Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A coalition of 41 state attorneys general issued a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) applauding its ongoing work to combat robocalls and pledging to make a good faith effort to join an information-sharing agreement with the FCC. The letter commended the FCC’s leadership in encouraging states to join information-sharing agreements and said the opportunity honors our country’s tradition of federalism and demonstrates a commitment to addressing complex issues collaboratively. While not all attorneys general who signed the letter have entered into agreements, the letter demonstrates their commitment to do so. Those who previously signed an information-sharing agreement with the FCC reaffirmed, in the letter, their commitment to work collaboratively in the future.
- A coalition of 21 state attorneys general issued a letter opposing the Army Corps of Engineer’s proposed review of Nationwide Permit 12 (“NWP 12”), a permit that serves energy and infrastructure needs within states by allowing entities to perform time-sensitive activities on infrastructure projects, such as construction and maintenance of projects, without project-specific approval. The letter argues that altering NWP 12 will harm existing infrastructure projects and “threaten the delivery of reliable energy, existing pipeline safety, and the ability to comply with other federal laws and regulations.” The letter asserts that amidst rising energy prices, continuity of work on projects that provide energy and infrastructure are critical, and that the disruption of said work on projects would target everyday Americans.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta celebrated the Department of Education’s (“ED”) decision to grant federal student loan relief to 560,000 borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges, a defunct for-profit college that allegedly targeted low-income, vulnerable students through false advertisements that misrepresented job placement rates and the value of its educational programs. The California Attorney’s General Office filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges in 2013 that resulted in a $1.1 billion judgment. The Office also brought an action against the ED in 2017 for withholding promised loan relief to defrauded Corinthian students.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a consumer alert warning Californians that price gouging baby formula is illegal, in light of the Governor’s executive order establishing protections against price gouging for families struggling to access safe and affordable baby formula.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced the office’s first-ever hate crime lawsuit against Chad Hampton and Cheryl Hampton, two white Carroll County residents, who allegedly committed a hate crime by intimidation and disorderly conduct. The complaint alleges that Defendants spent months intimidating their neighbor, a black man, which eventually culminated into defendants using a noose to lynch a model of their neighbor from the tree in their front yard. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and equitable relief. In addition, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s office has charged Chad Hampton with criminal destruction of property and Cheryl Hampton with criminal harassment of a witness.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced an action against several staffing agencies and their mutual client over allegations that the six staffing agencies formed an unlawful agreement through which they refused to hire each other’s employees (“no-poach agreements”). Attorney General Raoul seeks an injunction to immediately stop the illegal no-poach agreement, as well as civil penalties and damages.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with Dr. Hooshang Poor, a Newton physician, resolving allegations that he failed to check the Massachusetts Prescription Awareness Tool before prescribing narcotics to patients, including those with a history of documented substance use. Dr. Hooshang Poor will be required to pay a total of $100,000, with half of the settlement going to the federal government and the remaining going to the state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Trust Fund.
- New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin filed a lawsuit and a separate action with the State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling against Capri Institute, a cosmetology school in the state, alleging that the school defrauded students, engaged in substandard business practices that financially harmed students, and failed to meet regulations and curriculum requirements for cosmetology schools.
- New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced a settlement with America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses settling allegations that the national retailer engaged in pregnancy-related workplace discrimination, including failing to provide a suitable place for a former employee to express breast milk. The Defendant must pay the former employee $35,000.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a crackdown on firearms sellers illegally selling and advertising gun parts that are used to create homemade, untraceable firearms (“ghost guns”). An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General found that 28 firearms sellers in the state advertised and/or offered to sell the illegal products. The Office issued cease-and-desist letters to all 28 dealers, ordering the businesses to immediately stop advertising and selling the prohibited parts and warned of the legal consequences, including imprisonment, if they do not comply.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with Verizon New York Inc. that will require the company to take actions that will prevent the spread of Legionnaires’ disease in the state. Legionnaires’ is a type of lung infection that can be deadly and can be spread by poorly monitored or operated building cooling towers. An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General found that since 2017, there were at least 225 alleged violations of city and state laws at 45 of Verizon’s cooling tower locations throughout the state. The company allegedly failed to conduct testing, address positive test results, and clean and inspect the cooling towers by required deadlines. Verizon is required to adopt official policies and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance with the state’s laws and is required to pay a $118,000 penalty.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against Bobby’s Towing and its owner and operator, for allegedly illegally towing cars, overcharging for towing fees, falsifying tow tickets, and making racist and derogatory comments to vehicle owners. Attorney General James is seeking injunctive relief, restitution, and disgorgement, among other remedies.
- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a settlement with Healthkeeperz, Inc., a behavioral health care provider, to resolve allegations that the company violated the False Claims Act by billing claims that were not reimbursable to Medicaid programs. Healthkeeperz is required to pay $2.1 million.
- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that that Washington Election Integrity Coalition United (WEICU) and its attorney, Virginia Shogren, have been ordered to pay sanctions for pursuing a frivolous legal challenge of the 2020 election, which included allegations that non-citizens were fraudulently registered to vote. WEICU is required to pay approximately $9,588 and Shogren is required to pay $18,795.
- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a consent judgment against Thomas A. Moore, an attorney based in California, and Moore Legal Center, his corporation, resolving allegations that Defendants violated West Virginia’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act by accepting payments in return for the promise that it could settle consumers’ debt for less than what was owed. According to the action, most consumers never had their debts settled by Mr. Moore. Defendants are required to pay $500,000 and cease and desist all debt settlement activities in West Virginia.