Lumber Liquidators Holdings has agreed to pay a $33 million criminal penalty to settle allegations it made fraudulent statements to investors that Chinese-made laminate flooring it sold in the U.S. complied with safety standards.
The settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice is the latest legal fallout arising from a CBS “60 Minutes” investigation that found the flooring did not comply with the California Air Resource Board’s maximum acceptable limits for emissions of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
According to the DoJ, Lumber Liquidators misled investors after “60 Minutes” aired a segment about its investigation in March 2015 by stating in a regulatory filing that the flooring complied with CARB regulations.
CARB had actually informed the nation’s largest hardwood retailer in 2013 and 2014 that samples collected from its California stores failed deconstructive testing for formaldehyde emissions.
“Lumber Liquidators lied to investors and to the public about its compliance with formaldehyde regulations for the flooring it sold — all to protect its stock price,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a news release.
The deal with the Justice Department includes a deferred prosecution agreement under which the government agreed not to prosecute Lumber Liquidators for securities fraud so long as the company upgrades oversight and cooperates with its ongoing probe for three years.
The $33 million penalty includes a fine of approximately $19 million and approximately $14 million in forfeiture. “This penalty reflects the nature and seriousness of the conduct, as well as Lumber Liquidators’ ongoing cooperation with the United States and the company’s extensive efforts at remediation,” the DoJ said.
Lumber Liquidators also agreed to pay more than $6 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission action, with the money being credited toward payment of the DoJ settlement.
In October, a court in Virginia approved a $36 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against Lumber Liquidators on behalf of 760,000 customers who bought the laminate flooring. The company paid $2.5 million in fines to the CARB and agreed to destroy 22 million board feet of flooring it pulled from shelves in May 2015.