Amazon defeats historic Alabama union effort

man with RWDSU sign outside warehouse in Alabama

Amazon has defeated activists hoping to establish the company’s first unionised warehouse in the US.

Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted 1,798 to 738 against the effort, labour officials said. 

That represents a majority of votes cast, though some ballots have been challenged and have yet to be counted.

The contest was seen as a key test for the e-commerce giant, which has faced global criticism for its treatment of workers during the pandemic.

The union said it would challenge the results.

It accused Amazon of interfering with the right of employees to vote in a “free and fair election”, including by lying to staff about the implications of the vote in mandatory staff meetings and pushing the postal service to install a mailbox for the vote in an effort to intimidate workers.

“Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which organised the effort.

“We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote.”

Flutter Entertainment to defend its position in arbitration

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Betting group Flutter Entertainment, the owner of Paddy Power, Betfair and PokerStars, on Wednesday said it will “vigorously defend its position” after Fox Corp filed a suit against the company related to its option to buy a 18.6% stake in U.S. sports betting firm FanDuel Group.

“Fox’s position that it has a right to acquire an 18.6% interest in FanDuel based on an $11.2 billion valuation is incorrect.

It would represent a windfall to FOX compared to the fair market valuation as of July 2021, to which the parties had previously agreed,” the company said in a statement.

Nike wins halt to sales of Lil Nas X ‘Satan Shoes’

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday sided with Nike Inc in ordering a Brooklyn company to temporarily stop further sales of “Satan Shoes” it produced in collaboration with the rapper Lil Nas X.

U.S. District Judge Eric Komitee in Brooklyn ruled three days after Nike sued MSCHF Product Studio Inc, claiming that the black-and-red, devil-themed sneakers, which carry the Nike “swoosh” logo, infringed its trademarks.

The sneakers are customized versions of the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers that purport to contain one drop of human blood in the midsoles, and are printed with “Luke 10:18,” a biblical passage referring to Satan’s fall from heaven.

Only 666 pairs, costing $1,018 each, were made. Lil Nas X, known for the song “Old Town Road,” was planning to select who gets the 666th pair, but that plan was shelved following Nike’s lawsuit filed on Monday. He is not a defendant in the case.

“MSCHF strongly believes in the freedom of expression,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Nike and the court to resolve this case in the most expeditious manner.”

Nike and its lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

MSCHF’s lawyers had argued that Satan Shoes were “not typical sneakers, but rather individually-numbered works of art,” following on the company’s “Jesus Shoes” based on the same Nike model in 2019.

They said a temporary restraining order was unnecessary because shoe buyers would not think Nike was involved, and all but the 666th pair had already been sold and no more were being made.

Nike’s lawyers, in contrast, said “even ‘sneakerheads’ were actually confused by MSCHF’s shoes,” and MSCHF had a “history” of shipping infringing shoes faster than courts could stop it.

Lil Nas X last month released a devil-themed video for his song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).”

India court dismisses ByteDance’s plea to unblock bank accounts

MUMBAI (Reuters) – An Indian court on Tuesday dealt a blow to China’s ByteDance by dismissing its plea to unblock its bank accounts which have been frozen by federal authorities investigating alleged tax evasion.

An Indian tax intelligence agency in mid-March ordered HSBC and Citibank in Mumbai to freeze accounts of ByteDance India as it probed some of the firm’s financial dealings. ByteDance challenged the move in court saying the freeze amounts to harassment and was done illegally.

After a government counsel said ByteDance owed the authorities about 790 million rupees ($11 million), the High Court in Mumbai said the company will need to keep that amount blocked in a state-run bank.

That “account will be frozen”, the two-judge bench said.

Uber ordered to pay $1.1m to blind woman refused rides

Uber has been ordered to pay $1.1m (£795,000) to a blind woman who was refused rides on 14 occasions.

Lisa Irving said on some occasions, drivers were verbally abusive, or harassed her about transporting her guide dog, Bernie, in the car.

One driver allegedly cut her trip short after falsely claiming to have arrived at her destination.

An independent arbitrator ruled Uber’s drivers had illegally discriminated against her due to her condition.

It rejected Uber’s claim that the company itself was not liable, because, it argued, its drivers had the status of contractors rather than employees. 

Mrs Irving, from San Francisco, said she had worried about her safety after being stranded multiple times late at night due to being rejected by drivers.

She also alleged that cancelled rides also led to her being late for work, which contributed to her being fired from her job.

The behaviour from drivers continued despite her complaining to Uber, she said.

A spokesman for Mrs Irving said: “Of all Americans who should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who stand to benefit the most.

“The bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go.”

In a statement issued to media following the ruling, a spokesman for Uber said the company is “proud” of the help it offers blind passengers. 

“Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. 

“Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action,” he added.

It is not the first time Uber has faced a legal battle from the blind community. 

In 2014, The National Federation of the Blind in the US sued the ride-sharing app over guide-dog regulations. 

The case was settled in 2017 when Uber agreed to ensure its drivers knew they were legally obliged to provide service to people with guide dogs. 

“I’m sorry it came to this,” Mrs Irving told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper

“I would have preferred that my civil rights be respected. But it sends a strong message that this is not acceptable.”

Source: BBC

Russian court fines Twitter over failure to delete content

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court on Friday fined Twitter 3.2 million roubles ($42,011.29) over its failure to delete what the authorities said was banned content.

Moscow said last month it had slowed the speed of U.S.-based Twitter inside Russia and on March 16 threatened to ban the social media service outright in a month over content ranging from child pornography to drug abuse.

There was no immediate comment from Twitter. It said earlier that it was worried about the impact on free speech of the Russian action, and denied that it allowed its platform to be used to promote illegal behaviour as alleged by Russian authorities.

($1 = 76.1750 roubles)

U.S. trade regulator will not appeal Qualcomm case to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Trade Commission said on Monday it would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review its appeals court loss against Qualcomm Inc, which the agency had accused of breaking antitrust law in selling chips for smartphones.

In October, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not rehear arguments over whether the San Diego, California-based company had engaged in anticompetitive patent-licensing practices to keep a monopoly on the market for modem chips that connect smart phones to wireless data networks. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled in August that the FTC failed to prove its case.

In a statement, Acting FTC Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter noted “significant headwinds facing the Commission in this matter” in deciding to not petition the Supreme Court.

“I continue to believe that the district court’s conclusion that Qualcomm violated the antitrust laws was entirely correct and that the court of appeals erred in concluding otherwise,” she added.

Representatives for Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Goldman securities case: U.S. Supreme Court wrestles over investor class actions

(Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday struggled in a case involving Goldman Sachs Group Inc over how judges should determine when shareholders can collectively sue publicly traded companies for fraudulent statements that keep their stock prices artificially high.

The justices heard arguments in Goldman’s appeal of a lower court ruling that permitted a class action suit by shareholders accusing the bank and three former executives of concealing conflicts of interest when creating risky subprime securities before the 2008 financial crisis in violation of a federal investor-protection law.

The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System and other pensions that purchased Goldman shares between February 2007 and June 2010 sued the company, accusing it of violating an anti-fraud provision of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and a related SEC regulation.

Central to the dispute are the shareholders’ claims that when they bought Goldman shares they relied upon the bank’s statements about its ethical principles and internal controls against conflicts of interest, and its pledge that its “clients’ interests always come first.” Goldman has argued that these “aspirational” statements were too vague and general to have had any impact on the stock price.

Questions posed by the justices during the arguments indicated that when they rule in the case they could provide guidance to judges to consider the generic nature of a company’s statements in deciding whether market price was affected.

But the justices appeared to struggle over how to make that determination and what evidence may be used. Businesses often seek to limit the ability of plaintiffs to pursue class actions in order to avoid the higher damages often seen in such litigation.

“How are you defining generic or, stated otherwise, what kinds of statements are not generic?” Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked an attorney for Goldman.

Some justices wondered how courts would analyze a class action against a company that simply called itself “nice.”

“There are people who would regard, ‘We are a nice company,’ as a fraudulent statement depending upon subsequent events, and how would they make that case?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

The case stemmed from Goldman’s sale of collateralized debt obligations including Abacus 2007 AC-1, which it assembled with help from hedge fund manager John Paulson.

In 2010, Goldman reached a $550 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to resolve charges that it cheated Abacus investors by concealing Paulson’s role, including how he made a $1 billion profit by betting the sale of collateralized debt obligations would fail.

The plaintiffs said that the share price would have been lower if the truth had been known about the company’s conflicts of interest, adding that they lost more than $13 billion due to Goldman’s conduct.

The Manhattan-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld a federal judge’s decision to let the plaintiffs sue as a group and rejected the company’s argument that generic statements can never impact a stock price.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

Mastercard fights bid to add 14 million dead customers to UK class action

LONDON (Reuters) – Mastercard, a global payment processor, is battling attempts to add about 14 million deceased people to a 14 billion pound ($19.3 billion) British class action in an effort to limit the scope of the historic case.

A Mastercard lawyer told London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) on Friday that an application seeking to add those who died between 1992 and 2008 into the country’s first mass consumer claim, that alleges the company overcharged people over a near 16-year period, was a “nullity”.

“A claim cannot be brought in the name of a deceased person,” Mark Hoskins, representing Mastercard, said at the hearing.

Former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks, who is leading the claim, alleges that Mastercard overcharged almost 60 million people in Britain – including about 14 million people who are deceased – over the period. The case could entitle adults and their estates to roughly 300 pounds each if successful.

Hoskins said attempts to add new parties to the “very serious claim” — or their administrators, personal representatives, executors or next of kin — was also now time-barred. The company is also resisting attempts to add compound interest to the claim.

The drawn-out case was brought in 2016, one year after the CAT was nominated to oversee Britain’s U.S.-style “opt-out” class action regime for breaches of UK or EU competition law.

The CAT blocked the case in 2017 but is re-considering authorising it as a collective action and determining its scope — and establishing a standard for a string of other, stalled class actions — after the UK Supreme Court in December allowed the action to proceed.

Merricks, who is being advised by law firm Quinn Emanuel, alleges Mastercard charged excessive “interchange” fees – the fees retailers pay credit card companies when consumers use a card to shop – between May 1992 and June 2008 and that those fees were passed on to consumers as retailers raised prices.

Mastercard says it “fundamentally disagrees” with the claim, that people received valuable benefits from its payments technology and that the lawsuit is driven by U.S. lawyers and backed by organisations focused on making money for themselves.

($1 = 0.7264 pounds)

Court critical of German curb on Facebook data gathering

DUESSELDORF (Reuters) – A German court on Wednesday criticised curbs on data collection imposed on Facebook by the country’s antitrust watchdog, in an indication that it may find in favour of the social network’s appeal against the two-year-old order.

“We criticise the decision of the Federal Cartel Office,” Juergen Kuehnen, the presiding judge at the Higher Regional Court in Duesseldorf, told a hearing.

The cartel office ordered Facebook in February 2019 to curb its data collection practices, saying that the world’s largest social media company had abused its market dominance to gather information about its users without their consent.

Facebook appealed that decision and, in the last significant development in the case, the German Federal Court reinstated the restrictions last June pending a resolution of the high-stakes legal battle.

The case has thrown up questions over whether personal data protection – a hot-button issue in Germany – is a matter properly addressed under competition law or whether it would be better covered by the European Union’s privacy rules.