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 18 state attorneys general filed a motion to intervene in support of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Natural Resources Defense Council, et al., v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, et al., pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The action, brought by several states and a non-profit environmental advocacy group, challenges stricter fuel economy standards (adopted by NHTSA in May 2022) for model year 2024-2026 vehicles. The motion seeks to support the NHTSA in defending these more stringent standards.
- A bi-partisan coalition of 21 state attorneys general, submitted a letter commending the Department of Education’s proposed improvements to the 90/10 Rule, which prohibits for-profit schools from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. The letter also calls on the Department to adopt stronger regulations to protect borrowers from problems that can arise from improper conversions by for-profit schools to nonprofit status.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a settlement with Sephora, Inc., the health and beauty retailer, resolving allegations that the company violated the California Consumer Privacy Act. According to the complaint, Sephora allegedly failed to do the following: (1) disclose to consumers that it was selling their personal information; (2) process user requests to opt out of sale via user-enabled global privacy controls in violation of the CCPA; and (3) to cure these violations within the 30-day period currently allowed by the CCPA. As part of the settlement, Sephora must pay $1.2 million in penalties and comply with important injunctive terms that require the retailer to come into compliance with the CCPA’s requirements.
- Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced a settlement with Master Spray Foam Insulation Inc., and its owner and president, Luciano Teixeira, resolving allegations that defendants failed to do the following: (1) pay proper overtime rates to 30 employees; (2) keep true and accurate payroll records; and (3) furnish a suitable paystub from the period of Jan. 1, 2019 to Nov. 1, 2021. Pursuant to the settlement, defendants have agreed to pay the affected employees the wages they are owed for underpaid overtime and for failing to provide earned sick time pay to their employees. The business has updated its payroll practices to come into compliance with state laws.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul convened a meeting with representatives of law enforcement agencies and the retail industry to discuss collaborations to strengthen investigations and prosecutions of individuals and enterprises involved in organized retail crime.
- Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced a lawsuit against Monsanto Company [BK3] [PT4] and its affiliates, Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC, for allegedly causing negative environmental and human health effects because of the production of polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs. Attorney General Raoul alleges that the companies purposely deceived the public and regulators on the dangers those chemicals posed. The suit seeks monetary relief, including restitution and civil penalties, as well as injunctive relief.
- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a settlement that shutdown Welch Charities, a Minnesota nonprofit, and has permanently banned its president, Arturo Eguia, from operating a charity, having access to charitable assets, or soliciting charitable contributions in the state after allegedly mismanaging tens of thousands of dollars in charitable assets. According to the settlement, the charity’s board of directors never met, discussed, vetoed, or kept minutes on any operational decisions, which allowed Eguia to run the organization without any supervision. Eguia is also subject to a penalty of $50,000 if he violates the terms of his settlement.
- Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Commissioner of Environmental Protection, Shawn M. LaTourette, announced seven new environmental enforcement lawsuits across the state. Six of the lawsuits center on a broad array of chemical pollutants that have allegedly tainted separate, unrelated sites in cities considered overburdened under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law because they have significant low-income, minority, and/or limited English proficiency populations. The seventh lawsuit centers on a farm and processing operation that employs migrant workers but has allegedly not complied with the Department’s orders to stop using four substandard, unsafe drinking water wells on the property and is also alleged to be using two unpermitted septic systems. The complaints seek a variety of remedies, including clean-up of the tainted properties, payment of civil penalties to the State, compliance with administrative orders previously issued by the Department, and reimbursement to the State for the cost of site investigation, remediation, monitoring and other related work.
- Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights issued 30 Notices of Violation to housing providers in the state for allegedly violating New Jersey’s Fair Chance in Housing Act by asking unlawful questions or including unlawful statements of eligibility or housing policy related to a person’s criminal records. The notices inform the housing providers that the State believes their actions are in violation of the law, and that they face civil penalties of up to $1,000 for a first offense, up to $5,000 for a second offense, and up to $10,000 for any subsequent offense.
- Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued a special ruling that allows third-party delivery services like DoorDash, Instacart, and Amazon Flex to deliver alcoholic beverages—including cocktails “to go”—from restaurants, bars, and liquor stores to customers’ doorsteps.
- New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Kathy Hochul announced a settlement with James R. Lee and his companies, Lee Oil Company, Inc., Whitesville Producing Corporation, Whitesville Production Corp., Allegro Oil & Gas Inc., and Allegro Investments Corporation a number of his companies. The settlement resolves allegations that the defendants violated the state’s oil and gas well regulations and endangered communities in Steuben and Cattaraugus counties by not properly plugging wells they operated, which posed a significant danger to drinking water supplies and of releasing methane in the areas surrounding the wells. The court ruled that defendants failed to: (1) submit over 10 years of required annual reports; (2) file required DEC Organizational Reports for the well operators; and (3) provide adequate financial security intended to ensure the wells’ plugging. Defendants face a $2 million judgment.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office filed a lawsuit against Progressive Leasing, a rent-to-own company, for violating the State’s Rental Purchase Agreement Act by failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose certain terms and conditions of the rent-to-own transaction on a hang tag that is physically attached to the product. According to the complaint, an investigation revealed widespread non-compliance with the Act’s disclosure requirements by Progressive Leasing and its merchant partners. This is the second lawsuit the Attorney General has filed to enforce the Act.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against used car dealerships, A Impuls Auto Inc. and Great Auto Deals Inc., and its owners and operators for allegedly violating Pennsylvania consumer protection laws. According to the complaint, the owners and operators sold cars to consumers that were not fit to be on the road, intentionally misled consumers about the safety and status of the vehicles, operated an unlicensed dealership, and made unauthorized sales. The lawsuit seeks a permanent ban against the owners and operators from doing business in the state as well as civil penalties and restitution.