Tag Archives: Chris Van Hollen

Booker, Menendez call for FTC investigation of turf company

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Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to open a full, nationwide investigation into alleged fraud by the leading maker of artificial sports fields, FieldTurf. (The Star-Ledger)

Two United States senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to open a full, nationwide investigation into whether the leading maker of artificial sports fields, FieldTurf, defrauded taxpayers across the country.

In a letter sent Sunday to the commission’s chairwoman, and obtained by NJ Advance Media, Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-New Jersey) said the government must be “vigilant against deception and misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

The senators cited the news organization’s recent special report that detailed how FieldTurf made millions selling a high-end brand of turf, known as Duraspine, to towns and schools for years after executives became aware it was falling apart.

Many of the fields have since failed and been replaced.

“Official court records and findings published by New Jersey Advance Media indicate that FieldTurf may have engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of federal law in their marketing and sale of the now-discontinued Duraspine turf,” the senators wrote to the commission’s chairwoman, Edith Ramirez.

They added, “We respectfully request a full investigation of this matter and urge the FTC to take any appropriate actions necessary.”

For years, top turf company made millions selling faulty fields to taxpayers

For years, top turf company made millions selling faulty fields to taxpayers

Insider documents reveal nation’s top turf company, FieldTurf, sold high-end sports fields to towns and schools across N.J. and U.S. after knowing they might fall apart.

A federal investigation would dramatically widen the scope of inquiries already facing the company, which include preliminary reviews by the attorneys general in New York and New Jersey, as well as a planned hearing by the New Jersey Legislature.

Last week, the Newark school system filed the first class-action lawsuit in the U.S. over Duraspine’s failures, accusing the company of defrauding the public by failing to disclose a pattern of problems with the turf, and failing to change sales pitches.

FieldTurf also faces lawsuits in California and Texas alleging fraud.

Company officials have said they stand by their products and customers, and will cooperate with any government inquiry. But they strongly deny allegations of fraud and deception, and have said the facts will show their customers were well-served.

The officials maintain Duraspine’s problems did not affect player safety.

Booker, who is leading the effort and sits on the Senate subcommittee for consumer affairs, and Menendez said the FTC’s investigation should cover all 1,428 U.S. sales of Duraspine from when the turf made its debut in 2005 until it was discontinued in 2012.

“Given the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) mandate to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive advertising practices, it is imperative that the commission thoroughly investigate FieldTurf’s sales and marketing of their Duraspine product,” the senators said in the letter.

For most of the eight years Duraspine was sold, company records show, Montreal-based FieldTurf — a division of French flooring maker Tarkett, a publicly traded company — touted its revolutionary qualities, including “unmatched durability” and far greater resistance to ultraviolet light and foot traffic, the two main enemies of any artificial sports field.

Though it cost more than anything else on the market — about $1 per square foot extra, or about $85,000 for an average field — FieldTurf told customers Duraspine would pay off in the long run because it would outlast other turf products, including those of competitors, and even its own previous generation technology.

Soon after sales began, however, key FieldTurf executives became aware Duraspine was cracking, splitting and breaking apart after only a few years of use, records show, far sooner than the decade or more customers were told it would last in advertising. Despite growing signs of a major problem, sales continued across the country, and the company never changed its sales pitches for Duraspine.

All told, FieldTurf earned an estimated $570 million in revenue from the turf, most of which came from taxpayers through towns and school districts.

The company contends it was the victim of a bait-and-switch by its supplier, which changed the chemical formulation of Duraspine, making it more susceptible to ultraviolet radiation. The supplier has denied the allegations.

As part of its investigation, NJ Advance Media contacted 15 experienced consumer attorneys in the six states with the most Duraspine fields. All 15 of those attorneys said FieldTurf likely violated laws against false or misleading advertising.

Richard Newman, an advertising lawyer in New York City with more than 15 years of experience, said the FTC would look to determine if the company’s marketing and advertising contained statements, or omitted information, that likely misled customers, or that a reasonable customer would want to know before a purchase.

Newman said a review would include not only FieldTurf’s written materials, but also the “overall net impression” of what it conveyed to its customers.

“To the extent that Duraspine’s performance standards were inconsistent with express and implied marketing claims made to consumers, the intentional or reckless failure to clearly, conspicuously and prominently disclose the product’s alleged susceptibility to cracking, splitting and breaking apart could materially impact the direction of an FTC investigation or enforcement action,” he said.

Newman said potential penalties for those who engage in deceptive advertising could include civil penalties and consumer restitution.

https://embed.readymag.com/v2/658706/?domain=http%3A%2F%2Ffieldturf.nj.com

Christopher Baxter may be reached at cbaxter@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cbaxter1. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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Baker endorses Van Hollen while majority of Council endorses Edwards.

Rep. Donna Edwards

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-4)

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Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-8)

County Executive Rushern Baker III and the County Council may find themselves at odds once again.

Baker announced last Wednesday he has endorsed Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-8) for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming 2016 election, but some members of the County Council have chosen to go a different route and elected to endorse Donna Edwards (D-4).

Baker said he chose to endorse Van Hollen rather than Edwards, a Prince George’s County representative and native, because of their experience working together in the state legislature. The two have a history of working together, he said, and “rolling up [their] sleeves” on difficult issues.

“That’s the type of relationship I’ve had with Senator (Barbara) Mikulski. I know that Chris, going over to the Senate, will do that,” Baker said. “It was an easy decision in this respect. I don’t just know him as a name or as a congressman—I know him personally and I know the working relationship.”

However, all members of the Prince George’s County Council except for Councilman Todd Turner and Councilwoman Deni Taveras announced their support for Edwards at Prince George’s County Community College Wednesday.

Edwards thanked the council members for their support and said she looks forward to working with them at the Senate level.

“I am thrilled to stand with my partners on the Prince George’s County Council,” Edwards said. “Together, we have worked tirelessly to improve education, expand economic development, and stand up for our seniors. I thank them for their support, and look forward to continue working with them in the United States Senate.”

Mel Franklin, Chairman of the Prince George’s County Council, said he will stand with Edwards as works to stand in Senator Mikulski’s “trailblazing” shoes in her senate seat.

“Donna’s experiences and values have made her who she is today, a principled, progressive fighter with a unique, proven record of improving the lives of working families,” Franklin said. “That is what she has done in Prince George’s County, and that is what she will do for all Marylanders.”

Van Hollen said he is happy to have the support of Baker, as well as Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett who also attended the press conference where Baker made his announcement.

Van Hollen represents Congressional District 8, which used to include part of Prince George’s County as recently as 2013. In Congress, Van Hollen said he has done his best to give citizens the best opportunities to “live the American dream.”

>>> Read more 

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Prince George’s County Council

Rushern Baker - Appears to be driving corruption to new heights

County Executive Rushern Baker III

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Hogan, congressional delegation, focus on FBI headquarters.

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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, left, discusses bipartisan efforts by his administration and the state’s mostly Democratic congressional delegation to attract a new FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County during a news conference on Monday, March 23, 2015 in Annapolis, Md. To the right of the governor are Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and members of Maryland’s heavily Democratic congressional delegation pledged Monday to work together to bring the FBI’s new headquarters to the state.

They held a news conference to emphasize that November’s election result will not affect the resolve of federal, state and local officials in Maryland to draw the facility to Prince George’s County, just outside of the nation’s capital.

“We have all committed to work together and to do everything we possibly can to ensure that Maryland is the ultimate choice for the FBI headquarters relocation,” Hogan said.

>>> Read more WUSA9 

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