David Sweatt, a top neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, has been accused of drugging and raping a student last year. Despite the allegations against him, Sweatt remained in his position at the university until recently, 11 months after his accuser reported the abuse to school officials.

Sweatt was officially placed on leave in August, shortly after a tweet by another scientist. Following a blog post in which Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, praised the neuroscientist, a University of Washington climate scientist by the name of Sara Myhre tweeted something notably less endearing about Sweatt.

“Hello NIH Director,” she wrote. “Do you know that Dr. David Sweatt, the ‘gifted painter’ you are lauding here, has been accused of drugging and raping a student?”

The next day, Myhre tweeted that “Sweatt is a serial rapist. There are multiple women victims.”

Incident Reported to Vanderbilt in 2017

In 2017, an anonymous Oregon Health & Scent University (OHSU) student alleged that she was assaulted by Sweatt at a 2015 scientific conference. Although Vanderbilt was alerted to the incident, the school’s Title IX office says the anonymous student “did not wish to be identified to Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action and Disability Services (EAD) office or to make a report.” Further, the office claims that after exhausting all options, Vanderbilt simply “did not have sufficient basis for conducting an investigation.”

But Myhre’s tweet changed everything.

In addition to her public comments on twitter, Myhre reported having been contacted by two other women who were both able to confirm, separately, the “extent and nature of the allegations” against Sweatt. Shortly after Myhre’s tweets, an official investigation was launched by the university’s EAD.

“Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, very seriously,” wrote the university in a recent statement. “We have a robust process for investigating sexual misconduct reports and do not tolerate any sexual misconduct on our campus. Our process protects the well-being and safety of our community members and respects the rights of everyone involved.”

“Potential Safety Threat”

When Sweatt’s alleged victim alerted officials at her school last year, OHSU warned Vanderbilt of the “potential safety threat” posed by Sweatt. Yet the chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Pharmacology remained on campus for another 11 months.A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

When Sweatt was finally placed on leave in early August, Larry Marnett, Vanderbilt’s medical school dean of basic sciences, released an email to inform colleagues.

“I want to make you aware that as of today David Sweatt, Chair of Pharmacology, is on leave,” Marnett wrote,

“Providing a safe and welcoming environment is a priority, and we take seriously any complaints of misconduct,” wrote another Vanderbilt spokesperson. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Sweatt’s bio was removed from the school’s website last week.

Sweatt has denied any wrongdoing.

“Beginning in August, and set in motion by people with a destructive, political agenda that is not tethered to reality, Dr. Sweatt has been targeted by anonymous, irresponsible and unfounded allegations,” wrote the neuroscientist’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg. “He has always conducted himself, both professionally and in his private life, in a respectful, thoughtful and consensual manner.” Continue reading

Last weekend, passengers aboard the Carnival Sunshine got more excitement than they paid for when the ship tipped sharply to one side, causing general panic and sending items falling and sliding all over the vessel. The incident occurred as the ship was headed for the Caribbean, only hours after leaving its port of origination, Port Canaveral, Florida.

“I was shifting, falling out of my seat,” said passenger Kyla Williams. “This was very much the ship rolling to one side and everything falling down from that, and it was something you’ll never forget.” She says her husband had to keep her from falling over.

Another passenger, David Crews, was unfazed at first, knowing that ships commonly rock from side to side. But when it didn’t rock back, he became concerned.

“Plates and silverware started sliding off the tables. Then the tables themselves started to slide. Glasses and plates started to fall and shatter. At this point, it was pure chaos. Screams. Cries. Panic,” said Crews.

Like a Scene from Titanic

Another guest reported to an Orlando news station that she was “at the table where the window broke and the water came in,” when they were seated for dinner that evening. “Next thing we know, the whole boat tilted … we were literally hanging on for our lives, dangling…it was really like a scene from the Titanic.”

“[We went] down to our room and got our life jackets and literally carried them around the rest of the night … that’s how scared we were, every time you felt the boat move you were like, oh, crap, is it happening again?” reported another angry passenger.

Several people took to social media, tweeting and posting that elevators were taking on water, cans were falling from shelves and exploding, and bottles were flying through the air. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been harmed by another’s negligence.

Carnival’s Response

According to a spokesperson for the cruise line, the rocky incident—which Carnival says lasted approximately one minute—was the result of a “technical issue.” The next day, each guest received an explanation letter and a $50 on-board credit. But many passengers were unsatisfied with the meager consolation prize.

One passenger posted the following on social media: $50 credit is not enough. I did not sleep at all we got no explanation until this morning. My cruise is ruined. I cannot wait to get off this ship. I’m terrified.

In response to the disgruntled passenger’s comments, the cruise line issued the following statement: “We appreciated our guests understanding of this disruption and provided compensation as a gesture of goodwill.

Was Anyone Physically Harmed?

At least one passenger explained having hurt her back when the ship tilted hard to one side. In fact, she claims to have been unable to partake in any of her planned excursions because of the pain from the injury. A Carnival representative confirmed that “some minor injuries” had occurred.

Some passengers were so upset by the terrifying incident that they cut their cruise short, flying home as soon as the ship docked in the Dominican Republic. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been harmed by another’s negligence.

One of Carnival’s oldest-running ships, the Carnival Sunshine first went into service in 1996, under the name Carnival Destiny. At the time, it was the largest cruise ship in the world. Continue reading

Last week, the University of Southern California (USC) said it would agree to a $215 million settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit brought by current and former students. The large payout is expected to be the first of many stemming from the sexual misconduct of campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.

It is unknown how many students were abused by Tyndall, who practiced at the school for 27 years, but as many as 17,000 students may be eligible as members of the class-action lawsuit. According to a university lawyer, the settlement will provide $2,500 to students who were treated by Tyndall and up to $250,000 to students he abused. USC’s interim president Wanda Austin reported that, “Patients who are willing to provide further details about their experience could be eligible for additional compensation up to $250,000.”

In a letter addressed to the campus community, Austin wrote “we hope that we can help our community move collectively toward reconciliation,” through the settlement.

To date, there are more than 400 lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The $215 million settlement is likely just scratching the surface. In addition to the civil suits, Tyndall is also under criminal investigation. A Boston sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or harassment.

Plaintiffs Not Satisfied

As substantial as the settlement may seem, many plaintiffs are unsatisfied. Some allege that USC allowed Tyndall to continue working at the school’s clinic after multiple reports of sexual misconduct, dating back to the early 1990s. Others are critical about how the class-action was handled, claiming it was used to block discovery, delaying sworn testimonies that may have uncovered even more pertinent—and disturbing—evidence. Still others are frustrated, and insulted, by the $250,000 cap. Consider the recent Michigan State settlement of $500 million in a similar case involving the school’s athletic trainer, Larry Nassar. That settlement, which was twice the USC settlement, was divided among only 332 women. As a result, it is likely that many plaintiffs in the USC class-action suit will pursue their own case, choosing to opt out of this recent settlement.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

These days, it seems there’s a new sex abuse scandal in the headlines every week. Fortunately, this onslaught of scandals isn’t because of an increase in sexual abuse, but a shift in how our society reacts to victims, and those who commit the abuse. Victim shaming and blaming, which used to prevent women (and men) from coming forward about sexual abuse, is going the way of the dinosaur. And the collective strength of victims to come forward en masse has helped many others come out of the shadows. All across the nation, people are saying, we will no longer stand for the sexual abuse and harassment of anyonewhether female or male, straight or gay, black or white, prominent figure or low-income worker. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of any type of abuse or harassment. Continue reading

In 2016, a 62-year-old man was seriously injured in a New York Costco store when a steel rod fell, striking him in the head. Peter Aurigemma Jr. has filed a lawsuit against the bulk retailer, alleging that he suffered damages due to dangerous and/or defective conditions.

According to the lawsuit, the victim was reaching for paper towels, which were located at least seven feet above floor level, when the steel pipe fell and struck him. Following the accident, Aurigemma Jr. suffered serious medical complications, including a concussion, loss of dexterity in his left hand, damage to the nerves and muscles surrounding his left eye, migraines, noise and light sensitivities, lapses in short-term memory, and even behavioral changes. As a result of these injuries, Aurigemma Jr. is seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Premises Liability

Under premises liability law, property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe conditions on their property so that visitors aren’t harmed. The “status” of the visitor is important when determining liability. For example, trespassers have less rights than invitees. If you are injured while trespassing on store property after hours, your chances of winning a premises liability lawsuit are quite limited. In the Costco case above, however, the victim was not trespassing. In this particular scenario, he would be considered an invitee, or someone who is invited onto the property for a certain purpose, such as shopping. When a store is open to the public, the invitation is implied.

What if Both Parties are at Fault?

Although fault in Aurigemma Jr.’s case is yet to be determined, it is possible that both parties could be at fault. Maybe he grabbed a ladder marked “employees only” to reach the paper towels, possibly making him partially at fault. And maybe the placement of a steel rod on top of a roll of paper towels also makes Costco partially at fault. In MA, when both parties are at fault, a “comparative fault” system is used to reduce the victim’s legal damages by his/her percentage of fault. Therefore, if the victim is found to be 25 percent liable for the accident, his/her personal injury award will be reduced by 25 percent.

And this isn’t Costco’s “first rodeo” when it comes to premises liability lawsuits. The company was ordered to pay more than $400,000 to a slip-and-fall victim with a fractured ankle in 2017, and a New York woman who was hit by a shopping cart on a Costco escalator was awarded nearly $10 million in 2014. In this most recent lawsuit, Costco will have to prove that it took reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of customers. The allegation that paper towels—intended for customer use—were stacked more than seven feet high may have the greatest impact on the outcome of the case. Aurigemma’s lawyers will also likely question why a steel pipe was placed in close proximity to those paper towels. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fadil Delkic allegedly drove his car too close to a family in a Snellville, Georgia Walmart crosswalk. Troy Hunte and his girlfriend confronted Delkic, who remained in the vehicle and attempted to avoid an altercation (as evidenced by a surveillance video). Unfortunately, his attempts were in vain. Hunte shot and killed Delkic a few moments later. The victim’s widow, Bahra Delkic, has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Walmart, claiming that the mega-retailer lacked adequate security.

“Given the history of violence in their parking lots,” the lawsuit claims, “and Wal-Mart’s [sic] knowledge they were not employing adequate security measures, it was foreseeable to Wal-Mart that the Plaintiff would be attacked in their parking lot and sustain serious injury or death.” A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of another.

Nothing New for Walmart

Walmart has experienced somewhat of a crime wave in recent years. Last year, law enforcement was called to the four Walmarts in Tulsa, OK nearly 2,000 times. While most of those calls are for shoplifting, there are plenty of more serious offenses, including five armed robberies so far in 2018, a murder suspect who shot himself in the parking lot in 2017, and a 2014 parking lot shootout that killed one and injured several others. In fact, more than 200 violent crimes have occurred at the country’s 4,500 Walmarts so far this year, including stabbings, shootings, murders, and attempted kidnappings.

What Happened?

Delkic was actually able to drive away from the initial confrontation and found a place to park. “Then, more or less, the fight was brought to him,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. Hunte’s girlfriend allegedly smacked Delkic across the face just before Hunte took out his gun and shot him in the chest.

Bahra Delkic’s lawsuit against Walmart also names Troy Hunte, who was shortly thereafter arrested and charged with murder. She is seeking compensation for “the full value of the life of Fadil Delkic, in an amount to be determined by the evidence.” A MA wrongful death lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Is Walmart Doing Enough?

When Doug McMillon took over as Walmart CEO in 2014, he made crime reduction at Walmart stores nationwide a priority. As a result, the retailer allegedly maintains a detailed database of crimes occurring at their stores. According to reports from law enforcement in Port Ritchie, Florida, Walmart incidents comprise nearly 50 percent of all criminal offenses in that city. Even so, Walmart’s attorneys claim that the Delkic murder was an isolated incident and that Walmart had no way to know that the argument would escalate the way it did.

Is Walmart Liable?

In recent years, courts have become increasingly likely to hold retailers liable for parking lot crimes. Whether or not Walmart is liable in the Delkic case will come down to determining how foreseeable the murder of Fadil Delkic was. If this particular store has a history of crime, or is located in a high-crime area, Walmart is likely to be found liable. Continue reading

We all know the dangers of texting and driving, yet more and more American drivers are failing to take them seriously. In fact, a recent AAA study revealed that distracted driving is now the number one danger on American roadways, followed by aggressive driving, and drunk/drugged driving. Many experts blame it on our “productivity culture,” saying the pressure to respond to texts, emails and calls right now is making us more distracted, and less safe.

To reduce this rapidly-growing threat to public safety, we need more than just billboards and ad campaigns. Drivers must understand what happens—to their brains—when they drive while distracted. Taking your eyes off the road to glance at a text impacts more than just your line of vision. Reading that text is a visual distraction, yes, but it can also be a cognitive distraction. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Categories of Distraction

There are three main types of distraction: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual and visual are fairly straightforward—you take your hands off the wheel to adjust the stereo, or you take your eyes off the road to read a text. But there’s a third kind of distraction, and this one gets a bit more complicated. When a driver takes his/her attention off the task at hand—driving—he/she may experience inattention blindness, which is the inability to perceive critical driving cues due to cognitive distraction (a.k.a. “zoning out”).

Although inattention blindness can occur at any time, it’s more common following a manual or visual distraction. As a result, even after you’ve read that text and returned your eyes to the road, your mind may be too distracted to notice that the car ahead of you is braking, or that an animal is about to run into the road.

What About Fatigue?

And zoning out doesn’t only occur when a driver is texting or taking his/her hands off the wheel. Fatigue is another leading cause of distraction because it also contributes to inattention blindness. Combined with other distractions, such as reading a text or taking a sip of coffee to stay awake, fatigued driving is particularly dangerous. A MA car accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Distracted Driving Statistics

The consequences of distracted driving are often devastating. In 2016, 3,450 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in distracted driving-related motor vehicle accidents. Considering that during the day, more than 480,000 people are estimated to be using cell phones while behind the wheel, these statistics aren’t particularly surprising.

And distracted driving doesn’t only involve cell phones. Anything that takes the driver’s eyes, hands, or mind off the task of driving is considered to be a distraction. This includes everything from adjusting the stereo or navigation system, to eating, drinking, or applying make-up. Continue reading

In 2016, Melanie Sanders and 23 other infants contracted adenovirus infections during an eye exam in the neonatal intensive care unit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The newborn infant was dead less than a month later.

Although premature, Melanie was born healthy and strong. Her family is suing the Children’s Hospital for wrongful death, alleging that Melanie’s fatal infection was due to negligence. In addition to developing a viral illness from unclean medical equipment, the lawsuit claims that the newborn went into respiratory distress and acquired a bacterial infection as a result. According to a report in the American Journal of Infection Control, each of the 23 affected babies suffered respiratory problems. The report went on to say that “observations revealed lack of standard cleaning practices of bedside ophthalmologic equipment and limited glove use.”

Cleanliness should be first and foremost in a hospital, especially when patients are newly-born infants who require intensive care. Improper cleaning and failure to wear gloves resulted in the contamination of medical equipment in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. As a result, one child is dead and nearly two-dozen others became seriously ill. A Boston birth injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if your newborn has been injured by another’s negligence.

Was Negligence a Factor?

Hospitals, medical centers, and the people who work there (physicians, nurses, and other health care staff) can be sued for wrongful death if their negligence caused a patient to die. In addition to more obvious examples of negligence, such as not washing medical equipment, medical negligence can involve actions that are more difficult to pinpoint, such as improper hiring processes. Negligent hiring can result in serious injury or death, but the patient or his/her family may not know to consider this possibility. This is one of the many reasons it is so important to consult with an experienced MA wrongful death attorney if you have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Proving hospital or medical negligence is not an easy task. In the case above, if the courts determine that Melanie Sanders’ death was due to improper cleaning practices, the hospital and/or medical professionals involved will likely be found liable for negligence. The fact that 23 other babies were also affected makes it easier to track the infection to a specific occurrence. But the picture isn’t always as clear it was at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Even in the Sanders’ case, evidence will be crucial. The medical journal report on the viral outbreak will likely prove invaluable in any lawsuits against Children’s Hospital.

What is Adenovirus?

It’s hard to believe that such an outbreak could occur, due to uncleanliness, in a U.S. hospital in 2018…but it did. The CDC describes Adenovirus as “common viruses that cause a range of illness. They can cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). You can get an adenovirus infection at any age. People with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are more likely than others to get very sick from an adenovirus infection.”

Preventing an adenovirus outbreak is similar to preventing an outbreak of any virus: frequently wash hands and avoiding contacting with an infected person. And, at least in the case of hospitals, proper cleaning and sterilization of medical equipment is also of paramount importance. Continue reading

Multiple natural gas explosions killed a teenager, injured more than two dozen, and set 39 homes ablaze in three Boston-area towns last week. Entire neighborhoods evacuated their homes as officials scrambled to prevent more explosions from occurring. State police urged residents served by Columbia Gas in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence to leave their homes at once.

“It looked like Armageddon, it really did,” said Andover Fire Chief, Michael Mansfield. “There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.”

A Lawrence man was killed when the chimney of an exploding house landed on his car. Leonel Rondon, 18, was pronounced dead at a Boston hospital that evening.

Approximately 8,600 Columbia gas customers are affected by the gas leak.

The utility company issued a statement early Friday morning, announcing that its crews will visit each and every one of the 8,600 customers to turn off gas meters and perform safety inspections.

”Additional support is being provided by crews from several affiliated Columbia Gas companies and other utilities. We expect this will be an extended restoration effort, and we will work tirelessly to restore service to the affected customers.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said it could be weeks or months before the investigation turns up any answers.

“This is still very much an active scene,” said Baker. “There will be plenty of time later tonight, tomorrow morning and into the next day to do some of the work around determining exactly what happened and why.” A MA personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another.

What Caused the Explosions?

According to Andover Police Department Lieutenant Eddie Guy, officials think over-pressurized gas lines caused the fatal blasts.

Since 2010, Columbia Gas has had to pay $100,000 due to seven violations, including improper pressure testing, inadequate gas standards, and failure to follow procedures and federal safety regulations for pipelines.

Aging Pipelines

Apparently, Columbia Gas knew about the problems with its gas lines for quite some time. The company filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities in April to request help with aging infrastructure. The three towns involved in Thursday’s explosions were all mentioned in the April petition.

“Replacing leak-prone infrastructure is a leading priority,” wrote the utility in April. “However, it will take a number of years to eliminate the aging pipe from the gas distribution system.”

Dan Rivera, Lawrence’s Mayor, had harsh words for Columbia Gas in a news conference last week, saying the utility company was “last to act.” He went on to say that he believed the delayed response was because the company didn’t want to “foot the bill.”

But Steve Bryant, president of NiSource’s Columbia Gas unit, rejected any accusations that the company failed to respond quickly.

“There’s no one else who could have acted on this more rapidly than we did,” said Bryant.

Massachusetts isn’t the only state to experience NiSource explosions. Since 2007, the company has had a minimum of five pipeline explosions, in Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Continue reading

Across the country, attorneys general are opening investigations into misconduct (and worse) at the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy. In fact, last week the attorney general for the state of New York issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, eight in total. Such sweeping investigations into sexual abuse of children and allegations of church cover ups come in the wake of a shocking grand jury report out of Pennsylvania. The report announced the discovery of the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests, and the steps the Church took to hide it.

Since the release of the explosive Pennsylvania report, attorneys general in New York, Nebraska, New Mexico, Missouri, and Illinois have announced they will open their own investigations. New Jersey has announced a criminal investigation. And abuse at the hand of Catholic clergy isn’t unique to the U.S. Allegations of clergy sexual abuse have reached global proportions—from Honduras and Chile to Ireland and Australia.

“The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the dioceses,” said New York’s attorney general, Barbara Underwood. “Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well — and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve.”

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s attorney general, has created a test force to investigate abuse and cover ups.

“I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month’s Pennsylvania grand jury report,” said Grewal. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible.” A Boston clergy sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Will they Cooperate?

Thus far, church officials have been relatively compliant with subpoenas and requests to provide documentation. In fact, Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for New York’s Archdiocese, said that every NY diocese will cooperate.

“It is not a surprise to us that the attorney general would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation,” said Zwilling. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of clergy sexual abuse.

Statute of Limitations

In New York, victims of most forms of child sexual abuse only have until the age of 23 to file charges. When the case involves rape, there is no time limit, as long as the conduct didn’t occur prior to 2001. In MA, the statute of limitations is slightly more in favor of the victim—28 years after the incident occurred, or 28 years after age 16. A bill to change New York’s restrictive timeline—known as the Child Victims Act—has failed to pass for years. Last week, the bill was again presented. If passed, it would allow victims to file criminal charges until age 28 and to file civil suits until age 50.

“Little is known about clergy abuse of children in New York, because of the state’s antiquated and predator-friendly statute of limitations, and because the church has kept the evidence secret all these years,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org.

“Finally we will learn the truth in New York.” Continue reading

Fund giant Legg Mason has been ordered to pay more than $32 million to resolve a charge with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it was in violation of policies in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the SEC, Legg Mason paid bribes to Libyan government officials from 2004 to 2010. Permal Group Inc., a former asset management subsidiary of Legg Mason, partnered with French bank Société Générale to pay $26.5 million in bribes to officials under Muammar Gaddafi. Why? So the country would buy bonds from the Paris-based bank, which was managed by Legg Mason at the time.

In 2004, Libya was emerging from international economic sanctions. As a result, Libyan banks and other financial institutions needed to invest their significant assets, and “financial institutions from around the globe aggressively sought access to these assets,” reports the SEC. Contact a MA whistleblower lawyer if you have information about fraudulent or illegal activities against the U.S. government.

“I Cooked Him”

Around the same time, Permal partnered with Société Générale, engaging in an illegal scheme to secure investments by bribing government officials. They used a middleman in these transactions, and coded language to communicate without raising any red flags. For instance, the term “cooking” was used by the middleman in reference to his ability to convince officials to invest through the use of bribes.

“I cooked him,” one banker told another on a recorded call. “Only we have to go there, start the fire, have a barbecue.”

According to the SEC, the person they “cooked” was a Libyan government official, to whose relative the middleman had transferred around $75,000 earlier that day.

Through its scheme, Legg Mason profited more than $31 million in Libyan investments.

The Risk of Corruption

“Companies must take adequate steps to identify and mitigate the risks of bribery and corruption present in their global business. Those risks are particularly acute when, as here, agents and middlemen are used as part of a company’s efforts to obtain business with government clients,” said Charles Cain, chief of the Enforcement Division’s FCPA Unit.

After the SEC found Legg Mason to be in violation of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the company agreed to settle the case by paying back $27.6 million in illegally-obtained funds and another $6.9 million in interest.

In a letter to shareholders, Legg Mason wrote that “the misconduct by former employees of the legacy Permal business that the government found was totally unacceptable. It violated our high standards, our long-held core values and our ‘no-chalk’ culture.” A Boston whistleblower attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have information about illegal or fraudulent securities activities.

Legg Mason is Not a Lone Wolf

The Legg Mason case is only the latest in a surge of Wall Street firms found to be tied to bribes involving the known terrorist regime. In June, SocGen settled for $585 million after being caught paying $90 million in bribes to Libyan officials in a similar scheme. Goldman Sachs was also implicated, with Libya accusing the company of bribing officials with everything from money to prostitutes.

Although many may see the Legg Mason case as vindication and just desserts, the $32 million settlement is not even half of the company’s estimated second-quarter liability. Continue reading

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