Tag: Santa Clara County

Family sues Robinhood after 20-year-old son commits suicide believing he owed $730K

The family of a novice stock trader who killed himself after mistakenly believing he lost more than $700,000 are suing Robinhood Financial, claiming the popular stock-trading platform’s business practices “directly” led to their son’s death.

The complaint, filed Monday in state court in Santa Clara County, California, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the parents and sister of Alex Kearns for wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices.

Kearns, a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was 20 when he took his life last June after he misunderstood a potential loss from a stock-options trade.

In the lawsuit, Kearns’ parents and sister assert that Robinhood employed “aggressive tactics and strategy to lure inexperienced and unsophisticated investors, including Alex, to take big risks with the lure of tantalizing profits.”

Robinhood also provided little or no investment guidance to its users, and its customer service was limited to automated e-mails, according to the complaint.

Kearns received emails from Robinhood shortly after 11 p.m. on June 11, informing him that his account was restricted and that he was required to buy $700,000 in shares as a result of an options trade, according to the lawsuit. That left Kearns’ account with a negative balance of $730,000 on a trade that he had understood would be limited to a maximum loss of less than $10,000, the lawsuit says.

Kearns, desperate for answers, sent several emails to Robinhood’s customer support, but only received auto-generated replies, according to the lawsuit. Then, after 3:30 a.m., Kearns got an email from Robinhood saying he needed to deposit more than $178,000 within seven days to begin to address the negative balance, according to the lawsuit.

“Tragically, Robinhood’s communications were completely misleading, because, in reality, Alex did not owe any money; he held options in his account that more than covered his obligation, and the massive negative balance would have been erased by the exercise and settlement of the” options Kearns held, according to the lawsuit.

After not being able to speak with anyone from Robinhood, Kearns became more desperate and fearful of the mammoth financial obligation, according to the complaint.

“This resulted in a highly distressed mental condition in Alex, an uncontrollable impulse to commit suicide as the only option he could see,” according to the lawsuit.

Robinhood, which is based in Menlo Park, California, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit Monday saying it was devastated by Kearns' death and has since made improvements to its options offerings. The measures include adding more educational materials on options trading and new financial criteria and experience requirements for new customers seeking to trade some options.

“In early December, we also added live voice support for customers with an open options position or recent expiration, and plan to expand to other use cases,” the company said.

Robinhood has drawn criticism and regulatory scrutiny in its drive to bring more regular people into investing, not just wealthy investors already well versed in the markets.

In December, regulators in Massachusetts filed an administrative complaint against the company, alleging that Robinhood violated securities laws by aggressively marketing itself to Massachusetts investors without regard for the best interest of its customers. At the time, Robinhood said it disagreed with the complaint and intended to mount a vigorous defense.

Critics say Robinhood makes trading stocks and exchange-traded funds so cheap, easy and maybe even fun, it could be enabling unsophisticated investors to buy and sell too-risky investments too often.

The company tells customers on its website that they can “level up with options trading,” for example. With options, investors buy a contract that gives them the possibility of buying or selling a stock or ETF in the future at a set price. Trading options allows for potentially big profits at a low initial cost, but it can also be riskier than buying a plain vanilla share of stock if the bet goes the wrong way. And if traders borrow money to juice their options trades, it raises the risk even more.

Robinhood nevertheless has forced huge, ground-shaking changes for the brokerage industry. Its decision to charge zero commissions for customers trading stocks and ETFs pushed the industry’s biggest players to eventually follow suit — and to band together. Charles Schwab bought TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley acquired E-Trade Financial to try to be more competitive.

Investors on Robinhood and other trading platforms have also influenced prices on Wall Street. Analysts credit these investors with helping drive shares sharply higher last month in GameStop and AMC Entertainment, and in Tesla and other Big Tech companies last summer while the economy struggled.

Another coronavirus variant being found more frequently in California, including in L.A., Orange, Riverside

Another coronavirus variant — different from the strain first detected in the United Kingdom — is being found more frequently across California, state officials said Sunday.

The L452R variant was identified in 12 California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.

This coronavirus variant has increasingly been detected in the state since November, and was identified in several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County, according to a California Department of Public Health news release.

“The fact that this variant was identified in several large outbreaks in our county is a red flag and must be investigated further,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement. “This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard."

This is not the same variant that health experts said could spread more easily after it was first found in the U.K. and later in several U.S. states, including California. This one, L452R, has been found in other countries and states, and health officials are still learning about how it spreads.

“It’s too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan. "We also urge anyone who has been exposed to the virus to isolate from others to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Pan said it's not uncommon to find several variants of viruses. But it's still unclear how widespread this variant is.

"Because genomic sequencing is not done equally across the state or country, it is too soon to know how prevalent the 452 variant is statewide, nationally or globally," CDPH officials said.

Virologist Dr. Charles Chiu has been sequencing cases from multiple counties across the state over the past several months at University of California, San Francisco. He's been increasingly finding L452R in coronavirus samples, according to CDPH.

“This variant carries three mutations, including L452R, in the spike protein, which the virus uses to attach to and enter cells, and is the target of the two vaccines that are currently available in the United States,” Chiu said. "Now that we know this variant is on the rise in our local communities, we are prioritizing it for study."

The L452R mutation has also been found in Humboldt, Lake, Mono, Monterey, San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties.


Intensive care units in some California counties hit full capacity

Some California counties on Tuesday saw intensive care units hit full capacity, and others were getting close to that level as COVID-19 cases continued to surge.

At least three counties in the San Joaquin Valley have reached 0% capacity in their hospitals’ intensive care units, making the state’s agricultural hub the first area in California to become maxed out.

In Santa Clara County, meanwhile, conditions are deteriorating rapidly. Officials said there are only 31 ICU beds remaining — less than 10% of the county’s capacity — and that a few hospitals have run out completely.

“It is the worst we have seen, and it’s continuing to worsen,” said Dr. Ahmad Kamal of Santa Clara County.

Read the full story at LATimes.com.

Bay Area County that reported first known COVID-19 death in U.S. to start reopening some retail stores

A San Francisco Bay Area county that reported the first known death from coronavirus in the U.S. said Monday it will allow some retail businesses to re-open, even as the region’s 7 million residents remain under orders to stay at home as much as possible and wear a face covering when going out.

Santa Clara County said in a joint statement with four other counties and the city of Berkeley that trends were looking positive enough to allow limited curbside or storefront shopping.

The statement said new cases of COVID-19 and hospitalized patients were stable or declining. Hospitals have capacity for patients and there is more personal protective equipment, it said.

The order Monday by public health officers allows retail establishments to offer storefront pick-up, and manufacturing, warehousing, and logistical operations that support retail to resume.

People should still stay home as much as possible and wear face coverings when near others or inside essential businesses, such as at supermarkets, the officers said.

“COVID-19 continues to pose a very significant risk to our communities, and that continued vigilance is necessary to ensure that we do not see an increase in spread as more activities resume,” the statement said.

Santa Clara County was the lone regional holdout last week as neighboring counties announced plans to allow small retail stores — including art supply, book, game and cosmetics shops — to re-open with curbside pickup and sales.

San Francisco and Marin counties started allowing sales Monday. Also joining the order are Contra Costa and Alameda counties, where Tesla’s manufacturing plant is located.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sued the county last week because it would not allow him to re-open. The plant is now operating.

San Mateo County, which started allowing retail sales Monday, is not part of the joint statement. A county spokesman said it is in line with the statewide guidelines for retail sales.

Santa Clara County is the hardest hit of Northern California counties, with 2,500 cases and 135 deaths.

Seemingly healthy woman’s sudden death is now first known coronavirus-related fatality in U.S.

A mystery clouded the death of Patricia Dowd in early February.

The San Jose woman was a seemingly healthy 57-year-old who exercised routinely, watched her diet and took no medication. She had flu-like symptoms for a few days, then appeared to recover, a family member said. Then she was found dead Feb. 6, and the initial culprit appeared to be a heart attack.

This week, authorities confirmed to Dowd’s family that she tested positive for the novel coronavirus, making her the first such documented fatality in the nation.

Health authorities in Santa Clara County did not identify Dowd by name, describing the decedent as a 57-year-old woman who died at home. The Times independently confirmed her death from family members.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Santa Clara County Reports Coronavirus-Related Deaths Happened Earlier Than Previously Believed

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — New information released Tuesday night shows that the first documented COVID-19 deaths in the United States happened days earlier than previously believed.

The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner said two coronavirus-infected people died there on Feb. 6 and 17.

Until now, the first fatality was believed to have occurred in Washington state on Feb. 29.

The county said the people died at home during a time when testing was only available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Santa Clara County officials said they expect additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified as they continue to investigate.

Gov. Newsom sends 500 ventilators to other states as California counties scramble to acquire them

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to lend 500 state-owned ventilators to New York and other coronavirus hot spots outside California has caught some local officials in his own state off guard as they scramble to acquire the critically needed medical equipment, particularly in Riverside County.

Riverside County officials said the state recently denied their request for an additional 500 ventilators, even though the county expects demand for the breathing machines at county hospitals and medical centers to exceed the supply in less than three weeks.

Santa Clara County, another area hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, is offering a $1,000 bounty for each device it receives and has ordered companies with the devices to report their inventory to the county.

“I understand and respect what the governor is doing. But are we going to be able to get the assistance that we’re going to need in a week or two weeks out?” Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said Wednesday. “I think we were all a little surprised. We’re all trying to prepare so we’re not like New York.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Silicon Valley could face up to 16,000 coronavirus-related deaths by end of May, new estimates show

Silicon Valley could see a coronavirus-related death toll of 2,000 to 16,000 by the end of May, depending on how seriously people take the order to stay at home as much as possible, according to projections presented at a San Jose City Council meeting Wednesday.

The thinking behind the rough estimates illustrates why health and elected officials across California have sounded the alarm about the exponential rise in coronavirus cases reported since the beginning of March. Officials from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to San Francisco’s director of public health, Dr. Grant Colfax, have warned about a surge in gravely ill coronavirus patients needing hospitalization in the next week or two.

“Even in the best case scenario, we were looking at the order — in the next 12 weeks — of 2,000 potential deaths directly from COVID-19,” San Jose deputy city manager Kip Harkness said of an estimate of the projected death toll for Santa Clara County, California’s sixth most populous county.

Harkness emphasized the projections he presented are rough and the county is working on a more detailed and robust estimate. “But given the urgency of the situation, we have decided to share [these] preliminary results with you and the public today, in order to derive the action that is needed to save lives,” Harkness said

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

Another person dies from COVID-19 in California — woman who likely contracted virus in Santa Clara County

Data pix.

A woman in Northern California died of COVID-19 Monday, authorities said, making her at least the second person in the state to die from the virus.

The patient was a woman in her 60s who had no known history of international travel or contact with a person who was infected, leading officials to believe she contracted the virus within the county's local community, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

She was hospitalized for several weeks before she died at El Camino Hospital on Monday, officials said.

The only other confirmed death from the novel coronavirus in California was that of an elderly man with underlying health issues in Placer County.

“This is a tragic development. The Public Health Department is taking necessary, carefully considered steps to slow down the spread of the disease and to protect those at greatest risk,” Dr. Sara Cody, the county's health officer, said in a news release.

Last week, Santa Clara County health officials reported another fatality that could be linked to the coronavirus. But they never confirmed the virus was to blame.

Health officials later clarified that the woman's death is the first confirmed COVID-19 fatality within Santa Clara County. They did not release further details about her prior medical history or locations she may have visited.

Also on Monday, Los Angeles County health officials reported the first possible case of community spread of the virus within the county.