Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Monday, October 11, 2021
- California Attorney General Bonta announced that the California Department of Justice is investigating the Amplify Energy oil spill that occurred off the coast of Huntington Beach. Along with state, federal, and local authorities, the California Department of Justice will determine the spill’s cause and what, if anything, could have been done to minimize or prevent it.
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced a consent order against fertility clinic Diamond Institute for Infertility and Menopause, LLC following a data breach that compromised over 14,000 patients’ personal information. The consent order requires the company to pay $495,000, which includes civil penalties and attorneys’ fees and costs, and to implement stronger data security measures.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
- Indiana Attorney General Rokita announced an upcoming discussion on October 14, 2021 over his filing of a lawsuit against a company that allegedly served as a gateway for robocallers in India, the Philippines, and Singapore to make calls into the United States.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced a lawsuit against pool company Olympus Pools, Inc.and its owner for taking payments for pool services and then failing to completely perform them. The lawsuit seeks to permanently prohibit the defendants from engaging in certain activities related to pool construction, as well as restitution and civil penalties. Attorney General Moody’s office is also assisting with a criminal investigation.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey filed comments asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to amend its policies for planning and funding new electric transmission infrastructure in order to support clean energy, consumer protection, and environmental justice. These comments are in addition to separate comments Attorney General Healey earlier filed with a coalition of state attorneys general, reflecting broader concerns.
- California Attorney General Bonta and the California Air Resources Board filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to support South Coast Air Quality Management District’s rule that requires warehouses to reduce emissions from heavy sources of on-road pollution that visit them. The rule, also known as the Indirect Source Rule, has been challenged as outside the Air District’s authority.
Healthcare – Pricing Transparency
- Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine is asking 11 hospitals to comply with new federal regulations that are geared towards making the pricing of medical services more accessible and transparent. Attorney General Racine’s requests, which follow news reports about hospitals failing to comply with the regulations, ask the hospitals to explain how they are complying and to conspicuously display their price lists for shoppable services online.
Thursday, October 14, 2021
- Indiana Attorney General Rokita announced a lawsuit against company Startel Communication LLC, alleging that it served as a gateway for robocallers abroad, who were operating a variety of scams, to make calls into the United States. The lawsuit, which could include billions of dollars in fines, also names companies Piratel LLC and VoIP Essential LLC, which allegedly knew about the robocalls and looked the other way when they routed the calls.
- A coalition of 19 attorneys general sent a letter to Congress asking Senate committee leadership to oppose legislation, the Methane Emissions Reduction Act and a provision of the Build Back Better Act, which would charge producers of oil and natural gas $1,500 to $1,800 per ton of methane emissions that exceed certain thresholds. The coalition is concerned about the cost increases that may result from these fines.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced a settlement with a private equity firm and former executives of South Bay Mental Health Center, Inc., requiring them to pay $25 million for allegedly causing the submission of fraudulent claims to Massachusetts’ Medicaid program for mental health services that were provided by improperly supervised, unlicensed, and unqualified staff members. This is the largest settlement of this kind for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Labor and Employment
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that White’s Bakery must pay $95,000 in restitution and penalties to resolve allegations that an employee was exposed to racial slurs at work. The settlement also includes injunctive relief terms, such as annual employee anti-bias, anti-discrimination, and anti-harassment training for the next three years.
- Illinois Attorney General Raoul announced that his office has entered into consent decrees with meat processing company Mistica Foods and temporary staffing agency Specialized Staffing, resolving allegations that the companies engaged in discriminatory conduct against Black job applicants and workers. Specialized and Mistica must pay $180,000 and $270,000 in civil penalties respectively, and the consent decrees also include injunctive relief such as mandatory steps towards increasing the number of Black employees at Mistica and recordkeeping requirements.
Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021
- A bipartisan coalition of 15 attorneys general led by Washington Attorney General Ferguson sent a letter to Congress asking it to pass legislation that supports local journalism. Specifically, the coalition is asking Congress to pass the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021, which would provide tax credits and funding to support local newspapers and the hiring of local journalists.
- A coalition of 14 attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking Facebook to disclose whether it offered protections to certain users that allowed them to spread COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Specifically, the coalition is asking whether the “Disinformation Dozen” received this protection, the extent to which permitted content has been anti-vaccine, and how many user complaints resulted in the removal of this anti-vaccine content.
Friday, October 15, 2021
- Maryland Attorney General Frosh announced a settlement with Just Puppies of Maryland, Inc., Just Puppies, Inc., and their owner, resolving allegations that the companies violated the Consumer Protection Act and the No More Puppy Mills Act. The settlement includes a $500,000 partially-waived civil penalty, prevents the companies from selling dogs in Maryland, and provides restitution and other relief to consumers who purchased puppies with health disorders.
- A coalition of 20 attorneys general opposed a potential Internal Revenue Service reporting policy that will provide the federal government with access to broad financial transaction information. The attorneys general are arguing that the policy will result in significant costs that banks will pass on to consumers and that it will increase the risk of cybercriminal exploitation of personal data.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel issued a warning to Benton Harbor residents and those living in surrounding areas advising them to watch out for price gouging, especially of bottled water, after concerns of lead contamination in drinking water.