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A federal jury has found that a trio of Utah companies illegally placed nearly 100 million telemarketing calls to phones on the Do Not Call Registry. And that means a potential fine of drum roll $1 trillion.
Or, to be more precise, the jury this week found that the related companies Corporations for Character, Feature Films for Families and Family Films of Utah placed 99,990,565 calls to Do Not Call phones in violation of federal telemarketing laws. And with the potential fine of $11,000 per call, that adds up to $1,099,896,215,000.
The jury also found that Forrest Sandusky Baker III, the owner and top officer of all three companies, knew of, or had the basis for knowing, that illegal calls were being made to sell or promote movies or solicit funds for nonprofit organizations.
A call to the companies seeking comment was not immediately returned.
The Federal Trade Commission, which brought the case, declined to comment.
The jury, which reached the verdict Wednesday at the end of an eight-day trial, also found the companies made 4 million false or misleading calls, failed to provide required caller-identification information on about 8 million calls and did not supply required oral disclosures on about 5.8 million calls.
The potential fines could be even higher than $1 trillion, though, because violations of federal telemarketing laws after Feb. 9, 2009, went up to a possible $16,000 per call.
The companies also face other potential penalties. The FTC could ask U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby for disgorgement, or refunds, of monies received as a result of the illegal calls, prohibitions on further violations of telemarketing laws and repayment of the costs for the government to pursue the case.
In its complaint filed originally in Florida in 2011 and transferred to Utah, the FTC alleged that the companies engaged in deceptive telemarketing to sell DVDs or tickets for family-friendly movies and also provided telemarketing services for others, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firefighters Charitable Foundation.
The companies made a number of false statements, including in one case telling call recipients that all proceeds would go to a charity called Kids First, when telemarketers kept 93 percent for themselves, according to the complaint.
Shelby tossed out several FTC claims before the trial, including that the companies made certain misleading statements when calling for the Firefighters Charitable Foundation and the Fraternal Order of Police.
But Shelby also found before trial that the companies had violated telemarketing laws in placing calls to numbers on the Do Not Call list on behalf of Kids First and to sell tickets for the movie "Velveteen Rabbit," which was produced by Baker.