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 19 state attorneys general, led by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James submitted a letter in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s supplemental proposal to strengthen regulation of emissions from new, modified, and reconstructed facilities in the oil and natural gas sector, and to, for the first time, regulate methane emissions from existing facilities, which comprise the majority of the emissions in this sector.
- A coalition of 7 state attorneys general filed a petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting that it issue an emergency standard for occupational heat exposure to protect workers in the coming summer months. The petitions calls on OSHA to put temporary, emergency standards in place to protect workers from exposure to extreme heat this summer while its work on a permanent national heat standard is still underway. The petition argues that extreme heat poses a grave danger to indoor and outdoor workers in a wide range of industries.
- A coalition of 22 state attorneys general, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in response to proposed changes to the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) program. The coalition commends the Department’s proposal to create what it considers the most affordable income-driven repayment plan ever made available to federal student loan borrowers and called on the Department to make additional changes that would provide critical assistance to struggling borrowers. In their letter, the coalition also calls upon the Department to adopt additional measures to ensure that IDR will benefit more borrowers, including: (1) making consolidated Parent PLUS loans eligible for the most affordable repayment plan—Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE); (2) creating a simpler path for borrowers in default to enroll in IDR; (3) counting all past forbearance and repayment periods and certain deferment periods toward IDR loan forgiveness; and (4) expanding the reach of the Department’s proposals to provide retroactive relief to borrowers who have suffered from the historic mismanagement of the federal loan repayment system.
- A coalition of 22 state attorneys general have signed onto an amicus brief filed in Alliance of Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a case pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, asking the court to reject a challenge brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of the medication abortion drug, mifepristone. The brief warns that withdrawing federal approval for mifepristone would drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of people across the country. A ban on mifepristone would affect all states, including those where abortion is legal. The coalition urges the court to reject this baseless attempt to undermine the FDA’s authority, which would upend decades of medical practice and trample the rule of law.
- Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin announced the addition of three new members to the Office of the Attorney General: Robbi Riggs Rosenbaum, Deputy General Counsel; Doralee Chandler, Deputy Attorney General for State Agencies; and Barrett Dudley, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
- California Attorney General Rob Bonta with Senator Bill Dodd and Senator Nancy Skinner, announced the introduction of Senate Bill 478 (SB 478), legislation seeking to prohibit in California the practice of hiding mandatory fees. The bill would require that the advertised price of a product or service include all required charges besides government taxes or fees.
- Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that the Office would join state legislators and consumer health advocates at the State Capitol in support of Senate Bill 23-093, legislation that would provide Coloradans with additional consumer protections from high interest rates for medical debt and confusing debt collection practices that lead to long-lasting debt and financial instability. Some of the new protections that the legislation seeks to codify include the following: (1) capping the medical debt interest rate at 3%; (2) pausing collections on medical debt as patients appeal their coverage; (3) requiring medical debt creditors or debt collectors to verify total debt owed upon request by a patient and to provide a copy of a payment plan; (4) requiring a health-care provider to provide, upon request, an estimate of the total cost of medical services to a person who intends to self-pay for the service; and (5) reinstating the attorney general’s authority to protect consumers from deceptive trade practices related to billing practices, surprise billing, and balance billing whether they seek in or out-of-network care.
- Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a nearly $10 million settlement with Ethicon, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson that manufactures pelvic mesh surgical devices, for allegedly engaging in deceptive marketing practices. More specifically, the Attorney General alleged that Ethicon violated the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting or failing to adequately disclose serious and life-altering risks of surgical mesh devices, such as chronic pain, scarring, painful sexual intercourse, and other complications. Under the terms of the agreement, Ethicon, has agreed to pay the state $9.9 million within thirty days of settlement.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced a settlement with Northeast Health Services, LLC and its former owners, Robert A. Conway and Wallace W. Varonko resolving allegations that Northeast caused fraudulent claims to be submitted to MassHealth by failing to ensure that certain clinicians received appropriate supervision from a licensed clinician. The parties have agreed to pay $940,000 to MassHealth.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced a settlement with Safe Home Security, its sister companies, and CEO David G. Roman, resolving allegations that they violated state consumer protection laws by deceptively trapping Massachusetts consumers in long-term auto renewal contracts and engaging in illegal debt collection practices. More specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants employed alleged deceptive tactics to prevent consumers from canceling their contracts, charged consumers for services when their systems were not working, and engaged in aggressive and illegal debt collection practices. According to the settlement, Safe Home Security will be required to pay $1.8 million, to waive and forgive $4.7 million of outstanding debt, and to make significant changes to its business practices, including actions to bring it into compliance with debt and crediting laws.
- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a settlement with Direct Account Management, (DAM) a student-loan debt-relief company, for allegedly illegally collecting fees and misrepresenting its services to consumers. More specifically, DAM allegedly promised consumers student-loan forgiveness and pocketed exorbitant fees to enroll consumers in federal repayment programs that consumers can enroll themselves in for free. The Attorney General also alleged that DAM charged up-front fees before performing the promised services in violation of Minnesota law regulating debt-settlement services. The settlement requires DAM to immediately pay consumer restitution in the amount of $20,063.12 and to cease operating in Minnesota unless and until it registers as a debt-settlement service provider.
- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the that addition of Jessica Whitney as Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. She will serve as one of four deputy attorneys general in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and will co-lead the Office’s consumer protection work with current Deputy Attorney General James Canaday starting on March 1.
- Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the filing of a lawsuit against Rite on Roofing and Siding, LLC, a home-improvement contractor, for allegedly stealing approximately $54,000 by accepting deposits from homeowners and failing to deliver goods or services.
- Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced a settlement with Centurion Filing Services, resolving allegations that it illegally induced businesses and non-profits to pay unnecessary fees for a Certificate of Good Standing that they did not need. According to the settlement, Centurion is required to pay up to $104,000 in restitution and a $25,000 civil penalty.