Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC board chair Cui Li Jie, through her lawyer, claims she did not fully understand the specifics of the consent judgment that IPI violated or her role as company chairperson.
During a court hearing last week, Cui’s personal lawyer, Juan Lizama, argued that Cui did not know her responsibility as chairperson and did not understand the specifics of the consent judgment.
“This isn’t the place she grew up. She’s never experienced how businesses are run here in the United States. If it is that difficult for [former CEO] Donald Browne to stand before the system, you can imagine how difficult it must be for someone like Cui,” Lizama said.
Lizama argued that it’s one thing to know that there’s a consent judgment but it’s another to have the power to ensure that it is not violated.
“I think it’s one thing to know that there was a judgment. But one thing that was clear here, she’s just the chair lady, she doesn’t have control over the company. She’s not the sole owner, they obviously made her the chair lady but that happens all the time. I think the one thing she doesn’t understand is that as chair, you need to take some responsibility. And I think she’s beginning to realize that. She’s just the chair, she’s not in charge of the operations. Poor lady, she doesn’t even speak English,” he said.
However, the U.S. Department of Labor’s senior attorney, Charles Song, insists that it’s only right to find Cui in contempt because not only did she sign the consent judgment on behalf of both IPI and its parent company, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Co. but, according to a previous statement from Browne, Cui was also the one who told Browne to rescind a prior stop-work order.
“We request to extend the contempt finding against [Cui] individually because she signed the consent judgment on behalf of both IPI and the holding company. For her attorney to represent that she doesn’t know what’s going on with IPI CNMI just doesn’t strike us as accurate. Mr. Browne’s declaration clearly states that she did know what was going on, and she was the one that ordered him to rescind the stop-work order,” he said.
Currently, IPI, IPIH, and Cui were found in contempt for violating a consent judgment that they signed back in April 2019 stating that they would pay back wages owed former employees that date back 2016 and 2017 worth over $2 million.
In addition, a contempt order was also issued against IPI, IPIH, and Cui for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act when they continued to let their employees work without pay throughout 2020 and let their employees live in company-owned housing that had no power or water.