Crop Input Providers Anti Competitive Practices Placing American Farms In Financial Jeopardy: Lawsuit

The cost of farm crop inputs such as seeds, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides are increasing at rates that are significantly higher than revenues generated from crop yields.

The skyrocketing input prices are causing farmers to take on operating debt, often forcing them into bankruptcy, and creating a crisis situation in the agriculture community for American farmers who are critical to the nation’s food supply.

The cost increases are not attributable to any independent legitimate cause, such as weather or other factors. Instead they are being attributed to unlawful agreements between manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers involved in the farm input supply chain according to a recently filed lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges defendants across the supply chain have established a secretive distribution process designed to keep crop input prices inflated at supra competitive levels and to deny farmers access to relevant market information that would allow for comparison shopping and better-informed purchasing decisions.

Defendants also concealed information about seed relabeling practices that would enable farmers to know if they are buying newly developed seeds or identical seeds repackaged under a new brand name and sold for a higher price.

>>SUBMIT INFO REGARDING CROP INPUTS LAWSUIT<<

Defendants Sought To Suppress Third Party Competition

Beginning at least as early as 2014, new online Crop Inputs sales platforms launched and offered pricing comparison tools to allow farmers to view what other farmers were paying for the same Crop Inputs, thus increasing price transparency. These online sales platforms, including Farmers Business Network (“FBN”) and AgVend Inc., became successful with farmers.

Viewing this success, Defendants conspired and coordinated to boycott these online Crop Inputs sales platforms because of the threat they posed to Defendants’ market position and price control. For example, the Manufacturer Defendants and Wholesaler Defendants agreed amongst themselves not to sell Crop Inputs to FBN, and enforce strict discipline on Retailer Defendants who failed to comply with the boycott. Defendants Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, and Corteva used audits and inspections of their authorized retailers to ensure that online Crop Inputs sales platforms were unable to obtain Crop Inputs from their authorized retailers.

The Defendants’ boycott succeeded. As a result of their anti-competitive conduct, online Crop Inputs sales platforms, such as FBN and AgVend, were unable to purchase Defendants’ Crop Inputs in order to sell them on their platforms. Because Defendants are the dominant manufacturers and sellers of Crop Inputs, this was a devastating blow to these sales platforms and directly harmed farmers in taking away a lower cost option for purchasing these Crop Inputs.

Defendant’s anti competitive conduct is the subject of ongoing investigations by the Canadian Competition Bureau (“CCB”) and the Unites States Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). A Canadian federal court has found that there is sufficient evidence to require Defendants to also produce records concerning their coordinated anticompetitive conduct in the United States. The FTC is likewise investigating anticompetitive conduct in the Crop Inputs market. At lease one defendant, Corteva, has received a subpoena from the FTC directing it to submit documents related to Crop Inputs “in order to determine whether Corteva engaged in unfair methods of competition through anticompetitive conduct.”

Baby Foods Tainted With Dangerous Levels of Toxic Heavy Metals

On Feb 5, 2021, a class action lawsuit was filed against a Campbell Soup’s subsidiary Plum, PBC, (Plum) makers of the “Plum Organics” brand of baby food.

The Lawsuit (PDF), filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California brought on behalf of a nationwide class, alleges that despite being marketed as “organic” and “made from the best ingredients,” Plum’s baby food products are tainted with the presence of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.  The Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have declared these metals dangerous to human health, particularly to babies and children, who are most vulnerable to their neurotoxic effects. Even low levels of exposure can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development.

The Lawsuit cites a February 4, 2021 Staff Report by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which found “high levels of toxic heavy metals” in baby foods.

The genesis of the Reform Subcommittee’s investigation was an independent report warning of toxic metal levels in baby food products.  A Healthy Babies Bright Futures Report (PDF), dated October 2019, indicates 95% of baby food products sold throughout the U.S. contain heavy metals.

The Staff Report noted that Plum “refused to cooperate with the Subcommittee’s investigation causing great concern that their lack of cooperation might obscure the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products, compared to their competitors’ products.”

The Staff Report noted that Plum also refused to produce its testing standards and specific test results but instead produced a spreadsheet that “self-declared” that every product met criteria for each of the Heavy Metals, while declining to state what the criteria were. The Subcommittee found Plum’s grading concerning and misleading as it “raises questions about what it’s other thresholds actually are, and whether they exist.”

The lawsuit alleges that Plum’s marketing purposely misled and deceived consumers by wrongfully conveying to consumers that its contaminated baby foods have certain superior quality and characteristics that they do not actually possess. For instance, its marketing omitted the fact its baby foods contain Heavy Metals, which is material information to reasonable consumers.

>>To Join the Action Click Here<<

Some Advice For Parents

The following recommendations are from Consumer Report’s food safety experts and nutritionists about how to minimize your child’s heavy metal intake, while maintaining an overall healthy diet.

Limit your child’s intake of the highest-risk baby foods. These include rice, sweet potatoes, apple juice, and grape juice. “These often have worrisome levels of arsenic, in particular,” Dickerson says. Rice cereal was once considered the best first food for babies, but the FDA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other organizations say it’s not the only option. Other whole grains, such as oatmeal, are good choices. In CR’s 2018 tests, eating less than 2.5 servings per day (a serving is ½ cup) of the baby oatmeal cereals we looked at did not pose a risk.

Ease up on the fruit juice. CR’s 2019 testing of fruit juices found high levels of lead and arsenic in several products. The subcommittee report also noted excessive levels of heavy metals in fruit juice. Plus fruit juice is not as nutritious as parents may think. “Even 100 percent fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit over whole fruit,” says Amy Keating, RD, a nutritionist at Consumer Reports. “It can contribute extra calories to a child’s diet, and drinking a lot of it has been linked to dental caries (cavities) and may lead to weight gain and obesity.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of fruit juice kids drink, and that babies under the age of 1 not be given juice at all. For infants, formula or breast milk should be the only beverage they drink. For older children water and milk are the best choices.

Consider making your own. There’s no reason why a child or infant can’t eat the same foods as the rest of the family. This won’t completely reduce the amount of heavy metals in the diet—depending on the food, it may have naturally higher levels. But it does eliminate the risk of any heavy metals from additives used in the food.

Of course, the foods should be age appropriate and prepared in a way that makes it easy for the child to eat. “At first, it is best for the foods to have a very smooth texture. For instance, you can cook some broccoli and purée it or mash up some avocado for your baby,” Keating says. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to ensure your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals, because many baby foods are enriched or fortified with certain nutrients.

Making your own also means that you can potentially reduce the heavy metals in rice. In CR’s 2014 tests, white basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S. had on average half as much inorganic arsenic as most other types. In addition, cooking rice the way you would pasta—in a large amount of water, then draining it—lowers the arsenic content of the rice.

Minimize baby food snacks. Puffs, teething biscuits, and crackers are among the products that are more likely to be high in heavy metals. Plus, Keating says, they’re highly processed foods. “They tend to have far more of the things you don’t want in your diet—additives, added sugars, sodium, and refined flours—and increasingly research is showing that highly processed foods are harmful to health overall, possibly raising the risk of cancer, heart disease, and obesity,” she says.

Vary the foods you feed your child. When you eat an array of different types of whole foods, you get an array of nutrients. So alternate the vegetables you give your child, for instance. Plus rotating foods may help you avoid over consumption of heavy metals and provide nutrients (like vitamin C and zinc) that may help offset some of the damage heavy metals do to the body.

SCOTUS Ruling On Goldman Sachs Securities Fraud Case Could Decimate Investor Rights And Protections

With Oral Arguments Less than 2 Weeks Away, Stark Implications Seen for Investors in Outcome of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System. I urge all to share this post and give this case the attention it deserves.

Will the U.S. Supreme Court allow investors defrauded by Goldman Sachs during the financial crisis to have their day in court? Or, will the Court rule in favor of Goldman Sachs and, in so doing, create a roadmap that publicly traded companies can use to make false and misleading statements that will harm Main Street investors and dramatically undermine market confidence by making it impossible for any investor to rely on the public statements of companies?

In a news conference today, leading pension, consumer, and legal experts warned that these are the stakes when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 29th in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.

If the court allows Goldman Sachs to evade accountability to investors who lost money after the Wall Street giant made what later proved to be false statements, the experts see devastating consequences ahead for both investors and the markets.  The concern in brief: Such an “anything goes” loophole would be taken up by other publicly traded companies and result in the fleecing of unwary investors and a pull back from the markets by more sophisticated individuals and institutions unable to rely on any company’s public statements.

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection, Consumer Federation of America, said: “To protect its sterling image, and its share price, Goldman made false statements that it always acted in its clients’ best interest and carefully managed its conflicts, even as it was selling mortgage-backed securities to its clients without warning them that the investments were destined to fail. Those facts are well established in enforcement actions by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice. Despite that fact, Goldman is asking the Supreme Court to conclude that its disclosures, which led directly to investor losses, were too generic to permit those investors to recover their losses in court. But such a maneuver, if allowed to go unchallenged by the Court, would let companies off the leash, ushering in a wide range of misleading behavior that could materially harm U.S. investors.”

Kevin Lindahl, general counsel and deputy executive director, Fire and Police Pension Association of Colorado, said: “Our job is to make sure that police, fire and other public employees in Colorado have a properly funded retirement. To do that, we have to be able to make investment decisions that are based on factual statements by public companies. If we cannot rely on those statements and if we are barred from seeking redress when false and misleading statements are made by such companies, our job is made immeasurably more difficult and the risk to our retirees goes up sharply.”

Lynn Turner, former chief accountant, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said: “From the inception of the federal securities laws, Congress recognized that securities markets incorporate publicly available information into their pricing. Congressional regulation thus targets the manipulation of securities prices through false or misleading statements and omissions. Recent history illustrates the wisdom of these principles and the dramatic and destructive impact that false or misleading statements or omissions can have on markets and investor confidence.”

Matthew Cain, Ph.D., former financial economist, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and senior fellow, Berkeley Law School, said: “The allegations in this case involving Goldman Sachs are quite serious. In fact, in a related case Goldman paid the largest penalty in SEC history at that time – over $500 million. Some people have argued that allowing cases like this to proceed will open the floodgates to frivolous litigation. I find it ironic that anyone could equate conduct that resulted in the largest SEC penalty ever with frivolous litigation. The truth is that shareholder lawsuits are a vital component of investor protection and it is imperative that the Supreme Court not take any actions that would handicap this important check on corporate wrongdoing.”

Andrew Park, senior policy analyst, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, said: “There remains overwhelming evidence, courtesy of the 2011 Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report, showing how Goldman’s employees were not only aware of the poor quality of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations  they were selling, but also that they knowingly failed to disclose to their clients key details on how the bank or hedge funds were on the other side betting against them. If shareholders faced with losses have no recourse against companies who concealed their behavior and knowingly skirted a number of laws, a terrible precedent will be set for investor protection going forward.”

On March 3rd,  six former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission commissioners – including SEC Chairs William H. Donaldson and Arthur Levitt, Jr. – were among those cautioning the Supreme Court about the peril of allowing Goldman Sachs to avoid facing an investor lawsuit related to false and misleading claims that the investment world giant admits that it made.  Amicus briefs in opposition to Goldman Sachs also were filed by state securities regulators, investor advocates, pension funds, and others.

BACKGROUND

On December 11, 2020, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.  Originally filed in 2010, the case was brought by investors who bought stock in Goldman Sachs in the early days of the global financial crisis at a price that was inflated by Goldman’s false statements about its high standard of conduct and strong protections against conflicts of interest. At the time, Goldman Sachs was widely respected as “the gold standard on Wall Street.”

Unbeknownst to its customers or investors, however, Goldman’s business practices fell well short of the lofty image it worked to perpetuate. Goldman was reaping rich rewards from the creation and sale of a complex type of mortgage-backed security, referred to as a “collateralized debt obligation” (CDO), backed by mortgages it knew were likely to fail. Goldman executives knew the investments were problematic and likely to fail, as evidenced by internal emails.

In one particularly egregious case that was the subject of a SEC enforcement action, Goldman worked with one favored hedge fund customer, who was planning to short (or bet against) a particular CDO, to maximize its chances of failure. Goldman then turned around and sold that CDO to other unsuspecting customers without warning them it had been designed to fail.

During that time, when Goldman was profiting richly by playing one set of customers off against another, it continued to issue solemn public assurances that it had “extensive procedures and controls that are designed to identify and address conflicts of interest” and that “[o]ur clients’ interests always come first.” When the extent of its duplicity became known, however, it suddenly became the symbol of all that was wrong with Wall Street, lampooned in Rolling Stone Magazine as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” When its stock price dropped, investors who had trusted its false claims suffered financial harm. At stake in this case is their ability to recover their losses.

Emerson Firm, PLLC Announces Ongoing Investigation Involving Nissan Rogue

Feb 16 2021, Emerson Firm, PLLC announces a continuing investigation of a hugely significant issue involving the transmission system of Nissan Rogue vehicles. This matter relates to consumers who purchased or leased 2014, 2015, or 2016 Nissan Rogue vehicles.

If you purchased or leased a 2014, 2015, or 2016 Nissan Rogue then you may have claims that can be pursued.  It is believed that the transmission system in these vehicles is defective. Owners have reported a significant delay in the vehicle’s response while attempting to accelerate from a stop or while attempting to merge into freeway traffic, or pass another vehicle, which requires the ability to accelerate quickly. This delay in response is typically accompanied with reports of the engine revving while the driver depresses the gas pedal without little to no increase in vehicle speed. Vehicle owners have also experienced and reported stalling, jerking, lurching, juddering, and/or shaking while operating their Class Vehicles, as well as premature transmission failure.

These vehicles are equipped with a continuous variable transmission or CVT type of automatic transmission that does not use conventional gears to achieve the various ratios required during normal driving. Instead, it uses a segmented steel belt between pulleys that can be adjusted to change the reduction ratio in the transmission. This is supposed to occur smoothly and continuously. Like a conventional transmission, a CVT is electronically controlled by a Transmission Control Module or TCM.

Nissan North America, Inc. (“NNA”) is a California corporation with its principal place of business located at One Nissan Way, Franklin, Tennessee 37067 and doing business in Tennessee and throughout the United States. Founded in 1933 and headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (“NML”) is a corporation organized under the laws of Japan. NML manufactures and distributes automobiles and related parts. It also provides financing services. NML delivers a comprehensive range of products under various brands that are manufactured in Japan, the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom and other countries. NML is the parent and 100% owner of NNA.

Emerson Firm, PLLC with offices in Houston, TX and Little Rock, AR, is a law firm specializing in results, integrity, and personal service. Emerson Firm represents automotive consumers throughout the nation and has significant class action experience with proven results. Emerson Firm lawyers have devoted their practice to complex commercial litigation for almost forty years and have recovered over a billion dollars for consumers in class actions throughout the United States.

IMPORTANT:  If you purchased or leased one of the vehicles identified above then please contact us immediately to protect your rights.  It makes no difference what state you reside in. Send your inquiry with your complete contact information including phone number and email address to plaintiffs’ counsel, Emerson Firm, PLLC via e-mail to John G. Emerson (jemerson@emersonfirm.com) and we will get back to you to discuss your situation.

 

    Card Information for Three Million Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Customers For Sale: Report

    Major Data Breach Compromises Patrons Financial Accounts

    Patrons of Dickey’s Barbeque Pit should pay close attention to their financial accounts in the wake of a major POS data breach at the world’s largest BBQ chain.

    According to security researchers at Gemini Advisory, three million debit and credit cards were stolen from customers nationwide and around the world between July 2019 and August 2020.

    Hackers seized credit and debit card information from 156 of the eatery’s 469 locations across 30 states with the highest exposure in California and Arizona. Gemini reports that customer data was compromised using outdated in-store Point of Sale (POS) systems that still use magstripe technology – long known to be prone to malware attacks. Given the widespread nature of the breach, the exposure may be linked to a breach at the single central processor, which was leveraged by over a quarter of all Dickey’s locations.

    Compromised Cards For Sale On The Dark Web

    According to Gemini’s report, the Joker’s Stash dark web marketplace has uploaded this latest breach titled “BLAZING SUN,” on October 12th. Cards are selling for an average of $17 each and are advertised as having rates between 90 and 100 percent. This high rate indicates that Dickey’s BBQ was unaware of the compromise and customers were never notified to take precautions.

    Did you use a credit or debit card at a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit restaurant between July 2019 and August 2020?

    The consumer protection lawyers at Emerson Firm, PLLC are now reviewing damages arising from 3 million Dickey’s Barbecue Pit customers whose credit and debit cards were hacked and information made available for sale on the dark web.

    A lawsuit was filed on Nov. 9 in US District Court – Southern District of California against the restaurant chain alleging violations of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Unfair Competition laws and negligence. According to the filing, the plaintiffs allege the data breach would have continued without Dickey’s detection had cyber security firms not issued public reports that the hacked information was available for sale on the dark web. The lawsuit further alleges that that even upon learning of the data breach, Dickey’s failed to notify customers whose card and personal identifying information were stolen and sold citing –

    “We are taking this incident very seriously and an investigation is ongoing. We are currently focused on determining the locations affected and time frames involved. Dickey’s does not otherwise comment on pending litigation.”

    I patronized Dickey’s during this time frame and used a card, what should I do?

    If you used a credit or debit card at any of Dickey’s restaurants during the July 2019 to August 2020 time frame, you should immediately notify your financial institution and take prophylactic measures to secure your financial accounts.

    We would also like to speak with you. Free consultations and claim evaluations are provided by our consumer protection lawyers to help determine whether financial compensation may be available to you.

    If you would like to find out more, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch or call us at +1 (800) 551-8649.






      303 Oil Use Ruining Heavy Duty and Farm Equipment: Study

       

      The use of hydraulic fluids based on the John Deere’s long defunct “303” standard have been shown to damage farm and heavy duty equipment. The extent of the damage caused by these products have prompted some states to issue Stop Sale orders.

      Despite knowing the “303” standard being obsolete since 1974, some manufacturers continue to formulate and market products based on this standard as a cheap alternative to modern day formulations. Several class action lawsuits are filed against manufacturers and distributors that seek to compensate victims for damages sustained through the use of these products.

      Some plaintiffs have come forward to make claims against retailers and products such as:

      1. Smitty’s – Super S Super Trac 303
      2.  Wal-Mart – Super Tech 303
      3. Tractor Supply – Super S Super Trac 303
      4. Orschelin – Premium 303 Tractor Hydraulic & Transmission fluid
      5. Citgo – Milemaster 303 Tractor Hydraulic Fluid
      6. O’Reilly’s – 303 Tractor Hydraulic Fluid
      7. CarQuest – 303 Tractor Fluid
      8. NAPA – Heavy Duty Tractor Hydraulic & Transmission Fluid

      What Is 303 Fluid Really?

      The term 303 fluid stems from an old specification that John Deere used decades ago named JD-303. It was designed for tractors and similar equipment built between 1960 and 1974. It was made obsolete in 1974 when the use of whale oil, of which the specification was loosely based, was outlawed by the Endangered Species Act. Fast forward to today and the ‘yellow bucket’ as it is often referred to is still out there touting the old 303 spec and cost savings.

      JD-303 was replaced with J14 then again by J20-A which is also outdated. When John Deere updated J20-A to J20-C, things got a bit gray. The additive chemistry used to meet J20-A carried over to J20-C. The only change was a new test (oxidation and seal) was added to evaluate a tractor fluid’s ability to meet the Allison C-4 spec. In basic terms, no change or reformulation to the fluid…just a new test.

      The Petroleum Quality Institute of America conducted a study of 303 fluids purchased from store shelves at random in 2017/2018 in order to determine their performance levels. Their results were shocking to say the least:

      • 91% failed to meet the J20-C and J20-A specifications
      • 74% failed to meet any JDM specifications
      • 60% chance of lower anti-wear protection than J20-C
      • 73% chance will offer less detergency than J20-C

      If you have used 303 oil products that have damaged the condition of your heavy duty machinery, you may be able to take part in this claim. .

      To learn if you qualify as a member of this claim, call us toll free at 1-800-551-8649 to speak with one of our consumer class action attorneys or complete the form below.