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 20, 2021
Antitrust and Competition
- A bipartisan coalition of 30 state attorneys general, along with the attorneys general from Washington D.C. and Guam sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, applauding legislative proposals which would modernize federal antitrust law and urging the House and Senate to continue improving the bills being considered. The coalition is seeking changes that respond to shifts in technology, decreased competition in particular sectors, and judicial skepticism towards strong antitrust enforcement. The coalition is also asking Congress to include provisions confirming that states are sovereigns that are equal to federal enforcers, including in terms of the timing of challenging anticompetitive activity.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
- A coalition of 13 attorneys general led by California Attorney General Bonta and New York Attorney General James sent a comment letter to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) asking the NHTSA to re-implement penalties for automobile manufacturers that failed to meet corporate average fuel economy standards for vehicles in model year 2019-2021. The coalition is seeking to restore the penalty to $14 for every tenth of a mile-per-gallon below the standards. It is currently $5.50.
Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced a consent judgment with medical training program Stepping Stone Phlebotomy LLC, resolving allegations against the program for operating without a license. The order requires Stepping Stone to provide refunds to students who did not pass the national certification exam upon request, as well as to refrain from operating without a license in the future.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Antitrust and Competition
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a consent decree that will combat potential anticompetitive effects of the Providence Group, Inc. and Plum Healthcare The two entities own dozens of skilled nursing facilities in the state. In order to fulfill the agreement’s terms, Providence must sell one of its facilities. It also must appoint a monitor to oversee the sale and ensure quality patient care.
- New York Attorney General James sent letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, asking the agencies to create rules that would fully use gate slots at airports, in order to increase competition.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced the arrest of the former owner of third-party debt relief businesses for a $6,130,000 federal student loan debt relief scam. The defendants involved in this scheme allegedly offered to reduce or eliminate federal student loan debt but instead stole money from the victims.
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
- Ohio Attorney General Yost filed a lawsuit against the owner of Flowers by Des, who allegedly violated state consumer protection law by accepting money from consumers but failing to deliver flower services at important events. The lawsuit is seeking at least $50,000 in refunds.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced that he secured a court decision requiring the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to comply with air monitoring requirements for petroleum refineries. The press release notes that these refineries are one of the largest non-vehicle pollution sources and are often located in low-income communities and communities of color that already suffer significant health disparities from pollution.
Labor and Employment
- New York Attorney General James announced an agreement with industrial laundry facility FDR Services Corporation of New York, holding it accountable for illegally firing seven workers and denying paid sick leave to other workers who took sick leave for COVID-19 illness. The agreement includes a $400,000 payment and the reinstatement of employees who wish to return to the company, including the reinstatement of benefits the employees received prior to their discharge.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced settlement agreements requiring a board member of children’s charity A Place to Call Home to pay back $66,000 in funds used for her personal benefit. The settlements also bar the board member and two former directors from operating a charity, soliciting charitable contributions, or having access to charitable assets in the state. The charity must also dissolve under the agreements.
- West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey announced a lawsuit against collection agency Bayside Capital Services, LLC and its owner, alleging that they engaged in debt collection without proper licensing and used illegal tactics, such as threatening arrest and contacting consumers at their workplace. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties, restitution, and a court order prohibiting the company from debt collection in West Virginia.
- Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced that the Arkansas Public Service Commission granted her request for a $10.4 million credit for customers of CenterPoint Energy Arkansas Gas in response to allegations of excessive charges.
- New York Attorney General James urged customers of online plant company ShrubBucket to file a claim in the company’s bankruptcy proceedings if they are owed money for undelivered products or services. The company allegedly continued to wrongfully accept deposits up to a week before its bankruptcy filing.
Environmental – PCB Contamination
- Delaware Attorney General Jennings announced a lawsuit against agrochemical company Monsanto and two of its spinoffs for damaging Delaware’s natural resources through their use of polychlorinated biphenyls. The lawsuit is seeking clean-up costs and damages.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced a $490,000 judgment against several heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies for allegedly operating a bait-and-switch air-conditioning scheme. Under the scheme, the companies ultimately refused to provide services and claimed that ducts were damaged or contained mold, using high-pressure sales tactics in some instances.
Housing – Lead Poisoning
- New York Attorney General James announced an agreement with property management company Chestnut Holdings of New York, Inc., resolving a lawsuit alleging that the company violated New York City’s laws preventing lead poisoning. The agreement requires the company to pay $300,000 towards lead poisoning prevention initiatives and to ensure its apartments comply with the law.
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced a guilty plea against the leader of a network that defrauded the state Medicaid program out of over $1 million through clinic Newcomb Counseling. Among other things, the defendants billed for group therapy as if it was individual sessions and billed for services that were never actually provided.
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced a settlement with Saly Inc. d/b/a RIR Mart Exxonfor allegedly violating the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act by charging unconscionable prices on gasoline during the state of emergency declared for the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The gas station increased its prices by almost 29% after the declaration of the state of emergency. The settlement includes a payment of $2,500 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees, over $300 in disgorgement, and injunctive relief.
Friday, September 24, 2021
Education – Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- A coalition of 22 attorneys general led by California Attorney General Bonta sent a letter to the S. Department of Education asking it to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has rejected the majority of applications. Specifically, the coalition is asking the Department to provide immediate relief and correct errors, improve servicer accountability and oversight, extend the pause on student loan payments, and conduct an outreach program.