New Times Reporting Leads to Another Motel 6 Settlement

click to enlarge Can Motel 6 afford to leave the lights on after paying $20 million in settlements?  Probably. - ERIC TORRES FOR PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Can Motel 6 afford to leave the lights on after paying $20 million in settlements? Probably.
Eric Torres for Phoenix New Times

Phoenix New Times
reporting has led to another multimillion-dollar settlement for customers of Motel 6.

State of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday that the owners of Motel 6 have agreed to pay $12 million to the hotel chain's customers in Washington to settle his office’s suit against the company for providing guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from 2015 to 2017.

"Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant.”

Ferguson initiated the lawsuit in January 2018 after reading a New Times investigation of the relationship between ICE and the company at two Motel 6 properties in Phoenix.

The company already agreed to pay $7.6 million to victims at those motels to settle a lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Foundation that resulted from the stories by former New Times reporters Antonia Noori Farzan and Joseph Flaherty. Farzan and Flaherty won the 2018 George F. Polk Award for their reporting.

Under the MALDEF settlement, people who stayed at one of the Motel 6 locations in Phoenix between February 1, 2017, and November 2, 2018, are eligible for money if their information was turned over to immigration authorities, if they were interrogated, or if they were placed in removal proceedings.

In Washington, anyone who stayed at a Motel 6 in that state between February 1, 2015, and September 17, 2017, can submit a claim for restitution.

Ferguson's office also said that Motel 6 “signed a legally binding commitment to no longer hand over guest information without a warrant or other lawful basis at all locations, and must adopt this policy nationwide.”

The AG’s office said that seven Washington locations shared the personal information of approximately 80,000 guests.

In January 2018, Ferguson credited New Times with prompting his investigation and subsequent lawsuits.

“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said then. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”

Motel 6 has more than 1,200 locations across North America with more than 105,000 rooms. The chain is owned by the Blackstone Group. A call to company headquarters was not returned, but when Motel 6 settled with MALDEF, it issued a joint statement with the Latino rights group:

"Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests."