Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AG’s have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, January 4, 2021:

Federal Matters

  • The Washington and Oregon attorneys general, 29 federally recognized tribes, tribal entities, and communities, and nine community organizations, historical preservation societies, and museums filed a lawsuit against the federal government for proceeding with the sale of the National Archives and Records Administration’s building in Seattle. The building houses, among other things, exclusive tribal and treaty records, to which the public will effectively lose access after the sale. The attorneys general and other groups are arguing that the sale violates conditions Congress put on agencies’ ability to sell federal properties in an expedited manner and fails to account for the importance of the records to the region.

Consumer Protection

  • Delaware Attorney General Jennings announced that manufactured home owners who are in dispute with their community owners will be able to receive free legal representation by non-profit Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (“CLASI”) under a contract between CLASI and the Delaware Department of Justice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021:

Privacy | Data Breach

  • New York legislators introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 27, that would regulate how private organizations handle biometric data. Among other things, the legislation would prohibit private organizations from profiting from the use of biometric identifiers and require private organizations holding biometric information or identifiers to formalize their handling of these materials. The bill also includes a private right of action.

Federal Matters

  • The Protecting Families of Fallen Servicemembers Act was signed into law on January 5, 2021. The law allows family members of U.S. servicemembers who were killed or seriously injured in combat or training to terminate their phone, internet, or television service contracts, without having to pay a termination fee.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021:

Financial Services

  • New Jersey Attorney General Grewal announced a lawsuit to stop a scheme in which a New Jersey family allegedly operated several companies to defraud financially struggling consumers by offering debt adjustment services that ultimately did not provide meaningful relief and often made consumers’ financial situation worse. The state also obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the defendants from providing loan modification or debt adjustment services and preventing them from conducting business under unregistered assumed names, among other provisions. In connection with the lawsuit, Attorney General Grewal stated, “We have zero tolerance for predatory practices targeting vulnerable consumers who want nothing more than to stay in their homes, especially in the midst of a pandemic. And by partnering with the Department of Banking and Insurance, as we are today, we are sending a message that we won’t hesitate to bring the full range of the State’s consumer financial protection laws to bear when we crack down on unconscionable consumer abuses.”

Workers/Labor

  • South Carolina Attorney General Wilson filed an unfair labor practice charge against unions International Longshoremen’s Association (“ILA”) and United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd. (“USMX”). The charge is alleging that ILA and USMX violated the National Labor Relations Act by attempting a secondary boycott against South Carolina’s new Hugh Leatherman Terminal.
  • West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey announced enforcement actions against contractors Hawkins Construction, Kyle Construction and Robert E. Jones for failing to complete projects or performing substandard work without providing refunds to consumers.

Human Rights

  • Florida Attorney General Moody announced a partnership with Tampa International Airport to combat human trafficking ahead of the Super Bowl. The airport will display human trafficking awareness signs throughout that encourage travelers to report human trafficking and urge victims to reach out for help.

Thursday, January 7, 2021:

Federal Matters

  • President Biden announced his plans to nominate federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as attorney general, prosecutor Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, civil rights attorney Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, and Kristen Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Friday, January 8, 2021:

Healthcare

  • New Mexico Attorney General Balderas announced that his office secured a guilty plea from a personal care agency owner for defrauding the New Mexico Medicaid program of more than $400,000. The individual allegedly billed Medicaid as if her employees were providing care over 24 hours a day and for more services than each patient required to meet their needs, as well as withdrew money in casinos from the personal care agency account.

Consumer Protection

  • Florida Attorney General Moody announced a consent judgment against diploma mill Ellenwood Academy, LLC and its owner for selling fake diplomas after charging students $195 to enroll in a program and take an exam without providing teachers or instruction. The consent judgment includes injunctive relief as well as restitution, civil penalties, and fees.
  • Louisiana Attorney General Landry announced that his office obtained a permanent injunction against VetAttend Professional Services, LLC and its owners. VetAttend allegedly operated a VA benefit consulting and management practice without accreditation and a home care business without a license, while misrepresenting its qualifications and requiring veterans to sign three-year contracts to use its home care services in exchange for submitting their claims for benefits.
  • Georgia Attorney General Carr announced a settlement with locksmith company King David Business Services, LLC and its owner for unfair and deceptive practices such as misrepresenting prices and the time within which the company would arrive to perform services. The settlement requires the company to pay $250,000 in civil penalties in addition to restitution.
  • California Attorney General Becerra issued a statement about the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court will review First Amendment challenges to California’s charitable donor reporting law in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra and Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra. In connection with the case, Attorney General Becerra stated, “California’s donor reporting rules simply require charities to provide the state, on a confidential basis, the same information about major donors that they already provide to the federal government. This information helps the state protect consumers from fraud and the misuse of their charitable contributions. We look forward to defending our rules before the Supreme Court.”

Saturday, January 9, 2021:

Privacy | Data Breach

  • Indiana Attorney General Hill asked Governor Holcomb to adopt a safe harbor rule which would incentivize businesses to undergo strong data protection measures. Under the rule, those companies that voluntarily adopt certain protection measures would be given favorable consideration in the event of a data breach. Governor Holcomb rejected an earlier version of the rule on December 10, 2020, but the press release states that the rule has been further amended and asks Governor Holcomb to reconsider.