Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A bipartisan coalition of 35 state attorneys general, led by Minnesota Attorney General Ellison, filed an amicus brief to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting Oklahoma’s laws that regulate abusive behavior of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Oklahoma’s laws are being challenged by the PBM industry’s national lobbying association, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. The amicus brief seeks to assure that all states can regulate PBMs and says “states have an interest in preserving states’ authority to regulate companies doing business in their states, protecting their residents’ access to healthcare, and curbing abusive business practices. To advance these interests, nearly all states regulate pharmacy benefit managers.” The case before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is PCMA v. Mulready and it is the second case to reach a federal court of appeals since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in PCMA v. Rutledge in 2020.
- Multiple state attorneys general offices issued consumer alerts warning residents of possible student loan scams following the beta testing of the federal student debt relief application. Scammers may pose as the Department of Education or loan providers and issue fake debt relief applications requesting personal identifying information from state residents.
- Multiple state attorneys general offices issued consumer alerts regarding cybersecurity practices and protecting personal information and data as October is designated as Cybersecurity Awareness Month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- California Attorney General Bonta sent a letter to California Senators Feinstein and Padilla expressing concerns with the Securing and Enabling commerce Using Remote and Electronic (SECURE) Notarization Act. Attorney General Bonta expressed concern because the SECURE Notarization Act would preempt California state notarization laws. Attorney General Bonta argued the law should provide flexibility for states to monitor and prevent data breaches, fraud, and other abuses as California already has robust notarization enforcement to safeguard consumer privacy.
District of Columbia
- District of Columbia Attorney General Racine introduced emergency legislation to increase oversight and accountability of the D.C. Housing Authority alongside D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman. The Housing Authority Accountability Emergency Amendment Act of 2022 contains a variety of provisions, but notably clarifies that the D.C. Housing Authority is subject to D.C.’s consumer protection laws.
- Florida Attorney General Moody issued a reminder that Florida’s price gouging laws remain in effect following Hurricane Ian and the September 23rd declaration of a state of emergency. The Rapid Response Team has already recovered approximately $17,000 for more than 100 consumers who have contacted the Attorney General’s Office with suspicious prices.
- New York Attorney General James secured a $1.9 million agreement from e-commerce retailer, Zoetop Business Company, Ltd., owner and operator of popular e-commerce brands SHEIN and ROMWE, for failing to properly handle a data breach that compromised the personal information of tens of millions of consumers worldwide and lying about the scope of that data breach to consumers. The data breach included 39 million SHEIN accounts and 7 million ROMWE accounts, involving 800,000 New York residents. An investigation by Attorney General James’s office revealed that the company failed to properly safeguard consumers’ information prior to the data breach, failed to take adequate steps to protect the impacted accounts after the breach, and downplayed the extent of the cyberattack to consumers. Zoetop will pay $1.9 million in penalties to New York and will be required to strengthen its cybersecurity measures to protect consumers’ information.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced a settlement with the owners of Dominion Management d/b/a CashPoint, a now defunct auto title loan business. CashPoint made thousands of unlawful loans to Pennsylvania borrowers at annual interest rates exceeding 200%. The owners, Kevin Williams and Mark Williams, are required to refund more than $1.5 million in unlawful interest charges to consumers. Cashpoint was based in Delaware, but Attorney General Shapiro made clear that businesses operating in Pennsylvania, even though based in other states, cannot evade Pennsylvania’s usury and unfair business practices laws.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson filed a motion seeking the maximum penalty of $24.6 million against Meta based on 822 intentional violations of Washington’s campaign finance transparency laws. Prior to this motion, on Oct. 6th, King County Superior Court Judge North ruled on summary judgment briefing and found that Meta intentionally violated Washington’s campaign finance laws 822 times. The underlying campaign finance law requires campaign advertisers, including entities that host political ads such as Meta, to make information about Washington political advertisements that run on their platforms available for public inspection in a timely manner. The law requires advertisers to keep records of the cost of the advertisement, the sponsorship of the advertisement, and targeting and reach information about the advertisement. The Office of the Attorney General cited repeat violations of this law starting in 2018.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson and Senator Nguyen announced a plan to propose legislation in the 2023 legislative session to ensure a utility company is unable to shut off Washingtonians’ power or water if the temperature is 95 degrees or higher. The legislation would mirror similar protections in nineteen other states and is designed to ensure Washingtonians’ access to electric fans, working refrigerators, and running water is not disrupted during bouts of extreme heat.