A federal judge in Illinois ordered Dish Network Corp to pay $280 million in penalties to the U.S. government and four states in an eight-year-old “robocall” telemarketing lawsuit. In what may be the largest ever monetary judgment in a robocall case, US District Judge Sue Myerscough required Dish to pay $168 million to the US government and $112 million to North Carolina, California, Ohio and Illinois over what the judge said were “millions and millions” of calls.
Myerscough said the award represents about one-fifth of Dish’s 2016 after-tax profits. She said the award was “not onerous” and rejected what she termed Dish’s “pleas of poverty and lack of cash.”
In March 2009, the states and FTC sued Dish after the company settled with 46 states for allegedly violating “do not call” rules. In a statement, Dish said it “respectfully disagrees with today’s decision by the Court and will appeal the ruling at the appropriate time.”
The Englewood, Colorado-based company said “the penalties awarded in this case radically and unjustly exceed, by orders of magnitude, those found in the settlements in similar actions.”
The company added “the court is holding DISH responsible for telemarketing activities conducted by independent third-parties, including in circumstances where such third-parties intentionally hid their telemarketing efforts from DISH.”
Dish shares were largely changed in trading Monday, closing up 0.2 percent at $66.19 per share.
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Myerscough said in her 475-page decision that the four states and federal government may make unannounced inspections of Dish and its telemarketing vendors but will require approval of the court before an inspection.
The judge also said Dish must employ a telemarketing compliance expert to formulate a long-term plan to ensure compliance with the do-not-call laws and to provide status reports.
The judge said evidence suggests “pressure needs to be maintained to keep Dish’s marketing personnel from reverting to their practice of trying to get around the rules.”
Dish and its contractors “made many millions more illegal calls than the specific calls proven,” the opinion said.
Dish in a securities disclosure noted that the federal government at one point said it planned to seek up to $900 million in penalties and the states as much as $23.5 billion. Dish said Monday the company “has long taken its compliance with telemarketing laws seriously, has and will continue to maintain rigorous telemarketing compliance policies and procedures.”