Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A multistate coalition of 18 attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General James, sent letters to major financial institutions, such as, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo, calling the CEOs to eliminate all overdraft fees on consumer bank accounts. According to the letters, numerous studies have shown that overdraft fees disproportionately affect vulnerable families and communities of color by unnecessarily saddling them with additional debts that they cannot afford.
- A multistate coalition of 23 attorneys general, led by Illinois Attorney General Raoul, sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) urging the CFPB to evaluate convenience fees in the mortgage industry and argue they are particularly unfair and abusive. This is due in part to the fact that homeowners have no choice in their mortgage servicers. The attorneys general argue that when taking out a mortgage, many people believe they are entering into a long-term relationship with a specific financial institution. However, mortgage loans and their servicing rights may be sold many times over and as a result, people don’t know which company will service their mortgage loan and have no ability to change servicers. Additionally, the attorneys general argue that servicers charge convenience fees that exceed their actual cost to accept payments online or over the phone, allowing a servicer to essentially pay itself twice.
- A multistate coalition of 23 attorneys general and cities filed comments in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to reaffirm that it is “appropriate and necessary” under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The coalition agrees with EPA’s proposal to revoke the 2020 rule, which it argues lacked a reasoned basis and created a serious threat to public health. The comments point out that the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS Rule), is a landmark rule that has substantially reduced emissions of especially dangerous pollutants that threaten vulnerable communities, including children and historically marginalized communities.
- Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced a judgment against Antonio Flowers resolving allegations that he accepted work that he had no intention of completing, in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“ADTPA”). Mr. Flowers will pay $130,000 for thirteen violations of the ADTPA. In addition, the judgment requires Mr. Flowers to pay $16,545 to the State that will be disbursed to the affected customers.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a stipulated judgment against ZeroDivide, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on bringing technology to low-income communities that ceased operations in 2016 due to its financial insolvency, as well as its directors and officers. The settlement resolves allegations that the nonprofit violated California’s charitable trust laws by misspending restricted donations meant to fund two of its charitable programs. ZeroDivide and its directors and officers will be required to pay $326,008 in damages and $138,525 in penalties, late filing fees, and attorney’s fees. The nonprofit’s directors must also dissolve ZeroDivide and distribute the damages amount and any remaining assets. Finally, two of ZeroDivide’s officers will be permanently enjoined from any future violations of California’s charitable trust laws and will be prohibited, for three years, from participating in certain functions that relate directly and indirectly to non-profits in California.
- Georgia Attorney General Carr sent a letter to the Biden Administration to immediately implement policies designed to increase, incentivize, and prioritize domestic energy production and ultimately provide relief for American families facing increased gas prices and inflation.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced a settlement with Frontier Communications to resolve allegations that the company did not provide consumers with internet service at the speeds it promised them and charged many for more expensive and higher-speed service than the company actually provided. As part of the agreement, Frontier has committed to $15 million to improve its infrastructure in the state over the next four years. In addition, $20,000 will be made available to consumers who submitted complaints to the Department or the Better Business Bureau.
- New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with the Pike Company, a construction company, resolving allegations that the company falsely certified that it complied with state diversity requirements when it subcontracted the supply of materials to several minority and women owned businesses. The Pike Company is the most recent construction company, in addition to 10 other contractors, that have allegedly violated the diversity requirements for the project to upgrade Rochester’s schools and is the most recent company to be held accountable for its violations. The Pike Company will pay $100,000 to the state, a portion of which will go to the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board (RJSCB), and $25,000 to the whistleblower.
- Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum announced a lawsuit against the Center for COVID Control and its testing partners, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, for allegedly using deceptive marketing testing services and violating Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The complaint alleges that defendants falsely told consumers they could provide accurate PCR COVID-19 results within 24-72 hours of testing. According to the complaint, defendants’ tests produced questionable results and it lacked proper capacity to store and process the thousands of test specimens they received each day.
- Utah Attorney General Schmitt announced a consent judgment against Happy Fun Events, LLC, a Utah-based company, that put on “Lantern Fest” events around the country, and its owners, Owen Spencer Hunn, and Martha Hunn. Allegedly, Happy Fun Events had scheduled an event in the State for November 2018 that it ultimately never put on. Though thousands of consumers had purchased tickets to the event (at a value of more than $230,000), Happy Fun Events allegedly never refunded their money. Happy Fun and its owners will be required to pay $300,000, which includes restitution, civil penalties, investigation costs, and payment to the Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund.
- Virginia Attorney General Miyares announced a settlement with Wheeler & Wheeler Inc. d/b/a West End Motors, a gas station, for alleged significant price increases on gasoline after a state of emergency was declared on May 11, 2021 in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. As part of the settlement, West End Motors agreed to stop any further violations of Virginia’s price gouging law and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. In addition, the business will pay approximately $6,568 in restitution for affected consumers, $1,250 in civil penalties, and $1,250 in attorneys’ fees.
- District of Columbia Attorney General Racine announced a settlement with Dynamic Contracting, Inc., a construction company that specializes in drywall installation, resolving allegations that it engaged in a scheme that enabled the company to avoid paying workers their full wages by misclassifying them on construction projects throughout the District. Dynamic Contracting will pay $1,075,070 to affected workers and the District and the company is required to implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the District’s minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, and worker misclassification laws.