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 28 state attorneys general called on the Federal Communications Commission to clarify the federal rules requiring telemarketers to obtain consent between an individual consumer and one specific seller or business entity before making robocalls and texts. The comment letter was filed on June 6 in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking. In the notice, the FCC sought comment on a proposed amendment to its rule concerning prior express written consent under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, as well as proposals to strengthen protections against illegal text messages.
- The Federal Communications Commission issued a cease-and-desist order against Avid Telecom, the defendant in a lawsuit filed by a coalition of 49 state attorneys general on May 23, 2023 concerning billions of unlawful robocalls.
- A bipartisan coalition of 23 state attorneys general submitted a comment letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in response to its April 13 request for public comment on AI regulation. The coalition seeks transparency, accountability, and consumer protection priorities in policies related to AI. Specifically, they call for independent standards and concurrent enforcement authority over AI for state attorneys general.
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general announced a $2.35 million multistate settlement with lingerie retailer Adore Me, Inc. The settlement resolves allegations that Adore Me deceptively marketed its VIP Membership Program and then made it difficult to cancel and refused to refund credits. In addition to the payment provision, the settlement requires Adore Me to notify consumers of refund opportunities and to implement changes to its business practices.
- A coalition of 24 state attorneys general filed a comment letter to the Biden administration in support of increasing federal protections for reproductive health information. Specifically, the proposed HIPAA amendments would make it illegal to share protected health information being sought for certain civil, criminal, and administrative purposes in connection with reproductive care.
- A coalition of several attorneys general and cities submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in support of its proposed greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The EPA’s proposal would strengthen the standards for 2017 vehicles and establish standards for 2028-2032 vehicles.
- California Attorney General Bonta filed a lawsuit against Care Specialist HCS Inc. and its prior operators, accusing them of misclassifying in-home care employees as independent contractors since at least 2016. The complaint also alleges that the company misrepresented its employees’ status to its clients and that it included illegal non-compete clauses in its client contracts. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution, and penalties.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced an agreement with retailers and online marketplaces, committing to actions that would address organized retail crime. The agreement will help promote information-sharing and detection.
- California Attorney General Bonta sent a letter to the Biden administration in support of a new federal rule that would ensure the technology that healthcare providers use is safe and effective and does not reinforce racial bias. Specifically, Attorney General Bonta praised the rule’s transparency standards.
District of Columbia
- Washington D.C. Attorney General Schwalb announced that a large D.C. university will pay up to $550,000, resolving allegations that research department staff worked unpaid overtime. The settlement also requires staff training and ensures that the University will pay overtime to all non-exempt workers in the future.
- New Hampshire Attorney General Formella announced that his office completed its review of the proposed transaction between Exeter Health Resources, Inc. and Beth Israel Lahey Health, Inc. As originally proposed, the state Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau determined that the transaction constituted unfair competition, but a resolution was ultimately negotiated. Among other things, the final agreement includes prohibitions on anticompetitive contracting practices and terms, protections for physicians, and a Clinical Services Growth Plan.
- New Hampshire Attorney General Formella announced the filing of a civil complaint in Rockingham County Superior Court against Cory Spencer of Lee, NH, for thirteen violations of the Consumer Protection Act. The civil complaint alleges that Spencer, lead contractor for PHX Remodeling LLC, violated the Consumer Protection Act on thirteen different occasions when he, on PHX Remodeling’s behalf, entered into contracts for home improvement work, took consumer deposits under the contracts, performed little or no work, and did not refund the consumers in whole or in part.
- New Jersey Attorney General Platkin announced that the Bureau of Securities acted to stop crypto company Plutus Financial Inc. d/b/a Abra, Plutus Lending LLC, and Abra Boost LLC and its associated CEO from selling unregistered interest-bearing crypto accounts. The Summary Penalty and Cease and Desist Order includes civil penalties as well as injunctive relief requiring the entities to cease selling unregistered securities in the state and to stop misrepresenting material facts to investors.
- New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with Bayer CropScience LP and Monsanto Company, resolving allegations that they made false and misleading claims about the safety of Roundup consumer weed-killers, such as saying they were safe and non-toxic without enough substantiation. As a result of the settlement announced today, Bayer and Monsanto will pay $6.9 million to OAG, which will be used to prevent, abate, restore, mitigate, or control the impacts of toxic pesticides such as those containing glyphosate on pollinators or aquatic species.
- New York Attorney General James recovered over $1.7 million from COINEX, resolving her lawsuit alleging that the company failed to register as a securities and commodities broker-dealer and falsely held itself out as a crypto exchange. The settlement requires COINEX to refund investors over $1.1 million, pay more than $600,000 in penalties, and bans the company from making its platform available in New York, and from offering, selling, or purchasing securities there.
- Following Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s investigation into Eli Lily last year, oral arguments in the case regarding excessive insulin prices were held on June 6, 2023 before Court of Appeals Judge Michael J. Riordan, Judge Stephen L. Borrello, and Judge Mark T. Boonstra.
- Oklahoma Attorney General Drummond announced a declaration of emergency for eastern Oklahoma after storms, triggering the state’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act and prohibiting price gouging.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Henry announced the filing of a lawsuit against Vantage Travel Services, Inc., and its founder, for alleged violations of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law resulting in consumer losses of thousands of dollars. The lawsuit alleges that the Massachusetts-based travel tour operator and founder Henry Lewis engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices by promising “risk-free” travel to consumers.
- Attorney General Henry also publicized a lawsuit against North Hills Auto Mall and its president for deceiving consumers about the conditions of vehicles, which often broke down shortly after sales or did not pass inspection.
- Rhode Island Attorney General Neronha announced that his requested package of lead poisoning prevention and housing bills passed the state House and Senate. The bills are intended to ensure that landlords adhere to lead-safety laws and include such provisions as a statewide rental registry, allowing tenants to pay their rent into an escrow account if there are outstanding lead hazards, and treble damages for childhood lead poisoning.
- Utah Attorney General Reyes filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its recently released Ozone Interstate Transport Rule. The lawsuit argues that the rule will force early closures of power plants in the state, putting power sources at risk.
- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that all 125 eligible local governments have signed on to his resolution with four companies that produced or sold opioids, finalizing the resolution to bring $371.8 million to Washington state in order to combat the epidemic. The payments will start flowing this year.
- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey publicized that a Putnam County Circuit Court judge issued a temporary injunction against four members of the same family who are allegedly engaged in the selling and installation of mobile homes without proper licenses.