In some ways, it feels like the country is moving into another phase of how we experience the COVID-19 pandemic. With two vaccines in distribution, and more vaccine approvals possible, the pandemic could very well be effectively managed much sooner than experts initially feared. Given the light the end of the tunnel, it is worth renewing talk of how long state and federal price gouging restrictions could remain in place. Emergency declarations and their attendant price restrictions could continue longer than some might hope. In this post, we unpack a few of the strongest indications that these restrictions could endure until the end of the calendar year or beyond.
On November 18, 2020 the Idaho Attorney General entered into a settlement agreement with three gasoline retailers following an investigation into alleged price gouging. The settlement agreement, which focuses largely on the unique restitution system it creates, discloses that the allegations in the case stemmed from the companies’ motor fuel prices following Idaho’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 13, 2020. Findings in an Idaho Statesman investigation into the settlement agreement suggest that Attorneys General are continuing to push the envelope and bringing sometimes aggressive price gouging claims.
The roll-out of vaccine approvals has led to some confusion over what charges consumers might be asked to cover. This echoes the confusion previously discussed with respect to COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody test pricing. But consumers, providers, and others that will have any involvement with vaccine production, distribution, or administration should be aware that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides different rules for treatment (including testing) than it does for preventative care, like the recently approved vaccines. Continue Reading
In the best of times, a chapter 11 reorganization is an uncertain and stressful process for all involved. When the disruptive effects of COVID-19 are added to the mix, and many businesses face significant economic difficulties, one can begin to appreciate the daunting task facing bankruptcy courts, debtors, creditors, and their lawyers. Continue Reading
The massive data breach of the United States Commerce and Treasury Departments that has roiled the federal government has resulted in federal securities litigation. On January 4, 2021, Plaintiff-Shareholder Timothy Bremer filed a class action complaint against SolarWinds and SolarWinds’ corporate executives in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. SolarWinds provides information technology and infrastructure management software products to entities around the globe, including to various U.S. government vendors in the executive branch, military, and intelligence services. According to the complaint, Russian hackers gained access to government email traffic by deceptively interfering with software updates released by SolarWinds.
As reported last week, a state-sponsored hacker may have breached multiple U.S. government networks through a widely-used software product offered by SolarWinds. The compromised product helps organizations manage their networks, servers and networked devices. The product is not only used by government agencies, but is widely used in both the public and private sectors. Whether or not you are one of the impacted customers, the SolarWinds attack is a reminder of the importance of conducting incident response and risk assessments under privilege whenever possible, performing due diligence before engaging vendors, and implementing procedures to minimize information disclosed to or accessed by vendors.
Reports of restaurants adding a “COVID surcharge” have become widespread during the pandemic. In recent months, cities and states across the nation have implemented a number of measures designed to help struggling restaurants adapt to the new normal. These include allowing restaurants to implement a “surcharge,” as well as capping fees that third-party delivery services can charge restaurants. However, while “surcharges” may be more benign than direct price increases, a recent California price gouging lawsuit demonstrates that restaurants still need to be vigilant in their compliance with state price gouging laws. Continue Reading