Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AG’s have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Friday, December 11, 2020:
- California Attorney General Becerra announced that California is joining the DOJ in the antitrust lawsuit against Google, which alleges that Google entered into exclusionary business agreements in order to illegally maintain its monopoly on search-based advertising and internet searches at consumers’ expense. California’s motion to join the lawsuit is here.
Monday, December 14:
- Several attorneys general, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and other federal, state and local law enforcement entities announced “Operation Income Illusion,” which will target scams across the U.S. that involve false promises of income and financial independence. According to the press release, “the crackdown encompasses more than 50 law enforcement actions against the operators of work-from-home and employment scams, pyramid schemes, investment scams, bogus coaching courses and other schemes that can end up costing consumers thousands of dollars.”
- Indiana Attorney General Hill announced the resolution of a case against a Florida-based abortion clinic for falsely claiming that it operated abortion services in Indiana. The company has entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Attorney General’s Office, requiring it to cease advertisements that reference Indiana abortion clinic locations and to cease claiming affiliations it does not actually have with Indiana abortion clinics.
- A bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general is asking Congress in a letter addressed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to pass legislation that will protect the safety of federal judges and their families. The bill the attorneys general are supporting, the Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, would protect confidentiality of personal identifying information and limit the distribution of that information.
- A bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys general is urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) in a letter to hold drug makers accountable for illegally refusing to provide discounts to qualified health providers that serve vulnerable populations through the 340B Drug Pricing Program.
Wednesday, December 16:
- Texas Attorney General Paxton led a multistate coalition in a lawsuit against Google for alleged violations of federal and state antitrust and consumer protection laws through its monopolization of online display advertising. The complaint alleges that Google attempted to or did monopolize products and services advertisers and publishers use in online display advertising as well as engaged in false and deceptive acts while buying, selling, and auctioning online display ads.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro announced that his office shut down an illegal student loan forgiveness scheme by Student Education Center (“SEC”). Under the settlement, the company is required to cease operating in Pennsylvania, refund $74,000 to consumers, and pay $50,000 in costs and penalties. The company allegedly used false advertising and posted fraudulent reviews as well as stated that once a consumer was approved they were set up with a new servicer when in fact SEC did not typically change a consumer’s servicer and was not itself a servicer. SEC also tricked consumers into paying high fees to enroll into Income Driven Plans which are free to enroll in.
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein and Florida Attorney General Moody announced that a bipartisan group of Attorneys General secured over $10 million from Royal Pharmaceuticals LLC and Seton Pharmaceuticals LLC after an investigation into these companies’ underpaid Medicaid drug rebates across the U.S. from 2013 to 2017.
Thursday, December 17:
- An executive committee of attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Ohio co-led a bipartisan coalition of 38 attorneys general in suing Google for alleged anticompetitive conduct to maintain its monopoly control over the general search services and search advertising markets. The attorneys general accuse Google of depriving consumers of competition which would have led to greater innovation and choice and better privacy protections, and well as of using its market position to accumulate and leverage data to consumers’ detriment in an attempt to make a profit.
- A coalition of 19 attorneys general has filed an amicus brief in Syracuse v. ATF in the Southern District of New York urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) to properly regulate “ghost guns.” The attorneys general are arguing that the ATF’s 2015 interpretation of the Gun Control Act was illegal and incorrect and allowed unlicensed online sellers to sell almost-complete firearms that can easily be converted into functional guns, which endanger the public and impede law enforcement’s investigative and prosecutorial abilities.
Friday, December 18:
- Seven attorneys general reached a $2 million settlement with CafePress, an online seller of stock and user-customized products. The settlement, which resolves a 2019 data breach which compromised 22 million consumers’ personal information, requires CafePress to pay $2 million to Indiana, New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and Oregon, as well as agree to protocols designed to protect consumer information from cyberattacks, including information security programs, notification programs, and other safeguards.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced he is working with Ticketmaster, LiveNation, and event organizer Kroenke Sports & Entertainment to ensure Colorado consumers receive refunds for events that were canceled due to the pandemic.
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that his office filed two lawsuits against restaurants that were operating inside dining in violation of Governor Walz’s executive order prohibiting this conduct. The lawsuits seek declaratory and injunctive relief as well as civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation or threatened violation of the executive order, costs, restitution, and disgorgement.
Saturday, December 19:
- New Jersey Attorney General Grewal filed a lawsuit against service animal charity Merlin’s Kids and related for-profit company United K9 Professional Inc. as well as their owner for unlawfully raising millions of dollars since 2008 without registering Merlin’s Kids as a charity. The entities’ fundraising also allegedly included false and misleading claims about the services Merlin’s Kids offers, and the entities and their owner allegedly charged consumers for dog training and certification programs they did not ultimately provide.