Federal Court’s Embrace of FTC Data-Breach Settlements as “Common Law” Treads on Due Process

d of washingtonThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has developed a well-known penchant for using individually negotiated settlement agreements and consent decrees to announce for the first time what qualifies as “unfair” or “deceptive” conduct under the FTC Act. In the data-privacy arena, FTC views these enforcement actions (and the resulting consent decrees) as a source of “common law” that places the business community on sufficient notice of what data-security practices § 5 of the FTC Act requires.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington recently ratified that view in a controversial ruling, Veridian Credit Union v. Eddie Bauer. The case arose following a 2016 cyberattack on Eddie Bauer’s network that compromised customers’ payment-card data. Veridian Credit Union, whose cardholders had their data stolen after shopping at Eddie Bauer, brought suit under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which like § 5 of the FTC Act also allows courts to award treble damages to private plaintiffs who are injured by “unfair” or “deceptive” acts. Veridian alleged that Eddie Bauer’s failure to adopt data-security measures that FTC has required in other cases constitutes an “unfair” practice under the Washington CPA. Continue reading “Federal Court’s Embrace of FTC Data-Breach Settlements as “Common Law” Treads on Due Process”

New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65

warningLong the subject of much controversy, California’s Proposition 65 law prohibits businesses from exposing Californians to chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer” without first providing a warning. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) publishes a list of chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer.” By statute, that list must include substances designated as potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international non-governmental entity. Continue reading “New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65”

Ninth Circuit Overturns State Licensing Scheme Forcing Businesses to Incorporate in California

9thCirAccording to one California observer, the “list of businesses abandoning California for more hospitable business environments reads like a roll call of top companies.” That corporations have been fleeing California’s escalating costs and over-the-top regulation is not all that surprising. But few may be aware of one of the Golden State’s more creative efforts to reverse that trend: enacting laws that force companies to incorporate in California if they want to do business there.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently took up—and overturned—one such law in Nationwide Biweekly Admin. v. Owen. The case arose from Nationwide’s biweekly mortgage loan repayment program, which facilitates homeowners with mortgages who wish to make 13 monthly mortgage payments a year, ostensibly reducing a 30-year mortgage into a 23.9-year mortgage.  Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Overturns State Licensing Scheme Forcing Businesses to Incorporate in California”

Rejection of Subway “Footlong” Settlement Highlights Absurd Incentives of Class Actions

1ftIn early 2013, when Australian teenager Matt Corby took to social media to share a photo of his recently purchased Subway “foot long” sandwich next to a tape measure revealing that the sandwich measured only 11 inches in length, he never could have anticipated the “viral” chain of events that he had just set into motion.

Other Subway customers and media outlets soon descended on Subway franchises to undertake their own sandwich measurements, prompting the New York Post to announce that “Some Subway ‘Footlong’ Subs Don’t Measure Up.”   According to the Post, four out of seven footlong sandwiches randomly purchased at Subway restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens measured less than 12 inches in length (ranging from 11 to 11.5 inches). Continue reading “Rejection of Subway “Footlong” Settlement Highlights Absurd Incentives of Class Actions”

Days Apart, Second and Sixth Circuits Muddy the Waters on Class Ascertainability

2nd Circuit6th Circuit Whether federal district courts may certify a damages class action where no reliable, administratively feasible method exists for identifying class members is a question that has long plagued class-action defendants. The need for class ascertainability is especially dire in low-value consumer class actions in which manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are sued over “mislabeled” food, beverages, or other inexpensive consumer products. Unfortunately, the federal courts of appeals are sharply and hopelessly divided on whether Rule 23, which governs class actions in federal courts, includes an implicit ascertainability requirement. Continue reading “Days Apart, Second and Sixth Circuits Muddy the Waters on Class Ascertainability”

The Supreme Court’s “Microsoft Corp. v. Baker” Decision Restores Much Needed Sanity to Federal Appellate Procedure

supreme courtMicrosoft Corp. v. Baker is one of those cases that only a lawyer could love. At issue was whether a federal appellate court has jurisdiction to review a class-certification order if the plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed all of their claims, with prejudice.

Class-action plaintiffs have long sought the right to immediately appeal from orders denying class certification. In the 1960s and 1970s, some federal courts of appeals began allowing such an immediate right of appeal under the so-called death-knell doctrine. Under that judicially created rule, if the plaintiffs could show that the denial of class certification—if left unreviewed—would end the lawsuit for all practical purposes, the appeals court would grant review of that interlocutory order. Continue reading “The Supreme Court’s “Microsoft Corp. v. Baker” Decision Restores Much Needed Sanity to Federal Appellate Procedure”

Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule Is Vulnerable on First Amendment Grounds

DOLPromulgated in April 2016, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) highly controversial Fiduciary Rule drastically expands the universe of retirement investment advisors and employees who are deemed to be “fiduciaries” under federal law. Abandoning 40 years of settled statutory interpretation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and parallel provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), DOL now maintains that a fiduciary is anyone who provides “recommendations” that are individualized or directed to a specific recipient for consideration in making investment or management decisions with respect to securities or other property of an ERISA plan or an IRA. Continue reading “Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule Is Vulnerable on First Amendment Grounds”