Letter to CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord Regarding the Criminal Prosection of Manufacturers that Failed to Report Hazards Accurately
February 12, 2008
Dear Chairman Nord,
We are writing to inquire about instances in which the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC” or “Commission”) sought criminal prosecution of companies that failed to provide the Commission with full and accurate reports about consumer product hazards, as required by law.
Settlement agreements between the Commission and manufacturers published in the Federal Register between 2002 and 2007 describe several instances in which manufacturers withheld material facts from the Commission in product hazard reports filed under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act. We documented many of these instances in our report entitled Hazardous Waits, which is available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/ HazardousWaits.pdf. Specifically, the Commission reported:
In addition to these instances, the CPSC likely has received numerous other Section 15(b) reports that omitted material facts.
As the Commission noted in the Century Products case listed above, incomplete or misleading reports hinder the Commission’s ability to make prompt determinations about whether a product poses a safety hazard, and they delay public notification of hazards. We hope you share our view that vigorous enforcement of the law is vital to eliminating underreporting of substantial product safety hazards—and thereby protecting public health and safety.
We are writing to inquire about instances since 2002 in which the Commission has referred cases to the Justice Department for investigation and possible prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (“[W]hoever . . . knowingly and willfully– (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined . . . imprisoned not more than 5 years . . . or both.”). Please provide us the number of these cases and the details of each, including the product hazard at issue, the number of injuries or deaths, the alleged legal violations, and the ultimate disposition of the matter.
We would appreciate a prompt answer to this letter in light of pending legislation that might alter the Commission’s enforcement powers. While considering changes to current law, the public should have the information it needs to evaluate the law’s effectiveness.