In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Siddharth Breja – former senior senior finance vice president at Juul – claimed that the company knowingly "put at least about one million coin-flavored e-cigarette nicotine pods on which it admits to be infected", and that he was unlawfully terminated as retaliation for public security concerns. If reported through Buzzfeed News, after Breja had raised the issue with management, Juul did not warn consumers that their pods might have been forged or recalled.
The story the suit tells is a strange story, although not entirely unknown, and outlines how a company led by a charismatic leader – Kevin Burns, the former CEO of Juul – and under federal pressure can end up on the wrong side of potential significant legal exposure.
As described in the case, Burns felt that Juul should win at all costs, and was inclined to say things from the TV boss, as if "there could only be one king with Juul" (at one point Burns told Breja and a room of executives: "Tell that bastard that I will take him out of the room and shoot him with a shotgun if he challenges my decisions", trés HBO.)
The problems started in February, two months after Altria – formerly Philip Morris, one of the world's largest tobacco companies – spent $ 12.8 billion to acquire 35 percent of Juul. Last year, Juul, in an effort to prevent federal control of his products, and in a gesture of public goodwill, almost all of his presence on social media and stop selling are fruity pods in stores that say they would only sell them online. (From this month they have drawn they taste from their online store.) However, they still sell mint-flavored pods, which are classified as menthol and therefore not considered flavored.
According to Breja's lawsuit, after the fruit pods disappeared from stores, the share of Juul's mint pods as a percentage of total pod sales increased from a third last September to two-thirds in February. The increased demand resulted in a supply chain shortage; retailers were out of stock. "You must have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don't find mango, they buy mint," Burns said at the time. That February, after a distributor had sent back pods that were almost a year old – on it place, Juul claims that his pods do not expire at least a year, but are best used quickly after purchase – the company resold them without adding, as Breja had suggested, an expiration date on the package. "Half of our customers are drunk and steam like mo-fos, who's going to notice the quality of our pods," said Burns, reportedly, in a typically sharp response.
The following month, during a meeting of the executive team, Breja heard that some parties from the mint e-liquid that Juul used to fill his pods were infected, and that according to the lawsuit & # 39; about 250,000 & # 39; Mint Refill Kits & # 39 ;, the equivalent of a million pods made with this contaminated eLiquid, have already been sent to retailers. ”It is not yet clear with which the mint Juul pods may have been contaminated. Breja told his supervisor that he thought the company should give a product recall, or at least give a warning to the public; in response, his boss, who is no longer with the company, reportedly reminded him of his loyalty to Juul. At the same time, Breja reportedly reclaimed $ 7 million from the supplier for the contaminated stock.
It remains to be seen what will happen, either with the pods or with the court case, although Breja demands a jury case law. And then there is the proverbial elephant in the room: throughout the country there has been an outbreak of pulmonary lung injuries. As we reported earlier, 1,604 probable cases have been identified and have been associated with 34 deaths from last week. However, the spread is mainly due to counterfeit THC e-liquid, and there is no word about any connection with the evaporation of legal nicotine pods.
For his part, a Juul spokesperson said The New York Times that Breja had ended because he was not a good leader. "The allegations of safety issues with Juul products are equally worthless and we have already investigated the underlying manufacturing problem and determined that the product met all applicable specifications," the spokesman continued.