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The natural, inalienable rights and legal rights of the citizenry to be accurately informed must not, by corruption, be perverted, lest that citizenry, acting on such perversion in their daily judgments,  certainly suffer to their physical and spiritual detriment.

©2014 Edgar Rogers-Chairman            Human Utilities Whole Armour®

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logo MARKET STATUS
 
 
STATUS: INFORMATIONAL MESSAGE
 
04/03/2020, 08:54

NYSE OPTIONS QUOTE RELIEF

NYSE American Options and NYSE Arca Options has granted double width quote relief for all option symbols for April 3, 2020.


F D I C Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Press Release

April 3, 2020

FDIC Issues List of Banks Examined for
CRA Compliance

WASHINGTON - The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today issued its list of state nonmember banks recently evaluated for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).  The list covers evaluation ratings that the FDIC assigned to institutions in January 2020. 

The CRA is a 1977 law intended to encourage insured banks and thrifts to meet local credit needs, including those of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with safe and sound operations.  As part of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), Congress mandated the public disclosure of an evaluation and rating for each bank or thrift that undergoes a CRA examination on or after July 1, 1990.

You may obtain a consolidated list of all state nonmember banks whose evaluations have been made publicly available since July 1, 1990, including the rating for each bank, or obtain a hard copy from FDIC's Public Information Center, 3501 Fairfax Drive, Room E-1002, Arlington, VA 22226 (877-275-3342 or 703-562-2200).

A copy of an individual bank's CRA evaluation is available directly from the bank, which is required by law to make the material available upon request, or from the FDIC's Public Information Center.

Attachments:

# # #

Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933 to restore public confidence in the nation's banking system. The FDIC insures deposits at the nation's banks and savings associations, 5,177 as of December 31, 2019. It promotes the safety and soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to which they are exposed. The FDIC receives no federal tax dollars—insured financial institutions fund its operations.





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IRS Newswire March 25, 2020

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Issue Number:    IR-2020-59

Inside This Issue


IRS unveils new People First Initiative; COVID-19 effort temporarily adjusts, suspends key compliance programs

WASHINGTON – To help people facing the challenges of COVID-19 issues, the Internal Revenue Service announced today a sweeping series of steps to assist taxpayers by providing relief on a variety of issues ranging from easing payment guidelines to postponing compliance actions.

“The IRS is taking extraordinary steps to help the people of our country,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “In addition to extending tax deadlines and working on new legislation, the IRS is pursuing unprecedented actions to ease the burden on people facing tax issues. During this difficult time, we want people working together, focused on their well-being, helping each other and others less fortunate.”

“The new IRS People First Initiative provides immediate relief to help people facing uncertainty over taxes,” Rettig added “We are temporarily adjusting our processes to help people and businesses during these uncertain times. We are facing this together, and we want to be part of the solution to improve the lives of all people in our country.”

These new changes include issues ranging from postponing certain payments related to Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise to collection and limiting certain enforcement actions. The IRS will be temporarily modifying the following activities as soon as possible; the projected start date will be April 1 and the effort will initially run through July 15. During this period, to the maximum extent possible, the IRS will avoid in-person contacts. However, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations.

“IRS employees care about our people and our country, and they have a strong desire to help improve this situation,” Rettig said. “These new actions reflect just one of many ways our employees are working hard every day to assist the nation. We care, a lot. IRS employees are actively engaged, and they have always delivered for their communities and our country. The People First Initiative is designed to help people take care of themselves and is a key part of our ongoing response to the coronavirus effort.”

More specifics about the implementation of these provisions will be shared soon. Highlights of the key actions in the IRS People First Initiative include:

Existing Installment Agreements – For taxpayers under an existing Installment Agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended. Taxpayers who are currently unable to comply with the terms of an Installment Payment Agreement, including a Direct Deposit Installment Agreement, may suspend payments during this period if they prefer. Furthermore, the IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period.  By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.

New Installment Agreements – The IRS reminds people unable to fully pay their federal taxes that they can resolve outstanding liabilities by entering into a monthly payment agreement with the IRS. See IRS.gov for further information.

Offers in Compromise (OIC) – The IRS is taking several steps to assist taxpayers in various stages of the OIC process:

  • Pending OIC applications – The IRS will allow taxpayers until July 15 to provide requested additional information to support a pending OIC. In addition, the IRS will not close any pending OIC request before July 15, 2020, without the taxpayer’s consent.
  • OIC Payments – Taxpayers have the option of suspending all payments on accepted OICs until July 15, 2020, although by law interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.
  • Delinquent Return Filings - The IRS will not default an OIC for those taxpayers who are delinquent in filing their tax return for tax year 2018. However, taxpayers should file any delinquent 2018 return (and their 2019 return) on or before July 15, 2020.
  • New OIC Applications – The IRS reminds people facing a liability exceeding their net worth that the OIC process is designed to resolve outstanding tax liabilities by providing a “Fresh Start.” Further information is available at IRS.gov

Non-Filers –The IRS reminds people who have not filed their return for tax years before 2019 that they should file their delinquent returns. More than 1 million households that haven’t filed tax returns during the last three years are actually owed refunds; they still have time to claim these refunds. Many should consider contacting a tax professional to consider various available options since the time to receive such refunds is limited by statute. Once delinquent returns have been filed, taxpayers with a tax liability should consider taking the opportunity to resolve any outstanding liabilities by entering into an Installment Agreement or an Offer in Compromise with the IRS to obtain a “Fresh Start.” See IRS.gov for further information.

Field Collection Activities - Liens and levies (including any seizures of a personal residence) initiated by field revenue officers will be suspended during this period. However, field revenue officers will continue to pursue high-income non-filers and perform other similar activities where warranted.

Automated Liens and Levies – New automatic, systemic liens and levies will be suspended during this period.

Passport Certifications to the State Department – IRS will suspend new certifications to the Department of State for taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent” during this period. These taxpayers are encouraged to submit a request for an Installment Agreement or, if applicable, an OIC during this period. Certification prevents taxpayers from receiving or renewing passports.

Private Debt Collection – New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies to work during this period.

Field, Office and Correspondence Audits – During this period, the IRS will generally not start new field, office and correspondence examinations. We will continue to work refund claims where possible, without in-person contact. However, the IRS may start new examinations where deemed necessary to protect the government’s interest in preserving the applicable statute of limitations.

  • In-Person Meetings - In-person meetings regarding current field, office and correspondence examinations will be suspended. Even though IRS examiners will not hold in-person meetings, they will continue their examinations remotely, where possible. To facilitate the progress of open examinations, taxpayers are encouraged to respond to any requests for information they already have received - or may receive - on all examination activity during this period if they are able to do so.
  • Unique Situations - Particularly for some corporate and business taxpayers, the IRS understands that there may be instances where the taxpayers desire to begin an examination while people and records are available and respective staffs have capacity. In those instances when it’s in the best interest of both parties and appropriate personnel are available, the IRS may initiate activities to move forward with an examination -- understanding that COVID-19 developments could later reduce activities for an agreed period.
  • General Requests for Information - In addition to compliance activities and examinations, the IRS encourages taxpayers to respond to any other IRS correspondence requesting additional information during this time if possible. 

Earned Income Tax Credit and Wage Verification Reviews – Taxpayers have until July 15, 2020, to respond to the IRS to verify that they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or to verify their income. These taxpayers are encouraged to exercise their best efforts to obtain and submit all requested information, and if unable to do so, please reach out to the IRS indicating the reason such information is not available. Until July 15, 2020, the IRS will not deny these credits for a failure to provide requested information. 

Independent Office of Appeals – Appeals employees will continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. Taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.

Statute of Limitations - The IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period, taxpayers are encouraged to cooperate in extending such statutes. Otherwise, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statutes. Where a statutory period is not set to expire during 2020, the IRS is unlikely to pursue the foregoing actions until at least July 15, 2020.

Practitioner Priority Service – Practitioners are reminded that, depending on staffing levels and allocations going forward, there may be more significant wait times for the PPS. The IRS will continue to monitor this as situations develop.

“The IRS will continue to review and, where appropriate, modify or expand the People First Initiative as we continue reviewing our programs and receive feedback from others,” Rettig said. “We are committed to helping people get through this period, and our employees will remain focused on these and other helpful efforts in the days and weeks ahead. I ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience – as we navigate our way forward together. Stay safe and take care of your families, friends and others.”

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united states coast guard

 National Maritime Center header Logo

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Mariner Credentialing Program Impacts – Update #1

The Coast Guard published Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) 08-20 announcing several updates based on the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective March 19, 2020, the Coast Guard’s 17 Regional Examination Centers (REC) and 3 Monitoring Units (MU) are closed to the public until further notice.

 

All REC/MU customer walk-in service is suspended and all scheduled examinations and appointments are cancelled. REC appointment calendars are closed. The National Maritime Center (NMC) will closely monitor the situation and restore these services as soon as possible.

In an effort to minimize customer service disruptions:

  • The Customer Service Center call center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. You may reach the call center at 1-888-IASKNMC (427-5662) and IASKNMC@uscg.mil. Mariners are asked to not try to reschedule appointments until the NMC re-opens the appointment calendars. The NMC will provide notice when the calendars are available.
  • For improved service and security use the electronic submission process. Guidance and REC/MU e-mail addresses are located on the NMC website. Be advised that electronic submissions will only be accepted in PDF format. Other formats such as .zip files and camera captured images will not be accepted.
  • National Endorsements: Merchant Mariner Credentials (MMC) and Medical Certificates (National Endorsements only) that expire between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, are extended until October 31, 2020. Mariners actively working on expired credentials that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired credential with a copy of MSIB 08-20.
  • STCW Endorsements: MMCs with STCW endorsements that expire between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, are extended until October 31, 2020. Mariners who are actively working on expired credentials that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired credential with a copy of MSIB 08-20.
  •  STCW Medical Certificates: STCW Medical Certificates are valid for 3 months from the expiration date in accordance with STCW Regulation I/9. Mariners who are actively working on expired Medical Certificates that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired certificate with a copy of MSIB 08-20.
  •  Additional Administrative Measures: The following items that expire between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020, are extended until October 31, 2020: Additional Information letters, Qualified Assessor letters, Designated Examiner letters, Proctor Approval letters, Approved to Test letters, Mariner Training course completion certificates.
  • Pilot Annual Physical Examinations: 46 USC 7101(e)(3) requires that pilots undergo an annual physical examination each year while holding a credential. The Coast Guard does not intend to enforce this requirement given the current national emergency and the lack of medical care. This measure ONLY relaxes the requirement for an annual physical and not the actual medical standards.

 At this time, NMC operations in Martinsburg, WV, are being minimally impacted by COVID-19. This is a dynamic situation and updates will be provided as needed. The NMC understands this reduction in service may affect our industry customers and stakeholders, and we apologize for any potential inconvenience.

 

Sincerely,

/K. R. Martin/ Kirsten R. Martin

Captain, U.S. Coast Guard Commanding Officer



03/19/2020 12:00 AM EDT
TULSA, Okla. – As the United States Attorney’s Office continues its public safety mission, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores cautions the public to be aware of fraud schemes seeking to exploit the evolving COVID-19 public health crisis.


logo MARKET STATUS
 
 
STATUS: INFORMATIONAL MESSAGE
 
03/20/2020, 08:38

NYSE OPTIONS QUOTE RELIEF

NYSE American Options and NYSE Arca Options has granted double width quote relief for all option symbols for March 20, 2020




logoNYSE TRADER UPDATE
 
03/18/2020, 17:34

NYSE TO MOVE TEMPORARILY TO ALL-ELECTRONIC TRADING MONDAY, MARCH 23

On Monday, March 23, New York Stock Exchange will initiate its business continuity plan (“BCP”) and move, on a temporary basis, to fully electronic trading.

All-electronic trading will begin with Monday’s market open. The facilities to be closed comprise the NYSE equities trading floor in New York, NYSE American Options trading floor in New York, and NYSE Arca Options trading floor in San Francisco. The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19.

“NYSE’s trading floors provide unique value to issuers and investors, but our markets are fully capable of operating in an all-electronic fashion to serve all participants, and we will proceed in that manner until we can re-open our trading floors to our members,” said Stacey Cunningham, President of the New York Stock Exchange. “While we are taking the precautionary step of closing the trading floors, we continue to firmly believe the markets should remain open and accessible to investors. All NYSE markets will continue to operate under normal trading hours despite the closure of the trading floors.”

The NYSE has robust, regularly tested contingency plans in place to initiate fully electronic trading on its exchanges that have physical trading floors. On the NYSE’s equities market, the Exchange’s Designated Market Makers will connect to the exchange electronically to provide liquidity in their stocks, however floor broker order types will be unavailable. On the NYSE’s options markets, electronic trading will continue normally but open-outcry trading will be suspended with the closure of the options trading floors.


BCP Frequently Asked Questions Document



03/16/2020 12:00 AM EDT
A federal jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, convicted California businessman Lev Aslan Dermen, also known as Levon Termendzhyan, of criminal charges today relating to a $1 billion renewable fuel tax credit fraud scheme, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah, Don Fort Chief of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Lance Ehrig for the Denver Area Office of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Criminal Investigation Division, and Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Mentavlos for the Denver Area Office of Defense Criminal Investigative Service.




logo NYSE TRADER UPDATE
 
03/12/2020, 09:37

MWCB LEVEL 1 - 7 % S&P 500 DECLINE - ALL TRADING HALTED

Due to a 7 percent decline in the S&P 500 index, in accordance with the NYSE, NYSE Arca, NYSE American, NYSE National and NYSE Chicago Rule 7.12, equity trading at the NYSE Exchanges has been halted. Information about order entry during the halt and the reopening process is available here

The market will re-open today at the following time: 9:50:44 ET


03/11/2020 12:00 AM EDT
The former CEO of an Irvine-based financial services and insurance company has been sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for defrauding elderly victims who thought their money was being invested in a certificate of deposit at a major bank – but, instead, was actually used to fund his lavish lifestyle.

03/11/2020 12:00 AM EDT

Tampa, Florida – Richard De La Cruz (55, Jacksonville) has pleaded guilty to making false statements relating to health care matters in connection with writing opioid prescriptions. De La Cruz faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. According to the plea agreement, De La Cruz was a Florida-licensed physician who worked for MD2U, a now-shuttered, Kentucky-based company that provided a network of in-home primary care for patients. MD2U commonly used nurse practitioners, instead of physicians, to conduct in-person examinations and evaluations of patients in the Tampa Bay area, including those who were prescribed opioids. In mid-2014, the Florida Board of Medicine (“FBOM”) determined that De La Cruz and MD2U’s practice of prescribing controlled substances without an in-person evaluation by a physician violated Florida medical standards and regulations. Contrary to the FBOM ruling, De La Cruz continued to write opiate prescriptions to MD2U patients without personally meeting with and evaluating the patients. De La Cruz concealed this in claims later submitted to Medicare for payment of the opiate prescriptions. This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and the Middle District of Florida Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit was created by the Department of Justice to focus on opioid-related health care fraud, using data to identify and prosecute individuals who contribute to the prescription opioid epidemic. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kelley Howard-Allen and Greg Pizzo.
03/11/2020 12:00 AM EDT
A federal jury sitting in Houston, Texas, found a pharmacist guilty Tuesday of charges related to health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

03/11/2020 12:00 AM EDT
Matthew Harrell has been sentenced for his role in organizing and managing a health care fraud scheme that stole millions in Medicaid funds in Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida



FTC@100 Banner

First Round of Refunds Totaling $153 Million Sent to Consumers As a Result of Multi-Agency Case Against Western Union

Approximately $153 million is being mailed to 109,000 consumers in the first distribution of refunds resulting from the law enforcement actions brought against Western Union by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The affected consumers are receiving compensation for 100 percent of their losses.

Explore Data with the FTC - Learn more about FTC refunds to consumersThe FTC’s complaint against Western Union alleged that for many years, Western Union was aware that fraudsters around the world used the company’s money transfer system to bilk consumers, and that some Western Union agents were complicit in the frauds. The FTC’s complaint alleged that Western Union failed to put in place effective anti-fraud policies and procedures and to act promptly against problem agents.

“Western Union turned a blind eye to the fraudulent payments made through its money transfer system,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We’re glad to be returning money to those consumers who were ripped off by fraudsters exploiting the Western Union system, and we will not tolerate Western Union or other payment companies facilitating fraud.”

“The $153 million distribution announced today brings some measure of justice for the elderly and other victims who were financially harmed by the fraudulent schemes in this case,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department remains resolute in its efforts to not only prevent fraud from occurring in the first place, but also to find and return ill-gotten gains.”

“Money Transfer Businesses such as Western Union are particularly susceptible to misuse by scammers,” said U.S. Attorney David J. Freed for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “In nearly every case of this nature that we have encountered in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, money transfer businesses are used to facilitate the crimes. Working together with MLARS and the skilled and dedicated investigators of the Postal Inspection Service, we have achieved outstanding results – bringing fraudsters to justice and holding businesses such as Western Union accountable. In addition to increased fraud detection and protections, an integral part of that accountability involves Western Union making victims whole. $153 Million is a good start.”

“The losses and the number of victims in this case are staggering. This initial disbursement will provide relief to more than 100,000 individuals, who lost $153 million,” said Assistant Postal Inspector in Charge John Walker of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Philadelphia Division. “Some lost their life’s savings as a result of these scammers. Postal Inspectors continue to be out front when it comes to investigating these con men and in protecting American citizens from them. Today, we are happy to play a third role—returning money to those who were scammed. Delivering justice, and in this case, delivering restitution.”

The company’s settlement with the FTC required Western Union to pay $586 million in monetary relief. That money was paid to DOJ in connection with Western Union’s joint settlement with that agency. DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section is administering the consumer refund program. This distribution is the first of multiple payments over the coming months to consumers who lost money due to Western Union’s actions.

More information about the Western Union refund program and its compensation to victims is available on the Western Union remission website at www.westernunionremission.com. Further questions may be directed to the Western Union Remission Administrator by phone at 844-319-2124 or by email at info@WesternUnionRemission.com.

The FTC’s new interactive dashboards for refund data provide a state-by-state breakdown of refunds, as well as refund programs from other FTC cases. In 2019, FTC actions led to more than $232 million in refunds to consumers across the country.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

Contact Information

CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Redress Administrator
844-319-2124

Related Refunds




FTC@100 Banner

Credit Repair Company Settles FTC Charges It Deceived Consumers By Telling Them “Piggybacking” on Others’ Credit Could Boost Scores

Defendants promise “huge” credit score increases, ease in obtaining mortgages

A Colorado-based credit repair company and its owner have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges they mislead consumers with promises to “drastically and immediately” improve credit scores and increase access to lower rates on mortgages.

In its complaint against the operators of BoostMyScore.net (BMS), the FTC alleges that the defendants guaranteed consumers that, in exchange for fees ranging from $325 to $4,000, they could “piggyback” on unrelated consumers’ good credit, artificially inflating their own credit score in the process.

“Good credit isn’t for sale,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This company charged people thousands of dollars based on hollow promises that ‘piggybacking’ on a stranger’s good credit would raise their credit score or help them get a mortgage.”

In piggybacking, a consumer pays to be listed on another person’s well-maintained credit account, ostensibly receiving the benefit of the good account on their own credit even though they can’t access the account. In this case, the FTC alleges, defendants charged struggling consumers steep, illegal fees and made unsupported promises about how piggybacking would pave the way to new credit, including mortgages and other loan products.

According to the complaint, BMS made unwarranted promises in various advertisements that consumers’ credit scores would increase by anywhere from 100 to 120 points over two to six weeks. BMS also allegedly charged consumers upfront for the credit repair services they offered, which is illegal under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA). The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act, CROA, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).

Under the terms of the proposed settlement with the FTC that will soon be filed with the court, BoostMyScore, LLC, BMS, Inc., and William O. Airy will be prohibited from selling fake access to another consumer’s credit as an authorized user and from collecting advance fees for credit repair services, as well as other violations of CROA. They will also be prohibited from misrepresenting a product or service as being legal, as well as from misrepresenting the terms of a refund or return policy. The defendants also will be banned from further violations of the TSR. The settlement also includes a monetary judgment of $6,630,678, which will be partially suspended upon payment of $64,863 due to the defendants’ inability to pay. Should the defendants be found to have misrepresented their financial condition, the full judgment would be immediately payable.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and final order in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Related Cases

More news from the FTC >>



U.S. Department of Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2020

 

 

 

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CONCLUDES HISTORIC ARBITRATION OF A MERGER DISPUTE

Arbitration Will Resolve the Issue of Product Market Definition in the Novelis-Aleris Merger

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice this week concluded an arbitration that will resolve a civil antitrust lawsuit challenging Novelis Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Aleris Corporation. 

The lawsuit seeks to preserve competition in the North American market for rolled aluminum sheet for automotive applications, commonly referred to as aluminum auto body sheet.  This marks the first time the Antitrust Division has used its authority under the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 (5 U.S.C. § 571 et seq.) to resolve a matter.

“This first-of-its-kind arbitration has allowed us to resolve the dispositive issue in this case efficiently, saving taxpayer and private resources, while providing critical time-certainty,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “The Antitrust Division looks forward to the arbitrator’s opinion, and will study this matter both to assess the circumstances in which arbitration may be appropriate and to identify possibilities for further streamlining the process.  We will continue to examine ways to enforce our competition laws in a manner that maximizes the Division’s scarce enforcement resources to protect American consumers.”

On Sept. 4, 2019, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio seeking to block Novelis Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Aleris Corporation.  Prior to filing the complaint, the Antitrust Division reached an agreement with defendants to refer the matter to binding arbitration if the parties were unable to resolve the United States’ competitive concerns with the defendants’ transaction within a certain period of time. 

As described in Plaintiff United States’ Explanation of Plan to Refer this Matter to Arbitration, filed on the district court’s docket, fact discovery proceeded under the supervision of the district court.  Following the close of fact discovery, the matter was referred to binding arbitration to resolve a single issue: whether aluminum auto body sheet constitutes a relevant product market under the antitrust laws. 

The arbitration procedure allowed for a flexible and efficient proceeding presided over by an arbitrator with extensive expertise in antitrust law and economics.  Former Federal Trade Commission Director of the Bureau of Competition and experienced antitrust lawyer, Kevin Arquit, was selected as the arbitrator.  The hearing was held over ten days (including some partial days) in the Antitrust Division’s Anne K. Bingaman Auditorium and Lecture Hall in the Liberty Square Building in Washington, D.C.  Eleven fact witnesses and three expert witnesses testified in the proceedings.  The parties agreed to dispense with certain evidentiary requirements to allow for a more flexible and efficient hearing.  The parties also dispensed with the need for post-trial briefing and agreed that the arbitrator will render a short decision of no more than five pages by March 13.

If the United States prevails, the United States will then file a proposed final judgment that requires Novelis to divest certain agreed-upon assets to preserve competition in the relevant market.   If the defendants prevail, the United States will seek to voluntarily dismiss the complaint.  Novelis has held separate the agreed-upon divestiture assets pursuant to a hold separate stipulation and order entered by the district court, and defendants are permitted to close the transaction pursuant to this order. 

Novelis is a Canadian corporation headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.  It offers flat-rolled aluminum products in three segments: automotive, beverage can, and specialty products.  In the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, Novelis’s revenues were approximately $12.3 billion.  Novelis is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hindalco Industries Ltd., an Indian company headquartered in Mumbai, India. 

Aleris is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.  It offers flat-rolled aluminum products to the automotive, aerospace, and building and construction industries, among others.  In 2018, Aleris’s revenues were approximately $3.4 billion. 

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

###

ATR 

20-282





logoNYSE TRADER UPDATE
 
03/05/2020, 12:29

NYSE - BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANS (BCP) TESTING REMINDER

As previously announced, on March 7, 2020, the NYSE Group exchanges, the FINRA/NYSE TRF and Global OTC will conduct BCP/DR testing in the Cermak Data Center between 8:30 - 11:00 am ET. All platforms will be available and customers will be able to connect to their DR sessions, submit orders and subscribe to market data. All symbols will be available for firms to send messages and to receive data. For details, please click here.


logo TRADER UPDATE
 
03/06/2020, 09:00

NYSE ARCA EQUITIES - TEMPORARILY WIDENS CORE OPENING AUCTION PRICE COLLARS TO 10%

On Friday, March 6, 2020, NYSE Arca Equities will temporarily widen the price collars for its Core Open Auction to 10% for all securities per NYSE Arca Rule 7.35-E (a)(10)(A). The price collars for the Closing Auctions and Halt Re-opening Auctions remain unchanged.

Core Open Auction price collar percentages will revert to standard levels on Monday, March 9, 2020


03/05/2020 12:00 AM EST



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by Cristina Miranda, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Who doesn’t want to earn easy, fast money online, and make six figures a year? That’s what an online business coaching and investment opportunity called “My Online Business Education”, or MOBE, promised. Finding the company behind it didn’t deliver on their claims, the FTC shut them down in 2018. Even with the company shuttered, FTC then went after Affiliates who had promoted MOBE.

Read more>

FTC and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Challenge Proposed Merger of Two Major Philadelphia-area Hospital Systems

The Federal Trade Commission has authorized an action to block the proposed merger of Jefferson Health and Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, two leading providers of inpatient general acute care hospital services and inpatient acute rehabilitation services in both Philadelphia County and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

The FTC issued an administrative complaint (a public version of which will be available and linked to this news release as soon as possible) alleging that the proposed merger would reduce competition in both Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.

According to the complaint, Jefferson and Einstein have a history of competing against each other to improve quality and service, including by upgrading medical facilities and investing in new technologies. The proposed merger would eliminate the robust competition between Jefferson and Einstein for inclusion in health insurance companies’ hospital networks to the detriment of patients.

“Patients in the Philadelphia region have benefitted enormously from the competition between the Jefferson and Einstein systems,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “This merger would eliminate the competitive pressure that has driven quality improvements and lowered rates. Throughout our investigation, we have benefited from close cooperation with our partners in the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.”

The Commission has authorized staff to seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the parties from consummating the merger, and to maintain the status quo pending the administrative proceeding. The FTC, jointly with the Pennsylvania Attorney General, will file a complaint in federal district court.

Jefferson and Einstein offer a broad range of medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay, known as inpatient general acute care, or GAC, services. Einstein’s GAC hospitals compete significantly with Jefferson’s GAC hospitals in and around North Philadelphia and Montgomery County. The complaint alleges that, as a result of the merger, the parties would control at least 60% of the inpatient GAC hospital services market in and around North Philadelphia, and at least 45% of that market in and around Montgomery County.

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities, or IRFs, provide intensive multi-disciplinary rehabilitation services to patients previously treated at GAC hospitals who are recovering from serious, acute conditions such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. Collectively, Jefferson and Einstein operate six of the eight IRFs in the Philadelphia area in and around Einstein’s flagship Moss at Elkins Park facility. According to the complaint, as a result of the merger, the parties would control at least 70% of the inpatient acute rehabilitation services market in the Philadelphia area.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to authorize staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was 4-0-1, with Chairman Joseph J. Simons recused. The administrative trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1, 2020. The federal court complaint and request for preliminary relief will be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of the administrative complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

 

Related Case

 


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Rent-to-Own Operators Settle Charges that They Restrained Competition through Reciprocal Purchase Agreements

FTC alleges that agreements by Aaron’s Inc., Buddy’s Newco, LLC, and Rent-A-Center, Inc. reduced competition, lowered quality and selection of products

Rent-to-own operators Aaron’s Inc., Buddy’s Newco, LLC, and Rent-A-Center, Inc. have agreed to settle FTC charges that they negotiated and executed reciprocal purchase agreements in violation of federal antitrust law.

The complaints allege that from June 2015 to May 2018, Aaron’s, Buddy’s, and Rent-A-Center each entered into anticompetitive reciprocal agreements with each other and other competitors. These agreements swapped customer contracts from rent-to-own, or RTO, stores in various local markets. An outcome was that one party to the agreement closed down stores and exited a local market where the other party continued to maintain a presence. These reciprocal agreements likely led to store closures that may not have occurred otherwise, resulting in reduced competition for quality and service in the remaining stores, according to the complaints. In addition, many consumers travel to their designated store to make their regular payments in person. If their store closes, these customers must travel to the next-closest location, which may significantly increase their travel time and costs.

These agreements also explicitly required the selling party not to compete within a specified territory, typically for a period of three years.

“These agreements affected consumers who already had few options for furnishing a home on a limited budget,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “The FTC’s orders get rid of the agreements, reopen affected markets to competition, and bar these companies from doing this again.”

The FTC’s consent agreements prohibit the three RTO companies and their franchisees from entering into any reciprocal purchase agreement or inviting others to do so, and from enforcing the non-compete clauses still in effect from the past reciprocal purchase agreements. The three RTO companies must also implement antitrust compliance programs, notify the Commission in the event of certain changes in corporate governance, and grant the Commission access to company facilities as needed to ensure compliance with the order. Finally, due to prior board-level relationships between Aaron’s and Buddy’s, these firms are barred from having any of their representatives serve as a board member or officer of a competitor, and from allowing any competitor’s representative to serve on their boards.

Further details about the consent agreements are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.

The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 3-2. Chairman Joseph J. Simons and Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips issued a joint statement. Commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a dissenting statement.

The FTC will publish the consent agreements package in the Federal Register shortly. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Comments must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

 



Consumer Alerts from the Federal Trade Commission

by Bridget Small
Consumer Education Specialist

The FTC is sending refund checks to more than 541,000 people who paid for repairs and technical services when they took their computers to Office Depot or Office Max stores for a free “PC Health Check.”

Read more >

Offices of the United States Attorneys

02/19/2020 12:00 AM EST

The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) is fully prepared to implement the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA), which goes into effect today. The SBRA was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last August.
02/19/2020 12:00 AM EST

A Bradbury man has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges that he falsely promised profits to more than 70,000 victim investors worldwide in a scheme where a multinational company issued a sham digital currency purportedly asset-backed by billions of dollars’ worth of amber and other precious gemstones.


Former Chief Executive Officer of SEMAC Sentenced for Wire Fraud in Connection With His Theft of Over $3.4 Million from SEMAC
02/20/2020 12:00 AM EST




02/20/2020, 14:10

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - TRADING RESUMPTION IN CCC WS

NYSE American Equities will resume trading in the following symbol at the time specified below:

Trading will resume: 14:15 ET

CCC WS - Clarivate Analytics Plc Warrants



02/20/2020, 08:18

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - REGULATORY HALT IN CCC WS

NYSE American Equities has halted the following symbol for news dissemination:

CCC WS - Clarivate Analytics Plc Warrants - 08:12:21 ET

logoTRADER UPDATE
 
02/13/2020, 03:52

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - REGULATORY HALT IN MNI

NYSE American Equities has halted the following symbol for news pending:

MNI - The McClatchy Company - 03:51:45 ET


02/12/2020, 16:08

NYSE BQT - PRIMARY LISTING MARKET OPENING AND CLOSING PRICES

The NYSE BQT (Best Quotes and Trades) proprietary market data feed currently publishes the opening price, high price, low price, closing price, and cumulative volume for all securities traded on the NYSE group markets. Beginning March 2, 2020, the consolidated stock summary message (message type 229) will include the primary listing market’s official opening and closing price in an existing field. NYSE BQT format changes are not required for market data subscribers.

Client specifications reflecting these changes are available on the NYSE BQT product page:

These changes will be available in the NYSE CERT environment on February 17, 2020 and will be available in production on March 2, 2020.



02/12/2020, 08:59

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - TRADING RESUMPTION IN ZOM

NYSE American Equities will resume trading in the following symbol at the time specified below:

Trading will resume: 09:05:00 ET

ZOM - Zomedica Pharmaceuticals Corp.



02/10/2020, 10:20

IMPLEMENTATION OF LULD PLAN AMENDMENT 18 (ELIMINATION OF DOUBLE-WIDE BANDS) - FEBRUARY 24, 2020

As previously announced, on Monday, February 24, 2020, the NYSE equity exchanges (NYSE, NYSE American, NYSE Arca, NYSE Chicago and NYSE National), in coordination with other equities markets, will implement Amendment 18 to the Limit Up Limit Down Plan. This amendment changes the calculation of price bands for NMS stocks between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and between 3:35 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.*

Price Bands for an NMS Stock are calculated, during regular trading hours, by applying the Percentage Parameter for such NMS Stock to the Reference Price, with the Lower Price Band being a Percentage Parameter below the Reference Price, and the Upper Price Band being a Percentage Parameter above the Reference Price. Currently, the Price Bands are calculated by applying double the Percentage Parameters between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and between 3:35 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

LULD Amendment 18 eliminates the doubling of percentage parameters:

• between 9:30 - 9:45 a.m.

• between 3:35 - 4:00 p.m. for Tier 2 NMS stocks with a reference price above $3.00.

Tier 1 NMS stocks will continue to be subject to doubling of percentage parameters between 3:35 - 4:00 p.m.


* In the case of an early scheduled close, during the last 25 minutes of trading before the early scheduled close. All times are ET.



Consumer Alerts from the Federal Trade Commission

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FTC Sues Online Trading Academy for Running an Investment Training Scheme

Defendants target older Americans with false or unfounded earnings claims

The Federal Trade Commission has sued the California-based investment training scheme Online Trading Academy (OTA), led by Eyal Shachar. The FTC alleges that OTA uses false or unfounded earnings claims to sell “training programs” costing as much as $50,000.  OTA has collected more than $370 million from consumers nationwide within the last six years. 

According to the FTC, OTA misrepresents that it has a patented “strategy” that anyone can use to generate substantial income from trading in the financial markets. OTA claims that its strategy is designed to generate income in any market, “whether it’s going up, down or sideways.” The company’s claims are often targeted at older consumers.  Additionally, OTA “instructors”—salespeople on commission who market OTA’s training and strategy to consumers in live events across the county—often hold themselves out as successful traders who have amassed substantial wealth using OTA’s strategy.

However, OTA does not track the trading results of its customers, and the FTC alleges that OTA’s own surveys indicate that its customers are not making the type of income OTA advertises. Trading data from a platform used by OTA customers also suggest that the vast majority of OTA’s customers do not make any money, and many lose money on top of the money they pay OTA. Evidence obtained by the FTC also indicates that instructors’ claims of amassing wealth by using OTA’s strategy are false or unsubstantiated.

“It is illegal to make earnings claims in marketing investment opportunities or training, unless the seller has a reasonable basis to make such claims,” said Andrew Smith, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “OTA has used unfounded earnings claims to bilk Americans out of their savings.”

The FTC also alleges that OTA has required customers who request a refund to sign contracts barring them from posting negative comments about OTA or its personnel, and specifically from reporting wrongdoing to law enforcement agencies.

The defendants in the case include OTA Franchise Corp, Newport Exchange Holdings, NEH Services, Inc., Eyal Shachar (also known as Eyal Shahar), Samuel Seiden, and Darren Kimoto.  They are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Consumer Review Fairness Act.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

 

 

 




Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines

by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information. Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay.

Read more >


CME

CME


02/10/2020, 14:33

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - REGULATORY HALT IN DPW

NYSE American Equities has halted the following symbol for news pending:

DPW - DPW Holdings Inc. - 14:29:14 ET


 
 
logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/10/2020, 14:40

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - REGULATORY HALT IN CANF

NYSE American Equities has halted the following symbol for news pending:

CANF - Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd. - 14:37:13 ET



logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/10/2020, 14:57

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - TRADING RESUMPTION IN CANF

NYSE American Equities will resume trading in the following symbol at the time specified below:

Trading will resume: 15:05:00 ET

CANF - Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd.



logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/10/2020, 14:46

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES - TRADING RESUMPTION IN DPW

NYSE American Equities will resume trading in the following symbol at the time specified below:

Trading will resume: 14:55:00

DPW - DPW Holdings Inc.




logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/07/2020, 10:46

NYSE ARCA EQUITIES - FIHD - SHORT SALE RESTRICTION TO BE LIFTED

NYSE Arca Equities - Due to the cancellation of the trade that triggered the Sell Short Restriction in FIHD - UBS AG FI Enhanced Global High Yield ETN - the Sell Short Restriction on this issue will be lifted at 10:50 ET.


logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/06/2020, 16:27

NYSE OPTIONS: UPDATE - MODIFIED BID/ASK DIFFERENTIALS FOR TSLA

NYSE American Options and NYSE Arca Options have revised the quote spread relief for Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) to $20.00 wide.

For additional details, and the full list of issues that have been granted quote spread relief, please see the revised NYSE American Options Trader Update and NYSE Arca Options Trader Update. These modified bid/ask differentials will be in effect through the March 20, 2020 expiration cycle.


logo TRADER UPDATE
 
01/31/2020, 16:26

NYSE AMERICAN FEE CHANGES EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 3

Subject to effectiveness of an SEC filing, NYSE American proposes to amend its Price List for shares with a price of $1.00 or above beginning February 3, 2020.

For the full notice, please click here.




logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/05/2020, 13:03

Q1 2020 AUTHORIZED TRADER SUBMISSION FOR NYSE / NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES / NYSE ARCA EQUITIES / NYSE CHICAGO / NYSE NATIONAL

REMINDER:

NYSE, NYSE American Equities, NYSE Arca Equities, NYSE Chicago and NYSE National ETP holders are required to submit via email any changes to their list of personnel authorized to conduct business over the phone with the NYSE Trading Operations Desk. Services affected include oral requests for:

  • Order cancellations and bulk cancellations
  • Firm or line ID execution reports
  • Order status and order history
  • Any other firm-sensitive information
Firms are reminded to send any list updates to trading@nyse.com
Additionally, firms should take this opportunity to confirm the list of Authorized Administrators for the Pillar Trade Ops Portal (TOPS) web-based tool. Please email crs@nyse.com for a list of TOPS Authorized Administrators on file for your firm.
TRADER UPDATE

logo TRADER UPDATE
 
02/04/2020, 13:53

NYSE US EXCHANGES TO CLOSE IN OBSERVANCE OF WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY

In observance of Washington’s Birthday, the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE American Equities, NYSE Arca Equities, NYSE Chicago, NYSE National, NYSE American Options, NYSE Arca Options, and NYSE Bonds markets will be closed on Monday, February 17, 2020.

For more information on holidays, please see NYSE Holidays and Hours.

 

01/29/2020, 09:21

NYSE AMERICAN EQUITIES: IPO RELEASE NOTICE FOR SYMBOL ANVS

The initial public offering of Annovis Bio Inc. (ANVS) will be released on NYSE American Equities today for trading between 10:30 ET and 10:45 ET.

Orders are now being accepted.


logo TRADER UPDATE
 
01/28/2020, 15:23

NYSE OPTIONS: *ACTION REQUIRED* CONTRA INFORMATION ON FIX DROP COPY

In March 2020, NYSE American Options and NYSE Arca Options will be enhancing FIX Drop Copy execution reports to include contra party information. This will be a mandatory change and all FIX Drop Copy consumers are requested to update their system configurations accordingly.

In support of this change, the below FIX tags will be added to FIX Drop Copy execution reports. For additional information, please refer to the updated Drop Copy FIX Specification.

Tag#
Field
Description
337
ContraTrader
Counterparty TPID
375
ContraBroker
Counterparty CMTA
7694
ContraCapacity
Counterparty custorfirm
9863
ContraClearingAccount
Counterparty OCC ID

These new tags will be available for testing on Monday, February 3, 2020 on the NYSE Options’ Enhanced Certification environment(s).

Production go-live dates will be announced in a subsequent Trader Update.



U.S. Department of Justice

02/11/2020 12:00 AM EST
An East Greenwich, Rhode Island, property developer was sentenced to eight years in prison today for operating a $10.3 million dollar Ponzi scheme and obstructing an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigation, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman for the District of Rhode Island.
02/11/2020 12:00 AM EST
PROVIDENCE – An East Greenwich attorney and businesswoman who duped family members, friends, and business associates as she operated a $10.3 million Ponzi scheme to help finance an extravagant lifestyle, including a $1 million home, numerous expensive trips abroad and multiple trips to the Super Bowl, and luxury items such as her collection of Louis Vuitton shoes, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Providence today to 8 years in federal prison and ordered to pay back her victims a total of $4.78 million.
02/11/2020 12:00 AM EST
BOSTON – A California man was sentenced yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with his role in an international money laundering scheme designed to hide the illicit proceeds of business email compromise (BEC) schemes.   
Doctor Sentenced to Probation and Home Confinement for Health Care Fraud
02/04/2020 12:00 AM EST
02/04/2020 12:00 AM EST

A federal jury found four Detroit-area physicians guilty today of health care fraud charges for their roles in a scheme to administer unnecessary back injections to patients in exchange for prescriptions of over 6.6 million doses of medically unnecessary opioids. Patients were required to get the injections in order to get the prescriptions, some of which were resold on the street by drug dealers, the evidence at trial showed.

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New FTC Data Spotlight: Fake Check Scams Cause Big Losses, Especially for Consumers in Their Twenties

A new update from the Federal Trade Commission shows that fake check scams led to reported individual median losses of nearly $2,000 – losses far higher than on any other of the top ten scams reported to the FTC. According to the new data analysis, consumers in their twenties are more than twice as likely as people 30 and older to report losing money to these scams.

The FTC’s latest Consumer Sentinel Data Spotlight, drawing on complaints submitted from consumers across the country, calls attention to the growing prevalence of fake check scams. According to the spotlight, complaints about fake check scams are up 65 percent since 2015.

In fake check scams, consumers are contacted by a scammer, who sends them a check that looks real, with a request to send some of the money to a third party. When a consumer deposits the check, the money initially shows up in their bank account, making it seem as though the check was real. The consumer then sends the money on, as instructed by the scammer. Eventually, the consumer’s bank discovers the check was fake and removes the full amount from their account.

The FTC’s analysis showed that more than half of fake check scams involve a job offer or income opportunity of some kind, and scams involving selling items online represent nearly a fifth of the total.  

The analysis also shows that consumers in their twenties are often contacted by scammers directly through their college and university email accounts with messages made to look like official school communications.

The FTC has more information for consumers about fake check scams at ftc.gov/fakechecks. Consumers can report fake check scams at ftc.gov/complaint.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

CONTACT FOR CONSUMERS:
Consumer Response Center
877-382-4357

NOTE: The indictment can be found here.

GENERIC DRUG EXECUTIVE INDICTED ON ANTITRUST AND FALSE STATEMENT CHARGES

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania returned an indictment against a former senior executive for his role in conspiracies to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers for generic drugs, and for making a false statement to federal agents who were investigating those conspiracies, the Department of Justice announced today.

The three-count indictment, filed today in Philadelphia, charges Ara Aprahamian, a former top executive at a generic pharmaceutical company, with participating in two conspiracies to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers for generic drugs. Aprahamian is charged with participating in the conspiracies when he was the Vice President of Marketing, and then the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at a corporation headquartered in New York engaged in the marketing and sale of generic drugs in the United States.

Count One charges Aprahamian for his role in a conspiracy with a generic drug company based in New Jersey and other individuals, from at least as early as March 2013 and continuing until at least June 2015. Count Two charges Aprahamian for his role in a conspiracy with a generic drug company based in Pennsylvania and other individuals, from at least as early as May 2013 and continuing until at least December 2015. According to the indictment, the defendant and his co-conspirators agreed to increase prices and allocate customers for numerous drugs, including, but not limited to, medications used to treat and manage arthritis, seizures, pain, various skin conditions, and blood clots.

In addition, Count Three of the indictment charges Aprahamian with making a false statement to an FBI agent when the FBI executed a search warrant at Aprahamian’s employer’s headquarters in September 2016. According to the indictment, Aprahamian falsely stated to the FBI that he never had a conversation with a competitor about the pricing of a product before that product was launched.

“Today’s charges demonstrate the Antitrust Division’s resolve in rooting out collusion that corrupted the marketplace for generic drugs and led to higher prices for critical medications used by millions of Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Along with our law enforcement partners, the Division will ensure that executives who cheat consumers are not immune from our antitrust laws, and that those who seek to impede or obstruct our investigations are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring that any activity related to price-fixing, bid-rigging and/or market allocation in the generic drugs industry is identified and aggressively investigated,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Pierce, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “The U.S. Postal Service spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on health care costs, including expenses related to prescription drugs. This indictment is a testament to the dedication and determination of the legal and investigative teams and sends a clear message to anyone who would participate in this sort of activity. Along with our colleagues at the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General stands ready to support these critical inquiries going forward.”

“Americans suffering from chronic health problems and pain conditions should not have to be concerned about collusion by pharmaceutical executives that could increase the price of their essential medications,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI is dedicated to investigating and bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice, on behalf of the American public.”

“My Office is proud to announce yet another enforcement action in this ongoing criminal investigation with the Antitrust Division,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “This is the third pharmaceutical price fixing case announced in our District in just the last year, following cases against Rising Pharmaceuticals in December 2019, and Heritage Pharmaceuticals in May 2019. Along with our partners at the Antitrust Division, we remain heavily focused on illegal price fixing and market allocation in generic drugs and on addressing the impact those practices have on federal healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid. These criminal charges against a former top corporate executive are yet another important step in that fight.”

Aprahamian is the third executive charged for his participation in conspiracies to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers for generic drugs. The two individuals previously charged entered guilty pleas in January 2017. To date, two companies have also been charged. Both corporate charges were resolved by deferred prosecution agreement.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The offense charged in Counts One and Two carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million. The offense charged in Count Three is punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years, and a fine of not more than $250,000.

This case is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the generic pharmaceutical industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division with the assistance of the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Anyone with information on market allocation, price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct related to the generic pharmaceutical industry should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

# # #


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Court Stops Sprawling Scheme That Operated Hundreds of Websites That Deceived Consumers About Government Services

Defendants made millions of dollars from sites that overwhelmingly mislead consumers

A court has granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request to preliminarily halt a scheme in which the defendants operated hundreds of websites that promised a quick and easy government service, such as renewing a driver’s license, or eligibility determinations for public benefits. Following an evidentiary hearing, the court held that the FTC was likely to prevail in proving that “the websites were patently misleading.”

The FTC’s filings in the case allege that consumers provided their information because they believe the websites will actually provide these services. Instead, consumers received only a PDF containing publicly available, general information about the service they sought.

Documents filed by the FTC allege that the defendants’ sites employed similar branding, language, and functionality to induce consumers to relinquish their credit card information, personal data, or both.

State Licensing Sites

According to the complaint, the defendants operated sites like DMV.com, which offers links for driver’s services in all 50 states and presents itself as a clearinghouse for many types of DMV-related services, from licensing to driving records, under the heading “Online DMV Services.” Other sites operated by the defendants included floridadriverslicense.org, coloradodriverslicenses.org, californiadrivers.org, and texasdriverslicenses.org.

The defendants used search-engine advertising and search-engine optimization to target consumers who search for state motor-vehicle or licensing services online. The FTC’s complaint alleges that in the spring and summer of 2019, entering the phrases “renew Florida drivers license online” and “get fishing license” into online search engines brought up the defendants’ sites as either the first- or second-listed link.

According to the complaint, after consumers submitted payment, in some instances, the sites simply linked back to the landing page, and the consumer received nothing. In other instances, the consumer received an email containing a link to a downloadable PDF with general, publicly available information.

The FTC alleges that the defendants’ sites did not deliver the promised services.

Public Benefits Sites

Documents filed by the FTC further allege that the defendants also operated dozens of websites that promise to verify consumers’ eligibility for public benefits. These sites appeared high in search results or sponsored links when consumers searched for ways to obtain public benefits.

The defendants’ public benefits sites offered to help consumers seeking government programs, such as housing assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, or unemployment benefits. According to the complaint, the sites solicited certain core pieces of personal information from consumers, including, but not limited to, their full name, address, date of birth, gender, telephone number, and email address.

According to the complaint, the sites also asked consumers about various sensitive topics, including their employment status, income range, social security eligibility, health insurance, credit-card debt, and health conditions. The FTC alleges that consumers who provided all the requested information on the defendants’ public benefits websites did not receive the promised eligibility determination.

According to the complaint, after providing information on the defendants’ public benefits websites, consumers almost immediately began receiving marketing emails from the defendants and third parties. Consumers also started receiving text messages containing marketing offers from the defendants and third parties. The emails and texts contained various marketing offers, including job-search assistance, free gift cards, and homebuyer grants. The complaint alleges that the defendants received millions of dollars from selling the personal data they collected from consumers through deceptive marketing.

The FTC complaint names as defendants Burton Katz, Brent Levison, Robert Zangrillo, Arlene Mahon, and Elisha Rothman, along with more than fifty companies they own and control.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.



Consumer Alerts from the Federal Trade Commission

by Cristina Miranda
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Online comparison sites can be great ways to check out products you want to try or buy. But are those reviews and rankings objective, accurate, and unbiased? It’s a question to always ask, and here’s why: Some online product reviews and rankings might be influenced by advertiser payments.

Read more >

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Statement of the FTC Chairman Regarding Announcement that Aveanna Healthcare and Maxim Healthcare Services have Terminated Their Acquisition Agreement

The Federal Trade Commission has closed its investigation into the proposed merger of Aveanna Healthcare and Maxim Healthcare.

“Staff of the Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Economics have investigated the proposed transaction for several months, including its potential effects in multiple localities across the country on markets both for nursing services and for private duty nursing care,” said FTC Chairman Joseph Simons. “As a result of that investigation, staff had concerns about the transaction’s potential anticompetitive effects. Now that the deal has been abandoned, patients and private duty nurses will continue to benefit from competition between Aveanna and Maxim.”

The Commission votes to disclose the existence of the investigation and close the investigation were both 5-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.



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Background Check Services Provider Agrees to Settle FTC Allegations that it Falsely Claimed Participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield


A company that provides security and investigative services, including background check services, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that the firm misrepresented its participation in and compliance with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which enables companies to transfer consumer data legally from European Union countries to the United States.

In a complaint, the FTC alleges that New York-based T&M Protection Resources, LLC continued to claim participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield after its certification lapsed. In addition, the company failed to verify annually that statements about its Privacy Shield practices were accurate and failed to affirm that it would continue to apply Privacy Shield protections to personal information collected while participating in the program.

As part of the settlement, T&M is prohibited from misrepresenting its participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, any other privacy or data security program sponsored by the government, or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization. In addition, T&M is required either to continue to apply the Privacy Shield protections to personal information it collected while participating in the program or to return or delete the information.

The Commission voted 5–0 to issue the proposed administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement with the company. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register soon. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.

NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.

Related Case

 

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).  



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FTC and NY Attorney General Charge Vyera Pharmaceuticals, Martin Shkreli, and Other Defendants with Anticompetitive Scheme to Protect a List-Price Increase of More Than 4,000 Percent for Life-Saving Drug Daraprim

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint in federal court against Vyera Pharmaceuticals, LLC, alleging an elaborate anticompetitive scheme to preserve a monopoly for the life-saving drug, Daraprim.

Daraprim is the gold standard treatment for a rare, potentially fatal parasitic infection known as toxoplasmosis. In most people, toxoplasmosis is easily contained by the immune system and causes no symptoms, according to the complaint. But for those with compromised immune systems—such as individuals with HIV/AIDS, cancer patients, or recipients of organ transplants—toxoplasmosis can lead to deadly infections of the brain and lungs.

“Daraprim is a lifesaving drug for vulnerable patients,” said Gail Levine, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission. “Vyera kept the price of Daraprim astronomically high by illegally boxing out the competition.”

The complaint (a public version of which will be available and linked to this news release as soon as possible), which the FTC filed jointly with the New York State Office of the Attorney General, alleges that when Vyera acquired Daraprim, the drug had been an affordable, life-saving treatment for more than 60 years. Vyera immediately raised the list price from $17.50 to $750 per tablet, which significantly impacted access to care. Because the defendants knew the increase would attract generic competition, they maneuvered to preserve the Daraprim revenue stream, according to the complaint. They illegally restrained trade through restrictive distribution agreements that ensured that would-be generic entrants could not buy samples of Daraprim, the complaint alleges. Without samples, generics were unable to conduct the FDA-mandated bioequivalence tests necessary for obtaining approval. The defendants also prevented competitors from accessing a critical ingredient used to manufacture Daraprim.

In addition, the defendants signed “data blocking” agreements preventing several distributors from selling Daraprim sales data to third-party data reporting companies, the complaint alleges. Generic companies rely on this data to assess whether a given development project is worth pursuing. With these agreements, the defendants sought to keep potential generic competitors from accurately assessing the market.

The complaint alleges that consumers and other purchasers of Daraprim likely would have saved tens of millions of dollars by purchasing generic versions of Daraprim. Instead, as a result of the defendants’ anticompetitive conduct, there is no generic version on the market today.

The FTC’s complaint also names as defendants Martin Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady, who allegedly were directly responsible for orchestrating the anticompetitive scheme, as well as Phoenixus AG, Vyera’s parent company.

The complaint seeks equitable monetary relief to provide redress to purchasers who have overpaid for the drug. The complaint also seeks remedial injunctive relief to restore competitive conditions to the market, halt any ongoing anticompetitive conduct, and prevent the defendants from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 5-0. Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued concurring statements. The complaint was filed on Jan. 27, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

 

RELATED ACTIONS

 

Offices of the United States Attorneys

02/03/2020 12:00 AM EST
On January 23, Aleksei Burkov pleaded guilty to access device fraud and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, identity theft, wire and access device fraud, and money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when sentenced on May 8.
02/03/2020 12:00 AM EST
A Houston area man has entered a guilty plea to money laundering in connection with his scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA)
02/03/2020 12:00 AM EST
Two defendants charged in relation to a more than $40 million securities fraud “pump and dump” conspiracy have now been ordered to prison
01/30/2020 12:00 AM EST


01/28/2020 12:00 AM EST
WASHINGTON – The United States filed two civil complaints today seeking temporary restraining orders in landmark cases against five companies and three individuals allegedly responsible for carrying many millions of fraudulent robocalls from foreign call centers to individuals in the United States, the Department of Justice announced.
01/28/2020 12:00 AM EST
BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced today that the Chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department and two Chinese nationals have been charged in connection with aiding the People’s Republic of China.  

Bergen And Burlington County, New Jersey, Religious Leaders Sentenced To Federal Prison For Conspiracy To Evade Taxes On Millions Of Dollars In Income From Church

01/28/2020 12:00 AM EST
Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced today that the United States has filed a federal civil lawsuit against Surgical Care Affiliates, Inc., the Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, L.P., and Dr. Patrick T. Hunter, alleging that they falsely billed Medicare and TRICARE, over a seven-year period, for unnecessary kidney stone procedures, and engaged in an illegal kickback arrangement in which Dr. Hunter referred patients to the Orlando Center.
01/28/2020 12:00 AM EST
01/27/2020 12:00 AM EST
Knoxville, Tennessee – The sentencing hearing of Joshua Small, 52, and Joni Amber Johnson, 36, both of Princeton, West Virginia, for their roles in a conspiracy to kidnap elderly victims and rob them, will continue Tuesday morning, January 28, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. before the Honorable Chief Judge Pamela Reeves in the United States Courthouse in Knoxville.

COURT ENTERS JUDGMENT THAT SIGNIFICANTLY MODIFIES AND EXTENDS CONSENT DECREE WITH LIVE NATION/TICKETMASTER

Amended Final Judgment Extends by Five and a Half Years the 2010 Live Nation/Ticketmaster Final Judgment; Live Nation to Pay Costs and Fees to American Taxpayers for Enforcement

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced on Dec. 19, 2019, that it would file a petition asking the court to clarify and extend by five and a half years the Final Judgment entered by the court in United States v. Ticketmaster Entertainment, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:10-cv-00139-RMC (July 30, 2010). Today, the court entered the Amended Final Judgment. The court also set the procedure for naming of the Independent Monitoring Trustee. The Independent Monitoring Trustee is just one term within the Amended Final Judgment that will make enforcement of the decree for the extended time period more efficient.

“Live Nation broke the promises they made to the court and the American people when they merged with Ticketmaster in 2010; today, we are holding them accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The amended decree reimburses the American people millions of dollars and makes it easier for the Antitrust Division and state enforcers to identify and prosecute future transgressions.”

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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01/27/2020 12:00 AM EST
Eight defendants have been sentenced for their roles in an Indian based call center fraud scheme that victimized thousands in the United States resulting in over $3.7 million in losses. The sentences ranged from six months to four years and nine months in prison.
01/23/2020 12:00 AM EST
BOSTON – The former Vice President of Sales of Insys Therapeutics was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for his role in a nationwide conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication and defraud healthcare insurers.

01/14/2020 12:00 AM EST
A former Fannie Mae employee was sentenced today to 76 months in federal prison for a multimillion-dollar scheme to take bribes and to discount sales of Fannie Mae-owned properties to herself and to real estate brokers in exchange for cash kickbacks.



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FTC Finalizes Settlements with Five Companies Related to Privacy Shield Allegations

The Federal Trade Commission has finalized settlements with five companies over allegations they falsely claimed certification under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which enables companies to transfer consumer data legally from European Union countries to the United States.

In separate actions, the FTC alleged that DCR Workforce, Inc., Thru, Inc., LotaData, Inc., and 214 Technologies, Inc. all falsely claimed in statements on their websites that they were certified under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework. The FTC alleged that LotaData also falsely claimed that it was a certified participant in the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, which establishes a data transfer process similar to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework.

Finally, the FTC alleged that EmpiriStat, Inc. falsely claimed it was a current participant in the Privacy Shield after allowing its certification to lapse, failed to verify annually that statements about its Privacy Shield practices were accurate, and did not affirm it would continue to apply Privacy Shield protections to personal information collected while participating in the program.

Under the settlements, all five companies are prohibited from misrepresenting their participation in the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, any other privacy or data security program sponsored by the government, or any self-regulatory or standard-setting organization. EmpiriStat also is required to continue to apply the Privacy Shield protections to personal information it collected while participating in the program, or return or delete the information.

After receiving no comments, the FTC voted 5-0 to approve the settlements.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

 

Related Cases

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FTC Acts to Shut Down ‘Success by Health’ Instant Coffee Pyramid Scheme

Complaint alleges empty promises of wealth lead to millions in losses for participants

A federal court granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request to temporarily shut down an alleged pyramid scheme known as “Success By Health,” and to freeze the assets of the company and its executives.

In a complaint filed in federal court, the FTC alleges that Success By Health and its executives James “Jay” Dwight Noland, Jr., Lina Noland, Scott A. Harris, and Thomas G. Sacca, Jr., are operating a pyramid scheme that uses false promises of wealth and income to entice thousands of consumers to join. The FTC alleges that the defendants have taken more than $7 million from consumers, and pocketed over $1.3 million for themselves.

The FTC alleges that less than 2 percent of participating consumers received more money from the defendants than they paid to them, and that those lucky few averaged less than $250 per month—a far cry from the defendants’ promises of “financial freedom.” After accounting for the costs of the program, products, and events, enrollees lost millions of dollars, the FTC’s filings allege.

The FTC also alleges that Jay Noland is violating a 2002 court order stemming from a previous FTC case related to another failed pyramid scheme. Shortly before launching Success By Health in 2017, the FTC alleges, Noland told an audience, “People ask what do I do. I said, ‘I build pyramids, man.’”

The FTC alleges that Success By Health’s flagship product is an instant coffee called “MycoCafe” that includes a mushroom that the defendants claim has health benefits. However, the FTC alleges that selling the product to coffee drinkers took a back seat to recruiting more affiliates. Company training materials allegedly show that affiliates were pressured first and foremost to recruit more affiliates. The company’s “Four Steps to Success” pointedly do not include any advice on selling the company’s product, but instead prioritize spending lots of money on products and recruiting others to “duplicate” the same spending and recruiting.

The defendants told affiliates that “the masses” could earn more than $1 million each month in sales commissions, the FTC alleges. However, the marketing materials allegedly failed to disclose that to achieve that level of commissions, an affiliate would have to recruit more than 100,000 affiliates working underneath them, the vast majority of whom would be losing money at any given time.

The complaint alleges that when affiliates did try to sell the product to other consumers, they found themselves in competition with the company itself. Success By Health sells its products directly to the public for the same “wholesale” price paid by affiliates, severely limiting affiliates’ ability to follow the defendants’ instructions to apply a 50 percent “markup” before selling to the public.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and contempt order was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.



 

The United States Department of Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 2020

WWW.JUSTICE.GOV/NEWS

 

 

FORMER AIR CARGO EXECUTIVE EXTRADITED FROM ITALY FOR PRICE-FIXING

Case Marks Antitrust Division’s Most Recent Successful Extradition on Antitrust Charges

WASHINGTON – Maria Christina “Meta” Ullings, the former senior vice president of cargo sales and marketing for Martinair N.V. (Martinair Cargo) and a Dutch national, was extradited from Italy, the Department of Justice announced today.

On Sept. 21, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta, Ullings was indicted for participating in a long-running worldwide conspiracy to fix prices of air cargo. A fugitive for almost 10 years, Ullings was apprehended by Italian authorities in July 2019 while visiting Sicily. Ullings initially contested extradition in the Italian courts, but after the Court of Appeals of Palermo ruled that she be extradited, she waived her appeal. She arrived in Atlanta on Jan. 10 and made her initial appearance today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

“This extradition ruling by the Italian courts – the seventh country to extradite a defendant in an Antitrust Division case in recent years, and the second to do so based solely on an antitrust charge – demonstrates that those who violate U.S. antitrust laws and seek to evade justice will find no place to hide,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The Division appreciates the cooperation of the Italian authorities in this matter. With the assistance of our law enforcement colleagues at home and around the world, the Division will aggressively pursue every avenue available in bringing price fixers to justice.”

According to the indictment, Ullings conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing and coordinating certain surcharges, including fuel surcharges, charged to customers located in the United States and elsewhere for air cargo shipments. These air cargo shipments included heavy equipment, perishable commodities, and consumer goods destined for American consumers and shipped by American producers. Ullings is alleged to have participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2001 until at least February 2006.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Including Ullings, a total of 22 airlines and 21 executives have been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation into price fixing in the air transportation industry. To date, more than $1.8 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and seven executives have been sentenced to serve prison time.

Ullings is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

The Antitrust Division and the FBI led the United States’ extradition effort. Assistance with the extradition was provided by the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Marshals Service. The investigation into the air transportation industry has been conducted by the Antitrust Division, the FBI, the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General.

Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section at 202-307-6694 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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The United States Department of Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2020

WWW.JUSTICE.GOV/NEWS

 

 

DOJ AND FTC ANNOUNCE DRAFT VERTICAL MERGER GUIDELINES FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today withdrew the 1984 DOJ Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, and, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), released new draft 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines (draft guidelines) and seeks public comment. The draft guidelines, open to comment for 30 days, describe how the federal antitrust agencies review vertical mergers to evaluate whether the mergers violate antitrust law. Vertical mergers combine two or more companies that operate at different levels in the same supply chain. The draft guidelines outline the agencies’ principal analytical techniques, practices, and enforcement policy for vertical mergers.

The agencies will review and consider the public comments before issuing final Vertical Merger Guidelines. The agencies cooperated closely in preparing the draft guidelines, which reflect the agencies’ significant experience in analyzing vertical mergers. The guidelines are intended to assist the business community and antitrust practitioners by providing transparency about the agencies’ antitrust enforcement policy with respect to vertical mergers.

“I appreciate the Antitrust Division working to update this decades-old statement regarding the practices and policies of the federal enforcement agencies in this critical area, in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “As this effort demonstrates, the Department of Justice is committed to principled and transparent antitrust enforcement, which promotes free enterprise, market competition, and ultimately the welfare of American consumers. We look forward to public input and finalizing this important work, along with the FTC.”

“While many vertical mergers are competitively beneficial or neutral, both the Department and the Federal Trade Commission have recognized for over 25 years that some vertical transactions can raise serious concern,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The revised draft guidelines are based on new economic understandings and the agencies’ experience over the past several decades and better reflect the agencies’ actual practice in evaluating proposed vertical mergers. Once finalized, the Vertical Merger Guidelines will provide more clarity and transparency on how we review vertical transactions. I look forward to receiving comments on these draft guidelines and working with the Federal Trade Commission in finalizing them.”

“Challenging anticompetitive vertical mergers is essential to vigorous enforcement. The agencies’ vertical merger policy has evolved substantially since the issuance of the 1984 Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, and our guidelines should reflect the current enforcement approach. Greater transparency about the complex issues surrounding vertical mergers will benefit the business community, practitioners, and the courts,” said FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons. “We invite comments from all stakeholders to help ensure that the guidelines clearly and accurately convey the agencies’ antitrust enforcement policy with respect to vertical mergers.”

The draft guidelines adopt the principles and analytical frameworks in the agencies’ Horizontal Merger Guidelines, including market definition, the analytic framework for evaluating entry considerations, the treatment of the acquisition of a failing firm or its assets, and the acquisition of a partial ownership interest. The draft guidelines describe the analytical and enforcement considerations that are specific to vertical mergers.

The draft guidelines:

  • describe potential anticompetitive effects resulting from vertical mergers, which may include both unilateral and coordinated effects;
  • identify foreclosure and raising rivals’ costs and access to competitively sensitive information as potential elements of antitrust harm under unilateral effects;
  • describe an analytic framework for analyzing potential anticompetitive effects of foreclosure and raising rivals’ costs;
  • discuss how the elimination of double marginalization may mitigate or completely neutralize the potential anticompetitive effects of vertical mergers;
  • discuss cognizable merger efficiencies that are specific to vertical mergers;
  • provide a number of examples to provide more clarity about the agencies’ analytical methods in evaluating vertical mergers.

Comments on the draft guidelines can be submitted to VMG Comments, and must be received no later than Feb. 11, 2020. 

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order settling charges that Bristol-Myers Squibb Company’s proposed $74 billion acquisition of Celgene Corporation would violate federal antitrust law.

According to the complaint, which was first announced in November 2019, the proposed acquisition would likely harm consumers in the U.S. market for treatments taken orally for moderate-to-severe psoriasis.

In the largest divestiture that the FTC or the U.S. Department of Justice has ever required in a merger enforcement matter, Bristol-Myers Squibb will divest to Amgen, Inc., for $13.4 billion, Celgene’s Otezla—the most popular oral treatment in the United States for moderate-to-severe psoriasis.

The Commission vote to approve the final order was 3-2. Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter voted no.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about how competition benefits consumers or file an antitrust complaint. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Related Case

 



U.S. Department of Justice

01/09/2020 12:00 AM EST
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Nancy Jean and Carissa Scott with a scheme to defraud concert investors by falsely claiming to act as booking agents for well-known entertainers, including Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars.

Seafood Company Charged With Violations of the Lacey Act
12/31/2019 12:00 AM EST

12/30/2019 12:00 AM EST

12/30/2019 12:00 AM EST


 


 

City of Shreveport Agrees to $342 Million Sewer System Upgrade to Comply with Clean Water Act

 

 

Release Date: 11/13/2013
Contact Information: Jennah Durant or Joe Hubbard, 214 665-2200 or R6press@epa.go

The city of Shreveport, La., has agreed to make significant upgrades to reduce overflows from its sanitary sewer system and pay a $650,000 civil penalty to resolve Clean Water Act (CWA) violations stemming from illegal discharges of raw sewage, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.  The state of Louisiana, a co-plaintiff in this case, will receive half of the civil penalty.

When wastewater systems overflow, they can release raw sewage and other pollutants, threatening water quality and potentially contributing to disease outbreaks.  To come into compliance with the CWA, the city estimates it will spend approximately $342 million over the next 12 years in order to improve the sewer system’s condition.  While the city upgrades the system, it will also implement a program for capacity management, operation, and maintenance to help reduce sanitary sewer overflows.

“The key provisions of this settlement will eliminate overflows of raw sewage in neighborhoods that have for too long been subject to these contaminated overflows,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher.  “These provisions are critical to protecting the public health of all citizens of Shreveport.”  

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to assisting our federal partners and the state in protecting the environment and public health,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley.  “Sewer overflows are a public health hazard.  The citizens of Shreveport are the beneficiaries of this settlement, which will eliminate these overflows

“Keeping these discharges out of our waterways is a priority for the EPA and the state of Louisiana,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry.  “The residents of Shreveport deserve clean water and reliable infrastructure, and this agreement will help achieve that.”

The Justice Department, on behalf of the EPA, filed a complaint against the city alleging that, since 2005, the city has had untreated sewage overflows from its sanitary sewer system in violation of the CWA and state-issued discharge permits.  The cause of these illegal overflows stems largely from the city’s failure to properly operate and maintain the condition of the sewer system, resulting in discharges of untreated sewage into local waterways and the community.

Shreveport’s wastewater collection and treatment system, including the Lucas and North Regional waste water treatment plants, serves approximately 220,000 people in an environmental justice area. 

Keeping raw sewage out of the community and the waters of the United States is a national priority for EPA, as sewage overflows can present a significant threat to human health and the environment.  These discharges can degrade water quality, spread bacteria and viruses, and cause diseases ranging from gastroenteritis to life-threatening conditions such as cholera and dysentery.  

The settlement, which will be lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period before the court can give final approval and enter the consent decree as final judgment, at which time it will become effective.  The proposed consent decree can be viewed online at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

More information about the settlement:  www2.epa.gov/enforcement/city-shreveport-settlement

More information about EPA’s national enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011sewagestormwater.html

More information about Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Plans: cfpub.epa.gov/npdes

 

 

 

 

 

 

HGN

 

All information is as is and is not intended to provide market advise but market  and business information. All information provided is the sole responsibility of the provider of the link and not HU. As with all information, research it first and check it with three sources you know to be credible before making any financial decisions.

 

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