There have been boatloads of jokes over the past couple days about those twin PR disasters, Pepsi and United. “Do they share the same PR firm?” “If only Kendall Jenner was on that United Airlines flight with an ice cold Pepsi this would have never happened.” (Not to get all serious for a minute, but check out this Atlantic article about how, in part, airlines get away with systemic customer abuse because they are “sheltered from … litigation” due to forced arbitration clauses and class action waivers.)
Obviously without videos, it’s unlikely either company would have suffered any major PR damage. There are plenty of other corporate abuses occurring every day that have generally escaped the same PR fate - and the lack of video may be one reason why.
Yesterday, for example, the company went to court to ask a judge:
…to dismiss claims that one of its subsidiaries retaliated against a former employee whose whistleblower lawsuit led to an $18 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Melayna Lokosky, a former sales representative for J&J unit Acclarent, said she was unlawfully fired in 2011 after raising questions internally about the off-label promotion of a medical device called the Relieva Stratus MicroFlow Spacer, or Stratus.
Here’s some of what we know about Melanyna Lokosky. She was “a sales rep for Acclarent [a medical device company] and was making $250,000 a year." But, "In 2011, she decided she would blow the whistle on the company’s fraud." As a result of her efforts, “the former CEO and the former VP of sales of Johnson & Johnson unit Acclarent, Inc. … were convicted by a federal jury in Boston in connection with distributing adulterated and misbranded medical devices.” What’s more, “the company paid $18 million to resolve allegations that the company caused health care providers to submit false claims to Medicare and other federal healthcare programs by marketing its sinus spacer product for use as a drug delivery device without U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of that use.”
J&J is apparently now arguing not that she wasn't retaliated against, but that she doesn’t get False Claims Act legal protections because she “raised issues about regulatory violations, not the False Claims Act itself.” This is even though her whistleblowing led the the company to pay $18 million for filing false claims. C'mon.
Mind you, this comes after a year so chock full of J&J disasters that Bloomberg felt compelled to put it all together in an article called, “Why Johnson & Johnson Would Like to Forget 2016: QuickTake Q&A.” For example:
Johnson & Johnson had a year for the record books -- it lost six of 2016’s seven largest jury verdicts in the U.S. over product defect claims. This year may be no better. The company is facing at least 17 trials in state and federal courts in the U.S. over hip implants, talcum powder, pelvic mesh, an anti-psychotic drug and a blood thinner. And beyond these trials, there are tens of thousands more potential claims over those five products.
As the Atlantic put it, “the United video serves as a stark metaphor, one where the quiet brutalization of consumers is rendered in shocking, literal form.” Too bad not every corporate scandal is caught on camera. At least not yet.