Legal Roundup: Two Pipelines Cause a Stir, Housing Companies Accused of Discrimination and More

The latest court decisions involving risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | July 15, 2020

Housing Companies Accused of Ageism in Facebook Ads

The Case: The Housing Rights Initiative has sued several large housing companies over Facebook advertisements for rental properties.

They claim the companies used the social network’s audience targeting tools to deliberately exclude older people from viewing the ads.

The Associated Press reports that the defendants include “Bozzuto Management Co., of Greenbelt, Maryland; Greystar Management Services LP, of Charleston, South Carolina; Kettler Management Inc., of McLean, Virginia; and Wood Residential Services LLC, of Rockville, Maryland.”

Facebook is not named in the suit, but the Housing Rights Initiative is “asking the court to bar the 10 companies from advertising on Facebook until the social media platform ‘no longer uses a discriminatory algorithm to determine the recipients of advertisements,’ ” the AP reported.

In the meantime, Facebook promises to change its platform to be more inclusive.

“In March 2019, Facebook said it would overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads as part of a legal settlement with groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Fair Housing Alliance,” according to the AP. 

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Is it discriminatory for a company to target their advertising toward a specific demographic group? Does it matter what types of products or services they are advertising? Those questions could be the crux of this case.

The court may determine it is unlawful for companies providing basic necessities like housing to cater to any one particular group. Even if it’s not discriminatory, doing so may have negative reputation impact.

GM Racketeering Suit Against Fiat Chrysler Dismissed

The Case: General Motors sued Fiat Chrysler (FCA) for allegedly bribing officials at the United Auto Workers union to “corrupt the bargaining process and gain advantages, costing GM billions of dollars,” according to reporting from Reuters.

GM argued that guilty pleas from FCA executives clearly showed multi-million dollar bribes that damaged GM. FCA said the case was meritless.

Scorecard: U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman dismissed the case saying that FCA’s actions did not directly lead to GM’s damages.

Borman wrote “GM’s high labor costs were not an injury proximately caused by FCA’s bribes, and any competitive injury that GM suffered as a result of FCA’s advantage in labor costs is an indirect injury,” Reuters noted

Takeaway: It’s difficult to prove that potential wrongdoing by one company adversely affects a competitor. To assign liability for damages, a plaintiff must be able to show a clear cause-and-effect link between the defendant’s actions and said damages. 

SCOTUS Fast-Tracks Two Pipelines But Not Keystone XL

The Case: Oil pipelines have been a hot topic recently — and none seems more divisive than Keystone XL. The planned project  would span nearly 1,200 miles from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.

Environmentalists are concerned about spillage and disrupting a fragile ecosystem of rivers, streams and wetlands. Proponents say it’ll create jobs and bring oil from Canada to the United States on a more direct route than existing pipelines.

The ensuing court battle centered around permitting used to fast-track construction. It rose all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Hill reports: “A lower court ruled in April that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not follow environmental requirements when it reissued the permit, known as Nationwide Permit 12, preventing it from being used across the country.”

Scorecard: The Supreme Court reinstated the use of Permit 12 for most pipelines but not for Keystone XL. 

Takeaway: The battle over the Keystone XL pipeline will rage on but the case “cleared the use of the Nationwide Permit 12 for some 70 other pipelines, allowing their construction to continue,” according to Gizmodo. TC Energy, the company heading up construction of the pipeline called the decision “positive for the oil and gas industry overall.” Expect to see more disputes over pipelines in the future.  &

Jared Shelly is a freelance business writer. Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance®. They can be reached at [email protected].

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