Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Consumer Protection

  • Arizona Attorney General Brnovich announced a program in partnership with the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance and public utilities to combat utility gift card scams through the placement warning signs at gift card displays in state grocery and convenience stores. The signs are geared towards ending scams whereby callers pressure consumers to pay utility bills using pre-paid gift cards.

Housing

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office obtained $500,000 in restitution from Harbour Portfolio Capital, LLC and its founder for allegedly deceiving consumers into entering into unfair and illegal purchases of uninhabitable homes at illegally high interest rates. The agreement also requires the business not to conduct any future residential real estate transactions in the state.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

California Air Resources Board

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced a $2.38 million settlement against trucking operator Complete Logistics Company, LLC, resolving allegations that it falsely claimed it was complying with state emissions regulations in order to obtain $2.2 million in state grants for the purchase of new trucks.

Consumer Protection

  • Vermont Attorney General Donovan announced that his office reached settlements with three online electronic cigarette sellers, resolving claims that they violated Vermont law by selling electronic cigarettes to individual consumers. The companies must pay $165,000 in civil penalties to the state under the settlements.
  • A bipartisan coalition of 25 attorneys general sent a letter to the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (“NC-SARA”), asking it to create more forceful consumer protection policies for students enrolled in distance education courses that its participating institutions are offering. For example, the coalition is asking NC-SARA to create standards against unfair and deceptive admissions and financial aid practices.

Labor and Employment – Criminal Wage Theft

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. pleaded to and was sentenced for violations of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the federal Davis-Bacon Act through wage theft. The plea includes a requirement that the company pay over $20 million in stolen wages to Pennsylvania employees.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Environmental

  • A multistate coalition of attorneys general sent a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) asking the EPA to repeal or revise a rule limiting state authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The coalition is arguing that the rule is illegal and that it harms water resources.

Fraud Schemes

  • New York Attorney General James announced the sentencing of an individual for laundering over $1 billion in stolen funds from financial institutions, financing companies, employees, and employers from 2016 to 2019.
  • Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced a lawsuit to recover money for Nitrogen Solutions LLC after a scam artist hacked into email correspondence between it and Copper Tip Entergy Services USA LLC and sent fraudulent payment instructions, causing the money to go into a Chase account the scam artist had set up.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Consumer Protection

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong sent a letter to Philips Respironics about its June 2021 recall of BiPAP, CPAP, and ventilator devices. Consumers and medical providers have complained that the recall notification does not explain how the company will repair or replace the devices and that the toll-free phone number provided is not leading consumers to individuals knowledgeable about the recall. The letter, which seeks a reply within 10 days, asks the company to explain when the devices will be replaced and whether they will be replaced for free, as well as whether medical equipment suppliers have been told to stop distributing the devices.

Labor and Employment

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced that M&T Bank made a written response to Attorney General Tong’s August 2, 2021 letter about how it will mitigate job losses when it merges with People’s United Bank, after the bank announced that it anticipated layoffs. In the letter, M&T Bank has committed to jobs in Connecticut and its regional headquarters in Bridgeport.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Intellectual Property – Trademark Scams

  • Maine Attorney General Frey issued a warning to businesses in Maine about a scam communicating that businesses’ trademarks are about to expire and asking for a renewal fee or offering to record the trademark in a private registry which actually does not exist in the United States. The warning asks businesses to verify the legitimacy of any notices they receive.

Labor and Employment

  • Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that as part of a settlement, restaurant group Bartmann Companies has started paying and will continue to pay over $230,000 to employees to compensate them for failing to pay wages on time and failing to pay overtime wages. The restaurant group has also agreed to a $100,000 civil penalty if it materially violates its obligations to properly pay wages in the next eight years.

Price Gouging

  • North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced a lawsuit against Jack’s In & Out Food Mart for its alleged price gouging of gasoline during the May 2021 state of emergency after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The lawsuit accuses the company of increasing gasoline prices by 60% without corresponding cost increases, as well as advertising regular gas when the company was only selling premium. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction, civil penalties, restitution, disgorgement, and attorneys’ fees, among other remedies.
  • California Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert stating that California’s price gouging law is in effect in Siskiyou, Nevada, and Placer counties during state of emergencies in effect for wildfires.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Price Gouging

  • California Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert for Plumas, Butte, Lassen, and Alpine counties, which are under states of emergency due to wildfires, reminding consumers that California’s price gouging law is in effect during a state of emergency.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Illinois Attorney General Raoul led a coalition of 18 Attorneys General in asking Congress to pass legislation, The All Stations Accessibility Program Act of 2021, that is intended to give people with disabilities equal access to public transportation. Specifically, the Act would create a federal grant program to support local public transportation authorities so they may upgrade existing stations in order to meet or exceed Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.

Consumer Protection

  • Georgia Attorney General Carr released an overview of Georgia’s top consumer complaints from 2020, based on a Consumer Federation of America report. The top issue in 2020 was debt-related complaints, followed by used car sales and then price gouging and/or state of emergency related concerns. According to the press release, these issues were also among the top 10 nationwide complaints in 2020.

Insurance Fraud

  • New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced that the owner of real estate improvement company Mulberry Management, L.L.C. was charged with insurance fraud for allegedly making false and misleading statements to the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group to receive lower workers’ compensation premiums.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Breach of Agreement

  • Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced that her office reached a consent judgment with car rental company Executive Car Rental, which allegedly breached a March 2019 assurance agreement with her office related to the return of damage deposits. The consent judgment requires the company to pay $17,500, as well as meet its obligations under the assurance agreement. Certain consumers are also protected from paying for damages or other issues.

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced that consumer applications for revolving credit cards, auto loans, and new mortgages have returned to close to pre-pandemic levels as of May 2021. However, there are differences for borrowers with subprime and deep subprime credit scores, whose applications are still down, which the CFPB is monitoring.

False Claims

  • Florida Attorney General Moody announced an agreement with Florida Neurological Center, LLC and its owner for allegedly submitting false claims for unreasonable and medically unnecessary prescription drugs to Florida’s Medicaid program. The agreement requires the company and owner to pay $800,000.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) announced the launch of the Rental Assistance Finder, which is intended to help renters and landlords who have been impacted by the pandemic to easily apply for federal payment assistance for expenses such as rent and utilities.

False Advertising

  • Florida Attorney General Moody filed a lawsuit against landscaping company Good Neighbor Services and its owners and managers for allegedly failing to provide landscaping and pest control services and misrepresenting the timing and quality of its services through deceptive advertising and statements. The press release notes that the majority of complaints received were from seniors and military service members. The lawsuit seeks to permanently ban the owners and managers from participating in landscaping or pest control services, as well as restitution and up to more than $1.8 million in civil penalties.

Vulnerable Adult Protection

  • South Carolina Attorney General Wilson announced the passage of a new law protecting vulnerable adults, including the elderly, from financial exploitation. Specifically, the law allows financial institutions to delay transactions if there is a reasonable belief that financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult is occurring. During the delay period the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Social Services may investigate the transaction.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

COVID-19 Fee Cap Statute

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey sued Grubhub for allegedly charging illegal fees to Massachusetts restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic by exceeding a price cap of 15% of an item’s menu price. The lawsuit seeks investigation and prosecution costs, as well as refunds for restaurants and civil penalties of $5,000 per violation.

Department of Education

  • A coalition of Attorneys General filed an amicus brief in the Second Circuit supporting the New York Legal Assistance Group’s (“NYLAG”) lawsuit challenging a Department of Education rule that repealed and replaced “borrower defense” regulations for federal student loan borrowers who are victimized by a school. The coalition is supporting NYLAG’s argument that the regulations should not have been repealed.

Environmental

  • A coalition of Attorneys General led by New York Attorney General James announced an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) that will, if approved, commit the EPA to taking action on “good neighbor” plans from several states to limit the spread of downwind emissions that cause smog.

 Friday, July 30, 2021

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that two of its final rules issued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act will take effect on November 30, 2021 as planned, rather than being extended until the end of January 2022. The two rules are related to debt-collection communications and disclosures.

Child Tax Credit

  • A coalition of 23 Attorneys General is asking Congress to permanently extend the expanded Child Tax Credit in its reconciliation package in order to address child poverty. The coalition is also asking Congress to provide enough funding to raise public awareness about the credit and to make the sign-up process more streamlined.

Consumer Protection

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced a $400,000 settlement with electric supplier Town Square Energy resolving allegations that the company engaged in deceptive marketing, such as by misrepresenting the standard service rate, enrolling consumers without consent, and soliciting services in the presence of “no trespassing” signs. The settlement also requires the company to stop marketing in person for 15 months.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Bankruptcy

  • Nine attorneys general filed a formal objection to Purdue Pharma’s proposed bankruptcy plan, which shields the Sackler family from legal liability. The attorneys general are arguing that bankruptcy courts may not prevent attorneys general from enforcing state laws.

False Claims

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced a settlement with the Prime Healthcare Services system and two of its doctors, resolving allegations that they violated the state and federal False Claims Acts through fraudulent claims and kickbacks. The settlement requires the company and doctors to pay $37.5 million and to implement a compliance program.

Privacy

  • California Attorney General Bonta released a one-year report on the California Consumer Privacy Act, finding that 75% of businesses came into compliance within the 30-day cure period after receiving notice of a violation and the other 25% are either within the 30-day period or under investigation. The press release also announces an online tool giving consumers the ability to directly notify businesses of potential violations, which may trigger the 30-day cure period.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Gun Safety Reform

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine issued a statement about violent crime in the District, including a call for a comprehensive plan for reform in areas such as gun safety, violence interruption programs, and criminal justice.

Labor & Employment

  • Louisiana Attorney General Landry announced the arrests of several individuals accused of stealing more than $1 million in unemployment benefits through the filing of fraudulent claims.

Law Enforcement

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that a doctor was charged with unlawful prescribing of medications outside his legal and ethical practice. For example, the doctor allegedly failed to maintain proper records and failed to perform required check-ups on patients. In connection with the charges, Lancaster County District Attorney Adams stated, “This case is an important reminder that law enforcement leaves no stone unturned when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic – anyone who is responsible for the crimes contributable to this epidemic will be held accountable.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

 Energy

  • Kansas Attorney General Schmidt announced that he petitioned the Kansas Corporation Commission to intervene in upcoming rate hearings for natural gas companies Black Hills Energy, Kansas Gas Service Company, and Atmos Energy Corporation, which are asking to recover costs from consumers for a winter storm.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

 Consumer Protection

  • Florida Attorney General Moody applauded the one year anniversary of her consumer protection program Scams at a Glance, which is an outreach initiative including both a webpage and brochures for those consumers who do not spend as much time online. The webpage and brochures contain information about scams that are common and emerging. The webpage also includes downloadable material in English and Spanish.

Criminal Liability

  • Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that antique business International Antique & Art Importers Inc., also known as Ming’s Asian Gallery & Antiques, and one of its owners pleaded guilty to a felony count of violating the Washington Animal Trafficking Act, which prohibits selling products made from certain endangered animals, such as elephant ivory. The penalty includes a fine, as well as criminal liability for the owner.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Consumer Protection

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced a settlement with car sharing company Getaround, Inc., requiring it to pay $950,000 to the District and restitution to car owners who experienced damage to their cars or theft while they were listed on the platform, as well as to revise its practices. The settlement resolves allegations that the company misrepresented the benefits, safety, and security of its services, operated without a license, and failed to pay sales tax. Among other things, it requires the company to represent limitations of the safety and security of its platform clearly, disclose terms and conditions of vehicle insurance, not misrepresent the ownership of vehicles, and state accurate hours of customer service.

Labor and Employment

  • New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with B&B Hospitality, as well as celebrity chef Mario Batali, Joseph Bastianich, and three of their restaurants, resolving allegations of a hostile work environment. Under the settlement, the company and individuals must pay $600,000 to former employees, revise training materials in all restaurants owned by B&B, and submit biannual reports certifying compliance.

Environmental

  • California Attorney General Bonta filed a lawsuit against the City of Fontana over its approval of the Slover and Oleander Warehouse Project, which would be located in one of the state’s most polluted areas and border a public high school. Attorney General Bonta is arguing that the city only conducted a limited environmental review of the project and failed to analyze, disclose, and mitigate its environmental impacts in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, July 12, 2021

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a consent order against fintech company GreenSky, LLC for allowing contractors and other sellers to take out unauthorized loans on consumers’ behalf. The CFPB’s consent order requires the company to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty, provide up to $9 million in loan cancellations and cash refunds, and use verification practices to prevent future abuses.

Consumer Protection

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced new legislation that will strengthen protections for consumers in DC against unfair and abusive debt collection activities. Specifically, the legislation is intended to modernize DC debt collection law by covering medical and credit card debt, increasing penalties, adding the ability to seek punitive damages, clarifying that it applies to debt buyers, and prohibiting harassment, among other things.

Energy

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong applauded a draft decision by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority rejecting a $20 million rate increase request by Connecticut Water. Attorney General Tong had previously opposed the rate increase, maintain that it was unnecessary and excessive costs could be eliminated so that a rate increase was not needed.

Environmental

  • A coalition of 16 attorneys general is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to reinstate the waiver for California under the Clean Air Act, which previously allowed California to set its own vehicle carbon emissions standards.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Financial Misconduct

  • New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, Inc., which is a subsidiary of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, under which the company agreed to pay $97 million in restitution to consumers misled into moving their retirement investments into the company’s higher-fee accounts. The company has also agreed to make internal reforms such as holding rollover recommendations to a higher fiduciary standard and disclosing when advisors are not acting as fiduciaries.

Medicaid Fraud

  • Kentucky Attorney General Cameron announced that Kentucky has joined a multistate settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for allegedly overcharging Medicaid programs for drugs by underpaying drug rebates. Bristol-Myers has agreed to pay $75 million.
  • New Hampshire Attorney General Formella announced that the owner of home care company Alternative Care @ Home, LLC has agreed to pay $1,000,000 in restitution for submitting Medicaid reimbursement claims for services not provided between 2015 and 2018.

Transportation

  • A coalition of 18 attorneys general co-led by New York Attorney General James and Connecticut Attorney General Tong sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) and the U.S. Department of Transportation asking the agencies to enact more stringent measures to protect children in car seats. Specifically, the letter asks NHTSA to create side-impact testing standards for car seats and to require that all car seat labels include guidance that every child should stay in the same seat until it exceeds the child’s weight or height maximum.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Consumer Protection

  • New York Attorney General James announced an arrangement with Greentree Country Club that the club will refund $427,000 to 76 consumers who were denied refunds for events that were cancelled because of COVID-19.

Criminal Fraud Scheme

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office filed a lawsuit against company PA Certificate Service for scamming businesses in the state by sending letters claiming that they needed to apply for a certificate of good standing, which are optional, and then charging them double the cost for a certificate.

Deceptive Claims

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that fuel delivery company Diesel Direct, LLC as well as its chief executive officer and senior vice president must pay $850,000 to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold nonconforming petroleum diesel fuel to state agencies while charging for a more environmentally friendly fuel. The settlement also resolves accusations that the company failed to comply with diversity spending requirements and requires the company not to participate in state contracts for five years.

Energy

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong applauded a decision by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority imposing a $29 million civil penalty against Eversource for failing to meet its obligations to consumers after Tropical Storm Isaias.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

 California Dept. of Justice

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced the creation of the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement (“CARE”) within California’s Department of Justice. CARE’s goal is to cultivate relationships with historically marginalized and underrepresented communities and to work to meet their needs.

Environmental

  • California Attorney General Bonta and the California Air Resources Board led a multistate coalition in petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to use its American Innovation and Manufacturing Act authority to create stricter regulations for hydrofluorocarbon emissions.

Financial Misconduct

  • Arizona Attorney General Brnovich announcedthat his office filed a lawsuit against Deed and Note Traders, LLC, 881 Home, LLC, and their manager for allegedly deceiving consumers in real estate transactions by selling homes under a “wrap mortgage” and failing to make payments on the underlying mortgages despite receiving down payments. The companies also allegedly failed to provide title reports and minimum 15-year loan repayment terms. The lawsuit seeks restitution, civil penalties, fees and costs, and the amount owed on a 2006 Consent Decree with the State.

Price Gouging

  • As part of the 2021 hurricane season, Florida Attorney General Moody highlighted Florida’s No Scam Price Gouging Reporting App and that it is available in both English and Spanish. The press release states that the app has been downloaded by over 21,000 consumers and has assisted with over 2,200 price gouging reports.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Education

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey applauded that the U.S. Department of Education withdrew its appeal of a federal court order cancelling former Corinthian Colleges, Inc. students’ loans. The Department has agreed to discharge the federal loans of all Massachusetts students covered by Attorney General Healey’s group borrower defense application, setting a validity precedent for state attorneys’ general group discharge applications.

Price Gouging

  • Kentucky Attorney General Cameron announced a settlement with convenience store and fuel retailer Brothers Market, resolving price gouging allegations for fuel after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The Attorney General’s Office has waived civil penalties if the store complies with the settlement, and the store has agreed to profit disgorgement and injunctive relief.
  • California Attorney General Bonta announced that the State’s price gouging law is in effect in Siskiyou, Lassen, and Plumas counties due to wildfires.

Consumer Protection—Debt Collection

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced guidance stating that federal child tax credits are exempt from seizure or garnishment by debt collectors, and that any attempted seizure or garnishment violates Massachusetts’ Debt Collection Regulations.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, June 28, 2021

CFPB 

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued amendments to the federal mortgage servicing regulations to reinforce economic recovery as foreclosure moratoria expire. The rules, which become effective on August 31, 2021, will create temporary safeguards to ensure that borrowers may explore options prior to foreclosure, as well as create flexibility for mortgage servicers.

 Consumer Protection 

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced a proposed settlement against Voyageurs International, Ltd., resolving allegations that the travel company only offered partial refunds for a cancelled high school European trip and kept the remaining fees. The settlement requires the company to provide full refunds, totaling about $247,000 in restitution, as well as to comply with the Seller of Travel Act and cease charging consumers cancellation fees when it is unable or unwilling to provide the purchased services.

 Deceptive Debt Relief 

  • A complaint filed on June 27, 2021 in the Southern District of Florida is accusing law firm GM Law and associated entities of conducting a student loan debt elimination telemarketing scam to debtors. The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief and damages.

Energy 

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong led a coalition of attorneys general in calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject incentive payments to transmission developers to join regional organizations, which they generally have to join regardless. The coalition is arguing that the incentives, which will add to ratepayer costs, are unnecessary and unfair.

Federal Trade Commission

  • A bipartisan coalition of 28 attorneys general co-led by New York Attorney General James and Colorado Attorney General Weiser sent a letter to Congress expressing support for the Consumer Protection and Recovery Act (H.R. 2668), which would give the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) the power to obtain restitution. The coalition is arguing that if the FTC is not able to obtain restitution attorneys general must divert resources to perform duties that the FTC previously performed.

Financial Misconduct 

  • North Carolina Attorney General Stein filed a lawsuit against companies Home Relief Services, Amstar Services, and Consumer Proponents & Associates Corporation and their principals for allegedly engaging in illegal debt adjusting, collecting unlawful advance fees, and falsely promising to reduce mortgage loan payments, obtain loan forbearance, and prevent foreclosures. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, cancellation of the associated contracts, civil penalties, restitution, and fees.

Medicaid Fraud

  • North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced that the former CEO of Extended Reach Day Treatment for Children and Adolescents, a Medicaid provider that provided day treatment and other behavioral health services, was sentenced for health care fraud. The settlement includes 24 months in prison and a $337,615 restitution payment. The defendant added extra treatment services that were not provided on claim submissions along with services actually given, as well as billed for psychotherapy services not provided by a doctor.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 

CFPB 

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued a report outlining legal violations and prior supervisory findings leading to public enforcement in 2020. For example, the CFPB found that consumer reporting companies accepted consumer data from furnishers that were unreliable, violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The CFPB also found redlining, several violations of the Regulation X mortgage servicing rules, and misleading actions by student loan servicers.

Consumer Protection 

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced that before-and-after-school daycare program KCE Champions LLC is required to change its business practices and pay $250,000. An investigation found that the company unfairly deceived parents by failing to adequately disclose late fees, automatically withdrew payments without clear authorization, excessively called parents to collect fees, and dis-enrolled children if payments were not made for two weeks.

 Medicaid Fraud 

  • Vermont Attorney General Donovan announced a settlement with Health Care & Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont, resolving allegations that it violated the Vermont False Claims Act by submitting Medicaid claims for services provided by an employee on the exclusion list. The settlement requires the company to pay about $170,000 and adopt remedial measures.

State AG Office News 

  • New Jersey Attorney General Grewal will be leading the enforcement division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission beginning on July 26, 2021. He will name an interim attorney general this week to finish his term, which ends in January.

Unfair Debt Practices 

  • Georgia Attorney General Carr and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that they entered into a consent order with Burlington Financial Group, LLC and its owners and executives resolving allegations that they violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Fair Business Practices Act, and the Debt Adjustment Act with their advertising and sale of debt relief and credit repair services. The company allegedly misled financially vulnerable consumers, many elderly, into paying advance fees for services it falsely promised would eliminate credit card debt and improve credit scores, which ultimately left these consumers in a worse financial position. The consent judgment requires the company to stop doing business in Georgia and pay $150,000 in civil penalties.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Consumer Protection

A coalition of 21 attorneys general and two cities, led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro, is asking the Postal Regulatory Commission to oppose the Postmaster General’s attempt to increase delivery times for First-Class Mail and other essential services. The coalition is arguing that the proposed changes would harm consumers, particularly those in rural areas and senior citizens, as well as the government.

Michigan Attorney General Nessel issued a consumer alert over cryptocurrency, warning consumers that they should research before they invest, understand the terms and conditions of digital payment apps, and be wary of celebrity endorsements.

Criminal Fraud Schemes

Arizona Attorney General Brnovich announced that the former CEO of Hacienda, Inc. pleaded guilty to two counts of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, related to an August 2020 indictment for an alleged white collar fraud scheme that took millions of dollars from taxpayers. Under the plea agreement the former CEO has agreed to pay $500,000 in restitution to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and $274,500 to the Attorney General’s anti-racketeering revolving fund.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Criminal Medicaid Fraud

North Carolina Attorney General Stein and Acting United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina Hairston announced a $330,000 settlement resolving allegations that Palladium Primary Care, P.A. and Premiere Health Care Plus, P.A., and an associated doctor, submitted false Medicaid and Medicare claims for nerve conduction and arterial studies that were not medically necessary or reasonable.

Environmental

Illinois Attorney General Raoul and Vermilion County State’s Attorney Lacy filed a lawsuit against Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC over the alleged illegal disposal of coal ash at the location of the former Vermilion Power Station, leading to groundwater pollution. Raoul and Lacy have also filed a motion for an interim order requiring Dynegy to create a safety emergency response plan for the location.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Charities / Nonprofits

California Attorney General Bonta announced his sponsorship of AB 488, which would allow the California Department of Justice to supervise charitable fundraising on internet platforms in order to protect consumers and charities from misleading or deceptive solicitations. Currently, California law does not specifically cover charitable solicitations over online platforms.

Civil Rights

A coalition of 25 attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging it to pass H.R. 5, titled the Equality Act, which is intended to protect Americans from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The Act would address gaps in federal civil rights law to clarify that protections include these types of discrimination. It would also clarify that civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation, in those areas of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bar discrimination in federal funding and public accommodations.

Consumer Protection

Three proposed class action lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania state court on June 23, 2021, accusing online lender Best Egg and collection companies Alliant Capital Management LLC and Capital Link Management LLC of violating Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (the lender) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the collection companies) by attempting to collect on illegal debts that charged more than 6% aggregate interest. The lawsuits seek declaratory relief and damages.

Covid-19 Scam

Missouri Attorney General Schmitt announced that his office entered a consent judgment against Jim Bakker and Morningside Church Productions, which it sued in March of 2020 for advertising “silver solution” as a potential COVID-19 cure. The settlement includes about $156,000 in restitution as well as injunctive relief.

Federal Appeals

A coalition of 23 attorneys general led by Arizona Attorney General Brnovich submitted a merits brief to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to reverse a Sixth Circuit decision that allows individuals to strategically surrender in lawsuits challenging state laws with which they do not agree. The coalition argues that the Sixth Circuit decision will allow individuals to go against the democratic process and that attorneys general have an interest in intervening to protect their states’ laws.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Unlawful Sweepstakes Schemes

Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge announced a settlement against an individual who facilitated an international sweepstakes scheme, under which victims were told they won a prize but must first pay taxes or fees, which were actually paid to the individual. Under the settlement, the individual must pay restitution and civil penalties totaling $100,000 as well as adhere to injunctive relief provisions.

Misleading Advertising

Ohio Attorney General Yost announced a settlement with Frontier Communications resolving allegations that Frontier charged consumers for internet speeds that could not be reached. The settlement requires Frontier to fund upgrades to its internet system, cease deceptive advertising, and allow consumers to either continue with their current plan, move to a lower cost plan, or cancel service for no fee.

Federal Trade Commission

The House Judiciary Committee allowed antitrust legislation to proceed that would limit big tech companies’ market power, for example by restricting conduct that advantages the companies’ own services and products and by giving the Federal Trade Commission broad standard-setting powers. The bills would still need to pass the full House to move forward.

Financial Services

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal the Comptroller of the Currency’s “true lender” rule, which will now go to President Biden for his signature. The “true lender” rule allows consumers to take out loans with interest rates that are above the state-set maximum by stating that the “true lender” is the party listed as the true lender of a loan or the one that funds the loan.

A coalition of 11 attorneys general led by South Carolina Attorney General Wilson opposed the use of the Congressional Review Act to strike down the “true lender” rule, arguing that it will restrict the Comptroller of the Currency’s ability to address “true lender” concerns in the future.

Price Gouging

Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced that a BP gas station owner who was previously told to cease and desist from price gouging agreed to pay a $2,000 fine, which will go to consumers as reimbursement. The owner sold gas for about $1 higher than nearby stations.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Criminal Medicaid Fraud

Missouri Attorney General Schmitt announced a $150,000 settlement against a former Medicaid provider for billing for services that she could not demonstrate were provided. The provider owned and operated Shady Oaks Retirement Home, which is no longer operational, and allegedly filed 148 false claims. Florida Attorney General Moody also announced the arrest of a Medicaid home and community-based services provider for allegedly defrauding the Medicaid program out of over $5,000 by submitting overlapping claims and claims for services not provided.

Financial Services

Oregon Attorney General Rosenblum applauded the Oregon legislature’s passage of SB 485, which will create a “Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights,” including both regulations for student loan servicers and borrower protections. The legislation also creates an ombudsperson at the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services who will respond to complaints against servicers as well as educate borrowers.

Healthcare Fraud

Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced a $1,002,481 settlement with Connecticut Addiction Medicine and its principals resolving allegations that the medical practice excessively billed for urine drug tests.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Cybersecurity

  • Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced a settlement with mobile home park management company Impact MHC requiring it to pay $25,000 and implement security measures after information was exposed in a data breach from October 2018 to July 2019. Attorney General Weiser also stated that the company took 10 months to provide notice of the breach when notice is required no more than 30 days later.

Environment

  • California Attorney General Bonta led a coalition of 12 attorneys general in a comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) asking it to require United States companies to provide information about their financial risk due to climate change. Specifically, the coalition is asking the SEC to require companies to annually disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and any plans to address these emissions, the potential impacts of climate change and climate change regulation, and corporate governance and risk management surrounding climate change.

 Criminal Fraud Schemes

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of two defendants for defrauding U.S. Navy sailors in a tax and insurance scheme through company Go Navy Tax Services, which sold unnecessary and expensive insurance products to service members for a large commission. The sentences include restitution payments of $500,000.

Labor & Employment

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced a settlement with home health agency Compassionate Healthcare Systems LLC, requiring it to pay over $85,000 to settle allegations that it failed to properly compensate employees for overtime work and travel time between job sites.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Antitrust

  • On June 15, 2021, Lina Khan was confirmed as the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, a decision that may signal an increase in antitrust enforcement. Acting Chairwoman Slaughter will again become a commissioner.

 Cannabis

  • New Jersey Attorney General Grewal announced the issuance of warning letters to companies offering free “gifts” of cannabis items with purchases, when these items were actually central to the purchases in question. The letters state that New Jersey will continue to enforce the regulation of the adult-use cannabis market.

Consumer Protection

  • Delaware Attorney General Jennings applauded the Delaware Senate’s passage of unfair business practices legislation, which explicitly adds unfair practices to the prohibited practices under Delaware’s Consumer Fraud Act, meaning the Act could cover such practices as price gouging and high-pressure sales strategies. The legislation will now go to Governor Carney for his signature.

 Elder Fraud & Abuse

  • Several attorneys general made announcements about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, including Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine, who also announced the settlement of allegations that car dealership Ourisman Chevrolet financially exploited a senior citizen by selling a car under unfavorable terms. The settlement includes restitution.

 Environment

  • Several attorneys general announced the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana’s grant of a preliminary injunction against President Biden’s Executive Order, which imposed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing and drilling permits on federal land.
  • A coalition of 16 attorneys general filed comments before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) against an initiative by the Biden administration that would require climate change disclosures in SEC filings. The attorneys general are arguing that the initiative threatens the First Amendment.

Criminal Medicaid Fraud

  • Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that four individuals have been charged for allegedly participating in a $10 million Medicaid fraud scheme that involved overcharging for non-medical transportation plans, many of which were unreliable or were never used.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an interpretive rule explaining the basis of its authority to examine financial institutions for risks to military borrowers from conduct that violates the Military Lending Act. The CFPB had previously discontinued examination of activities related to the Act based on a belief that Congress did not specifically give the CFPB this authority. However, the current CFPB leadership announced its disagreement with this belief.

Charities

  • Iowa Attorney General Miller announced a settlement with door-to-door sales organization Inner City Solutions, resolving allegations that it solicited funds for charities with which it was not affiliated and kept the money for itself, as well as failed to comply with state regulations covering charities. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to stop doing business in Iowa.

Consumer Protection

  • Nevada Attorney General Ford warned consumers in Nevada about deceptive discounted insurance plans and credit repair scams.

Covid-19

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that limited liability company Bedrock Group LLC agreed to pay $3.5 million to resolve allegations that it made false statements in connection with its obligation to refund the state for face masks it did not deliver during the pandemic.

Criminal Medicaid Fraud

  • Idaho Attorney General Wasden announced that two individuals were sentenced for Medicaid provider fraud. The sentences include probation, community service, fines and court costs, and restitution.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

CFPB

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) reported that the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council announced the availability of 2020 data on mortgage lending transactions at banks, savings associations, credit unions, and mortgage companies, reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Among other things, this data is used to evaluate potential fair lending risks.

Pyramid Schemes

  • Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge filed a lawsuit in partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) against BINT Operations LLC and its officers for allegedly promoting and operating an illegal pyramid scheme by specifically targeting Black communities and promising consumers an 800% return on investment. The complaint, which alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, seeks monetary relief, fines, civil penalties, and injunctive relief.

Investment Fraud Schemes

  • New York Attorney General James announced a lawsuit against Lear Capital and its founder for allegedly cheating New Yorkers out of about $10 million by persuading them to invest in precious metals, while charging undisclosed commissions that reduced investments by up to a third. The company also did not register as a commodity broker-dealer, investment advisor, or telemarketer. The lawsuit is seeking an order permanently barring the company and its founder from operating in New York, restitution, disgorgement, damages, penalties, and costs.

Healthcare

  • New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with health care company Albany Med Health System resolving allegations that it unlawfully included a “repayment fee” in employment contracts for nurses who were recruited from foreign countries. The settlement requires Albany Med to pay $90,229 to former nurses as well as remove the repayment provision from employment contracts, notify current and former nurses of its removal, and submit written compliance reports.

 Labor & Employment

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced that he filed an amicus brief in Ninth Circuit case Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group, which revolves around a challenge to pre-employment screening practices, explaining the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and how it supports holding third-party agents liable.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Antitrust

  • The National Association of Attorneys General is asking Congress to pass the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act of 2021, which would give states the same venue selection abilities as federal enforcers by barring the transfer of state antitrust actions into multidistrict litigations. The attorneys general believe this law would allow state actions to stay in the states’ preferred venues without the inefficiencies of multidistrict litigation.

Gaming

  • A coalition of 26 attorneys general led by Michigan Attorney General Nessel and Ohio Attorney General Yost sent a letter to Attorney General Garland asking the Department of Justice to adopt the First Circuit’s reading of the Wire Act, limiting it to sports betting. The attorneys general are arguing that the broader interpretation leaves those outside the First Circuit vulnerable to criminal prosecutions for lotteries, when government-operated lotteries raise money for essential state activities such as public education.

Housing

  • New York Attorney General James announced a settlement with Orange County and the Town of Chester to end alleged discriminatory housing practices intended to prevent members of the Jewish community from moving to Chester. Under the settlements, the county and town must comply with the Fair Housing Act and take preventative measures for future equitable housing practices.

Monday, June 7, 2021:

Antitrust

  • June 7, 2021, the New York Senate passed the 21st Century Antitrust Act, S.933-A, which, if passed by the Assembly and signed by the governor, would be New York’s first major antitrust law update in the past century, and which reports indicate would be the strongest antitrust law in the United States. Among other things, the bill would create an “abuse of dominance” standard for conduct that limits competitors’ incentive or capacity to compete, would not allow pro-competitive effects to be used as a defense, and states that companies are dominant if they have over a 40% share of the market as a seller or over 30% as a buyer.

Election Protection

  • New York Attorney General James announced that she won her request for an injunction against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections for failing to provide voters in the county with equitable and sufficient access to early voting poll sites. The Board must select a reasonable site by June 9, 2021, ahead of the June 2021 primary election.

Energy

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced that more D.C. households are now eligible for utility assistance programs after the Public Service Commission granted an Attorney General’s Office motion. About 50,000 more households will now be able to receive discounts on electric, gas, water, and sewer bills.
  • Michigan Attorney General Nessel is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to reduce a rate increase request from DTE Gas Co. The gas company is asking for a $195 million increase, which is more than an 11% increase for residential consumers. Attorney General Nessel is arguing that the company should only receive a $19 million annual increase, which should also be equally distributed.

Environment

  • A coalition of attorneys general led by California Attorney General Bonta and Massachusetts Attorney General Healey reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) which requires the EPA to initiate a rulemaking to gather data on and eliminate exemptions for the reporting on uses of asbestos. The EPA will publish a proposed rule no more than nine moths after the settlement’s effective date and a final rule no more than 18 months after the effective date.

Labor

  • New Jersey Attorney General Grewal announced that the payroll manager for construction company UniMak, LLC was sentenced for violating prevailing wage rules on public works projects. The sentence includes, among other things, five years of probation and a payment of $23,913 in back taxes. The company previously entered a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $1 million to employees.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Energy

  • New York Attorney General James announced that her office entered an agreement with Con Edison of New York resolving an investigation finding that the power company did not pay reimbursements for food spoilage after a power outage in accordance with its claim form instructions. The agreement will provide over $530,000 in consumer refunds.
  • Ohio Attorney General Yost filed a lawsuit in Delaware County Court asking the court to declare Google a public utility/common carrier subject to government regulation and alleging that Google has a duty to offer competitors or sources rights equal to its own rights. Attorney General Yost’s lawsuit does not seek money damages.

Consumer Protection

  • Rhode Island Attorney General Neronha applauded the Rhode Island Senate’s passage of five bills, including S 684, which would strengthen Rhode Island’s consumer protection law by limiting exemptions to business activities regulated by the state or federal government and expressly authorized by law or regulation, and by providing for a $10,000 civil penalty per violation of an injunction.

Cyber Security

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey issued an alert urging businesses and government entities to immediately take steps to protect their operations from ransomware attacks through security systems and practices.

Financial Misconduct

  • Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that collection agency Machol & Johannes must return about $475,000 to consumers, forgive up to $250,000 in fees and costs, and pay $414,000 to the Attorney General’s Office to resolve allegations of unlawful debt collection practices. According to Attorney General Ferguson, the company violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act and Collection Agency Act when it failed to offer garnishment exemptions and illegally assessed fees and costs to consumers from whom it did not collect money. The settlement also includes injunctive relief.

Financial Services

  • California Attorney General Bonta warned financial institutions, debt collectors, and creditors that in California federal Child Tax Credit payments are exempt from garnishment for individual debts.

Fraud Schemes

  • North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced that the former owner and operator of Nu Look on Life, LLC pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud, specifically obtaining property by false pretenses. In addition to her sentencing, she must pay $27,033.28 in restitution and is barred from working as a health care provider in a government health care benefit program in the future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Elder Fraud & Abuse

  • Florida Attorney General Moody announced the conviction of a former convenience store employee on multiple counts of credit card fraud and identity theft, including against senior victims. The defendant obtained the victims’ information from credit card transactions and then used it for personal gain.

Environment

  • Ohio Attorney General Yost announced his filing of a temporary restraining order against the owner of a dairy farm for leaking waste into a nearby stream, violating Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation laws.

Law Enforcement

  • New Jersey Attorney General Grewal issued a directive setting a 60-day deadline for law enforcement agencies to publish public reports identifying those police officers who committed serious disciplinary violations between June 15, 2020 and December 31, 2020.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Consumer Protection

  • Washington Attorney General Ferguson issued a consumer alert warning consumers to be aware of marketing websites which state or imply that they are neutral sources of information about addiction treatment facilities. The alert states that this week Attorney General Ferguson resolved a case against Recovery Worldwide, which branded its websites as impartial without clearly disclosing that a lot of its content was from paid advertising. The settlement requires the company to pay $64,130 to the Attorney General’s Office as well as to change its practices.
  • Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Flowmatic Technical Solutions, LLC and its owner for failing to provide a reliable internet service in rural communities, as well as for failing to give refunds, repair defective products, and in some cases to provide any internet service. The lawsuit seeks restitution, damages, and civil penalties.

Covid-19

  • California Attorney General Bonta announced a settlement against Lake Bowl Cardroom for violating the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The company was previously ordered to cease gambling operations for violating the guidelines. The settlement allows it to resume operations if it complies with the settlement’s conditions, which include following health and safety guidelines as well as a suspension and fine.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Antitrust

  • On June 11, 2021, bipartisan lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation geared towards restoring competition in digital markets, which includes provisions prohibiting technology companies from giving their own services preference, allowing regulators to force technology companies to sell parts of their business that could create a conflict of interest, and increasing filing fees for mergers.

CFPB

  • On June 11, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released its spring 2021 rulemaking agenda, including an announcement that it is no longer planning to conduct consumer testing on payday loan disclosure options, a policy goal from the last administration.

Consumer Protection

  • Nevada Attorney General Ford announced the passage of three of his bills, all of which will enhance state consumer protection laws. Among other things, the legislation establishes a price gouging prohibition for up to 75 days during a state of emergency, increases penalties for conduct targeting minors, strengthens charity laws, and prohibits the application of noncompete agreements to hourly employees.

Energy

  • A coalition of 22 attorneys general led by California Attorney General Bonta and the California Air Resources Board sent a letter to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) asking the NHTSA to repeal the “Preemption Rule,” which ostensibly preempted California’s emissions standards. The coalition is arguing that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act did not give the NHTSA the power to promulgate the rule and that it must be repealed.
  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced an amended settlement with United Illuminating (“UI”) and state entities that will provide savings and stability for UI consumers by offsetting what would have been a five to eight percent rate increase due to a power purchase agreement and federally-mandated transmission charges.

Financial Misconduct

  • A proposed class action lawsuit in the District of New Jersey filed on June 10, 2021 is alleging that debt collection law firm Weltman Weinberg & Reis violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by representing a creditor in a lawsuit seeking to collect an obligation released in bankruptcy and by sending unclear communications.

Medicaid Fraud

  • Attorneys general from California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, and Texas, along with the federal government, took part in a $2 million national settlement against medical device maker Medicrea USA, Inc. and its parent company, resolving allegations that the company violated the federal Open Payment Program and Anti-Kickback Statute, as well as state false claims law, by illegally paying physicians to use its medical devices in surgical procedures.

Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021:

Consumer Protection

  • Arizona Attorney General Brnovich announced that refund checks are being sent to consumers following a $1.75 million settlement his office reached with Landmark Home Warranty in March 2021. The settlement stemmed from consumer complaints alleging that the company failed to deliver on its promises of expedited air conditioning services.

Healthcare

  • Rhode Island Attorney General Neronha announced that his office has granted conditional approval of a change in ownership of hospitals Roger Williams Medical Center and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, but the approval imposes strict conditions to ensure the hospitals continue to operate for the next five years. The conditions include, among other things, upfront financial commitments on the part of Prospect Medical Holdings’ anticipated new majority holders.

Labor

  • Illinois Attorney General Raoul announced that a Cook County Circuit Court judge declined to dismiss his office’s lawsuit against staffing agencies Elite Staffing, Inc., Metro Staff, Inc., and Midway Staffing, Inc., and their client Colony, Inc., alleging that the staffing agencies formed an illegal agreement to fix wages and to refuse to solicit or hire employees of the others. The lawsuit also alleges that Colony helped facilitate the illegal conduct. The Circuit Court found that though the Illinois Antitrust Act protects legal labor union activities from antitrust liability, it does not provide a broad immunization for illegal conduct. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties, damages, and injunctive relief.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021:

Healthcare

  • North Carolina Attorney General Stein expressed concern over the recent increase in hospital consolidations. In his press release, Attorney General Stein states that consolidations are not always preferable and encourages hospital directors to be sure that consolidation is in patients’ and communities’ best interest before it is pursued. He also warns hospital system administrators that failing to provide transparent pricing is against the law.
  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong announced the enactment of a new law which prohibits limited service pregnancy centers from using false, misleading, or deceptive language about the services they provide, or from offering services that they do not intend to provide. Under the new law, this type of false and misleading advertising is subject to enforcement action by the Attorney General’s Office.

Environment

  • Florida Attorney General Moody announced that she has joined a coalition of 22 states in an amended complaint in the Southern District of Texas seeking to block President Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • California Attorney General Bonta testified before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on California’s proposed restoration of its waiver under the Clean Air Act for its greenhouse gas and zero emission vehicle program. The waiver was withdrawn by the Trump administration, and Attorney General Bonta is asking for it to be reinstated.

Thursday, June 3, 2021:

Charities/Nonprofits

  • Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine announced a lawsuit against nonprofit entities Delta Phi Epsilon, Inc. and Delta Phi Epsilon Foundation and their officer and director for allegedly disregarding governing requirements and diverting nonprofit funds for the director’s personal benefit, failing to meet the entities’ nonprofit purposes. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and governance reform including removing the director.
  • Ohio Attorney General Yost announced a settlement with the operators of charity Dogs 4 Warriors, resolving allegations of the abuse of funds and deceptive fundraising activity. Under the settlement, the charity’s operators must pay $50,000 in damages and penalties, as well as permanently shut down the charity and remove its online presence.
  • Minnesota Attorney General Ellison filed a lawsuit against the operator of a Philando Castile charity, alleging that the operator did not properly spend all of the money raised in Castile’s name, with about $120,000 unaccounted for. The complaint charges the operator with four counts, including “(1) breach of charitable trust, (2) deceptive solicitation of charitable contributions, (3) failure to keep proper records as a soliciting charity, and (4) failure to register with the Attorney General’s office as a soliciting charity.” It seeks restitution, among other relief.

Consumer Protection

  • New York Attorney General James announced the conviction of gas station Verrazano Enterprises, Inc. for grand larceny, based on the theft of more than $244,000 in sales tax from the sale of motor fuel. As part of their pleas, the gas station and its owner have paid over $189,000 in restitution as well as executed a confession of judgment for the whole amount stolen from the state.
  • Florida Attorney General Moody issued a consumer alert warning consumers about phantom debt collection schemes and how to avoid them.

Energy

  • Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced that after her intervention, the acquisition by Axium UP Holding of the Upper Peninsula Power Company has resulted in additional consumer benefits, such as revenue credits, shareholder forgiveness, and a moratorium on base rate increases until 2023.

Healthcare

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced a $300,000 settlement with personal injury law firm Keches Law Group, P.C. for allegedly operating a kickback scheme with a pharmacy to whom it referred injured clients.
  • Arizona Attorney General Brnovich applauded a Ninth Circuit ruling reversing a Wesson Oil class action settlement over a 100% natural claim where the majority of the recovery went to attorneys instead of consumers and where attorneys general and the Ninth Circuit believed the injunctive relief portion was weak.

Friday, June 4, 2021:

Civil Rights

  • Connecticut Attorney General Tong applauded the state Senate’s passage of legislation strengthening the Attorney General’s ability to enforce state civil rights laws, including enforcing against state hate crimes laws, by formalizing the Attorney General’s ability to investigate and bring civil rights lawsuits.

Covid-19

  • Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced that after an agreement with his office, travel company EF Educational Tours will soon notify consumers of refund options for trips that were canceled because of the pandemic, which will include a full refund, a voucher, or rescheduling the trip through September 2023.

Environment

  • Kentucky Attorney General Cameron filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court case West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, asking it to review a D.C. Circuit ruling allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to make strict carbon emission standards, which could result in the closure of coal-fired power plants.

Healthcare

  • Missouri Attorney General Schmitt announced that four individuals are barred from participating in government healthcare services after Medicaid fraud prosecutions and convictions. All four providers pled guilty to healthcare fraud involving false records.
  • California Attorney General Bonta announced his conditional approval of Prime Healthcare Foundation, Inc.’s sale of Glendora Oaks Behavioral Health Hospital to CHLB, LLC for about $24.25 million. Attorney General Bonta found that the sale with conditions, such as the requirement that CHLB continue to operate the hospital and maintain existing services for ten years, will be an improvement, as CHLB is more experienced in the management of acute psychiatric hospitals.