing media star was defiant after the verdict, saying, "they covered up what really happened, and now I’m the devil … I’m actually proud to be under this level of attack."
The Texas Cases
The Connecticut case is not the first aimed at silencing the Infowars host for his "gold rush of fear and misinformation," says the Texas Tribune. Over the summer, a jury in the Lone Star state awarded the parents of a Sandy Hook victim $45.2 million — a sum Jones's lawyers said they would appeal. "You’ve already sent a message," one lawyer said, arguing that the multi-million dollar sum should be reduced to $270,000. Yet, an economic expert told the jury that Jones personally made $18 million a year between 2015-2018 hawking his conspiracy theories and pushing his products, and made $61.9 million in 2021 alone.
While this verdict against Jones is a long time coming, the size of the award may still be in question given the possibility of appeals. It is hefty but, for a media mogul who’s racked up hundreds of millions over the years, maybe it's not such a farfetched sum.
✅ It’s Time to RSVP
We’re nearing go-time for our next panel discussion — Commercial Contracting: Doing More With Less. We must admit, we can’t wait much longer. 🤓
With a powerhouse lineup of legal pros (Mike Molina, Jasmine Singh, Jonathan Franz, Hayley Gonzales), an impressive moderator (Laura Frederick), and both tactical and practical topics up for discussion, it’ll be an event not to miss.
When? Tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm ET | 11 am PT
As the company with the world's largest market capitalization continues to face a rising tide of worker unionization, a new strategy may be emerging. According to Bloomberg, Apple's sole unionized store (a retail location in Towson, Maryland) will not get new employee benefits because they need to be negotiated with the union. Meanwhile, as a second Apple store (this one in Oklahoma City) votes to unionize, CNBC reports that "Apple management held anti-union meetings and threatened to withhold perks from stores that unionized."
"We believe the open, direct and collaborative relationship we have with our valued team members is the best way to provide an excellent experience for our customers, and for our teams," reads an Apple statement, notes CNBC.
Yet, former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chair Wilma Liebman told Bloomberg, "it’s hard to see how they could come up with a legitimate reason" for withholding their new benefits "other than to influence the outcome of the election" of the Oklahoma City store's employees.
These new perks include some prepaid tuition to a growing list of colleges, free membership to Coursera, and new healthcare benefits to employees in certain states.
A Repeating Pattern
Apple has employed firm Littler Mendelson to assist with its anti-union efforts, and the strategy has followed a similar path as that of Starbucks and Activision Blizzard, who also hired the employment law firm, reports TechCrunch. In all three cases, new benefits to staff were released just ahead of new unionization votes. In fact, Activision Blizzard "attempted to withhold raises from employees who were in the midst of unionizing, arguing that the company was following labor laws that prohibit employers from changing compensation in the midst of elections," says TechCrunch. Yet, in both the video game company and Starbucks's case, the NLRB sided with union complaints against the corporate tactics.
It's true that Apple (and Starbucks and Activision Blizzard) were following labor law rules. Furthermore, these new employee benefits from Apple are not yet confirmed. That being said, the timing of things can be seen as rather suspicious.
Last month, the DOJ targeted several major Wall Street firms for their increasing use of encrypted messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp. Seventeen firms, including JP Morgan Chase, settled with the SEC for a total of $1.8 billion over the unauthorized practice, which the agency believes greatly hinders accountability for individual employees and the companies at large. "A lot of employees are more careful and are using Signal or other encrypted systems, and that poses a real challenge to what DOJ is trying to do on increased corporate enforcement and individual employees," Justin Weitz, formerly of the DOJ and now with Morgan Lewis, told Bloomberg Law. "But it is also a challenge for companies that are working to ensure a clean corporate culture."
Such practices could mean firms "suffer litigation setbacks if they’re unable to fully satisfy discovery demands for internal communications," Bloomberg Law adds. "A defense against certain allegations might suffer if a corporate defendant can’t access relevant messages."
Ian McGinley, a former assistant US attorney for the Southern District, said "We’ve seen it with banks, but every single company has this issue." He believes enforcement can't rely on policies alone, anymore. "We’re heading towards a regime where you need a technological solution or at least have tried one."
JP Morgan's Addiction
In December, the SEC went after JP Morgan, seemingly to make an example of the banking giant's executives. According to Bloomberg Law, federal regulators said executives should have been enforcing private communication rules rather than using WhatsApp so pervasively themselves. The SEC found that, between 2018 and 2019 alone, senior executives sent and "received more than 21,000 messages on their personal devices" which "reflect extensive discussions" among the ranks. Sanjay Wadhwa, the SEC's deputy director of enforcement, said "JPMorgan’s failures hindered several commission investigations and required the staff to take additional steps that should not have been necessary." As a result, the firm settled for $200 million.
The DOJ and SEC have an uphill battle to wage when it comes to regulating new technology. Regulators aside, Wall Street banks may be shooting themselves in the foot for future court cases when it comes to their usage of disappearing messages and potential spoiling of evidence.
✋ We Need to Talk
It’s spooky season. And, while others are scared of ghosts, ghouls, and witches, legal is haunted by, well … sales, marketing, finance, outside counsel (you get the gist). And, we’d like to hear your legal horror stories.
🕸 Tell us your spookiest story and we’ll feature some of the most horrifying in next week’s edition (all anon, ofc).
Disrobed Judge: Kentucky Judge James T. Jameson tried to block security footage of him allegedly roaming the courthouse halls in his underwear from getting into the hands of a local public radio station, says Above The Law. This is in addition to a temporary suspension for Jameson after misconduct related to an ankle-monitoring program.
Plant-based Confusion: Turns out, it's unconstitutional to block Tofurkey from using "chorizo" and other meat products in its labeling, says District Judge Kristine Baker. In her ruling, the federal judge wrote that Tofurkey's repeated indication that their food contains no animal-based meat should dispel any confusion, notes Food Dive.
ICYMI: Here’s a short from last week.
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Catch ya next week,
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