2023 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Lisa Hsiao

Secured huge penalties against major corporations engaged in detrimental, unfair and deceptive trade practices.

In a string of landmark cases since 2020, Lisa Hsiao has achieved major victories protecting the public from harmful or misleading trade practices by businesses across a wide range of industries, secured some of the largest fines in U.S. history, and required the disclosure of important safety and privacy information. 

“Lisa has pursued the most difficult cases that have the most wide-ranging effects on the American public,” said Richard Goldberg, deputy director of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. “In these cases, we need a strong strategy to push forward to completion, and that’s what she’s able to do better than anybody else.” 

Hsiao is recognized as the federal government’s top expert in cases seeking civil penalties for violating rules and orders of the Federal Trade Commission. The DOJ is responsible for handling those cases referred by the FTC, which then land on Hsiao’s desk. 

From fraudulent marketing by tobacco companies to deceptive privacy practices in social media to the illegal use of telemarketing, Hsiao has fought to hold businesses accountable and create legal precedents that stop harmful conduct. 

Clamping down on Big Tobacco  

In 2022, after more than two decades of drawn-out litigation and appeals, Hsiao used what colleagues call her remarkable ability to see both sides of a case to orchestrate a settlement with major tobacco companies, including Altria and RJ Reynolds, after a court found that the companies had defrauded the public about the dangers of smoking. Court orders requiring corrective statements in print and broadcast media were implemented over the past decade, but the cigarette manufactures continued to oppose signage at cigarette retailers. 

This settlement resolved that issue, and in the second half of 2023, signs will start appearing at nearly 200,000 retailers warning about the dangers of smoking. These signs will inform consumers in plain language that there is no safe cigarette, and that smoking kills an average of 1,200 people in the U.S. every day. 

“These statements go a long way toward keeping the industry accountable as well as preventing and restraining fraudulent conduct in the future,” said Mary Rouvelas, the managing counsel and legal advocacy director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.  

Hsiao and a team of DOJ lawyers were involved in every step of the settlement process.  

“It took tenacity and patience,” Goldberg said. “Lisa went beyond what the normal human being could withstand.” 

Facebook pays a $5 billion penalty 

This success came on the heels of two other notable cases: one against Facebook for deceptive privacy practices and the other against Dish Network for its use of pervasive and illegal telemarketing calls. 

“Lisa has litigated against some of the most well-resourced companies in the world and secured unprecedented results that consistently set high, yet just, bars for future cases,” said Amanda Liskamm, acting director of the DOJ Consumer Protection Branch. 

Hsiao led efforts to defend a settlement between Facebook and the FTC regarding privacy practices and Facebook’s corporate structure, ensuring that the company paid a record $5 billion civil penalty in 2020 and submitted to government monitoring due to its repeated violations of an earlier FTC order. 

In the Dish Network case, the company was found liable for millions of telemarketing calls that violated multiple federal and state laws. Hsiao led the trial team to a court victory that enjoined the company and its dealers from future telemarketing violations and resulted in an agreement for Dish Network to pay $210 million, the largest civil penalty judgment ever obtained in this type of case. 

“All these significant penalties are intended to get at problems that millions of consumers face every day,” said Arun Rao, deputy assistant attorney general. “We’re trying to send a message about how businesses should be operated.” 

“I’m proud that through these cases we have created law that can be built upon,” Hsiao said. “As a lawyer, it’s pretty rare to be able to make precedent that both protects the public and effects good public policy.”