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CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 2, 2019 at 12:43 am

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison joined the list of companies that failed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

And Ashley Madison had more reason than most to do this—as the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands.

After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true. Yet apparently its owners didn’t care enough about the privacy of their customers to provide adequate security.

Like so many other companies hit by hackers, Ashley Madison sought to reassure its dangerously compromised customers:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

This statement gave new meaning to the phrase, “Closing the barn door after the cow has gotten out.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach.

Adultery-dating website Ashley Madison hacked

So why wasn’t this “top IT security team” hired at the outset?

On August 18, 2015, the hackers began releasing their pirated information. 

Ashley Madison’s customers chose to put their private information on its computer system.

Those of Equifax, didn’t. Equifax collected this from credit card companies.

From Mid-May through July, 2017, Equifax was hacked. The breach was discovered on July 29. 

But the company didn’t announce it until September 7, 2017.

As a result, the private data of nearly 150 million people was compromised.

On July 22, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit-reporting companies, would pay up to $700 million to settle with the FTC and consumers.

If approved by the federal district court Northern District of Georgia, the settlement will provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers and a $100 million civil money penalty.

According to Karl A. Racine, attorney general for Washington, D.C., it’s the largest settlement ever for a data breach. 

“Equifax failed to protect consumers’ information and failed to enact reasonable security measures under California’s data security laws,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a news conference.

“That left very important personal information exposed and allowed hackers to steal consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, their birth dates, their addresses and in some instances their driver’s license number and even credit related information.”

Related image

And for those who believe the private sector is inherently more efficient than the public one: On the week that Equifax agreed to pay $700 million for its massive 2017 data breach, Richard Smith, its disgraced former CEO, got some wonderful news: 

  • He was slated to receive as much as $19.6 million in stock bonuses since leaving the company.
  • That’s roughly 1,000 times the $20,000 maximum payout that any financially damaged consumer can collect from Equifax.
  • In addition, Equifax agreed to cover Smith’s medical bills for life, a benefit the company estimates is worth another $103,500.
  • Equifax decided he deserved a $24 million pension.
  • Smith got $50,000 in tax and financial planning services.
  • His stock bonuses cover a period that includes the former executive’s performance in 2017. 

When CBS News contacted Equifax on this development, the company refused to comment. Neither could Smith be reached.

There is a reason why these security breaches keep happening.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author was John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

“One thing is clear,” wrote Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warned that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offered several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises.
  • Relatively little consumer outcry.
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street.
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” wrote Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. The Justice Department should vigorously prosecute CEOs whose companies’ criminal negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

CORPORATE DATA BREACHES? BLAME CEOs: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

Among those companies hacked:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target
  • Sony Pictures 
  • Primera Blue Cross
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase

In 2015, they were joined by health insurance giant Anthem Inc. The company announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses 
  • Employment information

Some of the customer data may have included details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5, 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believed that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypted personal data when it moves in or out of its database–-but not where it is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China denied any wrongdoing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”  

On July 15, 2015, Ashley Madison—the notorious website for cheating wives and husbands—joined this list.

Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan is: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”

One of its ads featured a photo of a woman apparently kneeling at the feet of a bare-chested man, her hand passionately clawing at his belt. Next to her was the caption: “Join FREE & change your life today. Guaranteed!”

Related image

Millions of its clients suddenly found their lives changed in ways they never imagined—for the worse.

Ashley Madison claimed to have more than 37 million members.  

Its hackers were enraged at the company’s refusal to fully delete users’ profiles unless it received a $19 fee.

Referring to themselves as “The Impact Team,” they stated in an online manifesto: “Full Delete netted [Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison] $1.7 million in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie.

“Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real names and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

On July 20, 2015, Avid Life Media defended the service, and promised to make it free.

The hackers demanded: “AM [Ashley Madison] AND EM [Established Men] MUST SHUT DOWN IMMEDIATELY PERMANENTLY.

“We have taken over all systems in your entire office and production domains, all customer information databases, source code repositories, financial records, emails.

“Shutting down AM and EM will cost you, but non-compliance will cost you more.”

The hackers threatened to “release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”

Avid Life Media assured its customers that it had hired “one of the world’s top IT security teams” to work on the breach:

“At this time, we have been able to secure our sites, and close the unauthorized access points. We are working with law enforcement agencies, which are investigating this criminal act.”

So why didn’t the company hire “one of the world’s top IT security teams” before the hack?

THE CULPRIT IN DATA-BREACHES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2019 at 12:18 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 2015 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database—but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did in 2014.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

MORE DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on September 12, 2017 at 12:01 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information.  

Companies like:

  • Kmart
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Target Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Anthem Insurance 

All these corporations suffered data breeches that exposed tens of millions of individuals’ private information–such as:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Credit card numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Employment Information
  • Phone numbers

And now hackers have compromised Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency. 

Image result for Equifax

One out of every two Americans stands to be a victim. Some 143 million consumers’ sensitive data is potentially compromised.

From mid-May to July, 2017, there was a flaw in Equifax’s website software. This allowed hackers to access 143 million Americans’ supposedly private information. Only after this massive robbery had occurred did the company discover the breach and close the loophole.

On September 8, PBS Newshour correspondent William Brangham outlined the dimensions of this catastrophe:

“It’s everything that would be in your credit report. So, it’s Social Security number. It’s your name, it’s your address, it’s your driver’s license information, it’s your employers, it’s your payment history, it’s what bank accounts you have….

“The thing that a thief could do with this information is, one, they could hack into your existing accounts once they have all that information. They could also set up new ones pretending to be John Yang or William Brangham and set up new accounts and then rack up big charges on those.

“So, the great irony here is that Equifax is a company that actually sells identity theft protection, and here it is they have theoretically allowed a huge breach that could trigger a ton of identity theft.

According to Brangham, the two most outrageous aspects of this catastrophe are: 

“[Equifax] found out about this on July 29, and we only found out about this breach on—this week. So, you’re supposed to, in these kinds of cases, immediately jump to do something about it. And it seems like they didn’t give consumers much time.

“And, secondly, several executives at the company, after they found out about the breach, sold about $18.8 million worth of stock in their company before this news got out, the implication being they didn’t want their stock to tank and their stock to lose value.”

Asked, “What are we supposed to do?” Brangham replied:

  • Freeze your credit account—thus blocking anyone from setting up a new bank account, loan or mortgage in your name without you being alerted to it.
  • Alert credit reporting companies Equifax, Transunion and Experian.
  • Monitor your bank and credit cards for suspicious activity.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care? 

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering. “Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  • Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  • There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  • Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

DATA SECURITY BREACHES: “WE DON’T CARE–WE DON’T HAVE TO”

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 14, 2017 at 1:15 am

Comedian Lily Tomlin rose to fame on the 1960s comedy hit, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as Ernestine, the rude, sarcastic switchboard operator for Ma Bell.

She would tap into customers’ calls, interrupt them, make snide remarks about their personal lives. And her victims included celebrities as much as run-of-the-mill customers.

Lily Tomlin as Ernestine

She introduced herself as working for “the phone company, serving everyone from presidents and kings to the scum of the earth.”

But perhaps the line for which her character is best remembered was: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”

Watching Ernestine on Laugh-In was a blast for millions of TV viewers. But facing such corporate arrogance in real-life is no laughing matter.

Clearly, too many companies take the same attitude as Ernestine: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

This is especially true for companies that are supposed to safeguard their customers’ most sensitive information—such as their credit card numbers, addresses, emails and phone numbers.

An October 22, 2014 “commentary” published in Forbes magazine raised the highly disturbing question: “Cybersecurity: Does Corporate America Really Care?”

And the answer is clearly: No.

Its author is John Hering, co-founder and executive director of Lookout, which bills itself as “the world leader in mobile security for consumers and enterprises alike.”

Click here: Cybersecurity: Does corporate America really care?

October, 2014 proved a bad month for credit card-using customers of Kmart, Staples and Dairy Queen.

All these corporations reported data breeches involving the theft of credit card numbers of countless numbers of customers.

Earlier breaches had hit Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan/Chase.

And on February 5, 2015, health insurance giant Anthem Inc. announced that hackers had breached its computer system and accessed the medical records of tens of millions of its customers and employees.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurer, said the infiltrated database held records on up to 80 million people.

Among the customers’ information accessed:

  • Names
  • Birthdates
  • Social Security numbers
  • Member ID numbers
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses and
  • Employment information.

Some of the customer data may also include details on their income.

Click here: Anthem hack exposes data on 80 million; experts warn of identity theft – LA Times

Bad as that news was, worse was to come.

A February 5 story by the Wall Street Journal revealed that Anthem stored the Social Security numbers of 80 million customers without encrypting them.

The company believes that hackers used a stolen employee password to access the database

Anthem’s alleged reason for refusing to encrypt such sensitive data: Doing so would have made it harder for the company’s employees to track health care trends or share data with state and Federal health providers.

Anthem spokeswoman Kristin Binns blamed the data breach on employers and government agencies who “require us to maintain a member’s Social Security number in our systems so that their systems can uniquely identify their members.”

She said that Anthem encrypts personal data when it moves in or out of its database–but not where it  is stored.

This is a commonplace practice in the healthcare industry.

The FBI launched an investigation into the hack.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that has been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

Naturally, China has denied any wrongdoing. With a completely straight face, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said:

“We maintain a cooperative, open and secure cyberspace, and we hope that countries around the world will make concerted efforts to that end.”

He also said that the charge that the hackers were Chinese was “groundless.”

Click here: Health Insurer Anthem Didn’t Encrypt Stolen Data – WSJ

Meanwhile, John Hering’s complaints remain as valid today as they did last October.

“One thing is clear,” writes Hering. “CEOs need to put security on their strategic agendas alongside revenue growth and other issues given priority in boardrooms.”

Hering warns that “CEOs don’t seem to be making security a priority.” And he offers several reasons for this:

  • The sheer number of data compromises;
  • Relatively little consumer outcry;
  • Almost no impact on the companies’ standing on Wall Street;
  • Executives may consider such breaches part of the cost of doing business.

“There’s a short-term mindset and denial of convenience in board rooms,” writes Hering.

“Top executives don’t realize their systems are vulnerable and don’t understand the risks. Sales figures and new products are top of mind; shoring up IT systems aren’t.”

There are three ways corporations can be forced to start behaving responsibly on this issue.

  1. Smart attorneys need to start filing class-action lawsuits against companies that refuse to take steps to protect their customers’ private information. There is a name for such behavior: Criminal negligence. And there are laws carrying serious penalties for it.
  2. There must be Federal legislation to ensure that multi-million-dollar fines are levied against such companies—and especially their CEOs—when such data breaches occur.
  3. Congress should enact legislation allowing for the prosecution of CEOs whose companies’ negligence leads to such massive data breaches. They should be considered as accessories to crime, and, if convicted, sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Only then will the CEO mindset of “We don’t care, we don’t have to” be replaced with: “We care, because we’ll lose our money and/or freedom if we don’t.”

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART EIGHT (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 20, 2017 at 12:08 am

Even if you feel you have an airtight case against an airline and want to sue, remember this: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.

In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court. And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

Related image

The Lady Justice

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.  Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict. Such appeals can go on for literally years.

But the most far-reaching reforms can emerge only through Congress. And this can happen only if Americans demand that their representatives create passenger rights through long-overdue legislation.

Image result for Images of United States Capitol

United States Capitol Building

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • A steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • Another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes. In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents made clear their rage about high-priced cable fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands–if voters:

  1. Make their specific demands known; and
  2. Bluntly warn: “Support this–or look for another job.”

Only such sustained action will counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.      

There is new reason to hope that long-overdue reforms may be coming.  

On April 9, police dragged Dr. David Dao, bloodied and screaming, off his United Airlines flight at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

His crime?  Refusing to give up his seat for a commuting crew member.

He suffered a broken nose, the loss of two front teeth and a concussion.

Dao’s mistreatment was captured on cellphone video taken by several passengers. Posted on Youtube and on national newscasts, it sparked a massive outcry.

To the horror of company officials, United Continental Holdings stock quickly lost an estimated $255 million to $1 billion. Many passengers cut up their United-Chase credit cards and frequent flyer member cards. Others swore to never again fly United.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a suspension to the widespread practice of overbooking: 

“To have somebody pay for a ticket, reserve a seat, be seated and then dragged off the plane physically by law enforcement officers at the direction of United–it’s outrageous,” Christie told CNN’s “New Day.”

Yet Dao has plenty of company. In 2016, more than 475,000 passengers who were bumped off American domestic flights–usually due to overbooking.

It’s standard practice for airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats. “Airlines overbook because people don’t show up for flights and they don’t want to go with empty seats,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com.  

When a flight is overbooked, federal Department of Transportation (DOT) rules require an airline to first ask passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. Airlines can choose the amount or type of compensation.  It’s usually a gift card or travel voucher for another flight.

If you are kicked off a flight due to overbooking, you can sue for more money if you believe the compensation offered wasn’t sufficient. If you intend to sue, don’t accept any flight vouchers or cash offered by the airline.

And what gives airlines the right to virtually operate as KGB agents? Consumer advocate Ralph Nader puts it thus:

“Because the contract of carriage, which is on the [United] website, is 67,000 words long and fine print, and it takes away the rights to be assured that when you have a confirmed reservation and you’re in the seat, you can stay in the seat—total unbridled discretion by the airline to throw you off the plane.”  

And every other airline has a similar “contract of carriage.” These are written by airline lawyers and are entirely biased toward airlines–not customers.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations. Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger. It’s with further enriching their overpaid key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the CEOs running KGB Airways don’t care about them.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

There’s a good chance you won’t be able to resolve your problem with the airline.

In its September 3, 2009 issue, Time magazine warned that calling the airlines’ customer complaint lines would likely prove a waste of time.

The major carriers have, quietly, made it steadily more difficult for customers to reach a person with their complaints. “The airlines don’t want to talk to their  customers,” says John Tschohl, a consultant to businesses on customer service. 

Even the few airlines that still have customer-service numbers bury them deep within their websites. Finding them is often as much a matter of luck as persistence.  

So as advised in Part Four of this series: Don’t waste your time with Customer Service smallfry.

Go directly to the topmost officials of the airline and make it clear that it’s in their best interests to resolve your problem. Then, if you can’t find a workable solution, file your complaint with as many consumer-protection websites as possible.  

You can also file complaints with one or more federal agencies that hold jurisdiction over the airlines.

If your complaint is safety related, address it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at: 

Assistant Administrator for System Safety ASY-100
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591
Phone: 1-866-835-5322

Click here: Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline 

If your complaint involves security, contact the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). They can be reached at (866) 2890-6793 or at their website of  Click here: Transportation Security Administration |.

You can also file a complaint with one or more consumer complaint websites. 

Below is a partial list of consumer complaint websites.  No endorsement is implied by this listing.  It’s offered simply to illustrate the variety of such websites available.

http://www.pissedconsumer.com/ Pissed Consumer (complaints only)

http://www.measuredup.com/ Measured Up (“Customers Review / Businesses Reply / Everybody Wins”)

http://www.thesqueakywheel.com/ The Squeaky Wheel (submits your complaint to google)

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ Federal Trade Commission (does not resolve individual consumer complaints)

http://hissingkitty.com/ Hissing Kitty (posts your complaint on Google, Yahoo, and Bing)

http://www.airlinecomplaints.org/ Airline Complaints (complaints only)

http://www.airsafe.com/complain/complain.htm Air Safe (“critical information for the traveling public”)

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/airlines.html Consumer Affairs (complaints only)

A final option is to sue the airline.

For most people, bringing in a lawyer is like bringing up the heavy artillery. When should you do so?

Christopher Elliott, author, consumer advocate and journalist, outlines “five times when you should consider skipping the complaints process and going straight to court:

  • When they’re playing games;
  • When they’ve broken a contract;
  • When they’re being dishonest;
  • When they’re ignoring you;
  • When they aren’t listening to reason.

Elliott’s webpage contains a wealth of practical advice for those who are fed up with of airline arrogance.  It can be accessed thus:

Click here: See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ‘em.

Yet another must-read for those wondering if they should file suit: 

Click here: Lies the Airlines Tell Us – ABC News

Assuming you decide to sue, there are three ways to do this:

  1. In small claims court.
  2. In regular civil court as an individual claimant.
  3. As part of a class-action lawsuit.

Each approach has its own series of pluses and minuses.

One option is to do so in small claims court.

A plus is you don’t need an attorney. In fact, you’re barred from bringing in an attorney. You represent yourself, which means you don’t have to pay an attorney–either up-front or at the end of the case.

Another plus: It will cost you far less to represent yourself than it will cost the airline to send a representative. If you file in California and the airline is headquartered in New York, it will be expensive for them to send a rep to attend the proceedings.

If the airline fails to send someone as its representative–which is highly unlikely–it loses by default.

A minus is that you may not be the confrontational type. You may also feel intimidated by the legal process–and afraid of looking like an idiot if you lose.

Another minus is that each state sets a different amount you can win in damages.To learn about the rules applying to small claims courts in your state, consult the following link:

Click here: 50 State Overview of Small Claims Rules | Nolo.com.

A second option is to take your case to civil court.

A plus is that the dollar-amount you can obtain at this level is far higher than in small-claims court.

A minus is that you’ll definitely want to retain an attorney.

True, you can legally represent yourself.  But aviation law is complex.  The airline will definitely have an attorney, so if you don’t, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Another plus: If you can find an attorney willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay him unless you win.  His fee will then come out of your settlement amount.

Another minus: If you can’t find an attorney willing to take your case on this basis, you’ll have to pay him by the hour, after first putting up a retainer fee, which can be quite large.

A third minus is that the courts are clogged with cases, and it can take months or even years before yours will be heard.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART SIX (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 18, 2017 at 12:54 am

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.

If you cringe at writing it yourself, you can ask someone else to write it for you.  But if s/he lacks excellent judgment and literary skills, you’ll be no better-off.

At best, the letter will prove ineffective and be ignored.  At worst, it could open you to charges of libel and/or extortion.

And even if the person can write an effective letter on your behalf, chances are you’ll have to pay for that service.

If you decide to write the letter yourself, you’ll find highly effective advice in Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, by Ellen Phillips.

Product Details

Click here: Amazon.com: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results (9780375701207): E

Among the subjects she covers–in detail–are:

  • Who to write to, what to say, what to ask for.
  • The names and addresses of over 600 major companies.
  • How to draft personal petitions covering everything from tenant-landlord disputes to workman’s compensation.
  • What steps to take to avoid litigation.

My own tips for writing a successful complaint letter are:

  • Remove any vulgar or profane words. 
  • Don’t make sweeping accusations: “Your agency is a waste.” 
  • Stick to facts you know can be proved: The who, what, when, where,how and why of good reporting.
  • Don’t attribute motives to people you’ve had problems with.  You don’t know why someone did what he did.
  • Cite the names and titles of any airline employees who (1) witnessed the reason for your complaint, or (2) were witnesses to it.
  • Show how the failure of the official to address your problem reflects badly on the company: “This not the level of service your ads would lead customers to expect.”
  • If there is a specific action the airline can take to redress your complaint, be sure to mention it.  (You can be so angry when making a complaint that you forget to say what you want the company to do to resolve it.)
  • Be reasonable and realistic in what you ask for. 
  • If you want reimbursement for expenses you had to make (such as hotel lodgings) owing to the airline’s fault, then provide copies of receipts.
  • Emphasize your desire to resolve the complaint amicably and privately within the company.
  • If necessary, note any regulatory agencies that can make life rough for the company if your complaint isn’t resolved. 
  • Cite the applicable law(s) under which it can be sued: “According to the Passenger Bill of Rights….” Make certain the airline knows you expect a reply within a certain length of time: “I would appreciate your response within the next 10 business days.”

Of course, your overture(s) may be ignored.  Or you might feel the airline has not made a good-faith effort to compensate you.

In either case, you have two more courses of action to pursue.

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private lawsuit.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s far easier to spread the word about companies that mistreat their customers.

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is no longer n advertising slogan (even at United Airlines, which popularized it). But airlines spend millions of dollars a year on selling just that image of themselves.

So anything that threatens to throw mud on that image is guaranteed to set off alarm-bells at corporate headquarters. Especially if that mud is well-deserved.

Related image

An easy way to avenge airline mistreatment is to make full use of a wide array of consumer-opinion websites.

It’s important to check out each website carefully to increase your chances of having your complaint resolved.

  • Most websites simply offer a forum to vent your spleen.
  • Others promise to take various forms of action on your behalf–such as directing your complaint to the airline or a government agency.
  • Others offer to refer your complaint to an attorney..
  • Many of these are free.
  • Others charge a nominal fee (such as $5) for posting your complaint.
  • Some complaint websites are run by the Federal Government–such as those of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Some are run by individual states–such as the Office of the California Attorney General.
  • The major airlines provide “file a complaint” pages on their websites.

! ! ! WARNING ! ! !

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or physical/financial ruin and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.

And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

If possible, try to resolve your problem (assuming it can be resolved) with the airline.

Why?  Two reasons:

  1. You may be able to obtain what you want at that level, without having to do anything more.
  2. If you don’t give the airline a chance to address your grievance, you will be accused of pursuing a vendetta.  This will be especially true if you later sue the airline.   

But if resolving the problem isn’t possible within the airline, there are two more options available.

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART FIVE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 17, 2017 at 1:36 am

If you have a complaint against an airline, don’t waste your time with low-level Customer Service reps.

If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

But who are those people?  And how do you track them down?

You start by realizing that every major airline has a website.  And that website can usually be counted on to list the top honchos of the company.

Even if it doesn’t, you can usually obtain this information on the Internet.  Go to “Google” and type “[Name of airline] board of directors.”

This should arm you with:

  • The name of its CEO; Its mailing address;
  • Its phone number for reaching its top executives; and
  • Its website and/or email address.

Below are listed:

  • The names of the CEOs of the major United States airlines;
  • Their mailing addresses;
  • Their corporate phone numbers and (where given)
  • Their email addresses.

Remember: The names provided below will not stay permanent. You must do your own research to ensure you’re reaching the right person.

Send out a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” or to the wrong official–and you’ll instantly be branded as a lightweight.  This only shows you were too lazy or stupid to find out who holds power in the company.

But a well-written letter addressed to the key decision maker(s) will instantly warn top executives: “Take this person seriously.”

AMERICAN AIRLINES

William Douglas Parker – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corporation / American Airlines Group, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas 

Robert Isom – President 

Mail:

P.O. Box 619616 

DFW Airport,

TX 75261-9616     

Phone:  (817) 963-123 

Click here: American Airlines Board of Directors              

DELTA AIRLINES

Edward H. Bastian – Chief Executive Officer 

Francis S. Blake – Chairman of Delta’s Board of Directors                     

Click here: Delta Air Lines Newsroom – Leadership           

Mail:                  

Delta Air Lines, Inc.                         

1030 Delta Blvd.   

Atlanta, Georgia 30354

Phone: (404) 715-2600            

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Robert Fornaro – President and CEO                 

John Bendoraitis – Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer               

Ted Christie – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer               

Address:                      

2800 Executive Way            

Miramar, FL  33025             

Phone:  (954) 447-7920           

Email:    http://www.spiritair.com               

JETBLUE AIRWAYS                          

Robin Hayes – President and Chief Executive Officer             

Mike Elliott – Executive Vice President, People                      

Steve Preist – Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer                   

JetBlue Airways Corporation Corporate Office | Headquarters

118-29 Queens Blvd.                   

Forest Hills, NY 11375             

Website:  http://www.jetblue.com               

Phone:  (718) 286-7900                    

Toll Free: (800) 538-2583                       

UNITED AIRLINES

Oscar Munoz – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Continental Holdings, Inc                

Gerry Laderman – Senior Vice President, Finance, Procurement and Treasurer

Shareholders and other interested parties may contact the United Continental Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors as a whole, or any individual member, by one of the following means:           

  1. Writing   to the Board of Directors, United Continental Holdings, Inc., c/o the Corporate Secretary’s Office, HDQLD, 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601; or
  2. Emailing   the Board of Directors at UALBoard@united.com                         

If neither of these methods seems to work, try these:                      

Mail:

P.O. Box 66100                       

Chicago, IL 60666                        

Email:  InvestorRelations@united.com                                      

Phone (general): (800) 864-8331                    

Phone Investor Relations: (312) 997-8610                           

United Continental Holdings, Inc. – Investor Relations – Board of Directors

ALASKA AIRLINES                                    

Bradley D. Tilden – Chairman and CEO     

Ben Minicucci – President and Chief Operating Officer    

Brandon Pederson – Executive Vice President Finance and Chief Financial Officer

Corporate Offices  

P.O. Box 68900                           

Seattle, WA 98168                       

Phone: (206-433-3200                           

Click here: Executive Leadership – Alaska Airlines                                  

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES                                   

Gary C. Kelly – Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board at Southwest Airlines, the parent company for AirTran    

Thomas Nealon – President  

Tammy Romo – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President    

Click here: Board of Directors – Southwest Airlines                          

Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters Address:                                  

2702 Love Field Drive                 

Dallas, Texas 75235                           

Telephone: (214) 792-4223                             

AIRTRAN                         

AirTran Airways is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  Thus, complaints against Airtran should be directed to the top executives of Southwest.

FRONTIER AIRLINES  

Barry F. Biffle – President and Chief Executive Officer     

Ashok Shah – Vice President of Finance                           

Click here: Frontier Airlines, Inc.: CEO and Executives – Bloomberg

Address:                          

Frontier Airlines    

7001 Tower Road      

Denver, CO 80249    

Phone: (720) 374-4200   

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES          

Mark B. Dunkerley – President and Chief Executive Officer     

Jeff Helfrick – Vice President Customer Service           

Jay Schaefer – President and Treasurer                          

Click here: Board of Directors | Hawaiian Airlines 

Headquarters Address:    

Hawaiian Airlines                                               

3375 Koapaka Street, G-350                                   

Honolulu, HI 96819                                     

Telephone: 808-835-3700 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. HST)

ALLEGIANT AIR             

Maurice J. Gallagher, Jr. – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer       

John Redmond – President         

D. Scott Sheldon – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer               

Click here: Corporate Governance – Board of Directors | Investor Relations | Allegiant Air       

Head office:                              

Allegiant Air Corporate Office           

8360 South Durango Drive    

Las Vegas, Nevada, 89113           

Phone number: +1 702 851 7300       

VIRGIN AMERICA

Donald J. Carty – Chairman of the Board      

Samuel K. Skinner – Vice Chairman of the Board      

Stacy J. Smith – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer  

Click here: Virgin America – Corporate Governance  

Address:                                

3555 Airport Blvd.      

Burlingame, CA 94010     

Phone: (877) 359-8474      

Email:   http://www.virginamerica.com      

Your best bet:  Contact the CEO–as the highest-ranking officer, he can’t claim his hands are tied by superiors.     

Next best: Contact the Chief Financial Officer–anyone charged with company profits will be instantly concerned about a problem that can cost big money.  

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.  

Even in our video-oriented society, the written word still carries far greater weight than the spoken one.  A document can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.    

TAKING ON KGB AIRWAYS: PART FOUR (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 14, 2017 at 1:25 am

Under Federal law, as enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airline passengers have only the following guaranteed rights:

If your flight is delayed (such as by bad weather) and you’re stuck on the tarnac:

  • Tarnac delays cannot exceed three hours. You can leave the plane if you choose after that.
  • Food and water must be available after the plane has been stuck on the tarnac for two hours.
  • The airline must service toilets, keep air conditioning on, and keep trash cans clean.

In addition, the U.S. government mandates these “rights” for air travelers:

  1. Compensation when you’re bumped due to overbooking–and for no other reason.
  2. An airline must accept lost/damaged baggage liability up to $3,000 in depreciated value per passenger for a domestic flight (limits on international flights are either about $1,700 or $635, depending on which rule applies).

Beyond those, all you can claim is what’s in each airline’s “contract of carriage.” Those contracts are written by and entirely biased toward airlines–not customers.

Given that the law–and the Congressmen who create it–are still mostly owned by the airlines, you, as a customer, are forced to make do with the weapons at hand.

These essentially boil down to two:

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private or class-action lawsuit.

In both cases, it’s best to first contact the highest-ranking officials in the airline company.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They have the most to lose, and
  2. They have the power to redress your complaint.

You can try to reach the CEO or one of his assistants during the time of the incident. But, most likely, this will happen afterwards.

If a mini-Hitler of an airline steward decides to eject you because s/he doesn’t like your clothes or request for help, there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you physically resist, you will certainly be arrested and charged with some version of domestic terrorism. You’ll be shipped off to jail and forced to defend yourself against the bogus charge.

Even if the authorities decide to not prosecute, you’ll have to spend at least several hundred dollars on legal representation.

And, of course, the airlines won’t care. They won’t be spending a dime on your prosecution–that will be paid for by the local U.S. Attorney’s (federal prosecutor’s) office.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wisely advised in The Prince:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

This is definitely the time to take on the trappings of a fox. However painful it is to swallow the insult at the time it’s given, don’t give the airlines an excuse to have you arrested.

Take your revenge afterward. That’s what musician Dave Carroll did.

Carroll alleged that, in 2008, he and fellow passengers saw United Airlines’ baggage-handling crew throwing guitars on the tarmac in Chicago O’Hare. He arrived at Omaha, Nebraska, his destination to discover that the neck of his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been broken.

Carroll complained to three United employees, but they proved indifferent. He filed a claim with the airline–but was told he was ineligible for compensation.

The reason? He had not filed the claim within the company’s stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe.” Carroll turned to his musical roots for a remedy. 

He wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars,” and turned it into a music video which he posted on YouTube and iTunes in July, 2009.

Click here: United Breaks Guitars – YouTube

The song went viral, and became a public relations nightmare for the airline.

The Sunday Times reported that, four days after the video’s posting, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10% costing stockholders about $180 million in value.

Most customers, admittedly, aren’t musicians. For them–short of suing–the weapons of choice will be:

  • The phone
  • Letters
  • The Internet
  • Consumer protection organizations that can be enlisted

Let’s start with the first: The phone.

Most customers assume the place to take their anger is the airline Customer Service desk. And the airlines encourage people to do just that.

Don’t do it.

Customer Service is staffed by people who may ooze compassion but who aren’t authorized to do anything on your behalf. And of course they’ll be well-versed in the standard airline excuses for why your request is denied.

(Think of Dave Carroll and the excuse United’s reps offered him: You didn’t file your complaint within 24 hours.)

Even if they truly want to help you, they’ll find themselves outranked at every level.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it. This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

This is the single most important lesson in bureaucracy-busting: If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

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