Legal Roundup: Google Tracking in Question, Elon Musk $56 Million Tesla Compensation Trial and More
SCOTUS Declines StarKist Price-Fixing Appeal
The Case: The U.S. Department of Justice investigated three packaged tuna suppliers, including StarKist, and found price-fixing and antitrust violations.
StarKist admitted to price-fixing and was fined $100 million.
A class action suit followed in 2019, filed by packaged tuna purchasers. In 2021, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decertified the classes, saying that “the judge had failed to determine whether or not the number of uninjured tuna buyers was too small to justify class action status,” according to Reuters.
“On further review, an 11-judge 9th Circuit panel voted 9-2 in April to break the three classes apart and declined to adopt a rule against certifying a class action even if only a trivial number of class members were harmed. StarKist appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.”
Scorecard: The Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.
Takeaway: “The case could have given the justices, had they decided to hear it, a chance to make it harder for consumers and other plaintiffs to receive class action status,” reported Reuters.
StarKist is owned by Dongwon Industries, based in South Korea.
The other two companies under investigation were Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea. The three brands sell more than 80% of packaged tuna in North America.
Elon Musk’s $56 Billion Tesla Compensation Trial Begins
The Case: Tesla shareholder Richard Tornetta is suing Elon Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery, challenging Musk’s $56 billion compensation agreement.
Tornetta “is seeking to nullify Mr. Musk’s 2018 pay package, alleging that the CEO controlled the board’s consideration of his grant and that the board failed to disclose crucial information to shareholders, who signed off on it,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Tornetta alleges that Musk “dictated terms of the deal to finance his dream of traveling to Mars,” according to Reuters. Musk denies that claim.
Scorecard: The trial is underway and a decision has not yet been reached.
Takeaway: Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, who is presiding over the suit, also presided over the case to compel Musk to buy Twitter.
“Much of the trial has focused on the achievability of the performance targets that underpin Mr. Musk’s pay package,” reported the WSJ. McCormick is expected to issue her verdict “well after the trial concludes,” according to the WSJ.
Google Settles Location-Tracking Suit for $392 Million
The Case: Over 40 state prosecutors, led by Oregon and Nebraska, brought suit against Google after an Associated Press report revealed that Google services on iOS and Android devices continued to track data even after the location history setting was turned off.
The states claimed that “Google broke consumer protection laws by misleading users about when it secretly recorded their movements. It then offered the surreptitiously harvested data to digital marketers to sell advertisements, the source of nearly all of Google’s revenue,” according to NPR.
Scorecard: Google has agreed to pay nearly $392 million to settle the case.
Takeaway: According to the attorneys general who sued Google, “The payout is the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement,” reported NPR.
Google also agreed to “make the company’s location-tracking practices more clear, including showing users more information when they turn location tracking on or off and providing a detailed rundown of the location data Google routinely collects on a webpage.”
Hormel Close to Settling False Advertising Claim
The Case: In 2016, the Animal Legal Defense Fund brought a false advertising claim against Hormel, “alleging that the U.S. pork company misled consumers by marketing its Natural Choice products as ‘all natural’ and meeting ‘better standards,’ according to the complaint,” reported Reuters.
The plaintiffs claim that “the hogs used in Natural Choice pork products were raised in the same conditions and used the same slaughter methods as animals meant for other Hormel products.”
The ALDF took the case to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals after a lower court ruled in favor of Hormel.
Scorecard: The ALDF has filed a motion to dismiss after agreeing to an undisclosed settlement.
Takeaway: According to the ALDF, in addition to any cash payout, Hormel has agreed to be more transparent with consumers, adding information on its website to clarify terms in product labels and ads, as well as changing ad copy to include explanatory language.
The case reveals a larger issue regarding USDA rules and labeling.
According to Reuters, “The USDA has not gone through a regulatory process to define the ‘natural’ label,” although it has defined the term “organic.” &