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Christopher Brogdon municipal bond programs are the subject of an investor lawsuit by Goldman Scarlato & Penny, P.C. Brogdon orchestrated a series of municipal bond offerings that purported to raise money for investments in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and/or retirement housing throughout the United States. Brogdon-controlled companies managed the facilities, and were responsible for disbursing the investor money raised through the bond offerings.

The SEC filed a lawsuit against Brogdon in November 2015 and charged Brogdon with operating a fraudulent scheme. According to the SEC lawsuit, instead of using investor funds from a particular Brogdon bond offering for the facility for which they were intended, Brogdon diverted a portion of the proceeds to either pay for his and his wife’s lavish lifestyles, or to prop up the Brogdon scheme. Also, contrary to the “use of proceeds” provisions in the Brogdon bond offerings, Brogdon commingled funds raised from investors, and used the commingled funds in part to make Ponzi-like payments to other Brogdon bond offering investors. The SEC action is subject to a Court-approved Plan whereby Brogdon has promised to repay investors.

The GSP lawsuit was filed on behalf of investors in Brogdon municipal bonds and seeks to recover losses incurred by those investors. GSP lawyers often represent investors who lose money as a result of alleged investment schemes. Christopher Brogdon and his bond offerings are continuing to be investigated by the GSP lawyers.

Investors who believe they lost money as a result of their investments in bond programs offered by Christopher Brogdon may contact Paul Scarlato by email at scarlato@lawgsp.com or by phone at 484-342-0700 to discuss your options. Or, if you have information that might help the case, we are interested in talking to you as well.

The investigation follows wide-spread consumer complaints that the touchscreens on Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus eventually fail to respond to a user’s touch. According to the complaints, when the touchscreen problem occurs, many iPhone 6 owners visit their Apple store Genius Bar seeking a fix. Some consumers are told that Apple is unable to resolve the problem, and their only option is to purchase a new phone. Others are told to replace the touchscreen at a cost of over $100. However, the screen replacement either doesn’t fix the problem, or fixes it only temporarily, after which the problem returns. GSP is investigating whether the problem is actually caused by an underlying design defect in the phone.

If you experienced problems with the touchscreen on your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and were told it could not be fixed, or you were charged for a repair that did not work, or was only a temporary fix, we would like to speak with you and explain the legal steps a consumer can take. Please contact Paul Scarlato by email at scarlato@lawgsp.com.

Highly-Sensitive Personal Information of 397,000 Patients Stolen and Offered for Sale

Goldman Scarlato & Penny is investigating a possible claim on behalf of all persons whose private information was compromised as a result of a data breach at Athens Orthopedic Clinic (“Athens”).

On July 25, 2016, the Georgia-based clinic announced that its electronic database was breached “when a hacker used the credentials of an outside contractor who performed certain services for the Clinic.” The personal records of 397,000 patients were stolen.  Athens stated, “Personal information of our current and former patients has been breached, including names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth and telephone numbers, and in some cases diagnoses and partial medical history.”  News articles show that Athens first learned of the breach in June, about one month before it made the announcement.

According to Karin Koser of KPK & Co., who is handling public relations for Athens, the company is working with a federal authority investigating the data breach.  Athens is currently notifying its affected patients and is also supplying information on how to obtain a free credit report.

Recent news reports indicate that an underground organization calling itself the “Dark Overlords” has already advertised that stolen records from this breach are for sale on the black market.

When the personal information that is compromised includes social security numbers and other personal information, those affected should be concerned about identity theft.  Such stolen information can also been used to file false tax returns, make fraudulent claims for health care coverage, open credit accounts in the name of the victim, and more.

Athens maintains at least 11 locations throughout Georgia:  Athens, Bethlehem, Commerce, Covington, Greensboro, Jefferson, Loganville, Madison, Monroe, Royston, and Snellville.  It is also associated with the William Mulherin Surgery Center, the Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center (SPARC), Athens Urgent Care, the Occupational Health & Pain Management Center, a Therapy Center, and an Imaging Center, all located in Athens, GA.

If you receive a notice from Athens Orthopedic Clinic that your personal information was stolen, of if you believe your private information has been compromised or that you are a victim of the Athens Orthopedic Clinic Data Breach, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights. GSP attorneys are actively litigating data breach actions against Anthem, 21st Century Oncology, Community Health Systems, Premera, Intuit, Medical Informatics, Excellus, United Shore and Target. Please contact Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.  Please also check our websites:  www.lawgsp.com and www.anthemdataclassaction.com.

It’s time for fun in the sun.  Time for you and your family to enjoy the great outdoors.  You apply sunscreen protection to safeguard yourself, and your children, from harm that can be caused by the sun’s increasingly strong rays, and you are on your way.

Unfortunately, the sunscreen protection you purchased may not provide the level of defense form the sun’s rays that you desired.

A recent study by Consumer Reports indicates that 43% of sunscreens don’t live up to their SPF claims (sun protection factor).  Two products that fell far short of their claimed SPF levels include Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free Lotion SPF 50 and CVS Kids Sun Lotion SPF 50. Both tested at an SPF of 8.  According to the report, “That’s not enough sun protection, and it could leave you (or your kids) vulnerable to sunburn and possible long-term skin damage, such as wrinkles or skin cancer.”

The magazine’s report report on sunscreen protection provided data on 60 lotions, sprays, and sticks with a minimum claim of 30 SPF. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum level of 30 SPF.  The study showed that most mineral “natural” sunscreens (usually containing titanium dioxide or zinc) performed badly with only 26% of them actually performing at the claimed level of SPF.  Chemical suncsreens (those containing ingredients like avobenzone) performed better at 58%.  According to Consumer Reports, the results have not changed much over the past four years.  “Of all the sunscreens we’ve tested over that stretch of time, fully half came in below the SPF number printed on the label, and a third registered below an SPF 30.”

It should be noted that some of the manufacturers cited in the report dispute Consumer Reports’ finding.  According to the chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, Dr. Beth Lange, the study may have used a different methodology than that required by the FDA.   CVS, for example, claims that by applying FDA testing requirements, its products meet the SPF levels it claims.

According to the executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation, Dr. Tim Turnham, this study nevertheless is a “cause for real concern.”  All sunscreen manufacturers must test their products in compliance with the FDA.  However, Consumer Reports says the FDA “doesn’t routinely test sunscreens; it requires the manufacturers to test their products. But in most cases the companies don’t have to submit their results, just keep them on hand in case the FDA asks to see them. What’s more, companies only have to test a sunscreen on people when a product rolls out or is reformulated.”

Dr. Elizabeth K. Hale, senior vice-president of the Skin Cancer Foundation stated that the report ”raises very important points about the importance of SPF as well as the importance of broad-spectrum UVA protection as a means to reduce the risk of skin cancer and to minimize premature skin aging.”

Here is a link to the Consumer Reports article regarding sunscreen:  http://www.consumerreports.org/sunscreens/get-the-best-sun-protection/

If you purchased one of the sunscreen products that Consumer Reports found to misrepresent its SPF level, please email or contact an attorney at Goldman Scarlato & Penny, P.C. to discuss your concerns.  You may contact attorney Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com or call (484) 342-0700.

 

GSP, P.C. is investigating a possible claim on behalf of all persons whose private information was compromised as a result of stolen credit card information as announced by The Wendy’s Company (“Wendy’s) on May 11, 2016.  If you dined at a Wendy’s restaurant between October 26, 2015 and March 10, 2016, and have experienced fraudulent transactions on a credit or debit card since then, you may be a victim of this Wendy’s credit card breach.

According to a major credit card company, the types of data stolen in Wendy’s credit card breach may include your name, your card account number, the card’s expiration date, service code and verification code.

In its mid-May first quarter financial statement, the fast food restaurant chain reported that the Wendy’s credit card breach affected less than 300 of its 5800 North American locations, totaling about 5% of its stores. However, by mid-June, Wendy’s spokesperson, Bob Bertini, announced that the breach is “considerably higher than the 300 restaurants already implicated.”   In addition, at least one news article indicates that Wendy’s knew the data breach was ongoing even after it made its May announcement.

According to Bertini, the breach came in two waves.  Initially, malware was installed on point-of-sale (“POS”) devices at 300 locations.  But Bertini says another strain of malware was found recently on a different POS system.  Once hackers load the malware they remotely steal data when a credit card is swiped.  That information is easily transferred onto other cards that use magnetic strips and used to make purchases.

Wendy’s stated it disabled the malware where it was detected.  Basically, Wendy’s still does not know whether the Wendy’s credit card breach has been contained.  Bertini stated, “Wherever we are finding it we’ve taken action  . . . but we can’t rule out that there aren’t others.”  So far, Wendy’s has not shared the details of that strain or how many are affected.

Fraud analysts report that changing the magnetic strip card reader to a chip reader would help because it is very expensive for a hacker to copy.  Numerous big retailers have already moved to that process.  However, the VP and treasurer at The Wendy’s Company, Gavin Waugh, disagrees.  Wendy’s has not announced when it will start using chip readers at its stores.

If you believe you may have been affected or if you have used a credit card at any of Wendy’s locations, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights. GSP attorneys are actively litigating data breach actions against Community Health Systems, Anthem, Premera, Intuit, United Shore and Target. Please contact Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com  or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.  Please also check our websites:  www.lawgsp.com and www.anthemdataclassaction.com.

 

Goldman Scarlato & Penny, P.C. is investigating a possible claim on behalf of borrowers who obtained a mortgage through one of the following financial institutions:  M&T Bank, Selene Mortgage, and Fifth Third Bank, and who had a hazard, flood or wind insurance policy placed on their home by the bank.  This practice is known as force placed insurance and M&T Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Selene Mortgage borrowers may have been charged artificially inflated premiums.

Goldman Scarlato & Penny is investigating how M&T Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Selene Mortgage handled their customers’ lapses in insurance coverage, in particular lapses in borrowers’ hazard, floor and wind insurance.  When there was a lapse in the borrower’s hazard, flood, or wind insurance, M&T Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Selene Mortgage may have purchased coverage on behalf of the borrower at extremely high rates.  The premiums were charged back to the borrower.

While M&T Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Selene Mortgage had the right to purchase insurance on behalf of its borrowers when they allowed for a lapse in coverage, it may not have been permitted under the terms of its agreements with its borrowers to purchase polices at inflated levels.

If you have a mortgage with M&T Bank, Fifth Third Bank or Selene Mortgage and believe that the bank purchased forced place insurance, including hazard, flood or wind insurance, for you, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights. Please contact Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.

DO CERTAIN VOLKSWAGEN AND AUDI MODELS CONTAIN A TIMING CHAIN TENSIONER DEFECT THAT CAN CAUSE CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE?

Goldman Scarlato & Penny, P.C. is investigating whether Volkswagen and Audi models containing the 2.0L TSI and TFSI EA888 engines contain a serious design defect impacting the vehicles’ timing chain tensioner.  The alleged defect can cause catastrophic engine failure at any time or under any driving condition or speed. A timing chain tensioner failure can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair. The alleged defect affects the following VW and Audi models and model years (“MY”):

Volkswagen Golf MK5 GTI, MY 2006-2009

Volkswagen Golf MK6 GTI, MY 2010-2014

Volkswagen Jetta MK5, MY 2005-2010

Volkswagen Jetta MK6, MY 2011-2016

Volkswagen Passat B6, MY 2006-2010

Volkswagen CC, MY 2009-2016

Volkswagen EOS, MY 2008-2014

Volkswagen Tiguan, MY 2009-2016

Volkswagen Beetle, MY 2012-2016

Volkswagen Sportswagen, MY 2009-2014

Audi A3 8P, MY 2006-2013

Audi A4 B8, MY 2009-2012

Audi A5 B8, MY 2008-2012

Audi MK2 TT, MY 2008-2014

If you own or lease a VW or Audi model listed above, and have suffered a timing chain tensioner failure, you might be able to file a claim to recover any out-of-pocket costs or expenses you incurred.  Please contact Paul Scarlato at scarlato@lawgsp.com or 484-342-0700 to learn more.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its highly anticipated proposed rule to prohibit banks and other financial service providers from banning its customers from filing class action lawsuits to address alleged wrongdoing.  The proposal, found here:  (http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/CFPB_Arbitration_Agreements_Notice_of_Proposed_Rulemaking.pdf) is designed to limit the use of foreced arbitration, to prevent banks and other finance companies from “sidestepping the legal system” and to create accountability when consumers’ interests are violated.

This is not the only proposal in the works to address the surge in use of forced arbitration clauses.  A new bill in Congress, the Justice for Telecommunications Consumers Act of 2016, sponsored by Senators Blumenthal and Franken, if passed, would prevent telecom providers from taking away their customers’ right to sue.  Every major mobile carrier includes a one-sided arbitration clause in the contract consumers are forced either to sign or “click through” when they sign up for service.  Just a few weeks ago, a court in California dismissed a case brought against AT&T for throttling customers’ data speeds after they reached some arbitrarily set limit, even though the provider advertised that its plan included unlimited data.  The case was dismissed because of the presence of an arbitration clause.

Another bill, seeking more sweeping changes, is also being brought to the Senate.  The Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act of 2016, (S. 2506), would affirm consumers’ rights to bring actions against vendors when they violate state or federal law, without regard to the presence of an arbitration clause.  In addition, the Department of Education proposed a rule change that would eliminate the use of arbitration clauses by for-profit colleges.

These changes are necessary.  Studies show that consumers fare quite poorly when forced to arbitrate their individual claims.  In a study performed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency found that approximately 600 consumer arbitrations were conducted per year between 2010 and 2012, and the total amount awarded by arbitrators in all these proceedings was $175,000 in damages and less than $190,000 in debt relief.  In stark contrast, approximately $2.7 billion in class action settlements were achieved for consumers using the class action process over a five-year period, benefiting 32 million consumers.

To view more information on arbitration clauses:

See:  https://lawgsp.com/forced-arbitration/

See also:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/01/business/dealbook/arbitration-everywhere-stacking-the-deck-of-justice.html

If you have any questions about forced arbitration, or consumer class actions, please contact Goldman Scarlato & Penny attorneys Paul Scarlato at scarlato@lawgsp.com or Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com or Brian Penny at penny@lawgsp.com

 

If you have been unable to enter or park near the entrance of a store, stay at a hotel or dine in a restaurant because the facility did not accommodate your needs, or you have found yourself in a resort that allegedly offers access to those with disabilities, only to find that you can’t maneuver through your room, reach the towels, or use the swimming pool, you might have a legal remedy under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to force those offending business to comply with ADA.

The ADA, enacted in 1990, requires public places, like stores, hotels, resorts and restaurants to provide accommodations to customers and guests with a multitude of disabilities including those with limited mobility, who have hearing or speech disabilities, and for the blind or visually impaired.   It requires those public places to provide disabled customers with access to rooms, bathrooms, and of course, the building itself.  Public accommodations must also be provided to parking lots, sidewalks, check-in counters, concierge desks, gift shops, and the like.  Gym facilities, spas, pools, etc. must also be accessible.  The law also provides that things inside of each of these areas be accessible including shelves, doors, hooks, closets, etc.

To comply with the ADA, the law also requires that access for those with disabilities not be separated from other access.  However, there are differences defined by the date of the construction of the building.  Generally, with a few exceptions, any facility constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993 must fully comply with the ADA.  Any building constructed and occupied before January 26, 1992 must remove barriers if it is “readily achievable.”  That standard varies according to location, difficulty, expense, etc.  The ADA also addresses modifications and renovations to existing buildings.

Recently, there have been numerous lawsuits for violations of the ADA filed by the Department of Justice, as well as private lawsuits.  These include suits have been filed against major hotel chains such as the Omni Hotel, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton.  In most successful cases, the defendant is required pays the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.  This provides access to the court system to those who might not otherwise have been able to afford to bring a lawsuit.

If you believe you have been a victim of an establishment’s failure to comply with the ADA, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights.  Please contact Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com, Brian Penny at penny@lawgsp.com, or Paul Scarlato at scarlato@lawgsp.com or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.

 

Data Information of 950,000 Patients Missing

GSP, P.C. is investigating a possible claim on behalf of all persons whose private information was compromised as a result of the loss of six hard drives as announced by healthcare enterprise Centene Corporation (“Centene”) on January 26, 2016.

According to recent news reports, Centene lost six hard drives containing the personal records of almost 1 million patients.  The missing data from the Centene security lapse includes the names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, social security numbers, membership details and health information of patients who received laboratory results between 2009 and 2015.  Centene claims the drives did not contain financial information or payment records.

Centene is listed as a Fortune 500 company.  It claims to be “a diversified, multi-national healthcare enterprise that provides a portfolio of services to government-sponsored healthcare programs, focusing on under-insured and uninsured individuals.”  But is it secure?

Recently, data breaches are running rampant and the health care industry has been on high alert.  While most companies are taking a closer look at data security, one has to wonder how such a big company can have such a lapse in security and misplace its hard drives.

Centene’s President and CEO, Michael F. Neidorff, stated that “Centene takes the privacy and security of our members’ information seriously. . . While we don’t believe this information has been used inappropriately, out of abundance of caution and in transparency, we are disclosing an ongoing search for the hard drives. The drives were a part of a data project using laboratory results to improve the health outcomes of our members.”  Granted, it was the right thing to do in taking the initiative to announce the loss, but it’s not possible for Centene to know whether the information has been used or will be used inappropriately.

The common fear is that the missing data has fallen into the wrong hands.  Patients fear possible embarrassment if friends and family learn their medical histories or that they may face trouble in securing healthcare insurance in the future.  However, the true impact could be more damaging and will take some time to be revealed. As we saw with the early 2015 data breach announcements by Premera Blue Cross and Anthem Inc., repercussions can be frightening. Coinciding with those two breaches were an alarming number of reports of stolen social security numbers being used to file false tax returns and claim refunds in the names of the persons whose identity was stolen. Potential fraudulent activity could also include health care fraud and obtaining credit cards in someone else’s name.

There’s not much Centene can do now other than check behind the bookshelves and in the trash cans.  It seems they are only now looking into tighter data security measures.  In an interview with the BBC, Centene refused to respond to “whether the information on the hard drives was encrypted” and how the loss occurred.  According to Centene, the search for the drives is “ongoing” and they are “beginning the process of notifying all affected individuals and all appropriate regulatory agencies.”  Free credit and health care monitoring will be offered as part of the notification to its customers, which may be too little, and too late.

If you receive a notice from Centene about the Centene security lapse indicating that your information was contained on the missing hard drives, please contact a GSP attorney to learn more about your rights. GSP attorneys are actively litigating data breach actions against Community Health Systems, Anthem, Premera, Intuit, United Shore and Target. Please contact Mark Goldman at goldman@lawgsp.com or Paul Scarlato at scarlato@lawgsp.com or call (484) 342-0700 with any questions you may have.  Please also check our websites:  www.lawgsp.com and www.anthemdataclassaction.com.