3M files lawsuits for price gouging of N95 masks

N95 face masks in boxes.
N95 masks are collected at the Minnesota Nurses Association office in March. 3M, the leading manufacturer of N95 masks in the U.S., said it has investigated 4,000 reports of fraud, counterfeiting and price gouging in connection with the product
Courtesy of Minnesota Nurses Association

Updated: 9:04 a.m.

The leading manufacturer of N95 masks in the U.S. says it has investigated 4,000 reports of fraud, counterfeiting and price gouging in connection with the product and has filed 18 lawsuits.

3M, based in Maplewood, is among the largest global producers of the N95 mask, which has been approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

3M says courts have issued six temporary restraining orders and four preliminary injunctions so far to stop N95 sales that it says are unlawful. The company says in some cases, it has led to criminal charges.

“The schemes we shut down were not only unlawful, they also endangered lives and wasted precious time and resources by diverting buyers from legitimate sources of much-needed respirators,” said Denise Rutherford, 3M senior vice president of corporate affairs.

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3M said it has stopped more than 7,000 fraudulent offers to sell its N95 respirators. The company said it also has sued two unauthorized suppliers in federal court in Minnesota.

Senior counsel Bill Childs said Thursday that many of the fraudsters pretend to have special access to N95 mask stockpiles.

“In one of them, the defendants had all sorts of things they were doing to claim that they were 3M distributors or were somehow part of 3M, including claiming they had a relationship with our chief financial officer. That relationship doesn’t exist. And of course if it did, it wouldn’t make a difference. Our officers aren’t going around selling respirators or giving their friends direct access,” Childs said.

In one case filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, 3M sued Legacy Medical Supplies and four people connected with the company, claiming they were trying to sell 3M brand N95 respirators at a 75 percent to 267 percent markup over 3M’s list price, the Star Tribune reported.