Dell Technologies Will Pay $7 Million to Settle Discrimination Lawsuit

Cases of workplace discrimination seem to appear in the news nearly every week. Unfortunately, this trend is nothing new, as a study from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shows the agency received 1,889,631 discrimination complaints from 1997 to 2018. In 2017, a majority of these complaints were based on retaliation, race, disability, or sex.

While allegations of workplace discrimination can obviously damage the reputation of the business involved, monetary claims can also hurt. In fact, in a recent instance, Dell Technologies paid $7 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit.

Located in Round Rock, Texas, Dell Technologies will pay $7 million in lost wages, interest, and benefits to workers who claimed to be victims of racial and gender-based wage discrimination while at the company. Dell will also take part in “assuring that all employees are afforded equal employment opportunities” according to a news release on the agreement.

This workplace discrimination settlement with Dell is one of the largest obtained by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which monitors government contractors for compliance with non-discrimination laws.

In a written statement, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs director, Craig Leen stated, “Dell Technologies is working with us to ensure pay equity corporate-wide,” and that “Together, we will ensure that the company complies with equal employment opportunity laws in its employment practices, in addition to remedying findings that OFCCP made.”

The Dell settlement will resolve roughly 20 outstanding compliance evaluations, according to the agency. In a statement, the company has said, “Dell prides itself on being a leader in pay equity and inclusion. It’s how we do business. Using the Office of Federal Contract Compliances new early resolution procedures, Dell volunteered to work with the OFCCP toward a swift resolution of all open and pending matters. This positive outcome demonstrates our commitment to equal pay and opportunity. And embodies the great relationship Dell has had with the agency and will continue to have over the coming years.”

Houston Employment Litigation Attorneys 

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys work with businesses of all sizes in order to help prevent employment litigation through proactive reviews and education. Our experienced employment lawyers frequently train managers and supervisors on the nuances and regulations of employment law and policy. If your business needs the guidance of an experienced employment attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today.

$10 Million Lawsuit Against Abandoned Texas Theme Park Veiled in Controversy

For many, the idea of their hometown or city having a localized theme park to go to with family and friends seems simple enough. However, this has been a topic of contention for many Houstonians, since the beloved AstroWorld closed its gates for good in 2005 and was eventually demolished to make room for additional downtown parking and space for other local events. Though there have been rustlings of a new theme park, Adventure Pointe, to be built in the greater Houston area for several years now, a recent $10 million lawsuit has all but squashed those hopes.

Since AstroWorld’s 2005 closing, Houstonians pining for a new theme park were hopeful when it was announced that Adventure Pointe could mitigate the loss of a beloved local landmark. However, while the highly anticipated theme park promised a mixed array of rides, shopping, and food options, a $10 million lawsuit against the park owners was delivered instead.

Originally scheduled to open in 2015, the unfinished Adventure Pointe was touted to sprawl across dozens of acres next to the Tanger Outlet Mall. The space near Interstate 45 is now home to a wasteland of half-built rides instead. The park’s founders, cardiologist, Dr. Harvey Slusky and his wife Lisa were said to be longtime fans of bringing a new park to the Houston area. In fact, the doctor’s father, Louis Slusky helped to bring Playland Park to South Main many years ago. After Playland Park closed in the late 1960’s, the property was transformed into AstroWorld.

The lawsuit, which was filed in late September, alleges gross mismanagement by the Adventure Pointe developers. The defendants are accused of exaggerating their qualifications and of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Sluskys’ money that was intended for the park. A court date for the case has been set for December 13 of this year.

It’s not a complete loss for Houstonians vying for a new theme park, however. Grand Texas’ Big Rivers Waterpark opened this summer in New Caney. And, on an even larger scale, this past February, Mayor Sylvester Turner promised to bring a new theme park to Houston.

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

For the legal team at Feldman & Feldman, every case is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We work closely with our clients to offer the best results. If you are facing any type of business dispute or commercial litigation, contact the experienced attorneys at Feldman & Feldman today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

What Ignoring Workplace Harassment Can Mean For the Future of Your Business

Workplace harassment has remained top of mind for many businesses since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements brought several major issues to light in recent years. Unfortunately, however, many companies still struggle to tackle workplace harassment head-on, as they don’t think it could happen to them or happen in their office. In fact, more than 7,500 harassment claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2018 alone, a 14% increase from 2017. Failing to recognize workplace harassment when it occurs can have a negative effect on how a business is viewed and the future well being of its employees.

The Impact of Not Addressing Workplace Harassment

Businesses can face irreparable damage if harassment claims are not addressed. According to the EEOC, the number of harassment lawsuits rose by 50% in 2018 alone. Even just one harassment claim can wreak financial havoc on your business. Allegations of harassment affect the well-being of employees in the following ways:

  • Morale

Workplace harassment can have a significant emotional impact on victims. Any unaddressed issues can prolong the negativity for those affected. Often, when unaddressed, harassment will get worse, especially the victim feels afraid or uncomfortable reporting offenses, or if he or she decides not to report it out of fear. The lingering negativity can lead to a decline in morale and productivity.

  • Absenteeism

The emotional impact that results from workplace harassment can leave a victim feeling unable to come into work. Being traumatized by the harassment and trying to avoid facing a harasser can leave victims feeling trapped and unwilling to return to the office. This can put other employees in a problematic situation as well, as the uncompleted work will need to be covered by someone else. Results like these can sometimes cause other employees to have negative feelings towards the victim for not coming into work and can leave other employees feeling disengaged with management for not addressing the absences (or even the harassment).

  • Turnover

With morale in decline and absenteeism looming over a business, employee turnover can often be inevitable. Once other employees recognize management failed to address harassment claims (especially in the event they are aware it is happening), it will only be a matter of time before your work staff chooses to leave the business altogether.

  • Reputation

Prospective employees will avoid working for a business known for having a harassment problem. If a lawsuit is filed against the business, things can become incredibly difficult as the issue then becomes public knowledge. With public allegations of wrongdoing, outsiders become aware that not only has harassment occurred at the business, but also that management did nothing about it.

When a business’ reputation is tainted due to workplace harassment and further tarnished by the unwillingness of management to properly address the issues at hand, potential and even existing customers may simply go elsewhere. The costs of defending a business against a harassment lawsuit can force smaller companies to close their doors for good, making the financial risks and impact significant.

Houston Employment Attorneys

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys work with public and private businesses of all sizes to help prevent litigation down the road, and we also represent both employers and employees when legal disputes do arise. Our experienced employment lawyers frequently train managers and supervisors on the nuances and regulations of employment law and policy. If your business needs the guidance of an experienced employment attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today.

Federal Court Decision Allows ‘Smoking Gun’ Investors to Sue Banks for Fannie, Freddie Bond Rigging

Bonds can often play a major role when it comes to raising money. Government entities and corporations often issue bonds when they want to raise a certain amount of funding. When purchasing a bond, the issuer of the bond will receive a loan and agree to pay back the face value of that loan by a specific time. Unfortunately, however, bond rigging can become an issue when bond prices become fixed. Recently, a federal judge ruled investors can sue banks for such practices.

Recently in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York held investors can pursue antitrust claims against Bank of America Corp, BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank AG DBGKn.DE, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Morgan Stanley. Judge Rakoff cited a rare “smoking gun” in which investors would be able to sue the five banks for conspiring to rig prices on hundreds of billions of dollars of bonds issued by mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for over seven years.

Chat room transcripts between these banks’ traders illustrated “direct evidence of a conspiracy to fix prices,” which resulted in investors overpaying for newly issued bonds between January 2009 and January 2016.

Defendants underwrote $3.97 trillion of 77.2% of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds over the seven-year period. This resulted in the banks exploiting their dominance by overcharging in order to secure more profit for themselves.

The evidence collected included a chat from July 2012 where a Deutsche Bank trader told Bank of America, BNP Paribas, and Goldman traders that “anyone can hit any bit,” but it would be better that “we at least try to stay on the same page…less volatile.”

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

Disputes between businesses can often be complex, especially when matters of finance are involved. When a disagreement occurs, it can be helpful to have an experienced commercial litigation attorney by your side. At Feldman & Feldman we protect your business and best interests while also aggressively pursuing your claims. If you believe your business could use the assistance of a commercial litigation attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today to discuss your case.

Longtime Apple Creative Executive Sues Ad Agency for Age Discrimination

Age discrimination has become an unfortunate trend within the modern workplace. In fact, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 2017 survey, more than 6 in 10 workers age 45 and up said they have either seen or experienced a form of age discrimination in the workplace. Of those, roughly 90% said it is somewhat common to very common. Recently, a longtime creative executive who worked on several campaigns for Apple sued his agency for its discriminatory employment tactics.

Duncan Milner worked as a creative executive for TBWA\Media Arts Lab for nearly 30 years before he was terminated from his position. When the agency was founded as a bespoke agency for Apple in 2000, Milner was the creative lead and rose to CCO in 2009. In 2016 however, Milner was replaced by TBWA’s current CCO, Brent Anderson, and was moved into a position vaguely defined as global chief creative president and was focused on MAL\For Good, the purpose-driven arm of the agency.

After TBWA’s chairman and global director Lee Clow retired in February of this year, Milner was informed the agency “couldn’t carry his salary anymore,” according to the lawsuit, and he was subsequently terminated in June.

In a statement, TBWA said that MAL\For Good, “struggled to be profitable as a stand-alone business entity,” and that “earlier this year, the decision was made to evolve MFG into a strategic, consultative offer within TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. As a result, Duncan Milner’s position as the creative leader of MAL\For Good was eliminated.”

In Milner’s complaint filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, he states he is suing TBWA for age discrimination and breach of oral and implied contracts. In addition to these claims, his lawsuit also points to the alleged erosion of Milner’s compensation and influence as of late, culminating in his replacement by Anderson as CCO of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, which is described in the lawsuit as a “demotion.”

Additionally, Milner alleges he was presented with two options: to either take a 50% pay cut and take on three additional accounts, or to accept a severance package and leave the agency. In June, Milner was called into a meeting with Chief Talent Officer Kristen Clark and TBWA\Chiat Day L.A. managing director Michael Claypool and allegedly told “they had looked around” and “didn’t have anything for him, even at a reduced salary.”

Within Milner’s 31 years at TBWA he was a part of building some of Apple’s wildly successful marketing campaigns, including “Mac vs. PC,” the iconic “Silhouette” advertisements that helped establish the iPod, as well as the ongoing “Shot on iPhone” campaign. The lawsuit also details Milner’s close work with Apple founder Steve Jobs prior to his death in 2011, and his often being praised by Jobs for his work.

Houston Employment Law Attorney

If employers and management do not work to prevent employment-related disputes, it is only a matter of time until a dispute will arise. At Feldman & Feldman, we work closely with our clients to understand the exact circumstances surrounding the dispute so we can resolve employment cases successfully. If you are faced with an employment dispute that requires the need of an experienced employment law attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today to discuss your case.

What Questionable Acquisition Tactics Mean for AT&T & CEO Moving Forward

As many know, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are common practices between corporations. The concept of mergers and acquisitions describes the consolidation of businesses and/or their assets through various types of financial transactions. If and when these transactions go awry, it can put the process into question. Recently, AT&T and its CEO had their acquisition tactics questioned.

Recently, activist hedge fund Elliot Management announced taking a $3.2 billion stake in telecommunications giant AT&T. In its announcement, Elliot Management noted the decision came after AT&T’s history of making several questionable acquisition decisions, including purchasing DirecTV and Time Warner, as well as lackluster operational performance. In 2019 alone, AT&T spent roughly $200 billion on acquisitions.

Though AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s vision for the company ultimately turned it from a solely wireless entity to a wireless and media giant, the business is now $200 billion in debt. The enterprise value of AT&T currently sits at $270 billion.

Elliot’s announcement makes clear questionable acquisition tactics may be coming to light. In the letter, Elliot suggests the board should consider making changes to AT&T’s current leadership. Though the hedge fund did not explicitly call for Stephenson’s removal, it did suggest the addition of new board members. In addition, it went into detail about Stephenson’s decision making, including mentioning his three largest M&A maneuvers – the failed purchase of T-Mobile, the $67 billion acquisition of DirecTV, and the $104 billion takeover of Time Warner. Ultimately, the firm prefers for Stephenson to take a step down as CEO in order to mitigate these issues.

In the letter, Elliot stated, “AT&T has suffered from operational and execution issues over the past decade, for which the current leadership team is accountable,” and, “there is no greater Board responsibility than to evaluate the skills and experience necessary to lead AT&T, with its current mix of assets, into the future. Especially given the recent management changes, this is the moment to determine the right team for the next decade. For AT&T, its shareholders, customers and employees, the opportunity is too great, and the cost of continued mistakes too high, to get it wrong.”

Earlier this month, AT&T announced it had promoted WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey to chief operating officer of the whole company. Stankey was part of the team responsible for buying and integrating DirecTV; however, according to those close with the company, Elliot does not believe Stankey should replace Stephenson as CEO.

Moving forward, Elliot has a four-part plan to boost AT&T’s share price to over $60. The proposal includes sections on improving the strategic focus of the company, operational improvements, a formal capital allocation framework, and enhanced leadership and oversight.

Though, whether or not AT&T’s board will take notice of Elliott’s suggestions is ultimately unclear. This is because the board doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with Elliott’s letter. Sources close to Elliott expect the board to engage soon and try to settle.

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

Business negotiations, especially those involving mergers & acquisitions can be extremely complex. The experienced commercial litigation attorneys at Feldman & Feldman have experience counseling clients and litigating a wide range of commercial disputes, including those involving real estate interests, the acquisition of goods and services, partnership dissolution, and employment contracts. If your business needs a commercial litigation attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today.

FTC Seeks to Block $1.2 Billion Stewart Title & Fidelity Deal Over Competition Claims

While some view competition among businesses as a negative, competition among corporations is good for both consumers and businesses, often helping with different aspects of the economy. This can sometimes be a difficult line to tread for those involved in acquiring other businesses, as the size of the merger could have an overall impact on competition within the marketplace. For Fidelity National and Houston-based Stewart Information Services, this idea of competition came into play when the FTC got involved.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sought to block the $1.2 billion acquisition because it would ultimately limit competition for title insurance underwriting and services. The Commission filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleging the deal could “substantially reduce competition” and the combined company would yield more than 40% of the U.S. title business if the acquisition were completed.

In a statement, Bruce Hoffman, director of the FTC’s bureau of competition stated, “competitive title insurance and title information markets are essential to providing Americans affordable and high-quality title insurance products.” Hoffman went on to say, “the merger threatens to continue a trend of consolidation in these markets. Our action seeks to preserve important and beneficial competition that plays out every day in every real estate transaction across the United States.”

The deal between the two title companies began after Stewart considered putting itself up for sale in late 2017 after falling profits related to Hurricane Harvey and a decline in refinancing orders due to rising interest rates had hurt the business. In March of 2018, the proposed deal was written up. Now, if it falls through, Fidelity would be required to pay Stewart a fee of $50 million.

The Houston-based business was founded in 1893 in Galveston and has been plagued by activist investors who pushed for changes within the company. Longtime board members have since been replaced and a new stock structure was created. In the event the Fidelity deal falls apart, Stewart could remain independent or perhaps find a different company to work with from another industry.

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

For the dedicated commercial litigation lawyers at Feldman & Feldman, there is no adversary too big. Our legal team passionately pursues each case with skill and tenacity, but without the overhead of a large law firm incorporated into our fee structure. If you need the guidance of an experienced commercial litigation attorney, contact Feldman & Feldman today.

San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association Faces More Challenges

First Amendment rights are a concept most Americans hold in high regard. It can be difficult to imagine not having these certain rights, especially when it comes to advocating for something you believe in. Unfortunately, the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association (SAPFA) has faced many hardships involving the city of San Antonio in the last year, one of which involves a lawsuit over the group’s First Amendment rights. Now, almost a full year after a vote last November, the city wants a federal judge to step in and dismiss the union’s suit altogether.

Just last year, SAPFA sued the city of San Antonio in federal court, alleging city officials violated union representatives’ First Amendment rights. The allegations came after the city sought to enforce a “free speech area” policy during SAPFA’s San Antonio First Initiative in order to hinder its efforts to gather signatures for two union-backed charter amendments SAPFA eventually won. These “free speech areas” were small and located far from where the firefighters could interact with residents according to the union.

In addition to these “free speech areas,” SAPFA alleges city officials tried to intimidate its representatives by posting notices at the libraries where they were originally petitioning. These notices stated that unidentified petitioners would try to gather signatures from them and that citizens should be allowed to read a petition prior to signing it, and to not feel pressured into it.

With the passage of the charter amendments, San Antonio voters capped the city managers’ tenure and pay, and also gave the firefighters union sole power to send contract negotiations into binding arbitration. The union sought such measures after firefighters had gone years without a contract. Now, nine months later, the city wants a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit completely.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez has not yet ruled on the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. If Judge Rodriguez allows the suit to move forward, the union plans to continue to fight the city for its legal rights.

Protecting Your Constitutional Rights

 At Feldman & Feldman, your constitutional rights are important to us. We fiercely advocate for clients whose rights have been infringed upon. If you feel your rights may have been violated, contact us today to see how we can help.

Class Action Age Discrimination Lawsuit Against Google Brings Up New Training Policies

As unfortunate as it seems, age discrimination is becoming more and more prevalent in the workforce as of late. According to a 2017 survey, more than six in ten workers aged 45 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. It’s not just your average corporations either; recently, Google settled an age discrimination lawsuit that brought about the need for more effective training policies.

Tech giant Google recently settled a class-action age discrimination lawsuit initiated by an applicant who applied to work for Google multiple times over a seven-year period. The applicant, Cheryl Fillekes, maintained she had the technical know-how to land the job but was repeatedly denied the opportunity due to her age.

According to the lawsuit, Google denied Fillekes met the company’s technical standards. In addition, the tech giant also denied any systematic age discrimination against her or any job applicants.

Google resolved the matter by paying an $11 million settlement to be divided amongst more than 200 job seekers who applied at the company when they were over the age of 40. The average payout for the 227 members of the class-action case who agreed to the settlement will be approximately $35,000.

Additionally, under the terms of the settlement, Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. will need to train their employees and managers on age bias and establish a committee to focus on age diversity in recruiting practices. A spokesperson for Google stated the company already has policies in place aimed at curbing discrimination, including age-based discrimination.

Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google are often associated with a younger workforce. In fact, in 2016 the median age of Google employees was around 30-years-old, while at Facebook it was around 28.

Google releases an annual diversity report that often highlights the ethnicity and gender or its employees. This report, however, does not include information pertaining to the age of its employees.

Houston Employment Dispute Attorneys

When employers and management do not work to prevent employment-related disputes, it is only a matter of time until a dispute will arise. At Feldman & Feldman, our experienced attorneys work closely with our clients to understand the exact circumstances surrounding a dispute so we can resolve employment cases efficiently and successfully. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Former Silicon Valley Executive Misappropriated $19 Million in Investor Funds According to SEC

While unfortunate, fraud can occur in nearly any business. Funds designated for specific business use can be misappropriated and unnoticed for months or even years given the circumstances. Not even the higher-ups in Silicon Valley are immune to fraudulent activity, as recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) findings in a case against a former venture capitalist show millions of dollars in fraudulent activity.

Though it has been a year since the SEC initially brought charges against former Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Rothenberg for misappropriating money from his investors, the SEC now says it has even more evidence against him. According to the report, Rothenberg fraudulently enriched himself by $18.8 million from his investors. Initially, it was alleged that he had only taken $7 million.

According to the SEC, the increased amount stems from Rothenberg continuing to divert funds to himself and private business interests during the initial investigation. In a court document filed on July 31, the SEC stated, “The very month he was informed of the SEC investigation, Rothenberg raised, and misappropriated, $1.3 million.” The commission goes on to allege that, “even as he negotiated a settlement with the SEC for Securities Fraud Liability, Rothenberg misappropriated millions of dollars.”

The SEC discovered Rothenberg arranged for the 2013 venture fund to sell an interest in the popular no-fee stock trading app startup Robinhood for $5.4 million in June of 2018. Robinhood has recently been valued at $7 billion.

The SEC alleges that instead of distributing the $5.4 million to the 2013 fund’s investors, Rothenberg transferred the money into other business interests, including using $136,000 to lease a Golden State Warriors luxury suite, which he then leased out to others, raising up to $56,000. Rothenberg also put $16,000 in his personal account, donated $30,000 to the Stanford University Athletics Department and even, “spent thousands of dollars on ballet tickets,” according to the SEC.

Eventually, Rothenberg would transfer $732,000 to the 2013 Fund, the SEC says, pointing out that this was $4.7 million shy of the $5.4 million collected from the original Robinhood stake he sold.

Just a year prior, the SEC’s case against Rothenberg centered on allegations he charged $7 million in “excess fees” to his investors. It was alleged Rothenberg spent the funds not just on personal interests, but also “to pay for private parties and events at high-end resorts and Bay Area sporting arenas,” according to the SEC.

Rothenberg’s startup company, Rothenberg Ventures, was a high-flying venture firm known for its over-the-top parties, spending, and its young, charismatic founder, Mike Rothenberg. The firm had over $50 million under management when it publicly imploded in 2016. It ran out of operating money and all employees except its lawyer were told they were put on “unpaid leave.”

Houston Fraud Attorneys

Most types of fraud are intentional, but fraud also occurs through reckless representations. Fraud is also sometimes referred to as “fraudulent misrepresentation” or “fraudulent inducement.” Allegations of fraud are extremely serious. If you believe your business could be the victim of fraudulent activity, contact the experienced fraud attorneys at Feldman and Feldman today.