Posts tagged with "US District Court for the Northern District of California"

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight colleges snared in admissions bribery scandal

March 15, 2019

As if top U.S. colleges are not charging enough, parents are bribing industry officials to get their kids into the “right”schools.

Among the high-profile moms and dads who now are being hit with federal criminal charges for providing monetary inducements—some of them, six figures high—to college advisers, test proctors, admissions officers, or athletics coaches to admit their children are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as well as top business and legal executives nationwide.

Now, a class-action civil lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by two Stanford University students, Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, against eight top universities in connection with the massive college admissions bribery scandal, which hit the news on March 12,

The defendants in the lawsuit are Yale University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas, Wake Forest University, and Georgetown University. Federal prosecutors have said the schools, themselves, were victims of the scam,l according to a report by CNBC.

Indeed, the suit accuses each of the universities of being “negligent in failing to maintain adequate protocols and security measures in places to guarantee the sanctity of the college admissions process.”

And the suit, which claims more than $5 million in damages, alleges that, as a result of the payoffs, “unqualified students found their way into the admissions rolls of highly selective universities, while those students who played by the rules and did not have college-bribing parents were denied admission.”

Although the only two named plaintiffs to date are Olsen and Woods, the action would ultimately include potentially thousands of students as complainants—if not more, if the case is granted class-action status by a judge.

Also named as a defendant, according to The New York Times, is William “Rick” Singer, 59, the owner of a  college preparatory business, the Edge College & Career Network, who masterminded and profited from the scheme.

The suit claims that the universities named as defendants “knew or should have known of these corrupt practices because the funds” that were being used as bribes to gain admittance for the children of wealthy parents “were often going into university accounts; and to prominent figures, such as coaches and directors in charge of university accounts.”

The suit alleges that the plaintiff, “Olsen has also been damaged because she is a student at Stanford University, another one of the universities plagued by the fraud scandal. Her degree is now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether she was admitted to the university on her own merits, versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

And it says that her co-plaintiff, Woods, at the time she applied to USC for admission, “similarly was never informed that the process of admission at USC was an unfair, rigged process, in which parents could buy their way into the university through bribery and dishonest schemes.”

Wake Forest’s president, Nathan Hatch, in a letter made public said that “the university has cooperated fully with the investigation.”

Hatch said he “to make abundantly clear that Wake Forest is considered by the U.S. Department of Justice to be a victim of this fraud. In no way has it been suggested that the university was involved in the deceitful practices, nor were any employees, other than [Wake Forest volleyball coach Bill] Ferguson, accused of wrongdoing.”

Ferguson has reportedly been placed on administrative leave by the institution.

Lawyers for Olsen and Woods, as well as spokesmen for the other universities, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CNBC.

Research contact: @_DanMangan

‘Knock it off,’ says Williams-Sonoma in suit alleging Amazon is selling copies of its furniture

December 24, 2018

Some furniture being sold on Amazon this holiday season is not “sitting well” with housewares designer and retailer Williams-Sonoma. The San Francisco-based home furnishing chain brought suit against Amazon on December 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asking for damages and injunctive relief.

The basis for the legal complaint? Williams-Sonoma claims that the online merchant has used its proprietary designs, patents, and common law trademarks to sell copies of its “home goods, lamps, chairs, and other furniture and lighting products”

Specifically, the suit alleges that Amazon’s line of Rivet furniture includes products that are “strikingly similar” to those made by Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm unit—among them,  a $300 Orb Upholstered Dining Chair that the household goods maker introduced two years ago,  SF Gate reported on December 18,

According to a report by The Washington Post, “It’s widely known that third-party vendors sell counterfeit products on Amazon, but the company has sidestepped blame in the past by claiming it merely provides the platform and can’t control those vendors. This complaint is different. The knockoff Williams-Sonoma products are being sold and marketed by Amazon itself, putting Amazon in direct competition with Williams-Sonoma, according to the company’s lawyers.”

Although Williams-Sonoma doesn’t license its branded products to other online retailers, Amazon markets some merchandise on its website as Williams-Sonoma products “in a confusing manner that is likely to lead, and has led, customers to believe” that they are buying licensed Williams-Sonoma goods, the complaint says.

Williams-Sonoma notes in its legal filing that, “Among the harm caused by Amazon’s infringing acts, consumers may come to associates [our] Williams-Sonoma [trademark] with overpriced, low-quality, or potentially unsatisfactory goods or services.”

The company claims that, already, “Many of these products have been the subject of customer complaints on the Amazon website, are not subject to WSI’s quality control measures, and/or have been damaged or altered such that the Williams-Sonoma mark no longer properly applies.”

The Post also reports that Amazon has marketed the knockoff Williams-Sonoma products through targeted emails—and to make matters worse, one such email was sent to the president of Williams-Sonoma, Janet Hayes. Court documents show an email Hayes received with the subject line “Janet: Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark 1 Pound Tin and more items for you,” which linked to a holiday candy priced at almost double what Williams-Sonoma sells it for.

Williams-Sonoma is requesting damages of up to $2 million per counterfeit item being sold by Amazon, as well as legal costs.