Represented by Cause of Action, Inc., described as a government accountability organization, Craig Zucker, who formerly served as the general manager (GM) of the company that made Buckyballs®, desk toys containing small, high-power magnetic balls, has sued the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), seeking a declaration that it exceeded its authority by naming him personally in an administrative action against the now-defunct company to force a product recall. Zucker v. CPSC, No. 13-3355 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Md., filed November 12, 2013). The complaint outlines the efforts the company took, in partnership with CPSC for several years, to ensure that its products would not be used by children. 

According to Zucker, CPSC abruptly changed course in July 2012, issuing a preliminary determination that the products were defective and the company’s safety program would not work. Thereafter, he alleges, “CPSC initiated an all-out effort to shut down [the company],” including filing an administrative complaint against the company and initiating a proceeding to order that product sales cease and that the company conduct a recall of all products already sold. The complaint contends that this is an on-going administrative proceeding in which “the very question of whether [the company’s] products are defective or hazardous is being adjudicated.” Zucker also contends that CPSC launched a negative media campaign and pressured retailers to stop selling the products, resulting in the company’s demise.
CPSC then allegedly amended its complaint in the administrative proceeding to add Zucker personally as a respondent, which would mean, if successful, that CPSC could require him to personally conduct a full recall of the company’s products, “at an estimated cost of $57 million.” Zucker claims that most of the purported infractions are related to his “interactions with and protected political speech regarding CPSC and with Congress and the public about CPSC’s abuse of its power.” Zucker alleges that the agency has no adjudicative authority over individual officers or employees and has improperly cited the “responsible corporate officer doctrine” (the Park doctrine) to hold him personally liable, an “extraordinary and unprecedented expansion” of the doctrine beyond its criminal-conduct origins, in Zucker’s view.
Claiming that he has exhausted his administrative remedies in seeking to remove himself from the administrative proceeding and that CPSC has violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights and acted in excess of statutory authority, Zucker requeststhat the court enjoin the defendants “from asserting or exercising adjudicative authority over Mr. Zucker in his individual capacity.”
Cause of Action, filing as a “news media” party or in the public interest, has also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, seeking records relating to CPSC’s estimate that small, high-powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011, as well as records relating to CPSC’s Buckyballs® recall press release, communications discussing the matter and any records “referencing or concerning Mr. Craig Zucker.”