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E-cigarettes made by Juul on display at a shop. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A former Juul executive alleged Tuesday in a lawsuit that it sent to market at least "one million mint-flavored e-cigarette nicotine pods that it admits were contaminated." A Juul spokesperson told Axios the company denies the claims and is contesting the suit.

Details: The suit, filed by Dhillon Law Group in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of Siddharth Breja, Juul's former senior vice president of global finance, alleges Juul ignored his protests to issue a product recall for the contaminated pods, "or at a minimum, issue a public health and safety notice to consumers."

Other key allegations: Breja alleges Tim Danaher, then chief finance officer at Juul, told him he should "remember his loyalty" to the e-cigarette maker after he continued to raise concerns in March that the firm was violating the law and "stockholders would lose significant personal wealth should he make his concerns public."

  • Breja was fired the following week, states the suit, first reported by BuzzFeed News.
  • Breja also claims Kevin Burns, then CEO, allegedly said, "Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fos, who the f--k is going to notice the quality of our pods."
  • The offensive statement was allegedly repeated by senior management including Danaher, who Breja alleges made the remarks "in the context of a discussion about shipping out expired or nearly expired pods."

What they're saying: In a statement to Axios, a Juul spokesperson said Breja’s claims "are baseless." "He was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership qualities needed in his role," the statement reads.

"The allegations concerning safety issues with Juul products are equally meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications. The company will vigorously defend this lawsuit." 
— Juul spokesperson's statement to Axios

Why it matters: Breja's lawsuit seeking damages for alleged violations, including wrongful termination and also intentional infliction of emotional distress, comes days after a mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Juul, alleging the firm's nicotine cartridges were a significant factor in causing the death of her 18-year-old son.

The big picture: The suit was filed on the same day that it was announced Juul would cut about 500 jobs by the end of 2019.

  • Juul announced this month it would stop selling flavored e-cigarette cartridges online, after halting brick-and-mortar sales last year, in response to criticism from schools, parents and regulators who have said the flavored products contributed to the spike in teen vaping.

Worth noting: The lung injuries tracked by federal and state officials involve patients who have mostly used THC-containing products. Still, 13% of people with the illness reported only using nicotine vaping products.

Read the lawsuit:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Juul and the inclusion of the lawsuit.

Go deeper

Fed: Rate hikes "will soon be appropriate"

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Federal Reserve officials expect "it will soon be appropriate" to raise the central bank's main target interest rate, setting the stage for a rate hike at its next meeting in mid-March.

Driving the news: In a statement following a two-day meeting published Wednesday afternoon, however, the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee teed up its next move without taking new action.

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Expand chart
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.

Updated 36 mins ago - Science

Blizzard likely to hit New England this weekend as "bomb cyclone" forms

Computer model projection of the precipitation and wind field from the weekend storm in the Northeast. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A powerful blizzard is likely to strike parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic beginning Friday and lasting into the weekend, with snow totals that are likely to be measured in feet.

The big picture: The joining of weather systems embedded in both the polar, or northern branch, of the jet stream and the southern branch is projected to create a bomb cyclone. Such storms undergo a process known as bombogenesis, with their minimum central air pressure readings plunging at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.