WASHINGTON (AP) — A Juul Labs executive who was fired earlier this year is alleging that the vaping company knowingly shipped one million tainted nicotine pods to customers.
The allegation comes in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by lawyers representing Siddharth Breja, a one-time finance executive at the e-cigarette maker. The suit claims that Breja was terminated after opposing company practices, including shipping the contaminated flavored pods and not listing expiration dates on Juul products.
The lawsuit does not specify the contamination issue or how it occurred. Lawyers for Breja declined to elaborate on the issue Wednesday.
A Juul spokesman said in a statement that the claims are “baseless” and that Breja was terminated because he failed to “demonstrate the leadership qualities” required for the job.
Juul, the best-selling e-cigarette brand in the U.S., has been besieged by criticism amid an explosion of underage vaping. The company faces multiple investigations by federal and state officials as well as lawsuits by families of teenagers who claim they became hooked on nicotine through the company’s vapes.
Breja worked in Juul’s global finance department less than 10 months. The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, seeks damages for lost salary, bonuses and Juul stock, which it values at more than $10 million.
Breja describes a “reckless” and “win-at-all costs” culture at Juul, primarily driven by the company’s former CEO, Kevin Burns, who was replaced in a management shake-up last month.
Breja says he learned in March that some batches of nicotine solution used in the company’s mint pods had been contaminated. Breja claims that company management shipped roughly one million pods affected by the issue and failed to issue a recall or public announcement.
Juul’s spokesman rejected Breja’s account saying the company “determined the product met all applicable specifications.”
When Breja protested the decision to ship the pods, the lawsuit alleges, his supervisor at Juul reminded him that “stockholders would lose significant personal wealth should he make his concerns public.”
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