Archives for April 2013

SEC Commissioner: Mandatory Arbitration Must Go

Investment News; April 17, 2013

State securities regulators visited Capitol Hill Wednesday to try to build support among lawmakers for restricting or ending the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in client contracts with brokers. One powerful voice in Washington they won’t have to convince: SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar.

In a speech at a NASAA conference in Washington Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission member called for an end to mandatory arbitration. “I believe the commission needs to be proactive in this important area,” Mr. Aguilar said in prepared remarks. “We need to support investor choice.”

Allowing investors to take their legal claims to court would “enhance investor protection and add more teeth to our federal securities laws,” Mr. Aguilar said. His remarks were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

About 17 members of the North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. conducted meetings with more than 40 lawmakers, delivering the same message: That investors should be allowed to go to court to settle a grievance against their broker.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law gives the Securities and Exchange Commission the authority to prohibit or curtail compulsory arbitration for clients of brokers, as well as investment advisers. The commission has not yet addressed the arbitration provision.

“The time is ripe for the commission to act under [Dodd-Frank] to protect the investing public and prevent the further abuse of forced arbitration contracts,” NASAA spokesman Bob Webster said. “This is at the forefront of our agenda.”

Almost all brokerage contracts include a mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clause — and they’re also now appearing in agreements between clients and investment advisers, according to state regulators.

Controversy over compulsory arbitration spiked earlier this year, when a Finra hearing panel ruled that the regulator could not stop The Charles Schwab Corp. from using the arbitration agreements to prohibit clients from engaging in class actions.

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Ladders Job Site a “Scam,” Say Subscribers; April 21, 2013

New York, NY: Documents in the class-action suit filed against couldn’t be clearer. “From its inception until September 2011,” the complaint reads, “The Ladders job website scammed its customers into paying for its job board service by misrepresenting itself to be a ‘premium job site.’”

For a fee, promises to provide subscribers with lists of employers looking to fill six-figure jobs. The site guarantees that the jobs are “hand-screened” and that the companies listed are looking for applicants in their part of the country.

Over the last several years, Ladders has pursued an aggressive print, TV and Internet advertising campaign, signing up thousands and thousands of job hunters.

Most Internet job sites do not charge a subscriber fee. offered a different tack. During the 2009 Super Bowl, with an audience of close to 100 million viewers, Ladders hit the airwaves with a blockbuster ad claiming it was massively superior to other Internet job boards.

“Ordinary job sites,” the advertisements said, “let everyone play, so nobody wins.” Subscribers could view the job postings at no cost. But to actually apply for the jobs, they had to pay $25 for a premium membership. A premium-plus membership came with extra advantages and cost up to $149 for a year. Subscribers would also get a “free resume critique.”

It is estimated that thousands of people like the lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, Barbara Ward, from Arkansas, represented by Yitzak Kopel from Bursor and Fisher in New York, found that the job site led to stale job postings or jobs that paid well below the 100K a year she was expecting. The jobs that were on website were not in fact “hand-screened” according to the allegations in the suit. They were, in fact, scrapped from free Internet job sites.

The resume critique offer, which promised writers would help job seekers handcraft a winning executive resume, was a form letter that offered to sell Barbara Ward a resume writing service.

According to, quoted in the class-action complaint, Ladders signed up 5 million jobseekers and generated as much as $80 million in revenues. The numbers are easy to believe given the number of complaints about Ladders currently circulating on Internet forums.

Message boards on the Internet are crammed with postings by disgruntled Ladders’ clients complaining they had been led down the garden path. Posters complain they were steered to employers that were either not looking for prospective employees or employers who had filled the job, sometimes years before.

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Scores of Tulsa Dental Patients Diagnosed with Hepatitis, AIDS

NewsInferno; April 22, 2013

Patients of Tulsa, Oklahoma-based dentist, W. Scott Harrington, have been tested for serious blood borne diseases believed linked to his use of filthy instruments and dirty needles.

Of the more than 7,000 patients notified in late March of the infection risk, 3,122 were tested, At least 60 people tested positive for hepatitis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, said ABC News. Specifically, three people tested positive for hepatitis B, one tested positive for AIDS, and 57 tested positive for hepatitis C. Investigators say that the infection source is not yet clear.

Hepatitis C is a viral liver disease that can cause inflammation of the liver and can lead to chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, or cancer of the liver. The virus is spread by contact with infected body fluids; no vaccine exists for hepatitis C, which can be fatal. Hepatitis C can take up to six months to be detected. HIV destroys the body’s immune system over time, which makes it difficult for people with HIV to fight infections. When not treated, nearly all of those infected with HIV will develop AIDS.

In one case, a 38-year-old female patient underwent wisdom teeth removal by Harrington in 2009, according to a lawsuit she filed. She suffered from pain and a fever that required more than one round of antibiotics after developing a rash, fever, and symptoms of liver problems, said ABC News. She was not diagnosed with hepatitis or HIV, but was seriously sickened according to her attorney who blames Harrington’s improper sterilization practices.

We previously wrote that investigators discovered conditions that CNN described as “unsanitary” and “unprofessional,” and which one official said was a “perfect storm” for infections. Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry told CNN, “I will tell you that when … we left, we were just physically kind of sick… That’s how bad it was, and I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff over the years.” Harrington, 64, surrendered his dental license in late March after health investigators discovered a host of issues with sterilization and staffing processes.

When one of Harrington’s patients was diagnosed with hepatitis C, the dentistry board initiated a probe that revealed a number of serious sterilization and “cross-contamination” concerns that included “unauthorized, unlicensed” employees using IVs to sedate patients and improperly handled needles. And, said Rogers, “just basic universal precautions for blood-borne pathogens” were not being followed, wrote CNN. The drug cabinet was, among other things, “unlocked and unattended” and contained a drug that expired one decade ago, the official complaint indicated. The complaint was filed before the state dental board, said CNN. Other records revealed that morphine had been used in patients as recently as throughout last year; however, Harrington’s last morphine delivery was years prior, in 2009, said CNN. To compound issues, Harrington admitted to investigators that he had a higher-than-typical demographic of HIV and hepatitis patients, Rogers told CNN.

The probe also revealed old needles and rusty instruments being used and that bleach would be poured on patient wounds until those wounds “turned white,” said the complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, according to ABC News. “The basic things that everyone knows—follow CDC guidelines, use clean syringes, don’t reuse multi-dose vials in multiple patients, don’t use rusted equipment—those are things even non-physicians know,” Rogers told ABC News at the time. “Those are basic things. That part makes it egregious.” The investigation also revealed that instruments used to treat patients known to have infectious disease were given an extra dip in bleach in addition to normal cleaning methods; however, the tools were tainted with red-brown rust spots, an indicator that the instruments were “porous and cannot be properly sterilized,” according to ABC News.

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Business Owner Jailed for California Labor Law Violation; April 22, 2013

San Bernardino, CA: The owner of an enterprise located in Hesperia is facing charges under California labor law
for not carrying the required workers’ compensation insurance for his
employees. If convicted, Najib Mohammad Samara faces a year in jail and a
fine not less than $10,000. According to the San Bernardino Sun (4/2/13), the man was arrested at his business and held in San Bernardino County Jail in Victorville in lieu of $25,000 bail.

According to the California labor code
violation report, Samara was the subject of an investigation a year ago,
in January 2012, by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit. As a
result of their investigation, Samara was found to be lacking worker’s
compensation insurance for his employees at Tile Gallery Plus.

At his arraignment to face criminal charges in June of last year, Samara
duly produced a certificate of insurance, thereby bringing him into
compliance with California labor employment law.

However, the California Department of Standards and Labor Enforcement
(DSLE) followed up on the file in November and found that Samara’s
workers’ compensation coverage had lapsed. In fact, according to the
District Attorney’s office, the policy was canceled a month after the
accused appeared for his arraignment, due to non-payment of the premium.

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