Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter on behalf of 51 state and territory attorneys general to the Federal Communications Commission in response to a request for comments on an FCC proposal to help cut down on unwanted text messages. The letter expresses the attorneys general support for the proposal, which requires mobile wireless providers to block texts from invalid, unassigned and unused numbers. These efforts continue attorneys general work to reduce the number of robocalls that American consumers face. The attorneys general are requesting the FCC to push the wireless industry to develop call authentication technology for text messages.
- A multistate bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general announced a settlement with JUUL Labs for $435 million. This settlement resolves a two-year multistate investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices. Beyond the monetary terms, the settlement requires JUUL to comply with strict terms limiting marketing and sales practices. JUUL, as one of the largest players in the vaping market, was investigated for targeted youth advertising, ineffective age-verification techniques, and misleading nicotine disclosures. The settlement is still subject to final approval by the court.
- A multistate coalition of 16 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 defending workers’ right to strike and the National Labor Relations Act. When a strike was called, some Glacier drivers were in the process of delivering concrete and stopped delivery to participate in the strike, which made the concrete unusable. The Washington Supreme Court found that economic harm may be inflicted through a strike as a legitimate bargaining tactic and the amicus brief highlights National Labor Relations Board rulings that protect strikes exerting economic pressure in the form of product loss.
- Following a multistate coalition of 13 attorneys general filing a motion to intervene with FERC regarding Vanguard’s request for blanket authorization to buy significant quantities of utility companies’ shares, Vanguard announced it will withdraw from a major investment industry initiative committing to an ESG climate agenda. Vanguard reviewed the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative and stated it was best to “maintain its freedom not to restrict its investment options.” Utah Attorney General Reyes said, “This is a first step toward unwinding a global, cross-industry collusion that threatens the retirement incomes, jobs, and energy needs of Utahns and all Americans.”
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison and North Carolina Attorney General Stein, in conjunction with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced $95 million in student loan relief for those harmed by the Consumer Advocacy Center, also known as the Premier Student Loan Center. The restitution will go to over 87,000 consumers across the nation. The attorneys general sued the student loan companies for violating consumer protection laws with deceptive student loan debt relief services.
- A multistate coalition of 14 attorneys general filed a brief in opposition to a new rule implemented by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. This coalition argues that the new rule seeks to expand the CFPB’s authority to encompass practices that Congress purposefully did not grant the CFPB the power to regulate, such as acts of discrimination in the consumer finance industry.
- The National Association of Attorneys General announced the recipients of its annual awards during the organization’s annual Capital Forum on December 7. Nebraska Attorney General Peterson and District of Columbia Attorney General Racine were the recipients of this year’s Kelley-Wyman Award, the Association’s most prestigious honor that is given annually to attorneys general who have done the most to advance the objectives of the group.
- Alaska Attorney General Taylor filed a lawsuit against Simple Save Protection LLC, a Missouri company, that markets vehicle service contracts. The lawsuit alleges the company sent deceptive mailers to Alaskans designed to misled the recipients and indicate false urgency to consumers.
- California Attorney General Bonta, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, announced two settlements against three Southern California Medi-Cal providers for submitting fraudulent claims to Medi-Cal in violation of state and federal False Claims Acts. The providers include Dignity Health and Twin Cities Community Hospital and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, which are both operated by Tenet Healthcare Corporation. The settlements totaling $22.5 million resolve allegations that the three providers submitted false claims to Medi-Cal as part of an organized scheme to retain federal funds.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced a lawsuit against three individuals, two holding companies and multiple moving brokerage businesses doing business under a variety of names, including Gold Standard Moving and Storage. The businesses allegedly acted as a common enterprise to deceive Florida consumers, hiring third-parties to complete the work, providing subpar services, and refusing to provide refunds. The defendants used various names to allegedly dodge bad reviews.
- New York Attorney General James announced a $1.5 million settlement agreement with Major Energy, an energy service company, that allegedly deceived and misled thousands of New Yorkers across the state. Attorney General James originally sued Major Energy for alleged dishonest business practices leading to New York consumers paying substantially more for their gas and electric services in January of 2022. In addition to the $1.5 million Major Energy will pay in restitution, it must also take action to prevent deceptive practices in the future such as customer service training, recording telephonic customer service interactions, and monitoring sales calls.
- Virginia Attorney General Miyares announced restitution checks totaling almost $200,000 were mailed to consumers due to two judgments entered against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc. and its founder. Attorney General Miyares filed suit against the organization for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and Virginia Solicitation and Contributions law. Customers did not receive trained service dogs as advertised. Further, the organization misrepresented the payment structure and affiliations with local police and the military.
- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a consumer protection lawsuit against Federal Way Discount Guns, and its owners, for illegally selling high-capacity magazines despite Washington’s ban on such products. The lawsuit seeks an injunction that would block the store from selling high-capacity magazines. The lawsuit follows a statewide investigation of gun dealers conducted by the office of the attorney general and marks the first enforcement of the state’s sales ban on high-capacity magazines. Investigators visited Federal Way Discount Guns four times and during each purchase the sales clerk either destroyed the record of the sale or indicated awareness that the sale was illegal.
- Wisconsin Attorney General announced a settlement with Missouri-based US Automotive Protection Services, LLC (USAPS), which resolved Wisconsin’s claims against the company for violations of the State’s direct-mail marketing laws. USAPS mailers allegedly misled consumers into taking immediate action regarding vehicle warranties. The consent judgment includes a permanent injunction, civil forfeitures, and reimbursement of the state’s costs.