Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Monday, December 6, 2021
- Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine filed an amicus brief in Superior Court of the District of Columbia case Muslim Advocates v. Facebook, which relates to allegations that misrepresented its content moderation practices in regard to hate speech. Attorney General Racine is asking the court not to give Facebook immunity from consumer protection law. Among other things, Attorney General Racine argues that federal law does not protect online platforms from being responsible for false claims and misrepresentations.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of the former operators of company Student Loan Relief Department for their roles in a student loan assistance scam and related computer crimes. The scam included convincing borrowers to sign up and pay $1,300 when the programs were available for free, false claims of association with the U.S. Department of Education, and illegally accessing student borrower records from the Federal Student Aid website.
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Antitrust and Competition
- Several attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission announced an agreement with Vyera Pharmaceuticals and a former CEO, requiring the company to pay up to $40 million and banning the CEO from most pharmaceutical company roles for seven years. The company and CEO have been accused of behaving illegally and monopolistically in order to increase and maintain the price of drug Daraprim.
Criminal Medicaid Fraud
- California Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of the medical director of West Coast Counseling Services for the theft of over $2.8 million from Medi-Cal through submitting fraudulent claims for services that were not medically justified and/or not performed.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Baker-Polito Administration announced that cotton bleaching company Barnhardt Manufacturing Company agreed to pay almost $1.5 million to settle claims that it spilled concentrated sulfuric acid into the North River, killing many state fish. The settlements also include injunctive relief, such as requiring compliance with chemical accident prevention, water pollution, and hazard management laws at company facilities.
- Iowa Attorney General Miller announced a settlement with commercial custodial and janitorial companies Heritage Group, Heritage Microbial Control, LLC, SPMC, LLC, and an officer, resolving allegations that the group of companies violated the Consumer Fraud Act by falsely advertising that its cleaning process provided long term protection against coronavirus transmission on surfaces when it did not have a reasonable basis for these claims. The settlement includes a $75,000 penalty, consumer refunds, and injunctive relief.
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that THS Group, LLC, also known as Total Home Protection, and its owner agreed to pay $750,000 and change its business conduct as part of a settlement over alleged deceptive marketing practices. Among other things, the company was accused of falsely advertising the services available under its contracts and wrongfully denying claims and refunds.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a $3.5 million judgment against real estate investment company Wedgwood, resolving allegations that it illegally evicted tenants from properties bought at foreclosure sales. The judgment also includes injunctive relief.
State AG News
- Iowa Attorney General Miller was elected president of the National Association of Attorneys General. As his presidential initiative, he has chosen “Consumer Protection 2.0: Tech Threats and Tools,” which will help consumers fight threats from digital technology and social media.
Thursday, December 9, 2021
- Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced legislation that would strengthen civil rights protections by prohibiting businesses and institutions from using algorithms that create discriminatory or biased results and inhibit individuals’ access to critical opportunities.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced the resolution of an action against robocaller Lifewatch Inc., which allegedly falsely claimed medical and alert systems were free and forced consumers to pay cancellation penalties. The resolution includes $1.8 million in refunds and injunctive relief, such as a ban on telemarketing.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced an almost $51 million settlement against e-cigarette retailer Eonsmoke, LLC and its co-owners. The settlement resolves allegations that the company and co-owners targeted minors for sales of vaping products that were advertised in a manner appealing to youth and failed to ensure shipments were received by a person 21 years old or older. The settlement also includes injunctive relief.
- Wisconsin Attorney General Kaul announced an agreement with Kerry, Inc., d/b/a Red Arrow Products, which requires the company to pay a $90,000 penalty for allegedly violating the state’s air pollution control laws at a liquid smoke facility.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey filed a lawsuit against dental chain Aspen Dental Management, Inc., alleging that the company engaged in deceptive advertising and marketing, including charging patients for “free” services and not fulfilling alleged guarantees. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution, civil penalties, and costs.
Friday, December 10, 2021
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced consent judgments against asbestos abatement company Impresair Environmental Corporation and asbestos consulting company Enviro-Safe Engineering, resolving claims of illegal asbestos abatement and monitoring conduct. The consent judgments include up to $245,000 in penalties and injunctive relief, such as required employee training.
Saturday, December 11, 2021
- Kentucky Attorney General Cameron announced the activation of the state’s price gouging hotline after tornadoes and severe weather in Kentucky. The press release quotes Attorney General Cameron, stating, “We’re activating the price gouging hotline to assist local communities with responding and to ensure that no Kentuckian experiences predatory pricing as they’re purchasing emergency supplies.”