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 9 attorneys general urged the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) and EPA Administrator, Michael Regan, to consider establishing National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for greenhouse gasses to address the climate crisis. The letter follows in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (West Virginia v. EPA), which limits the EPA’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. If the EPA were to adopt NAAQS for greenhouse gases, all 50 states would be required to develop a comprehensive climate action plan specifically designed for their state.
- A coalition of 18 attorneys general announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over proposed rules that would allegedly violate the Second Amendment. The complaint against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Justice, and the Acting Director of ATF alleges that the ATF’s rulemaking takes steps toward the illegal creation of a national firearms registry. It would require firearms retailers to keep all sales records beyond their current 20-year retention requirement and eventually turn them over to the ATF instead of destroying them, which the attorneys general argue
swill threaten the privacy of gun owners.
- A coalition of 8 attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, issued a multistate letter opposing the executive actions President Biden announced in July at Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. The letters encourage President Biden to stop increasing inflation by implementing “expensive and unfunded measures to address his so-called ‘climate emergency.’” The letter calls out President Biden’s plan to spend $2.3 billion on the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, stating that it would be “irresponsible” at a time of historically high inflation.
- A coalition of 20 attorneys general announced the filing of an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a request to overturn more than four decades of precedent allowing higher education institutions to consider race or ethnicity as part of holistic admissions processes. The brief, filed in the cases Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students For Fair Admissions, Inc v. University of North Carolina, urges the court to reaffirm its prior rulings that found a holistic race-conscious admissions policy is constitutional and helps promote the educational benefits of diversity.
- A coalition of 50 attorneys general announced a new Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force that will investigate scammers operating outside of the United States.
- A coalition of 20 attorneys general issued a letter urging the Biden Administration to extend and expand temporary changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program to provide borrowers with more opportunities to get closer to loan forgiveness faster. More specifically, the coalition seeks to combat the pervasive misconduct of federal loan servicers, including forbearance steering, servicing errors, and failures to advise. The coalition believes that the Limited PSLF Waiver should automatically count all forbearance periods toward loan forgiveness. The letter goes on to request that the waiver should be made available to all federal loan borrowers, including all Parent PLUS borrowers and to those joint consolidation borrowers who are presently locked out of PSLF. Lastly, the coalition proposes harmonizing the recently announced Income-Driven Repayment and PSLF Account Adjustment programs to avoid borrower and servicer confusion, including by aligning deadlines and certain other terms.
- Three attorneys general, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Trident Mortgage Company, resolving allegations that the company did not pursue mortgage business in Majority-Minority Census Tracts equally to the way it did in majority White census tracts in violation of federal and state laws. The settlement requires Trident to place $18.4 million in a fund to provide individual subsidies of up to $10,000 per qualified applicant in support of home purchase, refinance, and home improvement loans for owner-occupied homes in majority-minority neighborhoods.
- Twelve attorneys general announced a settlement with Abbvie, which acquired Allergan in 2020, resolving allegations that the former opioid maker deceptively marketed opioids by downplaying the risk of addiction, overstating their benefits, and encouraging doctors to treat patients showing signs of addiction by prescribing them more opioids; and failing to maintain effective controls to prevent diversion of opioids. The settlement requires former opioid maker Allergan to pay up to $2.37 billion to participating state
sand local governments.
- Eleven attorneys general announced a settlement in principle with opioid manufacturer Teva. The States alleged that Teva (1) promoted and sold potent, rapid-onset fentanyl products for use by non-cancer patients; (2) deceptively marketed opioids by downplaying the risk of addiction and overstated their benefits, including encouraging the myth that signs of addiction are actually “pseudo addiction” treated by prescribing more opioids; and (3) failed to comply with “suspicious” order monitoring requirements along with its distributor. The agreement would provide up to $4.25 billion to participating state and local governments to address the opioid crisis.
- Four attorneys general and New York City announced a settlement with the United States Postal Service, resolving a lawsuit alleging that the Postal Service transported cigarettes in violation of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act. The Postal Service has agreed to implement comprehensive reforms.
- Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a lawsuit against Dodge Off Road, and its owner Daniel Danny Gaston, for allegedly violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) when the company accepted thousands of dollars from consumers to order aftermarket automotive parts yet never provided the parts, the installation, or a refund to the customer. Attorney General Rutledge is seeking restitution for the consumers affected by the violations, including civil penalties up to $10,000 for each violation of the ADTPA.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced a settlement with Rent-A-Center, one of the nation’s largest rent-to-own companies, resolving allegations that the company violated state consumer protections laws relating to unlawful leasing practices and deceptive marketing. According to the complaint, Rent-A Center overcharged consumers by inflating the cash price in its Preferred Lease contract by 15% over the true retail price and also misleading consumers about the most fundamental aspects of the Preferred Lease product, such as the right to return merchandise at any time with no penalty. Rent-A-Center must pay $13.5 million in restitution, $2 million in civil penalties, and injunctive relief.
- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced the filing of a motion in connection with a 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which required tobacco manufacturers to pay billions to participating states in exchange for states agreeing not to sue for health-related damages to citizens. The motion alleges that the companies have withheld a portion of their annual payments to Iowa in bad faith and “through a scheme of false claims and feigned ignorance.”
- Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron activated the price gouging hotline and online reporting portal in response to severe flooding in the Eastern region of the Commonwealth. Suspected price gouging can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by phone or online.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that the CEO and President, David G. Pietro, of DGP-Miles Insurance Agency pleaded guilty in connection with an embezzlement scheme that allegedly left client companies uninsured. The state alleged that Pietro, a licensed insurance producer and broker, collected insurance premiums from commercial clients, but repeatedly failed to remit those premium payments to his clients’ insurance carriers. Instead, Pietro allegedly used the money for his own business and personal expenses. Following the guilty pleas, the Court sentenced Pietro to two years of probation, ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay restitution to the victims in an amount to be determined. The Court also ordered DGP to surrender its business entity insurance license, effectively barring the company from continuing to operate as an insurance agency or producer.
- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that her office is launching a new complaint system to help protect vulnerable adults. The complaint system is accessed directly through the Department’s Health Care Fraud Division’s website and it allows nursing facility administrators to report suspicious activity to the Department.
- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a settlement with an ADT authorized distributor, Safe Haven Security Services, resolving allegations that the company engaged in deception and misrepresentation. The investigation commenced when a whistleblower reported that the Safe Haven training manual instructed salespeople to: (1) introduce themselves as being “from ADT;” (2) falsely tell consumers that the salespeople did not work on commission; and (3) deceptively imply that a realtor or another trusted person at the consumer’s recent real estate closing should have told the homeowner that the salesperson would be coming to their home. The settlement requires Safe Haven to pay $125,000 to the State of Minnesota general fund.