A US court imposed a $50 million (£38 million) fine against Omics International, a major publisher of so-called predatory journals, finding the India-based company guilty of widespread deceptive practices.
The federal court in Nevada granted the order at the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a US government agency charged with consumer protection, without holding a trial.
It was less clear, however, whether the fine would be paid, given that Omics is based overseas, or whether the company would change its practices. A lawyer for Srinubabu Gedela, the owner of Omics, protested the lack of a trial as unjustified.
Journals published by Omics are in a category that typically exploit online formats by charging authors high fees and promising robust peer review with well-established scientists on their editorial boards. In reality, the FTC alleged, the peer review is cursory or non-existent, and claims of prominent editors often turn out to be false.
Omics and its associated companies publish hundreds of journals in such areas as medicine, chemistry and engineering, using web sites that include OMICSonline.org, iMedPub.com, and Conferenceseries.com.
“These publishing companies lied about their academic journals and took millions of dollars from aspiring researchers and writers,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The FTC warned that if Omics does not stop such practices, the agency will move to block its online presence and prevent its use of US hotels for its conferences.
The FTC described the $50 million figure as its estimate of Omics earnings from 2011 to 2017.
The judge in the case, Gloria Navarro of the US District Court in Las Vegas, cited evidence that included an investigation by Science magazine that tallied 69,000 manuscripts published by Omics from 2011 to 2017. It found that only half those articles had even been subjected to any peer review.