Suing Mark Zuckerberg and Holding CEOs Accountable
In October, I added Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to a lawsuit I filed in 2018 suing Facebook.
Our lawsuit goes after Facebook for deceiving its consumers about the steps Facebook would take to protect user data. These failures to put in place safeguards promised to consumers impacted tens of millions of users nationally and nearly half of all District residents – including by allowing Cambridge Analytica, a private company, to acquire and use that data to influence voters and manipulate the 2016 election. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still the largest consumer privacy scandal in the nation’s history.
We did our due diligence over the past two years before taking this step of adding Mark Zuckerberg to our lawsuit. Since we originally filed the lawsuit in December 2018, my office has reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that have been produced in the litigation.
We have conducted a wide range of depositions, from Facebook’s directors to former employees and whistleblowers. We have also reviewed documents produced in other cases, as well as many hours of public statements by Mr. Zuckerberg, including his sworn testimony before the U.S. Senate and other law enforcement agencies.
The evidence we gathered is clear: Mark Zuckerberg knowingly and actively participated in the decisions that led to Cambridge Analytica’s mass collection of Facebook user data. On top of this, he also made misrepresentations to users, the public, and government officials about how secure the data on Facebook was and about Facebook’s role.
Under these circumstances, adding Mark Zuckerberg to our lawsuit is warranted, and sends a strong message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.
To learn more about the case, read this New York Times article.
Karl A. Racine
District Children Ages 5 to 11 Will Soon be Eligible to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration has now approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. Once the vaccine receives approvals from the Centers for Disease Control, the District of Columbia will receive about 24,600 doses to distribute to young people.
District families can help keep their kids safe from the COVID-19 virus by discussing the vaccine with their health care providers. The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be available for District children ages 5-11 at pharmacies, hospitals, health clinics, and special pop-up vaccination clinics throughout the city—including many sites conveniently located at schools. Click here to learn more and to see a list of upcoming pop-up sites.
Voices from Across My Office
At the Office of the Attorney General, we’re proud of the broad array of work we do on behalf of the District, and the hundreds of employees who make our agency run. I recently launched “Voices from Across My Office,” a new blog series highlighting some of the people behind our efforts and the variety of work they do to support, defend, and stand up for District residents. So far, we have spotlighted my office’s Family Services Division, the Commercial Division, and the Personnel, Labor, and Employment Division. Each Thursday, for the next couple of months, a new division will be highlighted. Follow my Medium Page for more.
Holding Marriott Accountable for Deceptive Resort Fees
In 2019, I filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Marriott over deceptive resort fees that purposely mislead consumers about the true price of hotel rooms. Throughout the discovery process, my office assembled evidence to support its allegations about Marriott’s deceptive use of resort fees, including internal emails about pricing, depositions from executives, and financial information showing exactly how much money Marriott made by charging these fees.
My office’s ongoing lawsuit against Marriott has revealed that the company has made hundreds of millions in resort fees that were concealed from consumers; Marriot made about $17 million in resort fees in 2019—but it initially hides these fees from consumers to increase its profits. Marriott does not include the resort fees in the initial price quoted to customers because, as Marriott executives acknowledge, being honest about the full price of a room would harm Marriott’s ability to compete with other hotels. One executive confirmed that part of Marriott’s purpose in using resort fees is to drive revenue and profit.
My office is working to hold Marriott accountable and force the company to change its practices so consumers know the price they will pay. Read more from USA Today.
In 2014, an overwhelming majority of District voters—70 percent—approved a ballot measure allowing individuals to grow and use small amounts of marijuana. But since 2015, Congress has blocked the District from taking any additional steps to legalize, regulate, or tax marijuana. This trapped our residents in a dangerous and confusing legal limbo, threatened public safety by allowing the underground market to continue to operate without oversight, and deprived the District of millions of dollars of tax revenue. It also prevented the District from addressing the harms to our community caused by decades of racially disparate drug enforcement.
After six long years of advocacy, Congress appears poised to remove this prohibition. The Senate committee released legislation that for the first time in years does not include language that would prohibit the District from regulating and taxing marijuana. This is a significant step forward. I’m hopeful we will soon be able to regulate our local marijuana market, direct new tax revenues to communities most impacted by over-criminalization, and take steps to expunge marijuana-related criminal records. Tackling the racial disparities that persist in marijuana policing and within the burgeoning marijuana industry is critical to helping address the disparities that exist across the District.
Continuing to Defend the Right to Abortion Care
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the challenge to Texas' abortion ban. In preparation, I once again joined 23 other attorneys general in defending the right to abortion care. States like Texas and Mississippi have passed unconstitutional laws that reduce access to abortion care, reproductive care, and maternity care. These laws disproportionately risk the health and safety of women of color and women in rural communities. We will not back down in our efforts to fight for patients. We filed a brief in the Justice Department’s case against Texas’ law asking the Supreme Court to follow precedent and protect patients who depend on safe, legal abortion care. We’ll keep fighting unconstitutional bans like this one. Read more from Forbes.
Securing Restitution for Tenants Misled about Rising Rental Costs
Last month, my office secured at trial nearly $1 million in restitution for residents of the 3003 Van Ness Apartments building and another $1 million for legal fees for the District from the building’s landlord for misleading the tenants about how their rent would be raised. We filed the lawsuit in 2017 because misleading tenants is against the law and residents of all incomes should be able to call the District home. Our lawsuit also prompted the DC Council to pass a law that strengthens tenant protections in cases like these. I am very glad that this case ended with such a large victory for District tenants.
Protecting District Residents from Source of Income Discrimination
Last Wednesday, I announced three settlements with real estate companies and professionals accused of posting illegal and discriminatory advertisements against housing voucher holders on online platforms. As a result of these settlements, the defendants, whose properties are located in in Wards 4 and 8, agreed to maintain anti-discrimination policies, provide anti-discrimination and fair housing training to all employees, and report future complaints of discrimination to my office. These settlements follow a set of settlements my office reached this summer with housing providers that discriminated against voucher holders. We are pleased that these housing providers worked with our office to end their discriminatory practices, provide training, and resolve these cases without trial. With these three settlements, we’re putting real estate companies and professionals on notice that we are watching.
Suing DC Event Venue for Refusing to Provide Refunds & Reschedule Events
Last Monday, I filed suit against a District event venue and its owner for refusing to provide refunds or reschedule weddings and other events that were cancelled while the space was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses must abide by their policies and contracts and follow the District’s consumer protection laws – even during a pandemic. Yet the Loft at 600 F failed to do both, withholding thousands of dollars for weddings and events that could not go forward as the pandemic raged. Our lawsuit aims to right this wrong. We’re suing the Loft at 600 F to make sure consumers get their money back and to stop this event venue from continuing to violate the District’s consumer protection laws. Read more from WJLA.
Fighting Against Workers Misclassification
In October, I announced a new lawsuit against Dynamic Contracting, Inc., a construction company that specializes in drywall installation, two of Dynamic’s general contractors, and four of Dynamic’s labor subcontractors for engaging in a scheme to reduce their costs through the systemic and widespread misclassification of workers on construction projects throughout the District. Since 2018, these construction companies have engaged in a pattern of deceit, cheating their employees out of their hard-earned wages, and violating their rights. These workers have children to raise, families to feed, and bills to pay, and they deserve the wages and benefits they rightfully earned. My office will not tolerate businesses who violate their workers’ rights and will continue to hold accountable those who violate District law.