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 23, 2021
- Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced a lawsuit against Conway Eye Care/Todd Eye Clinic and associated individuals for allegedly fraudulently billing the state Medicaid program by falsifying documents. The lawsuit seeks over $800,000 in restitution in addition to civil penalties.
- New York Attorney General James warned consumers and business to be on the lookout for price gouging of goods and services during the state of emergency declared for Hurricane Henri.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced a consent judgment against ANE Investments, LLC and its Managing Member for alleged violations of state consumer finance statutes. For example, the lawsuit alleged that the company made loans to distressed homeowners, as well as charged interest exceeding an annual rate of 12% without being licensed or exempt from Virginia usury laws. The consent judgment includes restitution, $11,000 in fees and costs, and injunctive relief.
- After a series of unreported ransomware attacks, California Attorney General Bonta issued a warning reminding healthcare facilities and providers of their obligation to comply with health data privacy laws by notifying the California Department of Justice upon the breach of the health data of more than 500 California residents. The warning also asked healthcare entities to better protect data through, for example, virus protection software, security patches, user restrictions, and training.
Preventing Youth Vaping Act / Senate Bill 512
- Illinois Attorney General Raoul applauded Governor Pritzker’s signing of the Preventing Youth Vaping Act into law. The legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2022, prohibits companies from advertising electronic cigarettes to minors, as well as from disseminating misleading advertising. It also gives the attorney general’s office and law enforcement agencies civil and criminal authority to punish violators.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser sent a letter to U.S. congressional leaders asking them to include states when they design a federal regulatory system for cannabis and to rely on states’ expertise. According to the press release, Attorney General Weiser believes that “[a] regulatory model that applies appropriate federal health and safety standards to protect consumers engaged in interstate commerce, while preserving the states’ role in the regulation and control of distribution outlets, will provide the strongest possible protections against known and unknown risks associated with legalization.”
Climate Change – State Law Violations
- A coalition of 17 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of Minnesota in Minnesota v. American Petroleum Institute, in which Minnesota Attorney General Ellison is arguing that fossil fuel producing companies, such as American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, and Koch Industries misrepresented the harms of fossil fuel use and contributed to climate change. The coalition is arguing that the right to remove cases is interpreted narrowly, so a District Court order should be affirmed finding that the lawsuit should remain in state court. American Petroleum Institute and others are addressing the matter in response to the coalition.
- A coalition of 23 attorneys general co-led by North Carolina Attorney General Stein, Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine, New York Attorney General James, and Washington Attorney General Ferguson sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asking it to reinstate a rule covering disparate impact liability in order to protect people from housing discrimination. The coalition is arguing that the rule aligns better with judicial precedent and the Fair Housing Act than the currently existing rule.
Human Trafficking Awareness
- Kentucky Attorney General Cameron announced a partnership with Kentucky Venues to raise awareness about human trafficking during large events, such as the Kentucky State Fair. The program includes employee training and awareness posters.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a $3.31 million settlement against home respiratory services company SuperCare Health Inc. for allegedly knowingly overbilling Medicare and Medi-Cal for servicing ventilators that had become medically unnecessary because they were no longer being used.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Consumer Protection – House Bill 2746
- Illinois Attorney General Raoul applauded Governor Pritzker’s signing of House Bill 2746, or the “Know Before You Owe” measure. The legislation is intended to protect student borrowers by giving them information that will help them avoid private loans with fewer protections and less flexible repayment opportunities.
Healthcare – Illegal Non-Competes
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that under a consent decree Bellingham Anesthesia Associates is required to pay $110,000 in costs and fees for the alleged use of non-compete clauses and exclusive contracts with medical providers covering about 90% of the market share for physician-administered anesthesia services in two counties. The consent decree also requires the company to stop requiring physicians to sign three-year non-compete agreements.
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced a lawsuit against Mansa Travel Center Charlotte LLC, which also does business as Queen’s Market, for allegedly engaging in price gouging during the Colonial Pipeline shutdown and state of emergency. The gas station allegedly increased its prices between 19% and 278% from pre-shutdown prices though it did not incur cost increases. The lawsuit seeks restitution, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees.
Friday, August 27, 2021
- Vermont Attorney General Donovan filed a brief to appear in bankruptcy court to support Koffee Kup Bakery. The state is arguing that paid time off should not be considered as part of the bankruptcy case and should instead be paid to former employees now.
- Indiana Attorney General Rokita is warning consumers, particularly current or former employees or patients, of the recent data breach of Eskenazi Health. The consumer alert also includes tips for consumers to protect their data.
Healthcare – Anti-Competitive Practices
- California Attorney General Bonta announced that California’s $575 million settlement with Sutter Healthreceived final approval. The 2019 settlement, which resolves allegations of anticompetitive practices leading to higher healthcare costs, includes both the payment provision and injunctive relief. For questions about the claim or the settlement, please contact Michael Yaghi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Accommodations Law – Anti-Discrimination
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced a settlement with the former owner and manager of clothing and shoe store The Tannery, resolving allegations that the owner discriminated against shoppers because of their race, national origin, and immigration status. The settlement includes a payment of up to $220,000 and permanently bans the owner from operating a retail business in the state.
- A coalition of 20 attorneys general led by Massachusetts Attorney General Healey filed an amicus brief in Fourth Circuit case Updegrove v. Herring in support of Virginia’s anti-discrimination law. The coalition is arguing that the law does not violate the First Amendment because the Amendment does not protect discriminatory conduct.