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Duke Settles Fraud Class Action- An Update for Ohio Class Members

Randy Freking

As announced publicly on October 21, and reported in various media outlets, Duke Energy has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit alleging a pattern of fraudulent behavior by Duke and its predecessor, Cincinnati Gas & Electric beginning in 2004. After seven years of litigation – even an attempt by Duke to have the U.S. Supreme Court intervene – the utility agreed to pay $80.875 million to electric customers who paid bills between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008.

The settlement amount represents seven million plus dollars more than Duke was accused of paying in bribes to 22 “favored” customers in an elaborate scheme discovered by an employee who subsequently became a whistleblower.  $50 million of the settlement will be paid directly to residential and non-residential customers who submit claims to the Class Action Administrator, chosen and overseen by the two law firms who served as class co-counsel in the litigation: Freking Myers & Reul and Markovits, Stock, and DeMarco.

At least another $8 million will be spent on energy efficiency programs administered by a five person board that will report to federal district court Chief Judge Edmund J. Sargus, who will also decide the amount of attorneys’ fees to award class counsel. After payment of fees and expenses, any excess settlement amount will be added to the fund for energy efficiency programs.

If you are a class member, and can be located as a Duke customer between 2005-2008 from available information, you may receive a postcard in the mail describing the settlement and the Claims Procedure by December 31, 2015. (Given the lapse in time between 2005-2008 and the settlement, not all Class Members may be located.) You may also find the same information available at dukeclassaction.com, so even if you don’t receive a Notice, you may still complete a Claim, which is easy to do. Claim forms will also be available at https://fmr.law/duke-settlement/.

Chief Judge Sargus will conduct a Fairness Hearing on April 18, 2016 in Cincinnati, after which he will finally approve or disapprove the settlement.

If you have questions, please contact Susan Hartung at Freking Myers & Reul by email: shartung@fmr.law.

 

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Listen to WLW at 12:05 p.m. Today – Randy Freking Talks About Chief Blackwell

Randy Freking

Tune into WLW today at 12:05 p.m. Willie Cunningham and Randy Freking will be discussing the abrupt termination of Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell.

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The deal MLB should offer Pete Rose

Randy Freking

As a professional familiar with principles governing workplace conduct, I offer the following press release for consideration by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred:

“As commissioner of Major League Baseball, I have completed a thorough investigation of the application of Pete Rose to be reinstated to MLB, after serving a 26-year ban from our sport, including recent media reports that confirm the original decision to ban Mr. Rose. MLB and my office have concluded that Mr. Rose violated the most serious infraction of our sport, and that the original decision and subsequent decisions not to lift the punishment were justified.

“Having said that, I have decided to conditionally reinstate Mr. Rose to MLB. The conditions to his reinstatement are as follows: 1. Mr. Rose will present medical information, acceptable to MLB, that he is not currently suffering from a gambling addiction; 2. Mr. Rose will refrain from gambling of any nature in the future; 3. Mr. Rose acknowledges that he violated MLB’s rule prohibiting gambling on the sport, and that he agreed to his lifetime ban, subject to his right to seek reinstatement after one year; and 4. Mr. Rose will not challenge in any forum a conclusion by MLB that he has violated any of the previous conditions.

“My decision is based upon our society’s belief in forgiveness, and an individual’s opportunity to atone for transgressions, whether of a minor or major nature. ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Mr. Rose remains a great ambassador for our sport and his continued love of the game supports my decision. Mr. Rose has apologized for his actions, and I accept his apology.

“My decision is consistent with MLB’s prohibition against gambling by MLB personnel on baseball, at whatever level of competition. Other personnel should recognize that they will be held to a similar level of punishment for any such violation. We will not tolerate any violations that pose a threat to the integrity of the sport.

“Finally, because there is no serious dispute that Mr. Rose’s accomplishments during his playing career meet the qualifications for induction into the Hall of Fame, I am recommending to the Hall of Fame that Mr. Rose be inducted along with the Class of 2016 next August, in Cooperstown, New York, waiving the requirement that he be formally elected. In this manner, he will not be considered a ‘first ballot inductee,’ one of our sport’s highest honors.”

I believe that baseball and our society will be well-served by issuing this press release by the start of the All-Star Game on July 14 in Pete’s hometown. It is time to free Pete.

See Randy’s editorial here.

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A Catholic University Is Training That Criticism of Gay Marriage May Be Illegal

Randy Freking

Given the Roman Catholic Church’s position opposing gay marriage, it is interesting that at least one Catholic university is taking a different position.

Marquette University, a Catholic university in Milwaukee, recently conducted an anti-harassment training session during which employees were encouraged to report anyone they hear criticizing gay marriage to the school’s Human Resources Department.  A spokesperson stated that the “teaching tools” presented in the training “do not necessarily equate to University policy” and that harassment cases “would be reviewed on an individual bases.”

Marquette had earlier made headlines after an instructor told a student in her graduate ethics class that the student “did not have the right” to make comments criticizing gay marriage in the classroom.

In the same sex training session, a fictional employee overheard his co-workers talk about their opposition to same-sex marriage all week.  According to the presentation, the employee should report the conversation even if the co-workers were only expressing their opinions and did not mean to offend anyone.  According to the presentation, the co-workers could still be engaging in unlawful harassment.

The training also stated that the person hearing the offensive remarks does not need to be involved in the conversation and that the listener’s sexual orientation is also irrelevant.  The presenters stated that the listener does not “need to be gay” to be offended by his co-worker’s discussion of same-sex marriage.

Read more here.

 

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UPS Changes Pregnancy Policy, But Still Defends Old Policy

Randy Freking

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday, December 3, in Young v. UPS. The case involves the issue of whether UPS was required to accommodate a 20 pound lifting restriction for one of its drivers who became pregnant in 2006.

The irony of the case is that UPS has announced that, effective in January, 2015, it will change its policy and provide accommodations for pregnant workers. Quite a noble act: patting itself on the back for being more progressive than most employers, while simultaneously defending those less progressive employers’ right to discriminate against pregnant employees.

In our view, taking harsh stances against classes of employees – like pregnant women – is short sighted and counterproductive. Rather than treat people fairly, employers sometimes defend policies that alienate a large segment of their most valuable assets – their workers – without considering the negative message they are sending. The message to UPS’ workers from Ms. Young’s case: “UPS reserves the right to be unfair if UPS can somehow find a way to argue that what we are doing is legal.” A better message would be: “We’ll be fair to our employees.”

Read more here.

 

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