A former executive at JUUL Labs, Siddharth Breja, alleges that the company exhibits a “reckless”, “win at all costs” corporate culture, and that this corporate culture led to it knowingly shipping roughly a million contaminated JUUL pods.
This allegation surfaced in a lawsuit filed by Breja against his former employer, where he was a finance executive. The suit further alleges that Breja’s termination from the company was an act of retaliation after he vocally opposed shipment of tainted product and the lack of expiration or “best by” dates on product labeling.
JUUL Labs has derided Breja’s allegations as “baseless”, and claims that his severance from the company was due to his failure to, “demonstrate the leadership qualities” necessary for his position with them. Breja occupied his position at JUUL Labs for ten months. The lawsuit seeks damages to cover lost salary, bonuses, and JUUL stock valued at over $10 million.
Breja attributes the shipping of approximately 1 million tainted Mint flavor pods to a “reckless”, “win at all costs” culture at JUUL driven primarily by former CEO Kevin Burns, who was recently replaced by former Altria executive K.C. Crosthwaite in a personnel shakeup, according to CNN.
What the affected products were contaminated with, or how they came to be contaminated, is not disclosed. According to the lawsuit, quality control may have been affected by the company’s decision to pull flavors other than mint under pressure from outside groups. This led then-CEO Kevin Burns to “[berate] employees” to ramp up production of Mint pods, after assurance from outside consultants that Mint, “given its fruity flavor, would make up for any lack of sales of other flavored pods.”
According to the lawsuit, Burns advised staff that:
“You need to have an IQ of 5 to know that when customers don’t find mango they buy mint.”
Burns alleged that, in an earlier conflict with his superiors at the company, he had urged the inclusion of expiration dates or “best by” dates for the packaging of JUUL pods. According to KTLA, Burns’ alleged reply was:
“Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fo’s, who the f— is going to notice the quality of our pods.”
It would be a stunning understatement to say that such a statement is troubling.