Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Monday, September 6, 2021
Federal Firearm Regulations
- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting federal laws restricting the commercial sale of handguns to persons under the age of 21. In the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the coalition argues that such restrictions protect residents from the harmful effects of gun violence, as well as promote the safe use of firearms.
Religious Charity’s Liberty to Hire
- Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined a coalition of 17 states in filing a brief Thursday before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the religious liberty of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. The Mission is seeking Supreme Court review of a recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court denying the faith-based charity’s right to hire employees who share its faith. The attorneys general argue that the Washington Supreme Court disregarded history and precedent to deny the right of a religious nonprofit to hire only employees who share its faith. And this decision is merely the latest warning that previously uncontested religious liberties are at risk of being eroded by a growing wave of religious intolerance.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced an enforcement order against income share agreement provider Better Future Forward, Inc. for falsely representing that income share agreements are not loans, failing to provide legally required disclosures, and violating a prepayment penalty prohibition covering private education loans. The order requires the company to reform its business practices but does not impose a financial penalty due to substantial cooperation and good faith.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) Acting Director Uejio issued a statement applauding the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas’ decision upholding the payment provisions in the CFPB’s 2017 rule on payday, vehicle title, and high-cost installment loans. The court’s order provides that compliance with the rule will be mandatory beginning on June 13, 2022.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that under an assurance of discontinuance debt collection company Transworld Systems, Inc. agreed to pay $2.25 million and significantly change its business practices. The settlement resolves allegations that the company violated debt collection law by making high volume calls, attempting to collect on time-barred debts, and using false and misleading affidavits to collect private student loan debt.
Fair Chance in Housing Act
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced that the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights proposed new rules to increase housing opportunities for those with criminal records. The rules will implement the Fair Chance in Housing Act which prohibits landlords from asking housing applicants about criminal history in most circumstances, as well as from running criminal background checks on applicants prior to making a conditional offer of housing. Landlords must also satisfy additional requirements before they reject applicants based on criminal history.
Healthcare – Interim Final Rule
- California Attorney General Bonta sent a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury applauding the federal government’s Interim Final Rule which will extend protections from surprise medical bills to those who receive health coverage through employer self-funded plans and those who live in states with no protections. Attorney General Bonta also offered suggestions for strengthening the Rule, such as by broadening the definition of “urgent care center.”
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit accusing LendUp Loans, LLC of violating a 2016 consent order by continuing with deceptive marketing about repeat borrowing and of failing to provide timely and accurate notices to those whose loan applications were denied. The lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief, damages or restitution, disgorgement, and civil penalties.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that debt collection agency Convergent must pay over $1.6 million as part of a settlement. The settlement resolves allegations that the company sent misleading “settlement offer” letters that deceptively suggested there was a possibility of litigation to recover debts that were actually past the statute of limitations and not recoverable.
National Association of Attorneys General 2021 Robocall Virtual Summit
- Ohio Attorney General Yost and Michigan Attorney General Nessel co-hosted the National Association of Attorneys General 2021 Robocall Virtual Summit. The summit’s goals include highlighting and coordinating enforcement actions against robocalls, establishing links to share information, lobbying for legislation, and sharing best practices.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced that California’s price gouging law is in effect in Lake County after a state of emergency was declared for the Cache Fire.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced that the State Corporation Commission adopted regulations implementing the “bill of rights” for Virginia student borrowers, specifically noting the influence of Attorney General Herring’s supportive comments. Under the new laws, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office will have the ability to investigate and take action against misconduct claims about student loan servicers.
Environmental – Anti-Idling Law
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced a settlement with school bus company Tremblay’s Bus Co., LLC, resolving allegations that the company violated the state and federal Clean Air Act, state air regulations, and school grounds idling regulations by allowing its buses to idle unnecessarily on school grounds. The agreement includes a civil penalty of up to $120,000, a $45,000 payment to the Attorney General’s Office, and injunctive relief, including the posting of “no excessive idling” signs.
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that his office obtained a $954,966 judgment against company Contributing 2 Combatants/Coast 2 Coast Marketing and its owner for violating consumer protection and charitable solicitation laws. The company allegedly went door to door misrepresenting that it was a nonprofit seeking donations for care packages to send to servicemembers, but then spent the funds on the owner’s personal use. In addition to the monetary provision, the judgment prevents the company from doing business in the state and bars the owner from any involvement in the state’s nonprofit sector.
Labor and Employment
- New York Attorney General James announced an agreement with Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, ending its use of no-poach agreements. The settlement requires the company to pay $1 million, terminate any current no-poach agreements, and cooperate with ongoing investigations in this realm. The press release also states that it is intended to put businesses on notice that New York will not tolerate no-poach agreements.
Friday, September 10, 2021
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced that subprime auto financing company Santander Consumer USA, Inc. will provide the state with $3.065 million in debt relief. The settlement resolves allegations that the company’s subprime lending practices violated consumer protection law by placing consumers into loans with a high probability of default and exposing them to unnecessary risk. Among other things, the settlement includes the cancellation of debt, repurchasing loans from third parties, credit repair, and not requiring consumers to make payments through methods that require third-party fees.
Healthcare – Hospital Pricing Transparency
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced his appreciation for North Carolina hospitals’ work towards compliance with price transparency regulations. He also announced follow-up letters sent to hospital administrators asking for updates on their work towards compliance.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein applauded a Sixth Circuit ruling inLindenbaum v. Realgy upholding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall ban. The ruling reverses a district court ruling holding that because part of the Act was held invalid, the rest of the Act is invalid as well. After the Sixth Circuit ruling, state attorneys general are able to continue to pursue enforcement actions under the Act.