When Cigna fired an employee, her lawsuit was forced into arbitration. She thought she’d found a fair referee — until she saw pictures of him partying with Cigna’s attorney.

cigna latina forced arbitration lawsuit 2x1

  • Glenda Perez and her husband Peter were both happily employed at Cigna until Glenda was blamed for making costly errors. Her new manager also complained about Glenda’s work ethic and eventually fired her.
  • Glenda, who is Latinx, felt she was being discriminated against and sued.
  • Because her employment agreement required disputes be settled through arbitration, as many work agreements do, the case went to arbitration instead of to court. 
  • The arbitrator turned out to be an attorney who had worked closely with the lawyer Cigna hired to defend itself. He ruled in Cigna’s favor without a hearing.
  • Then Cigna fired Glenda’s husband. The two are now living on food stamps and fighting a battle against forced employee arbitration. 
  • Their case offers an inside look at what is normally a private, black-box process.

In the spring of 2017, Glenda Perez and her husband Peter were both employed by the insurance giant Cigna. They were living in a newly built home in Ruskin, Florida, happily raising their three kids.

Today, they are out of work, living on food stamps, and suing their former employer in a very public battle over a tactic thousands of corporations use to tilt the scales against workers: forced employee arbitration.

Their troubles began when Glenda was fired in 2017 after, she says, her manager falsely accused her of making costly errors. When Glenda, who is Latinx, decided to bring a wrongful termination and discrimination suit against Cigna, she learned that — like 60 million other Americans — she had signed an obscure provision in her onboarding documents that forced her out of court and into a private arbitration proceeding.

But instead of the simple and fair process that arbitration promises to be, Perez saw her claim dismissed without so much as a hearing, only to later learn that her purportedly independent arbitrator was so friendly with the attorney representing Cigna that the arbitrator invited him to his 50th birthday party. Shortly after that, Cigna fired Peter as well. (He’s suing the insurance giant now, too.)

It’s a shocking story of how arbitration clauses can leave people without access to a court of law should things at their job go wrong.

There’s even a GoFundMe for the couple, complete with a video describing their plight, created by some Google employees involved in the activist group “Googlers for Ending Forced Arbitration.”

“It’s really ridiculous to say, ‘You have the right not to sign the contract.’ Usually that would mean you don’t get hired,” said Orna Artal, the co-founder Ramos & Artal LLC, an arbitration firm. “There’s something coercive in that.”

While advocates of arbitration cite advantages over litigation like faster resolutions and lower costs, Artal says that when it comes to employment disputes, the process can make justice elusive. “It’s a mixed bag,” she says. “It’s essential that anyone signing onto one of these contracts knows what they are getting themselves into.”

Employers are favored to win

Arbitration is a system in which employers are overwhelmingly favored to win the disputes they don’t choose to settle in advance.

Peter and Glenda PerezOut of 27,000 employment arbitration cases administered in the last decade by the American Arbitration Association — one of the biggest arbitration agencies in the US — employees initiated the legal action 96 percent of the time, according to an analysis conducted for Business Insider by Level Playing Field, a non-profit organization that seeks to shed light on a the arbitration process.

Two thirds of the cases were settled from the outset, which often involves a company making a payment, even if it doesn’t admit to wrongdoing. 

But of the claims that weren’t settled, and went all the way to a hearing and an award, employers won a whopping 73 percent of the time (1,064 cases out of 1,455), Level Playing Field found.

These statistics suggest why employers, who nearly always foot the bill for arbitration, prefer it to hashing out disputes in courtrooms.

What many employees don’t learn until it’s too late is that arbitrators wield immense power, and the people hired to arbitrate sometimes have deep connections to the industries that hire them. While many arbitrators are retired judges or specially trained lawyers, others are former executives in the sectors they cover or corporate attorneys who have specialized in defending employers, as the Perezes discovered. Whatever the merits of their case are, they never got a fair hearing to begin with, they say.

“When it’s behind the scenes and no one knows what the case is about, with arbitration, employers can kind of get away with murder,” Peter Perez told Business Insider.

“You get what you pay for,” Artal says. “The idea is to get a quick resolution to your dispute.”

That means that, for the most part, both parties are stuck with whatever an arbitrator decides.

There’s one big exception: If one party can show that the arbitrator may have been biased, such as by having an undisclosed relationship with the other party, the rulings can be overturned.

Which brings us back to Glenda and Peter Perez and their fight with Cigna.

cigna arbitration facts graphic

From ‘solid performer’ to fired

Glenda Perez was fired from Cigna in the summer of 2017, according to court documents.

She had worked for Cigna for three years as an Implementation Setup Representative, someone who helps implement insurance plans. For most of that time, Perez had been praised as a solid performer, “if not above average,” on her employee reviews, Cigna acknowledged in its arbitration documents. She had been promoted to a senior position working with big clients. 

But in the spring of 2017, Glenda was blamed for making an expensive mistake. Her team was assigned a new manager who put Glenda on a “Performance Corrective Action Plan.”

Glenda’s husband Peter also worked for Cigna as a business analyst, on a team that investigated when things went wrong. He had access to reports that analyzed mistakes — and he said they showed that Glenda wasn’t to blame.

“It was a gut wrenching feeling,” Peter said. “The reports just showed something completely different.”

Beyond the mistakes, Glenda’s boss found fault with Glenda’s work ethic, complaining that Glenda was being “careless” and had an “inability to take responsibility or accountability in her job duties,” according to Cigna’s filings.

Glenda felt that her manager, who was white, was discriminating against her because she is Latinx, and filed a formal complaint with Cigna’s human resources department. The company investigated and concluded that no discrimination took place, according to arbitration records.

On July 19, 2017, Glenda left work an hour early on a Friday afternoon to attend to a family emergency and her supervisor fired her. Cigna said in the arbitration filings that the Friday time-off occurred without notice, and described it as the last straw after working with Glenda on her performance for months, including providing her with a coach.

Glenda responded with a wrongful termination lawsuit, alleging racial discrimination.

And then things got worse.

Who is this arbitrator?

The Perezes had trouble finding a lawyer to take their case because of the binding arbitration agreement, Peter said. Because arbitrators tend to hand down lower awards than juries or judges, lawyers have less incentive to take cases on contingency. 

“The moment we said, ‘We have this arbitration agreement,’ they went stone cold, saying ‘We can probably get you three to six months of pay and negotiate some settlement but I don’t see much there to pursue.’ And they wanted a $3,000 retainer,” Peter said.

For a family of five that was just cut down to one income, $3,000 was a lot of money.

So they decided that Peter would represent his wife. He had studied to be a paralegal for two years, and “learned enough to know how the language of law should apply,” he said.

Going it alone turned out to be a big, rookie mistake.

There are two major institutions that provide accredited arbitrators: JAMS (formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, which tends to accredit former judges and well-known attorneys) and the American Arbitration Association (which includes judges, attorneys and also accredits others, like business owners). Each of them have different fees and slightly different operational rules. There are also private practice arbitrators who don’t belong to any institution.

Cigna used the AAA and about three months after Glenda filed the claim, the organization sent Glenda a list of about 30 arbitrators to choose from, Peter said. The arbitration clause she signed gave her the option of choosing a panel of up to three arbitrators — but Cigna would only pay for one.

The arbitrators on the list charged $350-$450 an hour and other fees, including $200 an hour for travel, according to documents seen by Business Insider. The Perezes couldn’t afford to pay for two more arbitrators.

Because most arbitration cases are private, it’s not easy to research an arbitrator’s history. That’s why AAA makes potential arbitrators fill out an “oath” form where they must disclose if they’ve had prior relationships to any of the parties involved in the case.

One of the arbitrators on the list, for instance, disclosed that she was serving as an arbitrator on several cases involving Cigna’s law firm Littler Mendelson, according to documents seen by Business Insider.

“Usually at the beginning of the arbitration, the institution or the arbitrator is obligated to disclose if there’s any potential conflicts of interest,” Artal explained. “And theoretically, a party would have the right to demand to know, How many times did corporation X appear before you and how many times did you rule in favor of X? But a lot of times if an employee is coming into one of these arbitrators without legal counsel and representing themselves, you wouldn’t know that you have the right to ask those things.”

As the Perezes researched the list of 30, there was only one candidate that seemed like a viable choice: an employment attorney named Carlos Burruezo.

Carlos Burruezo

The Perezes didn’t fully trust some of the others because, Peter said, “They would work for employers, like they would be an HR consultant for employers.”

But Burruezo’s original disclosure form came back clean. He said he had no relationship with any of the parties involved in the case. They researched his public cases and found he had won a number of discrimination cases for employees.

“He appears to be someone who is there for community, for minorities, women’s rights,” Peter said. “As an attorney, he’s done a lot of great work.” 

An amended disclosure

The Perezes chose Burruezo. And a few days later Burruezo amended his disclosure form to tell them that he did have a relationship with one of the parties. He had actually been employed by Littler Mendelson, Cigna’s law firm, for six years. Not only did he work there, he actually managed the firm’s Orlando office, the one handling Cigna’s case. Littler Mendelson is an international firm well-known for representing employers. (Business Insider is a client of Littler’s New York office for employment matters, and its standard employment contract includes an arbitration clause, though harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims are exempted.)

Burruezo didn’t disclose this relationship on the original oath form because he wasn’t aware that Littler was involved in the case, he told Business Insider. As soon as he became aware, he disclosed it on an amended form and in follow-up emails. He also promised that his work history would not hinder his ability to be objective. 

“I do not feel that my previous experience with Littler Mendelson, P.C. in any way causes me to feel any bias toward any particular party,” he wrote in his amended disclosure firm.

If Burruezo were a judge, his relationship with Littler could have been grounds for voluntary recusal from the Perezes’ case, says Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU School of Law.

“A judge who once worked at a firm need not recuse unless the case was at the firm when the judge was there (even if the judge was unaware of it),” Gillers told Business Insider. “Many judges, however, choose not to hear cases from their former firms, even if they can, for a period of years after they take the bench.”

In gray areas, the standard is to disclose the relationship and give “the parties the opportunity to object.”

But the Perezes didn’t object. They believed Burruezo’s promises to be impartial, and they didn’t want to delay their case by going back to the drawing board and searching for a new arbitrator.

google walkout

Summary judgment

Burruezo had scheduled a hearing for the both Cigna and the Perezes to present their cases in mid-July 2018.

But just a few weeks before, on June 22, 2018, Cigna filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the arbitrator to rule in the company’s favor immediately, according to documents seen by Business Insider. 

Just days before the hearing was to take place, Burruezo sided with Cigna. He didn’t believe there was enough evidence to support a claim of racial discrimination, the crux of their allegation, he wrote in the order.

The Perezes never got a hearing. They were stunned.

“We didn’t get the chance to meet him. It was all done through email and a few phone calls,” Peter said. “We read it in the kitchen. We were devastated. My wife was crying.” 

Peter stayed up late that night, angry and confused. “I kept looking through the paperwork wondering, Where did we go wrong? I read thousands of cases out there. And I had this bizarre feeling — something’s not fitting well.”

He began to Google everything he could on Burruezo, clicking through page after page.

And then he found pictures of Burruezo’s 50th birthday party, taken a couple of years ago. Among them were photos of Burruezo and Jeffrey B. Jones, Cigna’s lead attorney in the Perez’s case. The men were standing arm in arm, laughing.

To Peter, the photos meant the arbitrator wasn’t just a long-ago employee of the law firm Cigna hired, but a personal friend of Cigna’s lead attorney — a social relationship he didn’t feel the arbitrator adequately disclosed. 

Burruezo told Business Insider that the photo means nothing professionally.

“I have been a lawyer for more than 30 years. I have many great relationships with scores of professional colleagues and other individuals. Indeed, more than 150 individuals attended my birthday party. Mr. Jones was one of them. Our historical connection did not (nor would it) translate into bias,” Burruezo said. Jones did not respond to a request for comment.

Even so, an arbitrator with a conflict-of-interest is one of the few reasons why an arbitration case might wind up in court vacated by a judge.

So the Perezes filed the legal paperwork on those grounds, with Peter still acting as their attorney, and he hired a processor to serve those papers to Cigna.

Peter’s name was on those legal papers. About a week later, Cigna fired him “for insubordination and misconduct,” Peter said.

Arbitrator and attorney 2

Going public

Now Peter has filed his own wrongful termination lawsuit against Cigna, claiming retaliation.

“I thought I was protected from retaliation. But their attitude is, we don’t care. They know they have arbitration,” he said.

A judge has agreed to a hearing on Glenda’s case. Meanwhile, Cigna is standing firm.

“While it is our policy not to comment on an individual personnel matter publicly, we can assure you that we intend to continue to defend Cigna’s interests and have full confidence in the legal process. Ms. Perez has a copy of the arbitrator’s decision, as well as the papers Cigna filed in support of our motion for summary judgment,” a spokesperson said. “Cigna’s success is based on the talents and contributions of its 74,000 employees worldwide; when occasional differences arise, we strive to address them through fair and equitable treatment.”

Since being fired, with this lawsuit in process, Peter says he has applied for hundreds of jobs, but hasn’t been hired. But that hasn’t stopped him and Glenda from going public with their fight against forced employee arbitration.

Peter and Glenda PerezThey aren’t alone.

In February, after multiple employee uprisings over Google’s use of arbitration to keep allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination secret, the company announced it would end all forced employee arbitration. 

In May, employees at LA game maker Riot Games staged a walk out to pressure its management to end forced arbitration. They partially won that battle, with Riot agreeing to allow new employees to opt out of arbitration clauses, but not current employees.

Also in May, the US House Judiciary Committee held hearings on ending forced arbitration in support of the FairAct bill.

“By burying a forced arbitration clause deep in the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it consumer and employment contracts, companies can evade the court system, where plaintiffs have far greater legal protections, and hide behind a one-sided process that is tilted in their favor,” Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in his opening remarks. 

In July, the Perezes were invited to Washington to speak with congress people about their arbitration experiences, along with other advocates, trying to end forced arbitration.

Although the couple is still broke and fighting their case, there is a silver lining. The experience has given Peter a new career dream. He’s now determined to go to law school and become a lawyer.

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ICE Exiles Convicted Criminal to Africa Claims Lawyer – Spectrum News NY1

NEW YORK – The Trump administration has said it focuses on deporting criminals, but in its rush to deport one Harlem resident, it seems authorities left him without a country.

His attorney says it more closely resembles exile then deportation.

Fatumata Barrie says she has, “a big hole have a big hole in my heart.”

She’s trying to cope with the deportation of her son Ibrahim Barrie to Sierra Leone. It’s not just that he was sent out of the U.S., but how it happened. His lawyer says Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported Ibrahim under a different identity.
“He was rushed out of the country with a document that there’s no dispute that it’s been highly problematic.  That’s one way to look at it. We look at it and would have said it’s been falsified,” said Gregory Copeland with the non-profit legal organization, Rapid Defense Network.
Sierre Leone initially refused to admit Ibrahim, but the U.S. would not take him back. So now Ibrahim Barrie is a man without a country, in limbo, he says, because Sierra Leone refuses to issue him the papers he needs to work and travel.

“No ID and none of the documents I have will have me get an ID,” explained Ibrahim via Skype, “(I) can’t get a job, can’t move around.  Everywhere you go, you’re asked for identification.”

Ibrahim was 10 when he and his family left Sierra Leone to seek asylum in the U.S. He got his green card, but it was revoked after he was convicted of armed robbery.

After his release from prison, Ibrahim was ordered to check in with ICE every four to five months. Then President Donald Trump took office, and such cases took on a higher priority.

Ibrahim was ordered to begin checking monthly, and in the spring, ICE swooped into his Harlem apartment and deported him on July 11.
“You shouldn’t be able to exile someone to a country where that country is not accepting them as a national or a citizen,” said Copeland.
The problem is, ICE deported Ibrahim Barrie under the name Ibrahim *Moi Barry and Ibrahim Barry Moi (depending on which document you view).  The spelling of his first and last name is different and he has the added name of Moi. Ibrahim’s birth date is also wrong.

“I was told because that person is not considered as a Sierra Leone citizen, that everything must be straightened out before they can provide me with an identification card,” he told NY1.
Ibrahim is married to high school sweetheart, Harlem native Jennique Nelson and together they have a two-year-old girl.

NY1 caught up with her as she prepared move last week with their daughter to Sierra Leone. She just quit her job as a postal worker.
“There’s nothing we can do it’s out of our hands, we’re gonna stay together as a family,” she told NY1. 
Ibrahim’s attorney calls the case an example of the government running roughshod over procedures and protections to increase deportations.
“And if it’s happening to Mr. Barrie in this situation it’s probably happening to hundreds of other people that we’ll never hear about,” said Copeland.
The Department of Homeland Security says in a court filing that Ibrahim or someone representing him is responsible for the inaccurate information in his deportation documents.

The agency also blames immigration officials in Sierra Leone for miscommunication.

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India's blackout and extreme crackdown in Kashmir could ignite a violent uprising

Kashmir protests

  • An extreme crackdown in the Indian territory of Kashmir has kept Kashmiri citizens under virtual house arrest and without a lifeline to the outside world for nearly a month.
  • Extreme military and police brutality could lead to major uprisings, including violence and bloodshed, experts warn.
  • While the Indian government and military forces have engaged in mass arrests, forced “disappearances,” and other human rights violations before in Kashmir, the scale of militarization and civilian suppression is unprecedented, making it ripe for a full-scale insurgency.
  • “Never before have Kashmiri Muslims felt so threatened by Hindu Nationalists’ attempts to forcibly assimilate them with the Indian Union,” a Kashmir expert told Insider.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Indian government staged a takeover of the territories of Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. A total information blockade followed, as well as reports of house arrests, and the Indian government’s decision to completely negate Kashmir’s special autonomous status. 

The Indian government and military forces have for decades engaged in mass arrests, forced “disappearances,” and other human rights violations in Kashmir, but the scale of militarization and civilian suppression is unprecedented, making it ripe for a full-scale insurgency.

“Kashmir has turned into an internment camp,” Angana Chatterji, the co-chair of the Political Conflict, Gender, & People’s Rights Initiative at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on human rights in Kashmir, told Insider.

“It’s virtually impossible [for people] to step outside their homes,” she said, as 55,000 Indian military personnel patrol the streets of Kashmir. Kashmir and Jammu have a population of 10 million that’s majority Muslim, and these citizens have been without internet since August 4, making it impossible to communicate with the outside world, much less each other.

“They want to make sure that people stay indoors, that people don’t mobilize and protest,” Hafsa Kanjwal, a professor at Lafayette University and an expert on Kashmir, told Insider. 

Read more: Trump’s casual offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute reveals a disastrous misunderstanding of the powder-keg region

India’s government formally abrogated Article 370 of its constitution, which gave Kashmir its special status as an autonomous state, earlier this month. The unprecedented move by the Hindu nationalist BJP government revokes Muslim-majority Kashmir’s ability to make its own laws and determinations under the guise of integrating the state into India and increasing development there. 

No voice for Kashmiris

But India’s actions — arresting thousands of Kashmiris, putting political leaders under lockdown, and disarming the Kashmir police force — reaveal different motivations. 

Decisions about Kashmir’s future — and any negotiation thereof — have always been between Pakistan, which controls some parts of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and India, according to the 1972 Simla agreement. Now, with the Indian government seizing power, Kashmiris are out of options.

“Kashmiris are being forced to take a stand in a bilateral political situation,” Chatterji said. “They, as the primary stakeholders, must argue for themselves.”

“Potential for a full-blown insurgency remains strong,” Wajahat Peer, a political scientist from Kashmir, told Insider. “With no room for dissent,” he said, the people of Kashmir have “no choice but to engage in armed struggle.”

There is precedent for armed insurrection — in the late 1980s, for example, militant Kashmiri groups headed to Pakistan for arms training and led an insurrection against the Indian administration in Kashmir in 1990. According to Human Rights Watch, the Indian National Congress party had rigged elections in Kashmir to benefit Indian rule and arrested opposition leaders. That conflict led to around 100,000 Hindus leaving Kashmir, and countless human rights abuses by Indian forces there. Uprisings in 2009, 2011, and 2016 resulted in injuries, restrictions, and human rights abuses against Kashmiris, as well.

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard near a temporary checkpoint during lockdown in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. The latest crackdown began just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and its statehood, creating two federal territories. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

‘Only one solution’

The current situation seems to be different. For one, there wasn’t really a precipitating event that brought on India’s state-wide blackout and blatant political power grab. 

“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” according to a United Nations Human Rights Council statement on Kashmir.

“The information blackout is clearly unprecedented,” Peer said. “So is the increase in military deployment at a time when insurgency in Kashmir is residual.”

2019 is a watershed moment in Kashmir, Chatterji told Insider. “There’s no going back, they’ve destroyed a tenet of the constitution.”

“Never before have Kashmiri Muslims felt so threatened by Hindu Nationalists’ attempts to forcibly assimilate them with the Indian Union,” Peer said.

“So there is an overarching consensus in the Kashmiri society that they need to right for the protection of their identity. And surely it will generate massive resistance.”

Even with limited communication and highly militarized streets, Kashmiris are still protesting, The New York Times reports. While some are peaceful, others proceed with chants advocating for armed struggle. 

“Only one solution,” protesters shout. “Gun solution!”

SEE ALSO: Here’s what life is like on the border between India and Pakistan, one of the world’s most disputed regions

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Anthony Levandowski pleads not guilty to charges of Google trade theft and is released, with an ankle monitor, after posting $2 million bond (GOOG, GOOGL, UBER)

Anthony Levandowski

SAN JOSE — Anthony Levandowski, the self-driving car technologist at the center of a now-settled dispute between Google and Uber, pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges that he stole trade secrets and attempted to steal others.

Appearing in federal court here for his arraignment following his indictment by federal prosecutors earlier in the day, Levandowski, 39, was mostly expressionless and said little, letting his attorneys speak for him. Dressed in a dark blue suit with sneakers and no tie, the tall Levandowski towered over his own attorneys and government prosecutors.

Most of the proceeding was taken up with a discussion over terms under which he would be released until his trial. After hearing arguments from both sides, Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins set his secured bond a $2 million.

Government prosecutors argued that Levandowski is a flight risk because of his wealth and his dual US-French citizenship. His attorney, Ismael Ramsey, argued he wasn’t, stressing the fact that Levandowski voluntarily attempted to surrender himself to US Marshalls at the San Francisco federal building last week after suspecting a warrant had already been filed for his arrest.

Levandowski agreed to put up $300,000 of his own money toward the bail. His father and stepmother agreed to guarantee another $1.4 million by posting the equity on their house. Levandowski’s longtime friend and business partner, Randy Miller, agreed to guarantee the remaining $400,000 through posting the equity on his own house.

Federal prosecutors earlier on Tuesday indicted Levandowski on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each violation, prosecutors said.

The US Attorney for the Northern District of California said Levandowski was accused of stealing roughly 14,000 “engineering, manufacturing, and business files” from Google’s self-driving-car unit, later rebranded as Waymo, when he resigned without notice in January 2016 to found a company called Otto, which would later be acquired by Uber.

Levandowski declined to answer reporters’ questions as he left the courtroom and made his way to an awaiting car.

The next hearing in the case will be held at the federal courthouse here on September 4. Levandowski will have to wear a location monitor on his ankle until then as part of the terms of his release and will be barred from going near any airports.

Miller along with Levandowski’s father, stepmother and brother attended the hearing. Miller and his parents got up in front of the court to affirm that they would post the equity on their houses to assure that he would attend his court dates.

SEE ALSO: A former Uber and Google executive has been indicted on accusations of stealing self-driving-car tech

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Lisa Page could save Andrew McCabe from DOJ criminal charges – Washington Examiner

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page could hinder a criminal case against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if the Justice Department decides to bring charges against him.

Federal prosecutors are close to making a final decision on whether to indict McCabe, who is accused of lying to federal agents, the New York Times reported Monday.

McCabe’s lawyers met with Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who will help make the call on whether to prosecute, and U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie Liu in two separate meetings last week. This signals McCabe’s lawyers could be making a last-ditch effort to convince the top law enforcement officials not to prosecute the case.

If they were to bring charges against McCabe, prosecutors would have to prove he knowingly and intentionally lied to investigators when he told them on two occasions that he did not remember authorizing Page to speak to a Wall Street Journal reporter. McCabe corrected himself at a later time.

Page, who worked as a special counsel to McCabe, told a grand jury in Washington, D.C., that McCabe was authorized in his position as deputy director to give information to the media and had no motive to lie. Page resigned from the bureau last year after it was discovered she had exchanged anti-Trump text messages with former FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she had an affair.

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe in March 2018, less than two days before he was set to retire. This followed Michael Horowitz, DOJ’s inspector general, releasing a report in February 2018 detailing instances where McCabe “lacked candor” with then-FBI Director James Comey and investigators and concluded McCabe greenlit disclosures to the media of sensitive information on an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation “to make himself look good.”

McCabe’s lawyers called the inspector general’s report “deeply flawed.”

Comey has said he did not give McCabe permission to leak, and when Sessions fired McCabe he stated the deputy director “made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.”

McCabe, who was hired by CNN last week, sued in August, accusing Trump of forcing his subordinates at the Justice Department to participate in an “unconstitutional plan and scheme” to have him fired, and is demanding back pay, his full pension, and for his record to be expunged. Trump has accused McCabe, who authorized the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, of being involved in an “illegal and treasonous” plot against him.

Neither DOJ nor McCabe’s attorney immediately responded to the Washington Examiner’s requests for comment.

The investigation into McCabe has been lengthy — so long, in fact, the Times reported the term expired for grand jury hearing evidence. It began last year after Horowitz referred his findings to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington for possible criminal charges. Frustrated with the prolonged process, DOJ prosecutor Kamil Shields left the case and joined a private practice. Another assistant U.S. attorney, David Kent, is also no longer on the case.

McCabe is also likely still being scrutinized in Horowitz’s inquiry into allegations of abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The surveillance warrant applications targeting Trump associate Carter Page required the approval of top members of the FBI and DOJ, and McCabe was involved in the FISA approval process.

Horowitz’s report is expected to be released to the public in late September or early October.

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Hong Kong protesters destroyed 'smart' lampposts because they fear China is spying on them

smart lampposts

  • Protesters in Hong Kong targeted the city’s “smart lampposts” during weekend protests over fears that they were being used to spy on them.
  • The lampposts, which were installed in July, feature WiFi networks, cameras to monitor traffic, and sensors to track air quality. The Hong Kong government has said that the lampposts do not have facial recognition technology.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories. 

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong capped off a volatile weekend of protests by targeting the city’s “smart” lampposts, which they fear the Chinese government is using to spy on them.

The lampposts, the first 50 of which were installed in June, are part of a smart-city initiative and have sensors and CCTV cameras to monitor illegal waste dumping sites and traffic data, including license plate numbers, the South China Morning Post reported in July.

Protesters expressed concern that the lampposts, which are also 5G WiFi hubs, were being used by the Chinese government for surveillance on the ongoing protests. 

Hong Kong’s government has said that the devices do not have facial recognition technology and no data will be shared with third parties, such as the Beijing government. 

Read more: Protester is called Hong Kong’s ‘tank man’ for standing between crowd and police aiming guns

However, with public trust in the government at a low as protests continue for the third month, protesters demanded that the lampposts be removed, with some going so far as to vandalize or completely destroy the devices

The 50 lampposts currently constructed were intended to be the first of 400; however, as the Hong Kong Free Press reported, TickTack Technology Limited, the tech company that provides parts for the lamppost, will cease cooperation with the Hong Kong government after they said their staff members were threatened.

The company stressed that it has no relationship with the mainland government, but protesters were wary that the smart lampposts were connected to the mainland firm Shanghai Sensi, which provided one of the systems for lighting the lampposts. 

“We understand that disputes in society over the past few months led the public to be cautious and mistrustful towards some technology,” TickTack Technology said in a statement. The company also said it hoped its withdrawal would calm fears and defuse the tension between protesters and the government, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. 

China’s government is notorious for using technology like facial recognition to spy on its citizens, with the most egregious example being the country’s ethnic Uighur population. The Chinese government has created a virtual police state for Uighurs in Xinjiang, using facial recognition and human intelligence to identify Uighurs to send to indoctrination camps and monitor them after they are released. 

SEE ALSO: China’s military power may surpass the US’s faster than you think, thanks to 6 shrewd strategies

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New York Times columnist recalls Jeffrey Epstein saying that sex with teenage girls was historically acceptable and that criminalizing the act went against cultural norms

jeffrey epstein

  • Jeffrey Epstein once told a New York Times reporter that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a deviation from cultural norms that at times throughout history had been considered acceptable.
  • New York Times reporter James B. Stewart wrote his account of an interview with Epstein that took nearly a year ago in a new report published on Monday.
  • Stewart paraphrased Epstein saying that prohibiting sexual contact with teenagers was a “cultural aberration.”
  • Epstein also touted several other high-profile industry connections according to Stewart, claiming that he had been an adviser to Tesla CEO Elon Musk and saying that he “spoke often” to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Stewart had initially agreed to speak to Epstein “on background,” though he said he considered the agreement void following Epstein’s death by an apparent suicide on Saturday morning.
  • Epstein, 66, was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan as he awaited trial for sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Epstein had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carried a jail sentence of up to 45 years.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jeffrey Epstein once told a New York Times reporter that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a deviation from cultural norms that at times throughout history had been considered acceptable.

New York Times reporter James B. Stewart wrote an account of an interview with Epstein that took nearly a year ago in a new report published on Monday. Stewart said in his piece that Epstein appeared “at ease” talking about his “interest in young women.”

“He said that criminalizing sex with teenage girls was a cultural aberration and that at times in history it was perfectly acceptable,” Stewart wrote. “He pointed out that homosexuality had long been considered a crime and was still punishable by death in some parts of the world.”

Stewart added that Epstein had also offered him an invitation to a dinner with director Woody Allen, though Stewart declined, an anecdote which he said illustrated Epstein’s desire to “enhance his own importance to gain attention.” 

Epstein also touted several other high-profile industry connections to Stewart during their conversation, claiming ties to Tesla CEO Elon Musk during a period of time when Musk was looking to take the electric car company private, along with claiming that he “spoke often” to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A spokesperson for Musk told Business Insider that it was “incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon or Tesla on anything.”

Stewart had initially agreed to speak to Epstein “on background,” though he said he considered the agreement void following Epstein’s death by an apparent suicide on Saturday morning.

Epstein, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan on Saturday morning, where he was being held as he awaited trial for sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. He was transported to the hospital and was pronounced dead.

Read more: Jeffrey Epstein died by apparent suicide in jail. Here’s how the prison system makes that possible.

Epstein had previously pleaded guilty to two state charges of soliciting prostitution in 2008 and registered as a sex offender as part of a deal cut with the US Attorney’s Office in Miami. He had been sentenced to 18 months in prison but only served 13 months in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail where he was allowed to work in an office six days per week.

Epstein was arrested last month on charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, which prosecutors allege involved girls as young as 14. The alleged victims were recruited to provide “massages” to Epstein that would devolve into sexual abuse, according to unsealed court documents. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carried a prison sentence of up to 45 years. 

Epstein had been denied bail after US District Judge Richard Berman announced in court on July 18 that Epstein posed a flight and public safety risk. 

Epstein was found injured in his cell on July 24 after a suspected suicide attempt. He was taken off of suicide watch days later, according to the New York Times.

On Saturday, Attorney General William Barr announced in a statement that he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s death while in federal custody and said that the Office of the Inspector General would launch an investigation.

“Mr. Epstein’s death raises serious questions that must be answered,” he wrote. 

SEE ALSO: Attorney General Barr announces investigation into Epstein’s death by suicide amid reports the convicted sex offender wasn’t on suicide watch when he died

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Hate crime charges unlikely in case of racist rant in Richmond: criminal lawyer – CityNews Vancouver

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — The woman caught on video hurling racial slurs and swearing at an Asian woman in a Richmond parking lot is unlikely to be charged with a hate crime, according to a criminal lawyer.

The RCMP announced Saturday that it is investigating the incident and has contacted both women. By Saturday evening,over 3,500 comments had been posted to a Facebook page believed to belong to the woman caught on video.

Many of these call for the woman to be charged with a hate crime, sparking some debate over what crime the woman could be charged with at the conclusion of the police investigation.

The first thing to understand, according to Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee, is that uttering racial slurs is not a crime in and of itself.

“The reality is that many disturbing situations like this, while completely upsetting, completely unacceptable, reprehensible behaviour, don’t fall within the boundaries of the Criminal Code,” she says. “To charge somebody with a criminal offense often requires more than just hateful language which is, I think, a very upsetting thing for a lot of people.”

RELATED: Racist rant caught on video in Richmond

Lee says in these circumstances, the criminal charge the woman could face is causing a disturbance. Hate-related charges could then be added on.

“In order for the police to charge somebody with a hate crime they have to first determine that a crime has been committed, and then that the motivation for that crime was one of hate on the basis of race, or sexual orientation or any factor like that,” she explains. “In a case like this, if this individual was charged with causing a disturbance, it could be characterized as a hate crime on the basis of the fact that clearly this was a racially motivated tirade by this individual.”

However, Lee says these charges are most often applied to situations that involve physical violence and vandalism.

“The likelihood is, though, that hate crime charges would not be pursued in these circumstances,” she adds.

Another possibility the RCMP may be pursuing is charges under the Motor Vehicle Act because the video clearly shows contact between two cars.

Councillor ‘appalled’ by racist rant

A Richmond city councillor says the video showing a woman making several racist remarks is “deeply troubling” and unacceptable.

“There’s a child there and that’s definitely not a way to behave in public. This is a public place,” Councillor Michael Wolfe says.

He says he doesn’t know exactly what next steps council can take, but hopes it will be discussed at the next Community Safety Committee meeting.

“This is a reminder, an unfortunate reminder that we as a city need to continue to reach out to residents and visitors to our stores and our community,” he says, adding cultural training does happen for city staff, but it can’t be forced on everyone.

“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge, so we can take the steps in community awareness and community promotion of acceptance.”

Wolfe says a situation like this hurts the city’s image and diminishes the work that has been done to support cultural harmony. While he says he can’t speak for the city or all of council, he would like to apologize to the woman who was insulted.

Mounties ask people to stop commenting online

While the investigation continues, the police are asking the public to hold back comments online.

“In order to ensure the integrity of the investigation and privacy of the individuals involved, we are asking the public to respect the investigative process and refrain from posting any comments on social media” Inspector Sunny Parmar says.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Richmond RCMP.

With files from Jonathan Szekeres.

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Oracle is suing Larry Ellison and Safra Catz over the $9 billion NetSuite deal, thanks to letter written by 3 Oracle board members (ORCL)

Larry Ellison and Safra Catz

  • A three-member committee of Oracle board members has written an extraordinary letter to a Delaware court.
  • The letter, dated August 15, grants permission for a shareholder-initiated lawsuit to proceed against Oracle founder and chairman Larry Ellison, as well as one of Oracle’s co-CEOs, Safra Catz.
  • This is a “derivative lawsuit,” meaning it was filed on behalf the company against the directors. Such suits argue that the directors are acting in their own self-interest and can’t be trusted to act in the interest of the company.
  • If the suit proceeds and is not settled, the entity suing Ellison and Catz would technically be Oracle itself. 
  • It appears to be an unprecedented situation. And billions of dollars are at stake.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Thanks to a decision by three of Oracle’s board members, Oracle is now suing its own founder-chairman, Larry Ellison, and CEO Safra Catz for billions of dollars.

The directors have written a letter to a Delaware court giving their approval for the lawsuit to proceed. 

And in a truly unprecedented move, they are granting the shareholder who initiated the lawsuit — Firemen’s Retirement System — permission to represent Oracle in suing Ellison and Catz.

The three board members made the remarkable move via a letter written this month to the Delaware court where the original lawsuit was filed in 2017.

The Oracle directors who wrote the letter are: Leon Panetta, the former US Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA who joined Oracle’s board in 2015; former Amtrak CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman; and former Deloitte CEO William Parrett. The latter two both joined in May, 2018, at the exact time this special, three-member board committee was formed.

The Reuters columnist Alison Frankel, who originally reported on this letter, said she knew only one other situation in which a company’s board gave the OK for a shareholder to sue directors on the company’s behalf: a case involving AIG in 2010. But even that wasn’t equivalent because those shareholders were not suing AIG’s sitting board members. They were suing ousted CEO Maurice Greenberg and former members of the board.

In this case, Oracle, via the shareholder, is suing the current CEO and the current chairman. 

leon panetta

Heartburn over NetSuite

The subject of the lawsuit is Oracle’s $9.3 billion acquisition of NetSuite in 2016, a deal in which a company that Ellison controls — Oracle —  paid a premium price to buy a company that Ellison owned. Ellison was NetSuite’s founder and largest shareholder, with a roughly 40% stake. 

Oracle Safra CatzOracle paid $109 per share for NetSuite, even though at least one Wall Street analyst said NetSuite was really worth closer to $70 per share, the plaintiff’s lawyer said. The plaintiff alleges that Ellison’s “self-dealing” on the NetSuite deal breached his fiduciary responsibilities to Oracle, according to court documents.

The lead lawyer for Firemen’s Retirement System, Joel Friedlander, also said in a hearing in June, “We’re seeking multiple billions of dollars in damages.”

While tossing around a multibillion-dollar figure in a hearing is sometimes just lawyerly bravado, there’s some meat to that number in this case. The NetSuite deal put about $3.5 billion in cash from Oracle’s coffers into Ellison’s pocket.

The case also contains intriguing allegations about how the NetSuite deal really went down, including:

  • Implying that Ellison was really the puppet master of this deal by making it clear he wanted Oracle to buy NetSuite and to bail NetSuite out when Oracle began to compete head-on with it and “NetSuite was suffering as a result,” the documents say. (Oracle said Ellison recused himself and was not on the board committee that investigated the acquisition.)
  • It alleges that Catz views her role at the company as Ellison’s “enforcer” and that she defied the board’s instructions to say nothing about price when she initiated merger talks.
  • It alleges that Catz secretly told NetSuite that Oracle would pay $100 to $125 per share in her first meeting with NetSuite officials.
  • It alleges that Catz and other executives at Oracle manipulated the financial analysis of the deal to make it look like $100 to $125 was a fair price when it was a premium.
  • It also says the third party hired to give an opinion on a fair price was issued a contract that paid $1 million for evaluation, $2 million if it issued an opinion, and $17 million if Oracle closed a deal, and the board committee knew this gave the firm an incentive to sanctify a higher offer price.

Under Larry’s thumb

Shareholder lawsuits are pretty common these days. Most go nowhere. This is a derivative lawsuit that argues a company’s board members cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the company, making it necessary for someone else — in this case a shareholder — to step in.

Read more: Top Oracle execs Larry Ellison, Mark Hurd and Safra Catz failed to earn all of their annual bonuses this year

The lawsuit alleges that too many of Oracle’s board members are so dependent on Ellison, both for their well-paid Oracle board positions and in their other business ventures, they are not free to defy him.

Renee james, intel, sv100 2015

In March 2018, a judge basically agreed with enough of the Firemen’s Retirement System argument to rule that at least half of Oracle’s board members are under Ellison’s thumb.

The judge found that Ellison has protected some of them from being voted off the board by shareholders upset over Oracle’s exorbitant executive-pay packages, whereas shareholders have for years been voting down the comp packages and trying to vote off the compensation committee.

The judge also found that Ellison is a critically important ally to board members in their other, independent businesses.

For instance, one of them, Renee James, who headed the special committee that investigated the NetSuite deal, even had her “independent” board-member status removed in 2018 (two years after the NetSuite deal was announced) when Oracle helped her buy her own chip company, Ampere, by investing in it.

Committee tried to get Ellison to settle the case

After the judge allowed the case to move forward (Oracle at first tried to get the case dismissed), Oracle created a special litigation committee (SLC) consisting of the three board members. One, Panetta, had been on the board when the NetSuite deal went down. The other two members joined Oracle’s board literally the same week this committee was formed.

Larry EllisonA board SLC is a typical response, sort of like HR conducting an internal investigation when an employee lodges a complaint.

Encouraged when the suit was given the OK, the shareholder made a calculated move to dismiss the claims against all board members except Ellison and Catz. 

The SLC spent 10 months investigating, conducting about 40 interviews and gathering 1 million documents analyzed by independent financial consultants and data-forensics consultants, according to court documents.

The committee then hired a mediator to negotiate a settlement. But the talks broke down and no agreement was reached, the SLC said in its letter to the court.

Presumably that settlement would have involved some sort of concession from Ellison and possibly from Catz, perhaps even a demand that Ellison return to Oracle some of the $3.5 billion he got from the deal.

Read more: How WeWork paid Adam Neumann $5.9 million to use the name ‘We’

Having failed at a settlement, the SLC effectively threw its hands in the air and wrote last week’s letter to the judge, saying it was in favor of litigation proceeding against Ellison and Catz.

And, in a truly jaw-dropping move — instead of saying that the SLC was pursuing the matter against its directors itself, requesting the derivative suit be dropped and keeping all the company’s board fighting and dirty laundry in-house — the litigation committee said it wanted the shareholders to go ahead and represent the company. 

“After carefully considering the issues, the SLC determined it was in the Company’s best interests to allow the Lead Plaintiff (rather than the SLC) to proceed with litigation on behalf of Oracle,” the committee members wrote in the letter.

The SLC did not admit to any wrongdoing on anyone’s part, but the move was effectively an acknowledgement that legal action against Oracle’s current chairman and CEO was necessary. 

Larry Ellison Evan Goldberg NetSuite OracleAnd in another ironic twist, right before the SLC issued this letter, the shareholder’s team changed course about who to hold responsible. They filed an amended complaint that named all of Oracle’s board members at the time of the deal, as well as some NetSuite executives, like cofounder and chairman Evan Goldberg and CEO Zachary Nelson. These are both former Oracle employees and longtime associates of Ellison. The shareholders allege these execs helped Catz misrepresent data.

The SLC’s letter said that the committee was cool with letting the shareholder’s suit on behalf of the company cover this expanded list of defendants.

So the suit now names Panetta, which means Panetta basically agreed to allow the company to sue him. 

How will it end?

It’s worth noting, however, that Oracle insures and indemnifies its board members. In the June hearing, Fireman’s lawyers actually accused the SLC of engaging in certain tactics to try to get the insurance companies to pay for a settlement.

Meanwhile, the law firm representing Firemen’s Retirement System, Friedlander & Gorris, is known for winning the largest-ever US cash settlement in this Delaware court for a stockholder derivative action — $275 million, on behalf of Activision Blizzard in 2014.

Read more: Oracle has quietly altered course on the way it sells its ‘private-cloud’ product, a key area of its cloud-computing strategy

And with the SLC handing Fireman’s the reins on behalf of the company, the shareholders will likely gain access to the fruits of the SLC’s investigation, those 1 million documents, 40-ish interviews, and the forensic analysis to make their case.

“We appreciate the confidence placed in us by the special litigation committee,” Firemen’s fund counsel Friedlander told Business Insider.

It’s hard to predict how this will play out.

zach nelsonMost executives would find their hand forced, come to the negotiating table with the shareholders (which is now acting on behalf of the board and company), and promptly settle.

But Ellison isn’t most people. He loves a fight. He hates to back down. He’s got wealth and power to spare.

And this isn’t even the first time he’s sold a company he controlled to Oracle for a premium price. He sold a flash-storage company called Pillar Data in 2011 to Oracle, was sued by shareholders, and settled in 2013.

He ultimately had to forgo the majority of the $575 million he was supposed to get for Pillar. The Pillar Data unit was just shuttered by Oracle this month, and Oracle laid off 300 of the unit’s employees, The Reg reported.

Oracle, the company, declined comment. In this case the company represents the shareholders, not Ellison or Catz. Attorneys representing Ellison, Catz, and the rest of the board did not respond to a request for comment.

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