Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Monday, August 2, 2021
- Arizona Attorney General Brnovich announced a program in partnership with the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance and public utilities to combat utility gift card scams through the placement warning signs at gift card displays in state grocery and convenience stores. The signs are geared towards ending scams whereby callers pressure consumers to pay utility bills using pre-paid gift cards.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office obtained $500,000 in restitution from Harbour Portfolio Capital, LLC and its founder for allegedly deceiving consumers into entering into unfair and illegal purchases of uninhabitable homes at illegally high interest rates. The agreement also requires the business not to conduct any future residential real estate transactions in the state.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
California Air Resources Board
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a $2.38 million settlement against trucking operator Complete Logistics Company, LLC, resolving allegations that it falsely claimed it was complying with state emissions regulations in order to obtain $2.2 million in state grants for the purchase of new trucks.
- Vermont Attorney General Donovan announced that his office reached settlements with three online electronic cigarette sellers, resolving claims that they violated Vermont law by selling electronic cigarettes to individual consumers. The companies must pay $165,000 in civil penalties to the state under the settlements.
- A bipartisan coalition of 25 attorneys general sent a letter to the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (“NC-SARA”), asking it to create more forceful consumer protection policies for students enrolled in distance education courses that its participating institutions are offering. For example, the coalition is asking NC-SARA to create standards against unfair and deceptive admissions and financial aid practices.
Labor and Employment – Criminal Wage Theft
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. pleaded to and was sentenced for violations of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the federal Davis-Bacon Act through wage theft. The plea includes a requirement that the company pay over $20 million in stolen wages to Pennsylvania employees.
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general sent a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) asking the EPA to repeal or revise a rule limiting state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The coalition is arguing that the rule is illegal and that it harms water resources.
- New York Attorney General James announced the sentencing of an individual for laundering over $1 billion in stolen funds from financial institutions, financing companies, employees, and employers from 2016 to 2019.
- Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced a lawsuit to recover money for Nitrogen Solutions LLC after a scam artist hacked into email correspondence between it and Copper Tip Entergy Services USA LLC and sent fraudulent payment instructions, causing the money to go into a Chase account the scam artist had set up.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Connecticut Attorney General Tong sent a letter to Philips Respironics about its June 2021 recall of BiPAP, CPAP, and ventilator devices. Consumers and medical providers have complained that the recall notification does not explain how the company will repair or replace the devices and that the toll-free phone number provided is not leading consumers to individuals knowledgeable about the recall. The letter, which seeks a reply within 10 days, asks the company to explain when the devices will be replaced and whether they will be replaced for free, as well as whether medical equipment suppliers have been told to stop distributing the devices.
Labor and Employment
- Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced that M&T Bank made a written response to Attorney General Tong’s August 2, 2021 letter about how it will mitigate job losses when it merges with People’s United Bank, after the bank announced that it anticipated layoffs. In the letter, M&T Bank has committed to jobs in Connecticut and its regional headquarters in Bridgeport.
Friday, August 6, 2021
Intellectual Property – Trademark Scams
- Maine Attorney General Frey issued a warning to businesses in Maine about a scam communicating that businesses’ trademarks are about to expire and asking for a renewal fee or offering to record the trademark in a private registry which actually does not exist in the United States. The warning asks businesses to verify the legitimacy of any notices they receive.
Labor and Employment
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that as part of a settlement, restaurant group Bartmann Companies has started paying and will continue to pay over $230,000 to employees to compensate them for failing to pay wages on time and failing to pay overtime wages. The restaurant group has also agreed to a $100,000 civil penalty if it materially violates its obligations to properly pay wages in the next eight years.
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced a lawsuit against Jack’s In & Out Food Mart for its alleged price gouging of gasoline during the May 2021 state of emergency after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The lawsuit accuses the company of increasing gasoline prices by 60% without corresponding cost increases, as well as advertising regular gas when the company was only selling premium. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction, civil penalties, restitution, disgorgement, and attorneys’ fees, among other remedies.
- California Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert stating that California’s price gouging law is in effect in Siskiyou, Nevada, and Placer counties during state of emergencies in effect for wildfires.