World
Proposed Glucosamine Settlement Stiffs Consumers

Class-action settlement over supplement sold by Walmart, Walgreens and Supervalu provides little relief to consumers

 

If you have joint pain and are looking for ways to ease the symptoms, a host of companies in the U.S. will point you toward products with glucosamine that have enticing promises.

 

Store shelves are filled with bottles of the supplements that over the years have been advertised as not only easing joint pain, but protecting – even rebuilding – cartilage.

 

The problem is there are no scientific studies that sufficiently prove these claims, according to numerous class-action lawsuits filed around the country and some health experts, who have outright recommended against taking it.


Glucosamine, a component of the building blocks of cartilage, is one of the most commonly purchased non-vitamin dietary supplement in the U.S, with sales topping $750 million in 2012. With an aging population, and more than 50 million Americans suffering from arthritis who are looking to ease the symptoms, it’s no wonder sales are steep in the U.S.


Marketing vs. proof


But what consumers should be paying closer attention to is this: Studies have shown that glucosamine, with or without chondroitin (an acid found in cartilage), is no better than a placebo in reducing the symptoms or progression of osteoarthritis, nor has it been found to help rebuild cartilage.


Despite this, a plethora of companies have advertised that the products do just that. And now they are facing class-action lawsuits, some of which are being settled. TINA.org is objecting link to brief to one such settlement that effectively allows the companies to continue falsely advertising the products.


In this case, consumers in the U.S. who purchased a variety of glucosamine supplements manufactured by South Carolina-based Perrigo — and sold by Walmart, Supervalu, Walgreens, and stores owned by them — will have to agree to allow the companies to continue marketing the products in misleading ways if they want to get some money back on their purchases.


Settlement flaws


The settlement, pending in federal court in New York, allows the retailers to:


Use a variety of misleading terms on the labels of the products.


Return in two years to using the same exact language on the labels that prompted the class action in the first place.


Avoid having to take necessary measures to alert millions of consumers who bought the products about the settlement and their ability to object, opt out, or file for a small refund.


If the settlement is approved as proposed, the nationwide class of consumers who don’t opt out will forever be prohibited from suing these companies over their marketing of the supplements in the future.


So who wins? The retailers, Perrigo and the attorneys who will pocket about $1 million.


“It is outrageous that a class-action lawsuit can silence an entire nation of consumers who purchased these glucosamine supplements while the retailers are permitted to continue on with their deceptive labeling practices,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten.


Deadline looms


Consumers affected by the settlement (which is anyone who has purchased the generic glucosamine products sold by Walmart, Supervalu, and Walgreens or their affiliated stores from Nov. 1, 2005 to Aug. 1, 2014) have until Nov. 24 to object, opt out, or file a claim.


Check back with TINA.org link to Glucosamine landing page for continued updates. More information on court actions regarding glucosamine can be found here.

 

Courtesy: TruthInAdvertising.org

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The Carmen Segarra Tapes

Carmen Segarra secretly recorded 46 hours of audio while embedded as a bank examiner at Goldman Sachs between November 2011 and May 2012. These are some of her recordings

 

On Sept. 26, ProPublica, in partnership with the radio program This American Life, revealed that a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had secretly recorded approximately 46 hours of audio while on the job. The stories focused on what happened to the examiner, Carmen Segarra, and what she witnessed while embedded at Goldman Sachs between November 2011 and May 2012.


For the first time, the public could hear regulators supervise a powerful bank in real time. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, echoed the opinion of many who said they found the recordings troubling. "It kind of emphasizes what we have thought all along, that the regulators are too cozy toward the industry they are meant to police," said Brown.


The New York Fed hired Segarra as part of a wave of new expert examiners to supervise banks so big their failure could torpedo the economy. Soon after she started, Segarra began experiencing conflicts with her colleagues over differing views of what they were seeing at Goldman Sachs. She was fired after only seven months. A week before her termination, her supervisor tried unsuccessfully to get her to change her findings about Goldman’s conflicts-of-interest policy.


The New York Fed says Segarra’s firing was unrelated to her supervision of Goldman. She filed a lawsuit against the New York Fed and her supervisors in 2013. It was dismissed without a ruling on the merits and is on appeal.


Here's some of the audio that was released. Check back — we will be updating this page.

 

"We have to come off the view."

 

 

In May 2012, New York Fed examiner Carmen Segarra was summoned to meet with Michael Silva, the head Fed official embedded at Goldman Sachs. After he and his deputy ushered her into a small office, Silva got straight to the point. “We have to come off the view that Goldman doesn’t have any kind of conflicts of interest policy,” said Silva. Over the next 40 minutes, Silva urged Segarra to change her examination conclusions. Segarra said that based on the evidence she had found, professionally, she could not. A week after the meeting, she was fired. The New York Fed says her firing had nothing to do with her examination of Goldman.

 

 

"Don’t mistake our inquisitiveness."

 


In January 2012, after a meeting where the New York Fed team of examiners peppered Goldman Sachs executives with questions about a controversial deal involving Banco Santander, the group went back to their floor at the bank and held a “pow-wow” to discuss the meeting. One Fed examiner worried that they had pushed Goldman too hard.

 

“I think we don’t want to discourage Goldman from disclosing these types of things in the future,” he said. Instead, he suggested telling the bank, “Don’t mistake our inquisitiveness, and our desire to understand more about the marketplace in general, as a criticism of you as a firm necessarily.” To Segarra, the comment represented a fear she had encountered among some of her colleagues of upsetting the bank they supervised, despite the fact it was required by law to turn over information to the regulators.


"Legal but shady."



As Michael Silva rallied his team before their big meeting about the Banco Santander deal with Goldman Sachs executives, he sketched out his view. “My own personal thinking right now is that we're looking at a transaction that's legal but shady,” he said before explaining how he wanted his staff to act in the meeting. “I want to keep them nervous,” he said. The examiners huddled around him laughed.


"(One thing) they never got from me was a no objection."



One aspect of the Santander transaction in particular piqued Silva’s interest. It appeared that the agreement required Goldman Sachs to obtain a “no objection” from the New York Fed on the deal. Yet the deal had gone forward and Silva had not given his blessing.

 

“The one thing I know as a lawyer that they never got from me was a no objection,” he said. In the meeting with Goldman, an executive would say the “no objection” clause was for the firm’s benefit and not meant to obligate the bank to get approval from its regulator.


"A consensus view of definitely."



In his 2009 review of the New York Fed, Columbia Professor David Beim wrote that a push for consensus by senior managers sometimes softened the New York Fed’s enforcement. It “can result in a whittling down of issues or a smoothing of exam findings.

 

Compromise often results in less forceful language and demands on the banks involved.”

 

On Segarra’s tapes, her supervisor Johnathon Kim criticizes her for being too strong in her conclusions and using the word “definitely” too much. “If you use that, then you want to have a consensus view of definitely, not only your own,” he says.


"It’s basically window dressing."



The Santander transaction was complex, but one New York Fed employee boiled it down to its essence. It was like Goldman “getting paid to watch a briefcase.” Under the deal, Santander transferred some of the shares it held in its Brazilian subsidiary to Goldman.

 

This effectively reduced the amount of capital Santander needed. In exchange for a fee from Santander, Goldman would hold on to the shares for a few years and then return them. The deal would help Santander announce that it had reached the capital ratio its regulators required six months ahead. Silva called it “basically window dressing that’s designed to help Banco Santander artificially enhance its capital."


"You’ve heard about all the issues."



Perhaps to make Carmen Segarra feel better about the resistance she was encountering from her Fed colleagues at Goldman Sachs, Johnathon Kim pointed out she wasn’t alone. It was bad at JPMorgan too, he suggested.


"Grinds everything to a halt."



Johnathon Kim told Segarra that there was a bottleneck on the New York Fed’s team at JPMorgan. The senior official on the team wanted all the information before she would allow examiners to proceed with their investigations. Kim provided the sound effects for what happened next – a crunch – “grinds everything to a halt."


"The issue is one that is alive."



In early January, the head of supervision for the New York Fed, Sarah Dahlgren, stopped by a meeting of legal and compliance risk specialists. The meeting turned into a gripe session about the difficulty the risk examiners were encountering from management embedded at the banks. In particular, it was not clear who called the shots where their examinations were concerned – was it the head New York Fed person stationed at the bank or their own risk specialist supervisors. Dahlgren acknowledged this was a problem at JPMorgan.


"Iron hand woman."



Johnathon Kim described Dianne Dobbeck, the senior New York Fed official stationed at JPMorgan, as an “iron hand woman,” because he believed she expected the specialized risk examiners to follow orders, not think for themselves. The legal and compliance risk specialists wasn’t allowed access to anything,” he said. “Nada."


Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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When the Remedy Hunts for a Malady

The court’s imagination sometimes makes the crime fit the punishment instead of the converse

 

Great cities are built on river banks. Delhi is on the Yamuna; Kolkata on the Hoogly; Varanasi on the Ganges. New York has its Hudson, Paris its Seine. But the one coupling that has the most romance must surely be London and the Thames.

 

Moneylife, the Thames and the law have met before. They meet again in a strange case where the appellate court denounces the subordinate judge with, “... a millstone should be hanged around his neck and he be cast into the uttermost depths of the sea.” Harsh words uttered a century ago; and then the proclaimer goes on to infinitely more bizarre decisions.
 
Hammersmith Bridge spans the Thames. A beautiful bridge, fitted together with bolts the size of an arm and a leg. Londoners like their heritage so much that it is maintained at any cost.
 
The Hammersmith Regatta is a boat race that passes under the bridge. In 1929, it attracted its fair share of the viewing public. One of them was a man who had a couple of beers but was not intoxicated. Next to him was Snooker, a gambler. He bet our man a pound to jump off the Bridge. He promptly acceded, took off his coat, dived into the River and, being a good swimmer, swam ashore. And that’s when the trouble started.
 
He was convicted of causing an obstruction, being drunk and disorderly, attempting to commit suicide, conducting the business of a street bookmaker, endangering the lives of mariners and interfering with an authorised regatta—the Brits take their sports seriously.
 
He appealed, asking which of these charges could stick. The answer: ‘apparently none’. Snooker was the witness. No money had changed hands. The man was stone-cold sober. None was hurt. The race was held on schedule.
 
You be the judge.
 
His appeal was, strangely, dismissed. The court then set about trying to fit the punishment to the crime, any crime, a la Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado, in reverse. The imagination of the court now worked overtime.
 
The winning side never keeps its mouth shut, in court. Our swimmer was also an orator and he said that England was ‘a free country’ and that what he did was ‘for fun’. This was the opening the judges were waiting for. They seized it. England was not a free country; it was ruled by acts of Parliament, the court thundered. The law prescribed what and where people should, eat, drink, walk, drive or sleep. “… And least of all, they do unusual actions for fun. People must not do things for fun. We are not here for fun. There is no reference to fun in any act of Parliament. If anything is said in this court that Englishmen are entitled to jump off bridges… For these reasons… this appeal must fail. It is not for me to say what offence the appellant has committed, but I am satisfied that he has committed some offence …” Phew!
 
More fascinating in this farce are the names of the major players. The chief justice was Light; from the dark ages or at least that is where his judgement must be consigned. Snooker, the wagerer. Judge Mudd, whose thinking was as clear as mud, claiming that the River water got polluted by the act. Adder J, added it up as an attempt to destroy Hammersmith Bridge. And the name of the millstone-able judge? Mumble, J.
 
Sadly, the records are silent on the name of our hero. Maybe, to deny him his rightful place in history.
 
Author’s note: The author often says that the law may be an ass, but not a donkey. Readers are allowed to disagree with him.
 

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