Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil admits guilt — $25 Million fine for contaminated meds

McNeil-PPC Inc. pled guilty to one count of an information charging the company with delivering for introduction into interstate commerce adulterated infants’ and children’s over-the-counter (OTC) liquid medicines.

As part of the criminal resolution, McNeil, a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, agreed to pay a criminal fine of $20 million and forfeit $5 million…

In addition to McNeil’s guilty plea, McNeil remains subject to a permanent injunction entered by the U.S. District Court in 2011, requiring the company, among other things, to make remedial measures before reopening its manufacturing facility in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania…

According to the information, the OTC liquid drugs manufactured by McNeil at its Fort Washington facility, including Infants’ and Children’s Tylenol and Infants’ and Children’s Motrin, were bottled on four lines of machinery dedicated to liquid formulations. On or about May 1, 2009, McNeil received a complaint from a consumer regarding the presence of “black specks in the liquid on the bottom of the bottle” of Infants’ Tylenol. The foreign material was later identified as including nickel/chromium-rich inclusions, which were not intended ingredients in this OTC liquid drug.

The information alleges numerous other instances in which McNeil found metal particles in bottles of Infants’ Tylenol at its Fort Washington facility but failed to initiate or complete a Corrective Action Preventive Action (CAPA)…

During the 2010 inspection, the FDA asked McNeil for the CAPA plan covering the particles and foreign material found in the Infants’ and Children’s OTC drugs, and a McNeil employee confirmed that McNeil did not have such a CAPA plan.

RTFA if you want all the legalese.

In short, these creeps knew about the contamination problem for a year before they were caught. In my mind, that’s about as corrupt as you can be – short of deliberately trying to harm children.

Let’s don’t forget this case goes back to 2010. McNeil have had their corporate lawyers drag this case out hoping to cut their losses over time – pleading guilty after five years.

Eric Holder just took away an unconstitutional police power

“I’ll give you ten bucks for the iPhone!”

The Department of Justice…has curtailed a federal program that allowed police to seize and keep cash, cars, and other private property without evidence of a crime…

Local and state police will no longer be able to seize and keep private assets through the federal program unless they’re directly linked to public safety concerns. Items that can still be “adopted” include illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and property associated with child pornography.

Police have been heavily criticized for using the program to seize people’s assets without evidence of a crime and pocketing the proceeds to fund their own departments.

The change places a big check on police power.

The federal program, expanded through the War on Drugs [of course], allowed local and state police departments to seize private property allegedly used for criminal purposes, even without evidence of a crime, and share the proceeds with federal agencies. Police would keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds, while federal agencies claimed the rest.

States still allow police to seize private assets, but some of the state laws are more limited and force at least some of the proceeds to go to a state’s general fund — instead of the police departments themselves.

Critics of the federal program said it created an incentive for police to unnecessarily stop and search people, since the seizures could be used to fund their own departments. A previous Washington Post investigation found police routinely seized property without any evidence of wrongdoing.

Here’s a good background article: “How police can take your stuff, sell it, and pay for armored cars with the money“.

It’s what happens in a great many municipalities – though, here in one of the poorest states in the GOUSA, I think the money from illicit sales of conficated property is often used just to keep a local township or city afloat. After all, New Mexico has a Republican “Education Governor” who wants to cut the budget for some or all community colleges – and a Municipal League trying to reinstate taxes on food.

The usual three razzy cheers for what today’s conservatives try to pass off as fiscal conservatism.

Still, it’s nice to see the Department of Justice actually practice a little of the good stuff that makes it into presidential speeches.

Cartoon of the Day

Click to enlarge

Anyone out there gullible enough to believe any number of Republicans in Congress – majority or minority – would evaluate and vote for Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder? You know what the phony arguments will be. Lies.

She’s been through the vetting process before Congress twice before and passed handily. But, opposition to racism isn’t a virtue among what passes for conservatives, nowadays.

US banks can accept legal marijuana money – if you believe?

The Obama administration has sought to lessen the fear of prosecution for banks doing business with licensed marijuana companies, further encouraging US states such as Colorado and Washington that are experimenting with legalising the drug.

The Justice and Treasury departments outlined the policy in writing to federal prosecutors and financial institutions nationwide…

The guidance stopped short of promising immunity for banks, but made clear that criminal prosecution for money laundering and other crimes was unlikely if they met a series of conditions…

Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges, and they therefore refuse to open accounts for marijuana-related businesses, the AP news agency reported.

The guidance was intended to increase the availability of banking services, such as savings and checking accounts, to marijuana shops that typically deal in cash. Forced to deal in cash because of federal policy…

US Attorney General Eric Holder said last month that the administration was planning ways to accommodate marijuana businesses so they would not always be dealing in cash.

“There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me just from a law enforcement perspective,” Holder said on January 23…

The American Bankers Association expressed scepticism that the guidance would make much difference…Marijuana sales still violate federal law, so banks are still at risk, said Rob Rowe, a lawyer with the trade group.

“Compliance by a bank will still require extensive resources to monitor any of these businesses, and it’s unlikely the benefits would exceed the costs,”…

I asked my favorite banker about this – and received the same answer given by Rowe. As long as the Feds base their practices on existing law, there’s no one willing to be the test case after being arrested for violating federal banking regulations. Even if the DOJ says go ahead – we won’t bust you.

Why should a bank trust pronouncements from a political body unwilling or unable to change their own regulations?

Justice Department will defend same-sex marriage nationwide

dominos topple

In an assertion of same-sex marriage rights the US attorney general, Eric Holder, announced on Saturday that he will apply a landmark supreme court ruling to the Justice Department.

In prepared remarks delivered in New York to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group which works on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Holder said same-sex spouses could not now be compelled to testify against each other, should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and are entitled to the same rights and privileges as federal prison inmates in opposite-sex marriages.

The Justice Department runs a number of benefits programmes, and Holder said same-sex couples will now qualify for them. They include the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and benefits to surviving spouses of public safety officers who suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries in the line of duty.

“In every courthouse, in every proceeding and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law,” Holder said.

Just as in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, Holder said, the stakes in the current generation over same-sex marriage rights “could not be higher”.

“The Justice Department’s role in confronting discrimination must be as aggressive today as it was in Robert Kennedy’s time,” Holder said of the attorney general who played a leadership role in advancing civil rights.

Right on!

Our nation confronts exactly the same kind of ignorance and bigotry we did with the civil rights advances of the 1960’s. Nice to see official Washington ready to join in, again. Excepting Congress and the Confederates, of course.

This banker can verify the identities of 17,000 Americans who hid money in UBS-Switzerland to evade taxes

A former high-ranking UBS banker charged with helping Americans dodge taxes through secret Swiss bank accounts is expected to plead not guilty on Tuesday to tax fraud conspiracy in federal court in Florida.

Raoul Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen and former head of global wealth management at UBS was charged five years ago with helping about 17,000 Americans conceal $20 billion in numbered accounts at the bank.

He initially disputed the charges and was declared a fugitive a few months later but was arrested on a warrant from Interpol in mid-October while on vacation in Bologna, Italy.

Weil’s appearance in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday will be his second since he was extradited from Italy last month. He was granted a $10.5 million bond pending his arraignment, when he appeared in shackles and a gray prison jumpsuit on December 16.

Lawyers for UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, the bank employee who revealed the tax fraud conspiracy to U.S. authorities in 2007, fear that Weil may be negotiating a “sweetheart” deal” that would spare him from a trial and ultimately shield secret account holders and other bankers from prosecution…

“Weil knows where all the skeletons are buried,” Stephen Kohn added. “The Justice Department must work closely with the IRS and Department of State to make sure that every person guilty of tax evasion in the UBS America’s program are identified and prosecuted,”…

In a case that shook Swiss banking to the core, UBS paid a record $780 million fine in 2009 and agreed to hand over the names of U.S. clients with secret accounts, breaking Switzerland’s vaunted tradition of banking secrecy to avoid feared criminal charges against the bank or other executives.

Liberal or conservative administration aside, it’s been decades since we had a Department of Justice that actively prosecuted criminal fraud on the global scale that kept Switzerland in the secrecy business. The biggest world banks and their officials have always been untouchable.

While the DOJ under Eric Holder has done a terrific job on insider trading – mostly from the work of Preet Bharara in New York – that’s not news. After all, he’s just trying to keep the market clean of low level fraud that doesn’t affect our tax burden. OTOH, the one-percenteers who store their gonads and gold in offshore tax shelters will raise even more money for the Republican Party if they end up being charged with fraud and have to start repaying their debts to the United States.

The old battle for voting rights, civil rights, renewed in Texas

The Obama administration embarked on a new strategy on Thursday to challenge voting laws it says discriminate by race, an effort to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that freed states from the strictest federal oversight.

Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to start in Texas, a conservative stronghold where his Justice Department will ask a federal court for renewed power to block new election laws it says illegally discriminate against blacks and other minorities.

The Texas action was expected to be the first in a nationwide roll-out of cases to work around Shelby County v. Holder, the Alabama case in which the Supreme Court on June 25 invalidated a key part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last,” Holder said to a standing ovation in Philadelphia at the annual conference of the National Urban League…

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican and possible presidential candidate in 2016, said the move demonstrated contempt by the Obama administration…

Poisonally I don’t believe bigots and racists deserve anything more than contempt…

The Justice Department was already tangling with Texas in federal courts, alleging that the state discriminated by race in two impermissible ways.

First, department lawyers objected to the drawing of congressional and state legislative district lines that they say leave too few places where a minority candidate can win.

Second, although the Justice Department has allowed voter ID requirements in some states, it said Texas failed to include measures to protect minority voters…

Holder also said Texas has a “history of pervasive voting-related discrimination against racial minorities that the Supreme Court itself has recognized.”

RTFA for more detail and history. Though, if you need lots of convincing to be certain of Texas’ bigotry you need to get out and feed a little fresh air and information to your brain.

Joking with kin about this – a recovering Republican – he reminded me he still has a receipt squirreled away for paying a poll tax in Texas in the Bad Ol’ Days before civil rights law, voting rights law, became the law of the land.

Nope, there’s nothing new in Texas except the number of definitions of ethnicities, genders and ideologies some old-fashioned Texans fear are lurking under their bed at night.

“My son is not a traitor” — Lonnie Snowden

The father of Edward Snowden acknowledged Friday that his son broke U.S. law, but maintained that he is not a traitor for releasing classified information about the government’s previously secret surveillance programs.

“At this point I don’t feel that he’s committed treason. He has in fact broken U.S. law, in a sense that he has released classified information,” Lonnie Snowden told NBC’s Michael Isikoff in an exclusive interview that aired on TODAY. “And if folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact he has betrayed his government. But I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States. “

Snowden said he has told Attorney General Eric Holder through his lawyer that his son will probably return home if the Justice Department promises not to detain him before a trial nor subject him to a gag order. He also wants his son to choose where a trial would take place…

Snowden has reportedly been getting help in his escape plan from WikiLeaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, has been sheltered in Ecuador’s London embassy for the past year.

Lonnie Snowden has not spoken to his son since April, but he fears that Edward may be manipulated by WikiLeaks handlers and would like to get in touch with him.

“I don’t want to put him in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him,” Lonnie Snowden said. “I think WikiLeaks, if you’ve looked at past history, you know, their focus isn’t necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible.”

There are distinct differences between WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. The WikiLeaks ethic is an end to secret files and letting transparency enable full discussion of any topic. Snowden made it clear in his earliest interviews with Glenn Greenwald he distinguished between legitimate confidential files and information that was classified just to keep Americans from knowing what their government was doing.

Regardless, his return would be a courageous move in the face of nutball rightwingers within and without our government.

Barney Frank to Attorney General Holder: Prosecute Banks for the criminals they are!

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

I note several instances recently in which Administration officials have proceeded civilly against blatant violations of our important financial laws, in part because of the difficulty of proving cases beyond a reasonable doubt, especially where the law may have been somewhat uncertain, but also because of a concern that the criminal conviction—and even indictment—of a major financial institution could have a destabilizing effect. This latter consideration does not apply, similarly, to individuals. It is, of course, the case that no corporation can have engaged in wrongdoing without the active decision of individual officers of that entity. I believe it is also the case that prosecuting individuals has more of a deterrent effect than prosecuting corporations.

I am writing to you as well as to financial regulators, understanding that the decision to pursue criminal proceedings rests with the Justice Department, so I ask that there be a series of consultations involving law enforcement officials and regulators with the goal of increasing prosecution of culpable individuals as an important step in seeing that the laws that protect the stability and integrity of our financial system are better observed.

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I had a halfway discussion on this topic just the other day. There is a similar comment from one of our regular readers, The List of X. The point was made appropriately about prosecuting the banks involved with crimes like the LIBOR manipulation.

The record of the DOJ on insider trading – particularly the division headed by Preet Bharara – is up to almost 60 convictions. Probably the easiest financial crime to prove.

But, the importance of jailing more of the crooks involved with LIBOR which will turn out to be the biggest banking scandal of the decade IMHO can’t be over-emphasized. There are at least seven more banks in the DOJ crosshairs. Hopefully, many more indictments..

Should people be allowed to sell their organs?

How much would it take for you to consider selling your bone marrow? A U.S. appeals court puts the price at about $3,000 in a ruling that now makes it legal to pay donors for their bone-marrow tissue.

The court’s decision may well help thousands of sick patients who need bone-marrow transplants to survive, but it also begs the question, What other body parts might next be up for sale..?

While the decision applies only to the nine states covered by the Ninth Circuit court, and only to bone marrow obtained through apheresis, it does raise bigger questions about how we will look at organ donation in the future. With about 114,000 people waiting for organs in the U.S. alone on any given day, and only 3,300 donors, the urgent medical need runs up against moral standards of the value of human life. Once we start paying for the parts we need, though, how far do we go..?

Of course, certain body parts are already up for sale. Aside from sperm and plasma, donors can also be paid for their eggs and hair. But by expanding that list, the court’s ruling reopens the long-standing ethical debate over the commercialization of human tissues. For now, legally “sellable” human body parts aren’t ones that could be used to cure fatal diseases, which prevents a market frenzy.

But if the bone-marrow case starts changing that — and experts say it could — it might jump-start a dangerous trend in which lower-income groups were disproportionately targeted or incentivized to give up their marrow and people with rarer blood types demanded more money for their valuable cells.

Nevertheless, selling tissues or organs may not be the logical first step in addressing the disconnect between supply and demand. Klitzman notes that there are other changes we can make to U.S. organ-donation policy that might improve giving rates. In Spain, for example, all citizens are organ donors by default; those who don’t wish to participate must opt out. In the U.S., in contrast, people must voluntarily opt in to give, which could be a deterrent.

Since I sometimes accept the definition of Libertarian Leftie – especially in discussion of my right to exercise choice over how and when I die – it’s no stretch to include selling body parts. Though I’d like to think I’ll always be in sound enough economic circumstances to make a decision to donate, I can envision compensation being useful. As a cranky old geek this is mostly a theoretical discussion, anyway. I’m more likely to be in need of the donation rather than vice-versa. 🙂

Still, I feel it’s a reasonable decision for me to make on my own. The only proviso I’d throw into the mix is the responsibility to maintain myself through any problems that arise. Public healthcare shouldn’t pick up that responsibility. If we had real public healthcare that is.