AG's in the News - 2011 Archives
Massachusetts AG Files Complaint with FERC (September 30, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission alleging that power transmission costs in New England are excessive. Coakley asked FERC to reduce the fees to such an extent that it would lower ratepayers’ bills by $113 million in 2012 and $206 million a year by 2015. In a statement Coakley said, “Electric transmission companies in New England have enjoyed the benefits of higher returns that were set when economic conditions were much better. It is now time for the federal government to set rate at an appropriate level in order to give ratepayers relief.” Coakley’s complaint is also supported by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and other New England state officials.
Massachusetts AG asks for Fisheries Enforcement Information (September 29, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking federal officials to release information on enforcement of fishing laws in Massachusetts. Fishermen in Massachusetts have complained that officers and attorneys who enforce federal fisheries laws have been abusive and fining excessively. Coakley asked the U.S. Department of Commerce for all documents relating to disciplinary actions taken by the DOC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Marine Fisheries Service. The inquiry follows an order by the Commerce Secretary to return tens of thousands of dollars in fines to fishermen that were found to be excessive or unjust.
7-Eleven to pay $25K to Missouri for State Clean Air Violations (September 29, 2011)
A judge ordered the 7-Eleven corporation to pay $25,000 for violations of the Missouri Air Conservation Act following a lawsuit by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. According to Koster, nine 7-Eleven stores in Missouri were determined to be in violation of Missouri regulations requiring maintenance of gasoline vapor recovery systems. In a statement Koster said, “Missouri’s Air Conservation Law was enacted to protect both citizens’ health and our environment. The Attorney General’s Office will work to ensure these laws are followed and violations are corrected.” The judge also ordered 7-Eleven to pay all court costs.
Administration and States Ask the Supreme Court to Rule Quickly on Healthcare (September 28, 2011)
The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court to hear its appeal from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case of Florida v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, N.D. Fla. 3:10-cv-00091-RV-EMT (Jan. 31, 2011) No. 11-11021 (11th Cir. filed Mar. 9, 2011) and No. 11-11067, (11th Cir. filed Mar. 11, 2011) on Wednesday. Earlier in the day the opposing parties, including 26 states and the National Federation of International Business (NFIB), petitioned the Supreme Court seeking review.
Maryland AG Files First Charges Under Critical Area Law (September 28, 2011)
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced six criminal charges against William Clark for violating the state’s Critical Area law—the first criminal charges to be filed under the law. According to Gansler, Clark is charged with illegally clearing trees in violation of critical area and buffer regulations. Gansler filed the charges after the matter was referred to his office.
Massachusetts AG Pushes for Legislation on Charity Director Compensation (September 28, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking state legislators to support legislation prohibiting charitable board directors from receiving compensation. According to Coakley, compensating directors of nonprofits creates “an unavoidable conflict” regarding the directors' financial interests and their obligations to the nonprofit organization. Coakley says compensation of nonprofit board members is currently “not subject to any external review or direct oversight.”
National Banks Object to Information-Sharing Between Federal and State Regulators on Fear That it Will Lead to State AG Lawsuits(Sept. 27, 2011)
National banks are objecting to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s sharing of information with states on the ground that state attorneys general could bring lawsuits predicated on private data collected by the Bureau’s investigators. The banks’ protestations arise from a regulation issued by the Bureau on July 21 as part of its implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. The regulation establishes that sharing confidential data with the states may in some cases “serve the public interest” and bolsters a cooperation agreement signed by the Bureau and states to share information “to inform enforcement policies and priorities.” Despite the banks’s fears, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper noted that the Bureau’s new rule obligates states to keep any information they receive confidential, and that the National Association of Attorneys General has never asserted a supervisory role over banks. James Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, added that “There is no indication that the [Bureau] will act irresponsibly in what they share with attorneys general” and that after opposing Dodd-Frank’s passage, banks are now “trying to reverse the law in practice.”
Justice Department Indicates it Will Appeal Directly to Supreme Court in AG Health Care Suit (September 27, 2011)
Justice Department spokeswoman, Tracey Schmaler, stated that the administration would not appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals en banc in Florida v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, N.D. Fla. 3:10-cv-00091-RV-EMT (Jan. 31, 2011) No. 11-11021 (11th Cir. filed Mar. 9, 2011) and No. 11-11067, (11th Cir. filed Mar. 11, 2011). 26 states are challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate requiring every U.S. citizen to have health insurance within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The decision by the administration makes it more likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case in the next term.
Pennsylvania AG Charges Sewage Treatment Plant Worker (September 27, 2011)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office filed charges against a sewage treatment plant employee for allegedly falsifying environmental reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. According to Kelly, the employee submitted false results to the state DEP in the Discharge Monitoring Report and in some instances failed to conduct tests or collect samples. The employee is charged with public records tampering, unsworn falsification to authorities, and unlawful conduct.
Oklahoma AG Issues Opinion Finding Parole Statute Unconstitutional (September 27, 2011)
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued an opinion that determined a statute altering parole process in the state is unconstitutional. The statute allows for parole for those convicted of certain crimes where the Pardon and Parole Board recommends it, even without the governor’s approval. Pruitt says that it is unconstitutional to allow for parole based on the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation without action by the governor. Additionally, Pruitt found that a 30 day time limit for the governor to sign off on recommendations or they are considered approve placed an unconstitutional time limit on the governor.
Florida AG Joins EPA Cross-State Pollution Rule Challenge (September 26, 2011)
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that her office is joining Nebraska and five other states in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency over the new Cross-State Air Pollution rule. The lawsuit alleges that any anticipated benefits of the rule are far outweighed by the costs of implementing it. In a press release Bondi said, “We will continue to protect Florida consumers and businesses from unnecessary and costly federal regulation.” The new rule is scheduled to take effect January 2012.
Texas AG Challenges EPA Toxic-Emissions Rule (September 22, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to block a toxic-emissions rule from taking effect. According to Abbott’s petition, Texas was not given enough time to comment on the rules. Specifically, Texas alleges the state was not given a chance to comment on a new EPA model used to draft the rule. The challenged rule is the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which is also being challenged by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Massachusetts AG Settles with Emissions Inspector (September 22, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement with a vehicle emissions inspector over alleged fraud. According to Coakley, the inspector allegedly performed 33 fraudulent inspections by conducting a test on one motor vehicle and using those results to issue a sticker for a different vehicle. In a statement about the settlement Coakley said, “The Massachusetts Enhanced Emissions and Safety Test Program is designed to protect consumers from deceptive practices and to protect public health and the environment. We will continue to pursue those inspectors who circumvent this program by conducting fraudulent inspections.” The settlement requires the inspector to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and prohibits him from conducting inspections for one year.
New Hampshire AG Investigates Racist Graffiti (September 21, 2011)
New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney’s office is investigating racist graffiti written on three homes belong to Concord families from African countries. The messages, which were scrawled in black marker, indicated the families were not welcome and were subhuman. In a statement about the graffiti Delaney called the messages, “hateful… malicious… and just plain wrong.” The criminals face charges under the New Hampshire hate crime law.
Texas AG Sues Owners of Former U.S. Army Base (September 21, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot filed a lawsuit against the current owners of Fort Crockett, a former U.S. Army base, on behalf of the state’s historic preservation officer. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the owners from demolishing the building. The owners also face fines to fund repairs on the building.
New Jersey AG Charges Three with School Lunch Deception (September 20, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow’s office charged the Elizabeth Board of Education president and two other school board officials' spouses with theft by deception and tampering with public records. According to Dow’s office, the three accused purposefully misstated their incomes to qualify for the federal school lunch program. In a statement about the charges Dow said, "We will not tolerate this type of abuse of a publicly funded assistance program by school district insiders.”
Kansas AG Files Suit Against EPA Over Rulemaking (September 20, 2011)
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent new air pollution regulations from taking effect. According to Schmidt, the new regulation will cost Kansas utilities hundreds of millions of dollars for new equipment by January 1, 2012. The EPA says the new “Cross-State Air Pollution rule” is meant to prevent air pollution from a source in one state from negatively impacting the air quality of other states. In a statement about the rule Schmidt said, “It will be physically impossible for all of our utilities to comply, which means that either Kansans will be paying higher rates to buy out-of-state electricity or there simply will not be enough electricity to meet Kansas demand after the first of the year.”
New York AG Asks Court to Throw Out Gay Marriage Challenge (September 16, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked a New York state court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom and other groups challenging the state’s gay marriage law. According to Schneiderman, the groups do not have standing to challenge legislative actions and have not been harmed by the law. Additionally, Schneiderman says state Senate and governor procedural actions are not subject to judicial review. Schneiderman requested a hearing on the matter for October 17.
Seven AGs Join USDOJ AT&T Mobile Merger Suit (September 16, 2011)
Seven state AGs—California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington—have joined with the United States Department of Justice in a lawsuit to block the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. In a statement about the decision to support the lawsuit New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “This proposed merger would stifle competition in markets that are crucial to New York’s consumers and businesses, while reducing access to low-cost options and the newest broadband-based technologies.” Eleven other states have publicly endorsed the merger.
Rhode Island AG Accuses Two of Mortgage Scam (September 15, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin accused two people of failing to provide promised mortgage modification services. According to Kilmartin’s office, David Conti and Lucy Ruiz targeted desperate homeowners in a Hispanic community and promised to help them with loan modifications while charging an upfront fee of $1,000 to $3,000. Some of the homeowners then complained to Kilmartin’s office that Conti and Ruiz never provided any mortgage services nor refunded fees. The two stand accused of violating the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Regulation. Kilmartin reminded Rhode Island residents not to pay upfront fees for mortgage modification services and said, “There are legitimate, free services available for homeowners that don’t require thousands of dollars in charges and fees.”
Vermont Attorney General Concludes Oral Arguments in Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Case (September 15, 2011)
Oral arguments concluded in a lawsuit brought by Entergy Nuclear challenging Vermont’s denial of an extension of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant’s operating license. Entergy brought the lawsuit maintaining that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the 20 year extension preempted Vermont. Vermont Attorney General, William Sorrell, defended the state’s decision not to renew the license arguing that Vermont had many reasons beyond safety factored into the decision. A decision is expect this fall.
Wisconsin AG Gives Testimony on Asian Carp (September 14, 2011)
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen gave testimony to the state Assembly Natural Resources Committee regarding Asian carp and the ongoing lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers. Van Hollen told the Committee the lawsuit by Wisconsin and four other states has made the federal government take the threat of Asian carp invasion seriously. While a federal court denied the states’ request for a preliminary injunction closing the connections between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, Van Hollen pointed out the appeals court agreed the states proved Asian carp pose a likely threat to Great Lakes fisheries.
Connecticut AG Forms Online Privacy Task Force (September 14, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that his office is creating a privacy task force to address internet privacy and data breach issues. The task force will educate the public on how to protect their information, as well as respond to internet data breaches. In the announcement Jepsen said, "The need for this initiative is well demonstrated. Internet and data privacy have been among the biggest issues affecting the broad public interest during my first eight months in office." Jepsen’s office is already investigating security breaches that compromised personal, insurance, or medical information.
Massachusetts AG Fines Restaurant for Tip Violations (September 14, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley ordered McGovern’s Restaurant to pay $236,000 for violating state tip distribution laws. According to Coakley, the restaurant failed to give tips to staff from banquets and the management was sharing in tips in violation of state law. The restaurant must pay $194,435 in restitution, $40,000 in penalties, and an additional $2,000 penalty for failing to provide records.
Missouri AG Reviews Use of Tornado Funds (September 12, 2011)
After receiving complaints from residents, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is reviewing use of tornado recovery funds by the city of Joplin, Missouri. According to Koster’s office, they received complaints that the city borrowed money from the tornado recovery fund to fund a concert by Travis Tritt. The Joplin City Council says the money was a loan for a concert intended to raise more money for the tornado relief fund, but ultimately the plans for the concert fell through. The Council says the upfront money has already been recouped. A spokeswoman for Koster’s office says they expect to try to resolve the review this week.
USDOJ Awards Grant to North Dakota AG (September 12, 2011)
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office has received a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice to improve sex offender capture and prosecution programs. The grant will allow Stenehjem’s office to fund an investigative team of officers focused on violators of state and federal sex offender registration laws. According to the USDOJ, the initiative will include tribal communities in the state.
Massachusetts AG Warns of Robo-Call Scams (September 11, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley warns consumers to be cautious of robo-calls seeking credit or bank numbers and social security information. According to Coakley, scammers are using automated calls claiming to be from banks and saying that a card has been locked. The scammers then prompt the user to enter their credit card number to unlock the card, or sometimes ask for social security numbers. Coakley says her office has received several complaints over these calls, many of which have been late at night and to cell phones.
New Hampshire AG Asks Legislature to Intervene in Settlement (September 10, 2011)
New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney wrote a letter to the state legislature asking it to intervene in a proposed settlement over a state malpractice insurance fund. According to Delaney, the settlement is inconsistent with the legislative intent behind the fund. The proposed settlement concerns a $110 million surplus from the malpractice insurance fund. Delaney objected based on the fact lawyers would get up to $27.5 million of the $110 million surplus.
Federal Court Dismisses Virginia AG’s Health-Care Lawsuit (September 8, 2011)
Three judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, determining that Virginia lacked standing to sue. Cuccinelli filed suit against the federal government over the individual health insurance mandate portion of the new federal health-care laws. This lawsuit was separate from one filed by 26 other states. Cuccinelli argued that Virginia had standing to challenge the new law since it directly conflicted with a state law that prohibits requiring residents to purchase insurance. In a statement about the decision Cuccinelli said, “Our disappointment not only stems from the fact that the court ruled against us but also that the court did not even reach the merits on the key question of Virginia’s lawsuit — whether Congress has a power never before recognized in American history: the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another citizen.” Cuccinelli says his office plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
California AG Joins Community Lawsuit Over Pollution (September 8, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has joined a lawsuit by Mira Loma Village against Riverside County over its approval of an industrial project in the area. Mira Loma residents sued the county after it approved a project for 1.4 million square feet of industrial buildings and warehouses that would cover 60 acres of land and add 1,500 diesel truck trips through the neighborhood. The lawsuit alleges that Riverside County did not adequately analyze or mitigate the health impacts to residents from the project. The Mira Loma community currently has diesel levels higher than state and federal air quality standards. In a statement about the suit Harris said, "All California residents could be put at risk if developments like this are pushed through by officials without appropriate and legally-mandated consideration of the environmental effects on health and welfare.”
Ohio AG Signs Concealed Carry Reciprocity Agreement (September 8, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine signed a reciprocal agreement with Louisiana State Police Colonel Mike Edmonson concerning concealed carry permits. The agreement allows Louisiana residents with concealed carry permits to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio to the same extent they could in Louisiana, and vice versa for Ohio residents. Under Ohio law the attorney general can enter into agreements with other states regarding concealed handguns licenses if the other state has permit eligibility rules substantially similar to Ohio’s rules.
California AG Reaches Agreement with Chevron (September 7, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris has reached a proposed settlement with Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Chevron Stations Inc. over allegations Chevron violated state hazardous materials and waste laws. Harris filed suit against Chevron last week, alleging the company tampered with or disabled leak detection devices on underground gasoline storage tanks, among other charges of improper maintenance of the storage tanks. The settlement requires Chevron to pay $24.5 million, as well as operate a statewide compliance program to train employees and track how the underground tanks are monitored. The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.
Missouri AG Sues Fitness Center Operators Over Drinking Water (September 7, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against a Missouri couple operating the Class Act Family Fitness Center, alleging violations of state drinking water laws. According to Koster, Class Act’s owners violated the Missouri Safe Drinking Water Act by using an unapproved farm well as a public water supply. Koster’s allegations of drinking water violations include failure to obtain proper authorization to construct a “non-community water system,” obtain a permit for drinking water, and meet microbiological contamination level requirements. The violations came to the attention of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources after 30 people became ill following contact with the fitness center water, including 15 cases of E. coli infection. The suit asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction that requires the fitness center to comply with state law, construct a new public water system in compliance with state law, and to pay civil penalties and court costs.
Michigan AG Launches Online Safety Program (September 7, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced a new program aimed at protecting children and teenagers online. The program is an updated version of the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative launched in 2007. Schuette says the new program focuses on three “keeps” for students to remember: keep safe, keep away from strangers, and keep telling parents about anything they come across that makes them uncomfortable. At an assembly with middle school students Schuette said, “The computer can be a marvelous thing. Sometimes, the Internet can be a dark alley you should not go down. Sometimes that computer can be like an assault." Schuette also says his office has 12 people who travel around Michigan talking about cyber safety with students.
Connecticut AG Investigates Gasoline Price Gouging (September 7, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen is investigating possible instances of gasoline price gouging in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Jepsen says his office has received approximately 40 to 50 reports of price gouging involving gasoline. The investigation will focus on the profit margins of those retailers suspected of gasoline price gouging in the 90 days prior to the hurricane in comparison to those 30 days after. In a statement about the investigation Jepsen said, “If a gas station was making 9 cents per gallon profit before Irene, and that became 15 or 16 cents per gallon afterward, that’s gouging. Violators could be subject to fines of thousands of dollars.”
Mississippi AG Wins $38 Million Judgment Against Drug Manufacturer (September 6, 2011)
A county judge awarded the state of Mississippi more than $38 million dollars as the result of lawsuit filed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood against pharmaceutical manufacturer Sandoz Inc. In the lawsuit, Hood accused Sandoz of inflating the average wholesale prices of drugs, which resulted in inflated reimbursements to pharmacies by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid. In a press release about the judgment Hood said, "Sandoz, with its greed for more profits, caused Mississippi to overpay on drug prescriptions and some of our neediest citizens were being denied health care due to cost overruns.” Under the terms of the judgment, Sandoz must pay the state $23,661,618 in compensation, $11,830,809 in punitive damages, and $2,699,000 in penalties.
Virginia AG Focuses Resources on Stopping Medicaid Fraud (September 6, 2011)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office says they are cracking down on both Medicaid fraud and elder abuse. Cuccinelli has expanded the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit by almost doubling the amount of employees working in the unit since 2010. According to Cuccinelli, his office is working with seniors groups and law enforcement as part of a joint effort known as “Triad” to educate seniors on elder abuse, as well as how to identify and report Medicaid fraud. In an interview Cuccinelli said, "We're not an accounting firm — this isn't about getting dollars. It's about stopping criminal activity and fraud and making sure that as many people in Virginia can trust the bill they get at their health-care providers, and that it isn't tainted by somebody stealing."
Ohio AG Sues Housing Developer Over Pollution (September 4, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed suit against Clemens Development Co., a Miami Valley housing developer, over permit and pollution violations. According to DeWine’s office, Clemens failed to get necessary permits for construction activities. Additionally, DeWine’s office says storm water full of sediment from the construction site ran into the Little Sugar Creek. DeWine’s office further alleges Clemens ignored multiple notices between 2007 and 2010 regarding violations. The lawsuit asks the court for fines, to require the development to meet state code, and require future home owners be informed of the situation surrounding the development.
Montana AG Issues Warning Over Rental Scams (September 3, 2011)
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, along with the Billings Police Department, is warning people to beware of rental scams on Craigslist. According to Bullock, scammers are posting false ads on Craigslist for legitimate rental or sale properties. When someone inquires about the ad the scammer says they live out of town and the renter must wire first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. According to authorities, they agree to send the keys to the prospective renter but then do not. In a statement Bullock said, “Craigslist this week pulled one of these scam ads but Montanans have enough to worry about without wondering if the house they want to rent is really part of an online fraud.”
Smelter Agrees to Reduce Lead Emissions After Illinois AG Suit (September 3, 2011)
Following a lawsuit last week by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, smelter H. Kramer and Co. agreed to take action to reduce lead emissions from its plant in a preliminary injunction filed with the court. Madigan filed suit against the company over allegations from the state Environmental Protection Agency that the plant exceeded federal air quality emissions standards for lead in in 2010. The injunction requires the plant to immediately reduce emissions through such actions as updating pollution control technology and cleaning gravel contaminated with lead. According to Madigan’s office, the plant has already implemented some lead emission reduction techniques, including removing a smoke stack, repairing holes in the roof, and installing high-speed vertical doors on the buildings.
Michigan AG Releases Opinion on Gun Silencers, Suppressors (September 2, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion stating that gun owners in the state can obtain and use gun silencers or suppressors, but only if they have a federal permit. Under Michigan law, the sale or possession of silencers and suppressors is generally prohibited. Schuette notes, however, that there is a specific exemption in the law allowing for those with federal permits to own silencers and suppressors.
Wyoming AG Issues Opinion on Employment Status Changes (September 2, 2011)
Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips issued an opinion stating that the head of the state Department of Education needs approval from the Department of Administration and Approval before filling vacancies with “at-will” employees. Additionally, Phillips notes only the governor can change employee status in executive branch positions, though the Department of Administration and Approval administers policies for the governor. The request for an opinion from Phillips also asked why most Department of Education employees were not already at-will since Wyoming is an at-will employment state. In his opinion Phillips responded, “While it is true that employment in Wyoming is presumed at-will, a different rule applies when employers promise certain rights — as has the state in its personnel rules. These rules list misconduct justifying discipline of permanent employees and require cause to dismiss them from employment.”
Vermont AG Moves to Dismiss Vermont Yankee Operator Lawsuit (September 1, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office moved to dismiss a lawsuit by senior operators at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Seven operators at Vermont Yankee filed the suit, alleging violations of civil liberties should Vermont Yankee closed due to the state’s unwillingness to grant a new certificate of public good. The lawsuit also alleges the state is preempted from taking action over Vermont Yankee under the Atomic Energy Act. In the lawsuit Sorrell’s office states, "Operators' due process claim is without merit because Operators do not have a constitutionally cognizable property interest in VY operating beyond March 21, 2012. Operators are asking this court to accept the radical notion that whenever someone obtains a federal license, that person becomes legally injured if anyone takes any action that interferes with the full use of that license." This lawsuit follows a separate lawsuit filed by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, the current owner of Vermont Yankee, in April also alleging preemption under the Atomic Energy Act.
Washington AG has Authority to Challenge Health Care Law (September 1, 2011)
The Washington Supreme Court found in favor of Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, ruling that the City of Seattle cannot force McKenna to withdraw from a challenge to the Obama administration backed health care overhaul. The justices did, however, say the Governor may be able to intervene but declined to rule on that issue. In a statement about the ruling McKenna said, "It's important that the state's constitutionally-established, independently-elected Attorney General — whomever it may be — have the authority to protect the legal rights of the state and its people in the years to come.”
Great Lakes Attorneys General Call for Invasive Species Prevention (August 31, 2011)
Attorneys General from six states—Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—called for a cooperative campaign to cut off the link between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to prevent invasive species, such as Asian carp. The Attorneys General sent a letter to the Attorneys General in 27 other states asking them to join the campaign. Speaking about the invasive species issue Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said, “We have Asian carp coming into Lake Michigan and zebra mussels moving out of the Great Lakes and into the heart of our country, both of which are like poison to the ecology of our waters. This is not just a Great Lakes issue. By working together, we hope to put pressure on the federal government to act before it's too late." Five of the Great Lakes states are suing the Army Corps of Engineers over a waterway network that creates an artificial link between Lake Michigan and a tributary of the Mississippi river.
Attorneys General Question Classified Ads Website Over Adult Listings (August 31, 2011)
The Attorneys General from 45 states have sent a letter to Backpage.com, a classified ads website, over how it handles ads for adult services. According to the letter, the website is a hub for illicit activities such as prostitution and human trafficking. The letter requests the website to provide information backing up its claims that they have policies aimed at preventing sexual exploitation of minors. The Attorneys General argue that the website has been ineffective at controlling solicitation of minors for sex on the site. Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna says, "We're finding lots of evidence that sex trafficking continues to be rampant on their site. Making money from the sexual exploitation of children and adults is unconscionable, and that's what they're doing." McKenna also notes that the letter is more of a moral appeal to the website since the Attorneys General have few legal remedies against the site.
District of Columbia AG Sues HIV/AIDS Group (August 31, 2011)
District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin Nathan accused Miracle Hands Inc., an HIV/AIDS service provider, of misusing federal tax dollars by building a strip club. According to the lawsuit, Miracle Hands and its owner promised to use approximately $330,000 in federal money to transform an old warehouse into a job training center for people with HIV or AIDS. Nathan alleges that instead Miracle Hands used the money to build a strip club. The lawsuit asks for at least $988,959 in damages.
New Jersey AG Alleges Men Scammed Inmates and Their Families (August 30, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced that her office and the Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit against two New Jersey men accused of scamming inmates and their families through a phony organization called the Project Freedom Fund. According to Dow’s office, Bruce Buccolo and disbarred attorney Mark Bendet ran the Project Freedom Fund and charged inmates $350 for legal consultations. Dow’s office received 18 complaints from inmates or their family members who say they never received legal representation, or if they did it was by a non-attorney and a disbarred attorney. Dow’s office alleges the men used the fees collected to pay personal bills rather than provide legal services.
West Virginia AG Warns Consumers Over International Lottery Scams (August 30, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw warned consumers to beware of scam artists offering prizes from international lotteries, particularly if they are unexpected. According to McGraw’s office, these scammers call, mail, or email people telling them they have won a lottery or inherited money from a long lost relative. Often the scammers will tell people the money is tied up in legal battles or otherwise hard to obtain without some upfront money. In a statement McGraw said, "Since we hear of unexpected windfalls from legitimate lotteries, people can be easily convinced an exciting new opportunity is valid when it is not. Unfortunately, the convenience we all enjoy from modern technology is also convenient for thieves—scammers are more convincing when armed with small pieces of personal information about us, right from the Internet.” McGraw warns consumers to not act immediately on such offers, particularly if they include high pressure tactics or emotional pleas, and to never pay fees for a prize that is supposedly free.
Mississippi AG Announces Website to Report Counterfeiting (August 29, 2011)
Mississippi Attorney General Jim hood announced the Mississippi Intellectual Property Crimes Center website concerning counterfeit goods. According to Hood, the website allows the public to report counterfeit goods, as well as recognize counterfeit goods. The website will also have a secure section for law enforcement. Hood notes that it is the first such website for a state attorney general’s office.
Delaware AG Warns Residents to Beware Scams After Hurricane (August 29, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden urged residents to beware of scammers looking to profit from the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. Biden warned residents to be cautious of door-to-door solicitors offering to repair homes or clear debris. Biden advises people to obtain at least three bids for a project before accepting, never pay the full amount for the work up-front, and ensure the contractors are licensed and insured. Additionally, Biden warns residents to look out for scammers posing as charities for hurricane damage victims and to always check out a charity with reliable sources.
Arizona, New York AGs Investigate 9/11 Charities (August 29, 2011)
Arizona and New York Attorneys General Tom Horne and Eric Schneiderman are investigating 9/11 charities to determine whether they followed state laws. Schneiderman announced that his office was conducting a review of 9/11 charities to determine whether they have proper documentation and follow fundraising and public disclosure rules. Horne announced that his office was investigating one specific 9/11 charity, State 1 Productions, over the more than $700,000 it raised for a memorial quilt it never completed. Earlier in August the Associated Press published the results of an investigation into several 9/11 charities that did not disclose required information or failed to keep promises for creating memorials.
North Carolina AG Warns Consumers Over Post-Hurricane Scams (August 29, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Copper warns residents to be cautious of scammers trying to profit from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. In particular, Cooper warns people to look out for scammers impersonating Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. According to Cooper, these impersonators are trying to obtain personal information and money. Cooper urges North Carolina residents to check the identification of those claiming to be government officials and to not give out personal information like social security numbers.
Illinois AG Convenes Meeting on Meth Lab Problem (August 27, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan convened a meeting with law enforcement officers over methods to combat methamphetamine production in the state. According to Madigan, methamphetamine producers are attempting to get around Illinois’ anti-methamphetamine laws, which regulate the sale of pseudoephedrine, by creating smaller batches of the drug in one or two-liter plastic bottles. These smaller methamphetamine operations are allegedly found often in vehicles.
Rhode Island AG Warns Retailers Not to Raise Prices (August 26, 2011)
In anticipation of a possible state of emergency over Hurricane Irene, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin warned retailers not to raise their prices and try to profit from the impending hurricane. Kilmartin reminds Rhode Island residents that state law prohibits retail sellers from increasing prices on products right before or during a declared state of emergency. In a statement Kilmartin said, “It is illegal and it is morally wrong for any business to take advantage of such a stressful and dangerous situation solely to line their pockets with additional profits at the expense of citizens whose lives are at risk. I sincerely hope that we as Rhode Islanders will not act that way, but I am prepared to enforce our price gouging statute for the protection of all citizens if any retail seller chooses such an immoral path.” A state of emergency had not yet been declared in Rhode Island. Kilmartin’s office states that any Rhode Island resident who thinks they have been a victim of price gouging prohibited by the law should contact his office’s Consumer Protection Unit.
Connecticut AG Says Gas Price Rule in Effect (August 26, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that the state’s gasoline pricing rule is in effect until Wednesday August 31 in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. The pricing rule prohibits “unconsciously excessive” prices on fuels such as gasoline while in effect. The Commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection urged people to refrain from rushing out and buying all the fuel they could.
Texas AG Looks to Prevent EPA Air Pollution Rule (August 26,2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office announced through a spokeswoman that it "will pursue every available legal remedy" to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule from being implemented in Texas. The new rule looks to reduce power plant air pollution, but Texas officials are concerned the rule will cause coal-based plants to shut down and cause an electricity shortage in the state. Abbott’s decision follows a request by the Texas Railroad Commission for Abbot’s office to take legal action concerning EPA’s new rule.
Virginia AG Hosts Human Trafficking Seminar for Law Enforcement (August 26, 2011)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Department of Criminal Justice Services hosted a human trafficking seminar for law enforcement agencies in Virginia. The seminar offered training on targeting and prosecuting human traffickers, as well as how to identify and help victims of human trafficking. Cuccinelli says this was the first statewide initiative on human trafficking of its kind.
Illinois AG Announces Arrest of Child Pornography Offenders (August 25, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced the 25th and 26th arrests in the first year of her office’s crackdown on child pornography offenders. Madigan said her office worked closely with local law enforcement to apprehend the men as part of Operation Glass House. Investigators with Madigan’s office worked with the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce to find and arrest the top child pornography offenders in Illinois in terms of downloading and trafficking. Madigan notes that these arrests mark the first year of Operation Glass House and in the second year her office will focus on offenders who download and traffick violent child pornography.
Arizona AG Sues Federal Government Over Voting Rights Act (August 25, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit against the federal government seeking to prevent federal review of redistricting under the Voting Rights Act. Horne argues the reauthorization of the act in 2006 was facially unconstitutional since it exceeds Congress’ authority under the 14th and 15th Amendments. According to Horne, it is unconstitutional because it treats states differently “without rational justification.” The disputed portions of the Voting Rights Act involve a 1975 amendment requiring states identified as having a record of discrimination towards minority voters to have all voting changes, including redistricting, reviewed by the federal government. Arizona is one of the states subject to federal review under the act. In a statement Horne said, "The portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring preclearance of all voting changes are either archaic, not based in fact, or subject to completely subjective enforcement based on the whim of federal authorities.”
Vermont AG Opposes Motion to Bar Witnesses in Vermont Yankee Case (August 25, 2011)
As part of the ongoing litigation surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell filed a motion opposing an attempt by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, the owners of the facility, to bar three of the state’s expert witnesses. Last week Entergy filed a motion in limine with the U.S District Court for the District of Vermont in Brattleboro asking the court to bar Peter Bradford, Bruce Hinkley, and William Steinhurst from testifying as expert witnesses. Sorrell argues that the witnesses are essential to the case and that Entergy is being hypocritical by attempting to prevent the testimony. According to Sorrell, the witnesses are necessary to testify about the preemptive scope of the Atomic Energy Act, as well as the Vermont General Assembly’s motives in passing some of the legislation at the heart of the lawsuit. Sorrell notes that his office was prompted to offer the expert testimony to dispute Entergy’s claims that Vermont legislators had improper motives in passing the legislation. Entergy asked the court to make a decision by August 26.
Kentucky, Tennessee AGs Join Holly Petraeus, Soldiers at Town Hall Meeting (August 25, 2011)
Kentucky and Tennessee Attorneys General Jack Conway and Robert Cooper joined Holly Petraeus, the Director of the Office of Service Member Affairs of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at a Town Hall Meeting at Fort Campbell to talk about fraud and scams targeting soldiers. The goal of the meeting was to educate soldiers and their families about scams and how to file complaints if they are targeted by scammers. At the meeting, Conway summed up why soldiers are targeted by saying, "Whenever you have a pot of money lying around that looks like easy pickings, the human imagination knows no bounds." Conway also reminded soldiers that if a deal sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Pennsylvania AG Alleges Man Stole $70,000 in Gift Cards (August 25, 2011)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office says Jason Novak stole $70,000 worth of gift cards from Lowe’s and Home Depot stores across the state. According to Kelly’s office, Novak went to the stores, filled up a cart with expensive items, then took them to the return desk and received gift cards for the value of the items he did not pay for. Kelly's office says Novak did this at least 90 times. Novak then allegedly sold the gift cards on Craiglist for 60% of the card’s value. Kelly’s office says authorities are seeking Novak, who faces 389 charges.
Mississippi AG Obtains $8 Million Judgment Against Tobacco Company (August 24, 2011)
A Jackson County, Mississippi judge ruled in favor of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood in a lawsuit against Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. The court ordered the company to pay approximately $8.1 million for failing to abide by an earlier settlement agreement requiring the company to pay the state for every cigarette made and shipped. Hood’s office alleged that Brown & Williamson attempted to avoid the agreement by shipping the cigarettes to a third-party manufacturer who then sold the cigarettes in Mississippi. The company must also pay court costs and attorneys’ fees.
Texas AG Settles with Drug Company over Medicaid Pricing (August 24, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced an agreement with Par Pharmaceutical Inc. over allegations of inflated prescription drug pricing for Medicaid patients. The agreement follows charges of fraud filed against the company by Abbott’s office in 2008. Under the terms of the agreement, Par must pay $24 million to the state.
West Virginia AG Settles with Internet Payday Lender (August 24, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw settled with the Government Employees Credit Center, an Internet payday lender, for a total of $300,000 in canceled debts and refunds. The press release from McGraw’s office describes Internet payday loans as short-term loans or cash advances, which usually must be repaid within 14 days or else the borrower will be charged a fee. According to McGraw, the lender charged consumers a 25% fee on the 14 day loans, or a 650% annual interest rate, which would exceed the state maximum interest rate of 18% annually. In addition to mandating restitution, the settlement prohibits the lender from making or collecting internet payday loans in West Virginia.
Indiana AG Sues Foreclosure Consultant Over Alleged Scam (August 24, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed suit against two credit services and foreclosure consulting companies, Community One Law Center and National Law Partners of Florida and California, for allegedly scamming 15 Indiana residents. According to Zoeller, the companies failed to provide the financial assistance services they promised to perform. Additionally, Zoeller says the companies failed to post the required $25,000 surety bond before taking advance payments from consumers. Zoeller notes that these type of companies advertise online or collect contact information from public foreclosure records and offer help.
Mississippi AG Warns People to Protect Wireless Connections (August 24, 2011)
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is urging people who have wireless internet to secure the connections with passwords. According to a report by the Sun Herald, Mississippi officials have made 60 arrests this year involving child pornography where someone allegedly used an innocent person’s wireless internet connection to obtain the material. Hood notes that while authorities can determine what computer actually downloaded the pornography, it causes a lot of problems and inconvenience for the innocent person whose internet was used in the crime.
Arizona AG Alleges Caregiver of Defrauding Elderly (August 23, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office announced an indictment against a Tucson, Arizona home healthcare provider for alleged fraud. According to Horne’s office, the healthcare provider forged checks belonging to her elderly client. Horne’s office says the amount forged totaled over $20,000. Following a joint investigation between the Arizona Attorney General’s Special Investigations Section, Arizona Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and Tucson Police Department, the healthcare provider was indicted on charges of fraud, financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult, and perjury. Horne’s office says that if convicted the healthcare provider faces up to 25 years in prison.
Man Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud Following New York AG Investigation (August 23, 2011)
Following an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, James T. Pickard was sentenced to five years of probation and 250 hours of community service for alleged Medicaid fraud. According to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of Schneiderman’s office, Pickard forged bids on the letterhead of other contractors’ as part of a bid-rigging scheme to wrongfully receive $541,671.11 in Medicaid funds. Pickard allegedly would submit two high bids on the forged letterhead, then submit his own lower bid to win contracts through the New York State Medicaid Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver program. This program helps Medicaid recipients modify houses to allow them to live independently. Pickard also paid restitution for the payments he received from Medicaid.
Vermont AG Announces Rental Law Website (August 23, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced a new website to help Vermont renters understand state law governing renting, as well as renter’s rights. The new site, www.rentalcodes.org, gives Vermont renters information on health and safety requirements, the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and contact information for state agencies. Sorrell notes that landlords can have trouble accessing rental laws and information.
Delaware AG Announces Manufactured Housing Informational Workshops (August 23, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office announced that it will conduct three informational workshops regarding manufactured homes across Delaware in August and September. Biden’s office says the meetings will cover issues including Delware’s law on manufactured homes, owner rights and responsibilities, septic systems, drinking water, procedures for filing complaints, and public safety. There will be one workshop in each of the three counties in the state and speakers will include staff from the Consumer Protection Unit of Biden’s office, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Office of Drinking Water, and Community Legal Aid Society.
Minnesota AG Settles Propane Pricing Suit (August 23, 2011)
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson reached a settlement with Ferrellgas, a national propane gas supplier, regarding allegations the company did not properly disclose charges. According to Swanson, Ferrellgas failed to disclose the per-gallon prices to some customers, sometimes charged significantly higher rates than their competitors despite telling customers they charged competitive prices, and did not properly discloser certain low usage fees. In a statement Swanson says, "For many people, propane is a costly necessity to heat their homes. Propane pricing should be transparent so that consumers can make informed choices about their purchases." Under the terms of the settlement Ferrelgas must pay $450,000 and the company must now disclose the price of propane to the customer at the time of the order. Additionally, Ferrelgas must refund the low usage fees charged to Minnesota customers.
Delaware AG Announces New Pollution Law (August 22, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced that the Delaware Governor signed a bill concerning “chronic” polluters into law. According to Biden, the new law allows state environmental regulators to designate polluters as “chronic violators.” Once an entity or person has been labeled a chronic violator, they are subject to stricter requirements in terms of reporting and permitting, as well as higher penalties. The new law would allow a maximum fine of $10,000 per illegal emission each day for chronic violators, rather than the usual maximum of $10,000 per day of violation.
Maryland AG Cites Hypnosis Center for Failure to Register (August 21, 2011)
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s office filed administrative charges against Reducing Key Hypnosis Center of Glen Burnie over allegations the center failed to properly register under Maryland’s health club law. Gansler’s office says Reducing Key failed to register though multiple notices were sent. In addition to registration, the health club law in Maryland requires health clubs to provide prospective members with a notice of their rights as customers in all contracts. In a statement Gansler said, "We encourage consumers to check with us before joining a fitness club to ensure that it is properly registered. These registration requirements are designed to protect consumers' money and their investment in their health and wellbeing." The Consumer Protection Division of Gansler’s office seeks a cease-and-desist order prohibiting Reducing Key from operating until they properly register, as well as civil penalties and costs.
Rhode Island AG Announces Action Against Contractors (August 20, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced that the state is taking legal action against six contractors over allegations of substandard work. Kilmartin’s office alleges the contractors also ignored orders from the Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board to pay restitution and fines associated with the allegations of substandard work and, in some cases, no work. In his announcement Kilmartin states, “It can be devastating to the homeowner when a contractor does shoddy work, or worse, takes the money but does not perform the work.”
Vermont AG Settles with Reebok Companies (August 19, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office reached an agreement with two Reebook companies over allegations the companies failed to do proper groundwater testing at a manufacturing site. According to Sorrell’s office, pursuant to a 1996 agreement the companies were required to do quarterly groundwater testing at a hockey equipment manufacturing site near the Connecticut River. After hazardous chemicals were released at the site when Reebok-CCM Hockey U.S. Inc., then known as Maska U.S. Inc., the company was required to do groundwater testing quarterly. When Reebok purchased Maska they were obligated to continue groundwater testing, Sorrell’s office says. Under the terms of the settlement, the two companies must pay $40,000 in total to Vermont.
Michigan AG Reviews Blue Cross Purchase Plan (August 19, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his office is reviewing a plan by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to purchase AmeriHealth Mercy, a Pennsylvania-based Medicaid company. Blue Cross would partner with another insurer in Pennsylvania, Independence Blue Cross to purchase AmeriHealth, allowing the companies to expand into the Medicaid market nationally. In his announcement Schuette said, “We have a responsibility to ensure this substantial transaction conforms to state law and is in the best interest of Blue Cross rate payers and Michigan taxpayers.” The purchase could involve up to $215 million in Blue Cross subscriber funds. Schuette requested Blue Cross send documents related to the purchase to his office within 10 days.
Washington AG Settles with Car Dealers Over Ads (August 19, 2011)
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna settled with eight car dealers over allegations of ads violating the state’s consumer protection laws. According to McKenna, the advertisements violated the act on several grounds, including creating a false sense of urgency, misrepresenting how many vehicles were for sale, and failing to disclose necessary information under the Truth in Lending Act. The various settlements required the car dealers to comply with state law and in some cases pay monetary fines or compensation.
California AG Sues Lawyers for Fraud (August 19, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against four attorneys and their associates in southern California over alleged fraud, including accusations of false advertising, unfair business practices, and improper fee splitting. According to Harris, the attorneys defrauded homeowners by convincing them to pay thousands of dollars to receive home relief by joining a lawsuit against banks. Harris says homeowners were led to believe they would receive foreclosure stays, reduce the balance of their loan, or even receive monetary benefits. The lawyers are accused of sending out misleading mailers that told borrowers they were potential plaintiffs in a litigation settlement. Harris says that no settlements existed and that there were no lawsuits in some cases. Harris seeks penalties, damages, and restitution.
Maryland AG Orders Home Builder to Issue Refunds, Pay Penalty (August 18, 2011)
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s office ordered Charm City Builders Inc. to refund payments to consumers and pay penalties. According to Gansler, Charm City Builders and its owner violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the Home Builder Registration Act. Gansler alleges that Charm City Builders failed to put customer payments in an escrow account, failed to have a surety bond, and failed to build a home or return the money paid. The Consumer Protection Division of Gansler’s office issued the final order, which requires Charm City Builders to refund $111,637.74 in payments collected from consumers, $9,000 in penalties, and $4,026.69 in costs. The order also bars the company and its owner from acting as a home builder in Maryland until they meet the registration requirements of the Home Builder Registration Act. In his statement Gansler reminds consumers, "Before any money changes hands, you need to protect the biggest investment of your lifetime. Make sure that your home is built by a registered home builder and that any deposits are protected by an escrow account, bond or letter of credit."
North Carolina AG Obtains Temporary Ban on Credit Repair Company (August 18, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that a judge granted his office’s request for a temporary order barring M&M Business Concepts LLC from offering credit repair services. The ban comes after Cooper’s office filed suit against M&M and its owner for allegedly charging upfront fees for credit repair services in violation of state law. Cooper additionally alleges M&M created fake police reports of identify theft, which it then filed with a credit reporting agency. The goal was to convince the agency that the consumer’s identity had been stolen and caused the negative marks on the consumer’s credit report. Cooper says the scheme was discovered when the agency sent the information to the creditor for verification and the consumers ultimately did not get help repairing their credit scores. The lawsuit seeks a permit injunction barring M&M and its owner from fraudulent business practices, as well as civil penalties and refunds for consumers.
Texas AG Files Suit Against Company for Diluting Gasoline (August 18, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit against Petroleum Wholesale L.P. over allegations the company violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. According to Abbott, the company defrauded customers and falsified octane levels by diluting medium and premium grade gasoline with regular unleaded. The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction against the company, as well as civil penalties.
New York AG Subpoenas Energy Companies Regarding Natural Gas (August 18, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed three energy companies—Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, and Goodrich Petroleum—over questions of how the companies used federal rules governing how they report oil and gas reserves to investors. The subpoenas are part of an investigation by Schneiderman’s office into the accuracy of descriptions the companies gave to investors regarding prospects for natural gas wells. According to sources close to Schneiderman’s office, the subpoenas requested documents relating to discrepancies between what the companies told investors and what they reported to the federal government. Additionally, Schneiderman requested the companies submit information regarding the formulas they use to predict how long a gas well will remain productive.
Nebraska AG Says Campaign Financing Law Likely Unconstitutional (August 17, 2011)
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning issued an opinion determining that a court would likely find Nebraska’s campaign public funding laws unconstitutional. Bruning issued the opinion after the executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure commission requested it in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Arizona’s campaign financing laws. In the opinion, Bruning also notes that Nebraska’s laws pertaining to contribution limits are so interwoven with the public financing rules that a court might strike those down as well.
Ohio AG Relaunches Commission to Fight Human Trafficking (August 17, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that his office is relaunching the Human Trafficking Commission to combat human trafficking in Ohio. Under DeWine’s predecessor the commission was known as the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission and primarily compiled reports on at risk people in Ohio. In his announcement DeWine states, "While the statutory commission may have issued a final report, our work is not done on the issue of human trafficking in Ohio. The Human Trafficking Commission will help the attorney general's office and law enforcement develop practices and proposals to root out human trafficking in our state." According to a University of Toledo professor, Celia Williams, approximately 3,000 young people in Ohio are at risk of becoming entangled in human trafficking. DeWine also says his office is working with local law enforcement to educate them about the signs of human trafficking.
Connecticut AG Reaches Agreement with Wells Fargo Over Loan Modifications (August 17, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen reached an agreement with Wells Fargo Bank over alleged deceptive marketing for adjustable rate modification loans and violations of consumer protection laws. According to Jepsen, two corporations acquired by Wells Fargo, Wachovia and Golden West Financial, failed to fully explain to borrowers that minimum payments available for the loans would not cover the accrued interest. Jepsen says that the choice to make minimum payments increased the amount of the loan. In his statement Jepsen says, "I am pleased that Wells Fargo is addressing this issue. Connecticut homeowners struggling with these risky, 'pick-a-payment' loans will have a fair opportunity to achieve a loan modification or other relief." Under the terms of the agreement, Wells Fargo will consider approximately 1,535 Connecticut eligible homeowners for home loan modifications.
Iowa AG Sues Membership Club Over Deceptive Sales Practices (August 17, 2011)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed suit against Stonebridge Benefits Services Inc. for alleged violations of Iowa’s Consumer Fraud Act. According to Miller, Stonebridge engaged in deceptive and unfair sales tactics by charging monthly fees for unwanted and unused memberships. In Iowa, membership sales transactions have to include certain disclosures, notices, and contracts. Miller’s office investigated Stonebridge after receiving complaints from consumers claiming they were enrolled in and billed for memberships without their permission.
New York AG Announces Settlement with Finance Company (August 16, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a $3.5 million settlement with Rome Financial Co. Inc., a financing company, for allegedly scamming close to 1,000 soldiers in New York state. According to Schneiderman, Rome Financial entered into finance agreements with compound interest of up to 244 percent. Schneiderman says it appeared the company marketed specifically to soldiers. When the soldiers failed to make a payment, Rome Financial would contact their supervisors. In one instance, Schneiderman alleges Rome Financial would not allow a soldier to pay off the item early. Under the terms of the settlement, Rome Financial will also erase all debts owed by soldiers while allowing them to keep the merchandise. Schneiderman says his office and Rome Financial will work together to repair affected solders’ credit.
Missouri AG Obtains Restraining Order Against Telemarketer (August 16, 2011)
Telemarketing company C. Michael Exteriors has been ordered by a court to stop making calls to Missourians on the “no-call” list. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced his office obtained a temporary restraining order against the telemarketer for alleged violation of Missouri no-call laws. According to a suit filed by Koster, the telemarketer attempted to sell siding and windows by phone to customers on the no-call list in violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and Telemarketing No-Call List Act. In his statement Koster says, "Missourians subscribe to our No-Call List to avoid being harassed by telemarketers. The law is clear, and I want Missouri citizens to know that this office will aggressively enforce the law."
Colorado AG Secures Judgment Against Debt Management Company (August 16, 2011)
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced a judgment against Enhanced Servicing Solutions, a debt management company, in the amount of $590,000 for alleged violation of the Colorado Debt Management Services Act. The judgment follows a complaint against Enhanced Servicing for failing to register the company in accordance with state law. Suthers also alleges the company ignored a letter from the state notifying it of the registration requirement and failed to respond to a subpoena. The judgment includes $504,000 in fines, $90,363 in consumer restitution, and an injunction prohibiting further violation of the DMSA or Consumer Protection act. Enhanced Servicing is also prohibited from collecting any payments involving the past agreements violating Colorado law.
Missouri AG Obtains Temporary Restraining Order Against Towing Company (August 16, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that his office secured a temporary restraining order against Northland Tow Service LLC for alleged violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. According to Koster, Northland towed tornado damaged vehicles and made false representations that it worked with an insurance company. Additionally, Koster alleges it towed some vehicles without the owner’s permission. Under the court order, the company may not conduct business in Joplin, Missouri, as well as two counties, without prior solicitation. The company is also prohibited from towing any vehicles from the area affected by the tornado without court permission and from disposing of towing-related documents.
Rhode Island AG Warns Consumers Over Online Auto Sales (August 16, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin issued a warning to consumers to beware possible fraud with online vehicle sale listings. According to Kilmartin, the Internet Crime Complaint Center has received several complaints nationwide involving fraudulent internet auto sales. Kilmartin says that scammers advertise vehicles far below bluebook value to hook buyers, then ask for a full or partial payment to be sent to a third party by wire transfer. The scammer then keeps the money but never hands over the vehicle to the buyer. Additionally, Kilmartin says other signs of a scam may include the seller claiming they have to rush the deal because of a family emergency, they are moving quickly, or they are being deployed by the military. The scammers may also claim the transaction is covered by a reputable protection plan through well-known companies, though the transaction is being conducted outside the company’s site. In his statement Kilmart reminds consumers, "If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Massachusetts Mobile Home Park Found Liable Over Septic System (August 15, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that the Pocasset Mobile Home Park was found liable for alleged violations of state environmental laws. According to Coakley, Pocasset’s owners have violated environmental laws and court orders that required the park to upgrade a failing septic system. The park experienced multiple sewage overflows from the septic system. Coakley says the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued Pocasset a permit requiring the septic system upgrade. In her announcement Coakley states, “As the owner of the property, it was Mr. Austin's responsibility to comply with the law and by refusing to do so, he created a significant risk to the health and safety of the families and individuals living there. This court order requires Mr. Austin to upgrade the parks septic system and to comply with the law to protect the health and safety of the park's residents."
West Virginia AG Sues Carnival Rides Business (August 15, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed suit against All American Rides and Shows, a carnival ride business, and its owner for alleged unfair and deceptive business practices. According to McGraw, the company entered into a contract to provide carnival rides for the Wayne County Fair but failed to do so after receiving a $5,000 up-front payment. McGraw also alleges the company failed to get the necessary permits to operate in the state. The suit requests an injunction to prevent the company from engaging in fraudulent activity in West Virginia. McGraw also asked the court for restitution and a freeze on the company’s bank accounts.
California AG Reaches Diesel Emissions Settlement (August 15, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a settlement with the cargo terminals of Long Beach and Los Angeles ports for diesel emission reduction. Harris sued the cargo terminals two months ago, alleging that residents were exposed to high levels of diesel emissions from the terminals in violation of Proposition 65. Under the terms of the settlement, the terminals will have to reduce diesel emissions through projects valued at $1 million per terminal, pay the ports for projects that lower diesel emissions from vehicles and machinery, and implement a warning program for the public.
Massachusetts AG Sues Restaurant for Alleged Discrimination (August 15, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing Peggy O’Neil’s, a Dorchester, Massachusetts restaurant and bar, for alleged racial discrimination. According to Coakley, O’Neil’s has a pattern of discrimination by barring minorities from entering the restaurant. Coakley’s office filed the lawsuit after a complaint that in December 2010 two men of Cape Verdean and African descent were not allowed entry into O’Neil’s. Subsequently that same night another group of men of Cape Verdean, Spanish, and African descent were allegedly barred from the restaurant. A third group was also allegedly denied access in April. The lawsuit asks the court for monetary damages, civil penalties, and a court order requiring O’Neil’s to comply with antidiscrimination and consumer protection laws.
South Dakota AG Determines Legislative Committee Did Not Violate Law (August 15, 2011)
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley determined that the state Legislature’s executive committee did not violate any laws by paying a $95,000 membership fee. South Dakota is a member state of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, which requires members to pay dues. Gene Abdallah, a representative in the state Legislature, asked Jackley to issue an opinion on whether the committee had violated state open meeting laws by appropriating money for the membership fee when it was not on the agenda. In his issued opinion Jackley states, "The concerns raised are really policy decisions for the Legislature to address. We are not going to take any further action absent additional information.” Jackley also notes that under state law the Legislature is exempt from open meeting regulations.
Casella to Pay $1 Million to Vermont for Violations (August 12, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell reached a $1 million settlement with Casella Waste Management, a waste hauling service, for allegedly violating an earlier settlement with Sorrell’s office. In a 2002 settlement, Casella agreed to exclude a number of terms from their contracts. In particular, Casella agreed to remove requirements that customers inform Casella of competing offers and provide more than 30 days notice before the contract renewed automatically. According to Sorrell, Casella entered into more than 2,400 contracts that violated the 2002 settlement by including at least one of the prohibited terms. The settlement also requires Casella to develop a compliance program to ensure all staff are adequately trained and any future contract changes are legal. In a statement Sorrell says, "When a business makes a promise to correct certain behavior, we hold them to that promise. Consumers and businesses alike expect that our consumer protection and antitrust settlements will be vigorously enforced - and they are." A court must still approve the settlement.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules against Individual Mandate in ACA (August 12, 2011)
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Florida v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, N.D. Fla. 3:10-cv-00091-RV-EMT (Jan. 31, 2011) No. 11-11021 (11th Cir. filed Mar. 9, 2011) and No. 11-11067, (11th Cir. filed Mar. 11, 2011). In a split decision the court ruled 2-1, that the individual mandate within the Affordable Care Act requiring individuals to have health insurance is unconstitutional. The court did not go as far as District Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling that held that the entire bill are unconstitutional. 26 states brought suit against the Federal Government. The Federal Government has 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Idaho AG Reaches $2.5 Million Settlement with Drug Manufacturer (August 11, 2011)
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced a $2.5 million settlement with pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca Plc for allegations related to Medicaid pricing. Wasden’s office alleged that AstraZeneca inflated its average wholesale drug pricing, causing Idaho to pay more for prescription drugs through the Medicaid program. Government health programs use the average wholesale prices to set reimbursement rates for prescription drugs. According to Wasden, the difference between the listed price and the actual price of one drug manufactured by AstraZeneca was 26 percent. In his statement Wasden said, “Where published prices are false or misleading, the taxpayers are significantly harmed by excessive Medicaid reimbursements.” AstraZeneca will pay $2.5 million to Idaho but denies any wrongdoing.
Connecticut AG Settles with Hotel Over Price Fixing (August 11, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced a settlement with two related hotel companies, Metro Ten Hotel LLC and McSam Hotel Group LLC, over allegations of price fixing. Jepsen’s office alleged the two companies shared information not available to the public, which allowed competitors to fix prices for hotel rooms. Under Connecticut antitrust law, it is illegal to fix rates for hotel rooms. In a statement Jepsen said, “This agreement will end an artificially imposed practice that drove up room rates at certain hotels. The settlement will help to restore a competitive marketplace by providing consumers the opportunity to obtain prices for hotel accommodations that were set by the market, not by collusion." The companies must pay $50,000 in civil penalties to Connecticut, as well as stop price fixing at their hotels.
New Jersey AG Sues Pet Dealer for Alleged Consumer Fraud (August 11, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow filed suit against Allan Levine and his three pet sale businesses for allegedly violating consumer protection and sale of animals laws. According to Dow, Levine violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Regulations Governing the Sale of Animals by selling seriously ill puppies, failing to provide refunds or reimburse consumers for veterinary care, and failing to disclose the puppies’ accurate health information to consumers. Additionally, Dow’s office alleges that Levine attempted to alter one business, Allan Levine Inc, as a charity and attested the payments for puppies were charitable donations. However, Dow says Levine never provided the required financial records for charities and commingled the alleged donations with his personal accounts. Dow acted after her office received nine complaints regarding Levine and his businesses. In the suit, Dow asks for a permanent injunction barring Levine from selling animals in New Jersey, as well as restitution for consumers, civil penalties, and attorneys’ fees.
Maryland AG Announces Fines Against Country Club for Pollution (August 11, 2011)
The owners of Horn’s Point, a Cambridge, Maryland country club, was ordered to pay $500,000 for alleged discharge of pollutants into wetlands, according to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Gansler’s office alleges BSJ Partners LLC, the country club owners, discharged raw sewage into wetlands along the Choptank River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, after their septic system failed. According to Gansler, BSJ Partners did this for two years, saving more than $424,000. In a statement Gansler said, "The extraordinary penalty we secured in this case is a severe warning to anyone who would pollute our wetlands, our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. This office will aggressively pursue and punish those who violate the law and harm the health and well-being of Maryland's precious natural resources." BSJ Partners must pay $485,000 for violating environmental laws, $15,000 for failing to submit discharge monitoring reports, and $500 for discovery violations.
North Carolina AG Sues Accused Deed Scammers (August 11, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed suit against six individuals for allegedly using fraudulent deeds to gain possession of homes in the state. According to Cooper, the defendants put $1.2 million liens on the properties, which were foreclosed, preventing the homes from being sold unless the legal owners obtained a court order to remove the false paperwork. Cooper’s office filed the suit in response to a complaint from a homeowner whose property was obtained by the scammers. Cooper is asking the court for a permanent injunction against the defendants to stop them from filing further fake documents, as well as civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.
Indiana AG Sues Foreclosure Consultant for Illegal Operation (August 10, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed suit against Legal Home Loan Solutions, a Florida-based foreclosure consultant, alleging the company violated state consumer protection laws. According to Zoeller, Legal Home violated Indiana law by failing to register a surety bond with his office. Additionally, Zoeller alleges the company failed to give refunds to consumers when Legal Home did not provide the services paid for. In a statement Zoeller says, "Foreclosure consultant scams prey on those who are desperately looking for help to save their homes. These scams also rob the homeowners of the opportunity to receive legitimate housing services from not-for-profit alternatives.” In the lawsuit, Zoeller asks the court for restitution for consumers, civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, and attorneys’ fees.
Maine AG Settles with Debt Company Over Enrollment Fees (August 10, 2011)
Maine Attorney General William Schneider settled with Credit Solutions Inc., a Texas-based debt settlement company, over allegations of unfair trade practices. Schneider alleged that Credit Solutions violated the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act by collecting upfront fees to negotiate debt settlements. According to Schneider’s office, Credit Solutions promised to eliminate 40 to 60 percent of the consumer’s debt but of the 561 Maine consumers who used the company, only six were able to eliminate 40 percent of their debt. Credit Solutions also reportedly held consumers responsible for the upfront enrollment fee regardless of whether all their debt was settled through the company. The settlement requires Credit Solutions to pay $150,000 for litigation costs and stop accepting advance fees for debt settlement services.
Illinois AG Asks for Fuel Gel Recall (August 10, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall fuel gel products and ban any further sale. Fuel gel is used in firepots for decorative flames. Madigan cites reports of consumers nationwide experiencing severe burns from accidents with fuel gel. According to Madigan, the injuries happen when people try to light or re-light the flame but spill the fuel gel causing a fireball. Fuel gel contact with the skin is reportedly similar to napalm. Madigan’s office states there have been 3 incidents of fuel gel burns reported in Illinois and dozens of other injuries nationwide. Earlier this year, Madigan warned consumers about fuel gel use and the Commission recalled one product made by Napa Home & Garden.
Massachusetts AG Announces Fines for Labor Violations (August 9, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a judgment against RPM Services Inc. and its owner for labor violations. Coakley’s office alleges RPM Services failed to pay over $104,000 in prevailing wages to 11 employees, more than $105,000 in wages to 13 employees, and over $4,500 in overtime to 5 employees. Additionally, Coakley alleges RPM Services willfully failed to submit accurate payroll records to the awarding authorities. RPM Services must pay $213,000 in restitution to affected employees and $257,000 in fines for the alleged labor law violations.
New Mexico AG Sues Bureau of Reclamation Over Water (August 9, 2011)
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation regarding distribution of water. In the suit, King asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the Bureau from releasing water originally classified for New Mexico to Texas instead. In July, the Bureau reclassified 65,000 acres of water in the Elephant Butte Reservoir, making it available to Texas when it was originally set aside for New Mexico. King alleges this unilateral action by the Bureau is illegal under the Rio Grande Compact because the water was stored for New Mexico’s benefit.
Massachusetts AG Settles with Mortgage Company (August 9, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley reached an agreement with Sand Canyon, a mortgage originator, after allegations the company engaged in discriminatory and unfair lending practices. Coakley alleged that Sand Canyon, formerly known as Option One, charged excessive and unjustified fees to minority borrowers. Sand Canyon, a subsidiary of H&R Block Inc., will pay $9.8 million to Massachusetts, $8 million of which will be used for consumer relief. Sand Canyon must also direct another modification company to start an aggressive loan modification program worth another $115 million in relief to homeowners. According to Coakley’s office, Sand Canyon foreclosed on 834 loans after the subprime mortgage collapse, costing the commonwealth $4.6 million in lost tax revenue and $390 in reduced property values.
Indiana AG Joins Suit Against Education Management Company (August 9, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined a lawsuit against Education Management Corp. for allegedly receiving financial aid based on false claims. Zoeller joins the attorneys general from California, Illinois, and Florida, as well as the federal government. According to whistleblowers, the most recent in Indiana, Education Management's for-profit colleges use incentive plans to recruit students and the attorneys general allege this includes unqualified students. This would violate a federal law banning incentive compensation based on enrollment numbers for college admissions staff. Zoeller alleges Brown Mackie College and the Art Institute, subsidiaries of Education Management, received over $12 million in state financial aid from Indiana. The larger lawsuit alleges Education Management improperly received $11 billion in government aid since 2003.
Arizona AG Files Suit to Block “Marijuana Clubs” (August 9, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit in the Maricopa County Superior Court, asking the court to shut down illegal “marijuana clubs.” According to Horne, these clubs allow medical marijuana users to pay fees to become a member and not have to pay for medical marijuana beyond the membership fees. Horne says the medical marijuana law approved by voters last fall does not allow for this kind of dispensary. Horne argues that because clubs charge per visit or annually to members for access to marijuana they are unlawfully providing marijuana for compensation. Currently, 8,700 people in Arizona have legal permission to use medical marijuana but the state is not licensing dispensaries out of concern state employees could be prosecuted under federal law.
Florida AG Announces $1 Million Settlement with Marketing Company (August 8, 2011)
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a million-dollar settlement with Encore Marketing International, a Maryland-based company. Bondi’s office alleged Encore violated the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Act by failing to clearly disclose recurring fees when soliciting club memberships. According to Bondi, consumers would make online or telephone purchases and were then offered discounts for joining Encore’s club membership. Encore agreed to pay $1 million in restitution to Florida consumers and $200,000 in attorneys’ fees to Bondi’s office. In a statement Bondi said, "Consumers deserve to have a clear and prominent disclosure of any fees associated with a transaction, and we are committed to protecting Floridians from deceptive practices.”
Indiana AG Finds Proposed Campaign Ordinance Illegal (August 6, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller determined a proposed ordinance that would prohibit a city from conducting business with any city campaign donors is illegal. The city council of Fort Wayne, Indiana proposed the ordinance to prohibit the city awarding contracts to anyone who had donated money to any city officeholder or candidate’s campaign. A City Councilwoman argues that the ordinance regulates how the city will award contracts and does not limit donors. Zoeller’s office, however, says the ordinance infringes on Indiana’s power to regulate campaign finance.
AGs Ask EPA to Withdraw Proposed Electricity Regulations (August 5, 2011)
Attorneys General from nine states—Arizona, Florida, Guam, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah—have asked Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw proposed electricity regulations. The proposed regulations would require utilities to use Maximum Achievable Control Technology and EPA officials say the regulations are designed to improve air quality. The Attorneys General argue that the EPA failed to follow President Obama’s directive to analyze cumulative effects of new regulations before implementing them. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt cites a cumulative effect study conducted by an unnamed private industry group that showed the new regulation, when combined with another EPA transportation rule, would raise Kansas electricity rates more than 12% by 2016. In a letter to Jackson, Schmidt asked the EPA to withdraw the proposed regulation until the cumulative impacts were analyzed.
Iowa AG Announces Civil Penalty in Cattle Pollution Case (August 5, 2011)
A Sioux County judge has ordered Haverhals Farm, a cattle company, to pay a $15,000 civil penalty for alleged manure discharge into an Iowa tributary. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources alleged Haverhals discharged approximately 950,000 gallons of cattle manure into a tributary. In response to Miller’s petition filed with the court, Haverhals admitted to discharging and land-applying cattle manure, which resulted in surface or groundwater pollution, in a consent decree. In Iowa, feedlot operations exceeding 1,000 livestock may not discharge manure into waterways without a permit. The judge also ordered Haverhals to comply with Iowa groundwater protection laws.
Washington AG Sues Foreclosure Trustees (August 5, 2011)
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is suing ReconTrust Co, a foreclosure trustee and subsidiary of Bank of America, for conducting illegal foreclosures. In the suit McKenna’s office alleged “ReconTrust has failed to comply with the Washington Deed of Trust Act, RCW 61.24, in each and every foreclosure it has conducted since at least June 12, 2008." McKenna alleges ReconTrust violated one essential provision by not having a physical office in Washington. Additionally, ReconTrust is accused of failing to identify the actual owner of promissory notes being foreclosed on, failing its duty of good faith to borrowers, and failing to conduct foreclosures in public places. McKenna is asking the court to mandate ReconTrust comply with Washington law, impose a $2,000 penalty for every violation, and grant restitution for consumers.
Missouri AG Announces Consent Judgment Against Dog Breeder (August 5, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced a consent decree against the owner of Wolfgang’s Puppies and Gee Gee’s Yorkies, a commercial dog breeding facility. Koster’s office alleged the dog breeder violated several provisions of the Animal Care Facilities Act, including operating without a license, failure to provide adequate veterinary care, and unsanitary conditions. As part of the agreement the breeder transferred all dogs at the facility to the Humane Society of Missouri and must shut down her business for six years. Additionally she must pay a $500 civil penalty, $1,000 in attorneys’ fees, and $200 in restitution to consumers. Addressing commercial dog breeding in Missouri Koster said, "As attorney general, one of my singular goals is to clean up Missouri's reputation with regard to 'puppy mills.’ We want Missouri to be known as a state that raises animals in a humane environment and offers dogs from well-operated kennels to buyers across the country."
Massachusetts AG Investigates University Trustees (August 5, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has investigated the University of Massachusetts board of trustees for alleged violations of the state’s open meeting laws. Investigators for Coakley’s office found that during the search for a new university president, the board failed to provide proper public notice, posted notices that were insufficiently specific, and inappropriately discussed the qualifications of three finalists at executive sessions. Coakley has ordered the board to receive training in the state’s open meeting laws. In support of her decision Coakley states, “This is a strong action that makes clear that these violations should not have occurred, requires the board to take corrective remedies, and works to ensure that the mistakes do not happen again.”
New York AG Sues Bank for Fraud, Opposes Settlement (August 4, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against Bank of New York Mellon for alleged fraud while acting as trustee for mortgage loan pools issued by Countrywide. In the lawsuit Schneiderman argues, “Investors in the trusts were misled by Bank of New York Mellon into believing that Bank of New York Mellon would review the loan files for the mortgages securing their investment, and that any deficiencies would be cured.” Schneiderman is also moving to block an agreement between Bank of New York and Bank of America, arguing that Bank of New York breached its duty to investors by agreeing to the deal. In the proposed settlement, Bank of America would pay $8.5 billion to the investors, while the mortgage pool totals $174 billion. A hearing on the proposed settlement is scheduled for Friday.
Massachusetts AG Reaches Settlement Over Superfund Site (August 4, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a $1 million settlement with two former owners and two current owners of a Superfund site in the state. The Blackburn & Union Privileges Superfund Site contains water and land contaminated with such hazardous substances as arsenic, asbestos, and lead. The former and current owners involved in the settlement must pay $1,094,169.56 to the state and federal natural resources trustees, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Department of the Interior. The trustees will use the settlement for restoration projects to repair damages to wetlands, groundwater, and other ecological resources. Praising the settlement Coakley said, “The citizens of Walpole have had to live with the environmental impact of this contamination for many years. We are pleased that today's agreement will not only require the responsible parties to reimburse taxpayer dollars, but will also provide funding to begin restoring or replacing the wetland and other natural resources."
Colorado AG Warns Consumers About Restitution Recovery Assistance Scams (August 4, 2011)
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers warned consumers to beware of firms offering to recover restitution judgments obtained by Suthers’ office in exchange for upfront fees. Suthers’ warning comes in response to inquiries by consumers who were contacted by RMI Associates. According to the complaints, RMI Associates offered to recover restitution related to a lawsuit between Suthers’ office, the Federal Trade Commission, and Dalbey Education Institute. Suthers’ states the organization has no affiliation with his office or the FTC and Colorado consumers can submit complaints for free through the Attorney General’s website.
U.S. Government Looks to Dismiss New York AG’s “Fracking” Suit (August 4, 2011)
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch requested a pre-motion conference ahead of the government’s planned motion to dismiss New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against the Army Corp of Engineers for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Schneiderman filed suit against the Army Corp on May 31, alleging it failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it refused to study the effects of hydrofracking on the Delaware River basin. Lynch argues Schneiderman’s claim is barred by a number of legal principles, including sovereign immunity, lack of standing, and that the claim is not ripe for review. Schneiderman’s suit argues that because the federal government is part of the Delaware River Basin Commission it must comply with NEPA and study the effects on the basin. The Army Corps contends that the Commission is not a federal agency.
Delaware AG Sues County Water Authority (August 4, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is suing Camden Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority, a Kent County water utility, for failing to release requested documents to the public. According to Biden’s office, the water authority violated Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act by repeatedly refusing to publicly release detailed financial documents. Biden is asking the court to compel the water authority to release the documents as requested by the Wyoming town Treasurer. Biden notes that a suit of this kind is unusual since most state entities release records as soon as the Attorney General’s Office directs them to do so.
Massachusetts AG Obtains $2.4 Million Judgment For Health Plan Fraud (August 3, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a civil judgment of $2.4 million against two companies, Consumer Health Benefit Association and National Benefits Consultants LLC. Coakley’s office sued the companies for alleged fraud by marketing and selling discount health plans as health insurance and as being sufficient to meet the state’s mandatory insurance coverage law. As part of the judgment, the companies are required to pay $586,960.95 in restitution to consumers, $1,780,000 in civil penalties, and $99,000 in attorneys’ fees. The companies are also permanently prohibited from representing a discount health plan or insurance as meeting the state’s mandatory insurance coverage requirements when they do not.
Maine AG Rules Deadly Force by Officer Justified (August 3, 2011)
Maine Attorney General William Schneider concluded that a Kennebunk, Maine police officer was justified in using deadly force against a woman on March 27 of this year. Schneider’s office investigated the officer after he fatally shot a woman when she allegedly pulled out a large knife, advanced towards the officer, and disregarded orders to drop the knife. The officer was responding to a domestic dispute between the woman and her mother, who also lived at the residence. Schneider’s office determined "[i]t was reasonable for Officer Morneau to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him, Sgt. Gilman and Ms. Paulson's mother.” In Maine, the Attorney General’s office investigates all instances of deadly force by police officers.
West Virginia AG Settles with Debt Collection Firms (August 3, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw settled with two debt collection firms, Northtown Capital Associates Inc and Interstate Check Systems Inc, following an investigation. McGraw started an investigation after receiving complaints that the two companies did not have the appropriate license and bond from the state Tax Department. According to McGraw’s office, both debt collection firms were attempting to collect debts for Payday Yes, an Internet payday lender that previously agreed with McGraw’s office to cease all collection attempts in the state. Internet payday loans typically have very high interest rates and are illegal in West Virgnia. Under the terms of the settlement, Northtown and Interstate both agree to stop trying to collect Internet payday loans and cease all debt collection activities in the state until they receive the appropriate state license. The companies will also refund or cancel debts for West Virginia consumers, amounting to $11,117.25.
Vermont AG Settles with Cabot (August 3, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell’s office settled with Agri-Mark Inc., the parent company of Cabot cheese, regarding allegations they overstated hormone-free milk claims. According to Sorrell’s office, some of the products made by the Cabot Creamery Cooperative cannot be certified as being free of an artificial hormone known as rBST. The Cooperative claimed in 2009 and 2010 that none of its products contained rBST, claims which Sorrell’s office alleges were overstated. Agri-Mark has agreed to pay $65,000 to Vermont and donate another $75,000 in dairy products to food banks. Additionally, the Cooperative must give accurate information on the rBST status of its products.
Delaware AG Rules University Violated Open-Records Laws (August 3, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office ruled that Delaware State University violated the state’s open-record laws by charging a newspaper for compiling public documents. The News Journal filed a complaint with Biden’s office after the university tried to charge a research fee of $5,500 for contracts related to the construction of a “Wellness and Recreation Center” at the university. The paper argued that the university violated the reasonable fee provision of the state Freedom of Information Act. Biden’s office determined that since the university does not have a written policy that sets research fees they cannot charge anything more than the cost of making copies but did not rule on whether the fee itself would have been reasonable. The university says it will provide the documents to the newspaper and is drafting a written policy on research fees.
Landscaper Sued by Illinois AG for Fraud (August 2, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against a landscaper in Springfield, Illinois for alleged fraud. Madigan’s office alleges that the landscaper charged for services he never provided. According to the lawsuit, the landscaper went door-to-door soliciting customers for lawn care work and defrauded Illinois consumers of at least $8,545. In the lawsuit, Madigan’s office asks for $50,000 in civil penalties, another $50,000 in penalties if the court finds the defendant intended to defraud, and a $10,000 penalty for violations against consumers 65 years of age or older. Madigan cautions consumers to beware these kinds of scams, stating, “A contractor who goes door-to-door soliciting business should be an automatic warning sign for consumers.”
Insurance Companies to Review Connecticut Chiropractic Claims (August 2, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that two health insurance agreed to reprocess chiropractic benefit claims they previously denied. In July, Jepsen’s office raised questions with the insurance companies, Aetna and American Specialty Health Networks Inc., after receiving several complaints regarding denial of chiropractic services claims. According to allegations by chiropractic providers, the companies improperly denied claims under Connecticut law. In Connecticut, health insurance plans are required to cover services by licensed chiropractors, such as X-rays and preventative care, to the same extent the plan would cover those services as provided by physicians. Aetna said it would update the claim system, review claims filed since July 1, and reprocess any improperly denied claims.
Massachusetts AG Sues Drug Manufacturer (August 2, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office filed suit against Ortho-McNeil-Janssen, a drug manufacturer, for illegally marketing Risperdal. Coakley alleges that the manufacturer promoted the antipsychotic medication Risperdal for a number of uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These uses included treating elderly dementia and adolescent conduct disorders. Coakley also alleges Janssen failed to disclose serious side effects of the drugs, including weight gain, diabetes, and an increased risk of death in elderly dementia patients. In a statement from her office Coakley alleges, "Janssen put profits ahead of patient safety by promoting Risperdal for uses that had not been approved and by failing to disclose serious risks associated with Risperdal's use."
Ohio AG Rejects Language for Election Reform Referendum (August 2, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected proposed language for a referendum on House Bill 194 regarding election reform. DeWine states that the proposed referendum language contains inaccurate statements and does not fairly and truthfully describe the measure to be referred. To support this statement, DeWine points to several invalid citations of administrative code and misstatements of law in the proposed language. In the letter to the Ohio Secretary of State and a committee representing the referendum petitioners DeWine writes, "Due to all of these deficiencies, I cannot certify the proposed summary to be a fair and truthful summary of the matter to be referred and must, therefore, reject it.” The petitioners may now challenge DeWine’s ruling in the Ohio Supreme Court or start the process over with new language.
New Jersey AG Cites Loan Modification Firms for Fraud (August 2, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow and the State Division of Consumer Affairs cited seven mortgage modification firms for fraud. Dow’s office alleges the seven companies violated the state’s Adjustment and Credit Counseling Act and Consumer Fraud Act by offering modification services without debt adjuster licenses. The companies were served with cease and desist notices. Dow is requesting $35,000 in civil penalties, as well as $49,434 in restitution for the 10 consumers who paid fees to the companies. In the press release from her office Dow states, "We do not want homeowners who are already struggling to make mortgage payments victimized by unlicensed persons offering services that they cannot lawfully provide. Unlicensed companies most often make a difficult situation worse for homeowners, and we will continue to go after these firms." The cited companies can contest the citations and request a hearing.
Pennsylvania AG Sues Furniture Stores (August 1, 2011)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office is suing two Philadelphia furniture companies for alleged consumer protection violations. Kelly alleges that the owner of the two stores accepted deposits and payments for furniture that was ultimately not delivered. The owner also allegedly closed the stores without offering refunds to customers who paid for furniture they never received. Kelly also urged any consumers who believed they are entitled to restitution to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Oklahoma AG Issues Opinion on Prescription Requirements by Cities (August 1, 2011)
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt released an opinion determining that municipalities in Oklahoma cannot require prescriptions for cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine. According to Pruitt, no state statute authorizes municipalities to regulate dispensing, sale, or distribution of pseudoephedrine. Pruitt issued the opinion at a state representative's request in response to several municipalities requiring prescriptions for the cold medicines. In his announcement Pruitt states, “A municipality that undertakes to enact an ordinance prohibiting the dispensing, sale or distribution of pseudoephedrine except upon the order of a lawful prescription removes an option carefully preserved by the Legislature for persons desiring to lawfully obtain pseudoephedrine without the necessity or burden of obtaining a prescription."
Arizona AG Investigates Violation of Open Meeting Law (July 30, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced preliminary findings that the Quartzite Town Council violated a state Open Meeting Law by conducting closed-door meetings. Horne’s preliminary finding is based on a video of a meeting showing a local woman being arrested after raising First Amendment concerns. Council members then allegedly declared an emergency and excluded citizens from a meeting on July 10 after receiving death threats. Horne notes that his office does not usually issue preliminary findings but due to the “unusual public interest” did so in this case. The council could face civil sanctions, including removal from office, if Horne’s office confirms the preliminary findings.
Washington and South Carolina File Suit Against Nuclear Regulatory Commission (July 29, 2011)
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna announced that Washington and South Carolina have filed a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The lawsuit seeks to compel the NRC to resume consideration of a stalled nuclear waste dump project, Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. Washington and South Carolina argue that the NRC has unreasonably delayed the consideration of the Yucca Mountain license application after the Obama administration sought to withdraw the application. Explaining the decision to file McKenna says, “We filed today's action because the current situation is unacceptable. There's always a risk that, in the future, in searching for a solution, that it would be just fine to leave large amounts of waste at Hanford. That would be incredibly unfair, considering this state has carried a disproportionate share of the burden." This most recent lawsuit comes after a federal court threw out another lawsuit by Washington and South Carolina earlier this year, determining that the action was not appropriate because the NRC had not made a final decision on Yucca Mountain.
Oklahoma AG Investigates State Pension Investments (July 29, 2011)
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced his office is investigating how financial institutions are handling state pension funds. Prompted by calls to his office, Pruitt sent letters to banks handling state pension funds asking for information on investments. Of interest to Pruitt’s office is ensuring the banks are following federal guidelines for foreign currency exchanges. Some claims raise concerns that some banks may be manipulating foreign currency trade prices for their own profit. Pruitt notes his office does not have any evidence of wrongdoing by the banks concerning Oklahoma pension funds but says that information from colleagues and other sources indicates that it is something his office should pay attention to.
Connecticut AG Settles with Former Financial Services Firm CEO (July 28, 2011)
Connecticut AG George Jepsen announced a $250,000 settlement with Martin Kanefsky, the former CEO of financial services firm Kane Capital Strategies. The settlement stems from allegations that Kanefsky engaged in anticompetitive and fraudulent behavior, including allowing bid manipulation and “last looks,” which are forbidden by the U.S Treasury Department. The “last looks” practice allows businesses to see their competitors’ bids before making their own final bid. The settlement also requires Kanefsky to assist a multistate working group of attorneys general, headed by Jepsen, with the national review of the municipal derivatives industry. This is the first settlement with a broker obtained by the working group, though it has also obtained settlements with entities including Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Michigan AG to Appeal Prop 2 Ruling (July 28, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would appeal the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to overturn the state's 2006 law banning the use of race and gender preferences in college admissions and government hiring and contracting. The appeals court ruled that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and the judges objected to the inclusion of the ban, which passed with 58% of the vote in November 2006, in the Michigan Constitution. Schuette said his office will ask the entire U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a rehearing of the case, saying "It's absurd to conclude that banning racial discrimination somehow perpetuates racial discrimination. It simply defies common sense.” Meanwhile, the law remains in effect.
New Jersey AG Charges Chiropractors with Insurance Fraud (July 27, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow has charged 11 people, including three chiropractors, of operating two separate schemes involving “runners” to fraudulently recruit patients to the chiropractors’ practices. According to investigators, the chiropractors used runners to identify and contact individuals who had recently been involved in motor vehicle accidents, recruiting them to undergo chiropractic treatment. The recruitment of patients by the runners, and the subsequent treatment, enabled the chiropractors to file claims for payment from multiple insurance companies. New Jersey law, however, includes an "anti-running statute," which imposes criminal penalties for acting as a runner or using, directing, or employing a runner. "These alleged schemes involved chiropractors recruiting runners and runners recruiting patients, all in the name of greed," said Attorney General Dow. "Such conduct corrupts the insurance system because it gives powerful financial incentives that can influence a doctor's treatment decisions to maximize insurance billings."
Kentucky AG Sues For-Profit College (July 27, 2011)
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced a lawsuit against Daymar College, a for-profit college, for allegedly violating Kentucky’s Consumer Protection Act. According to Conway’s office, Daymar overcharged students for textbooks, mislead students regarding financial aid, and mislead students on credit transfers. Conway estimates that as many as 5,000 students were affected by Daymar’s alleged actions. The lawsuit seeks up to $2,000 in penalties per violation, as well as restitution for the students. This action is part of a larger investigation by Conway’s office into seven for-profit colleges.
Ohio AG Files Suit Against Used Car Dealer (July 27, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a lawsuit against a used car dealer, Kellie Auto Sales, alleging consumer law violations. Allegations include price inflation, failure to provide written payment agreements, and repossessing vehicles before consumers missed payments. DeWine’s office also received complaints that consumers were not notified of GPS tracking units placed in the vehicles. According to DeWine, "The dealership routinely required consumers to make substantial deposits on vehicles, while failing to clearly tell consumers when the remaining payments were due. Then, when consumers missed a payment, the dealer repossessed the vehicles immediately without notice to the consumers." The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution, and civil penalties.
Rite Aid Settles Prescription Overcharge Allegations for $2.1 Million (July 27, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Rite Aid will pay $2.1 million to the commonwealth for allegedly overcharging for prescription drugs. Coakley’s office alleged that Rite Aid overcharged cities, towns, and state agencies for prescriptions filled through the workers compensation insurance program. One million dollars of the settlement will be split between 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts and $1.05 million will go to the commonwealth itself. This is the fifth case Coakley’s office has handled involving prescription overcharges and the total recovery from these cases to date is $7.9 million.
Illinois AG Sues Mortgage “Rescue” Companies (July 27, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against two companies, Avatar Realty Group Inc. and Skyline Capital, for charging Illinois consumers upfront fees to obtain loan modification assistance. Madigan also sued the presidents of both companies. The suit alleges that the companies collected over $61,000 in fees from 40 consumers to negotiate mortgage modifications but then failed to perform this service. Collecting upfront fees for loan modification assistance before the service is completed is a violation of Illinois law. Madigan’s lawsuit seeks to shut down the companies and get restitution for the fees paid by consumers.
Vermont AG Warns Landlords for Lead Paint Violations (July 26, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that his office sent out letters to 14 landlords regarding noncompliance with state lead laws. Vermont requires landlords of buildings existing before 1978 to repair peeling paint and clean common areas, among other annual maintenance endeavors. The letters are part of a larger statewide effort by the Vermont Attorney General’s office to reduce lead exposure in rental properties. The notified landlords have three months to bring the property into compliance.
Connecticut AG Applauds Facebook Privacy Changes (July 26, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced his office’s approval of changes Facebook made regarding user privacy and reporting imposter profiles. The Connecticut Attorney General’s Office worked closely with Facebook to address concerns the office raised about new features on the website. Jepsen was primarily concerned with the lack of adequate notice for a new feature that would use facial recognition software to suggest people to “tag” in photos. In response to this concern, Facebook launched an advertising campaign to alert users to the change and inform users of how to opt out of the feature. Facebook assured Jepsen’s office that they were not using the software for commercial purposes. Jepsen also applauded new reporting features that make it easier to report imposter and fake profiles. In the announcement Jepsen states, "The company has been cooperative and diligent in its response and I look forward to working with them in the future to make sure Facebook users' privacy is protected, which I believe is our shared goal."
Massachusetts AG Settles with Light Bulb Distributor (July 26, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a $7,000 settlement with fluorescent light bulb distributor Lumiram Electric Corporation. The settlement stems from allegations Lumiram used misleading environmental advertisement and violated the Mercury Management Act. In addition to the monetary settlement, Lumiram agreed to correct its advertising and comply with Massachusetts mercury waste management laws. In her announcement Coakley says, "While using compact fluorescent light bulbs can help conserve energy, it is important that they are recycled properly to protect our environment. Companies doing business in the state must comply with our environmental protection laws."
New York AG Defends Rule Prohibiting Non-Lawyer Interest (July 26, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit his office deems meritless and dangerous to the legal profession. Jacoby & Meyers is challenging New York Court Rule 5.4, which says a lawyer cannot practice in a partnership where a non-lawyer is a member or corporate director, owns an interest, or has the right to control the lawyer’s professional judgment. Jacoby & Meyers asserts that this prohibition on law firms accepting outside investment is an infringement of its constitutional rights. The firm additionally asserts that the prohibition interferes with its business and professional interests, impeding potential clients’ access to legal services by denying the firm “a critical source of funding.” Conversely, Attorney General Schneiderman’s motion to dismiss says the claims are without merit, and border on frivolous. Schneiderman asserts that the challenged rule is necessary to ensure the legal profession’s independence, and avoid conflicts of interests.
Atlanta Public Schools Board Sanctioned by Attorney General (July 26, 2011)
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has sanctioned the Atlanta Public Schools board for violations related to Georgia’s open meetings and public records laws. The sanctions follow an investigation revealing private meetings, years of corruption, cheating by educators on state tests, and suppression of reports that suggested test cheating was occurring; and complaints from Atalanta residents about the school board. Nearly 180 educators in 44 schools are implicated for cheating on state tests, and some Atlanta Public Schools employees have lost their jobs and may face criminal charges. The Attorney General’s office will monitor the board throughout the next year to ensure compliance with law, and the board has unanimously agreed to additional training about state law.
New Jersey Files Suit Against Two Companies Offering Modeling/Talent Services (July 26, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow has filed suit against two companies offering modeling and talent services. According to the lawsuit, Industry Model and Talent Studios, LLC (IMTS), its successor corporation, Interface 1, LLC, and the owner, Roman Vintfeld, allegedly engaged in deceptive practices in order to entice consumers to pay for services that would purportedly assist their children in obtaining modeling and acting careers. More than two hundred consumer complaints were submitted against the two companies, which allegedly violated the Consumer Fraud Act by making false promises or misrepresentations to consumers and failing to provide consumers with copies of their sales contracts. Defendants allegedly induced consumers to sign contracts that, among other unconscionable provisions, waived consumers’ right to a jury trial or to assert any counterclaim or defense in any action. The state is seeking approximately $170,000 in restitution for consumers and civil penalties against the defendants.
Florida AG Sues Hurricane Shutter Company (July 26, 2011)
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a lawsuit against Rolladen, Inc., a hurricane shutter company, and its principal, Robert Hoffman, for deceptive and unfair trade practices. Rolladen, which markets and sells impact windows and hurricane shutters, requested deposits from customers, then failed to install the products. Consumers were asked to pay forty to eighty percent of the price up-front, for shutters and windows that were never installed. Rolladen allegedly received more than $600,000 in deposits for hurricane shutters. The lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting Rolladen from continuing to market and sell windows and shutters until they complete pending installations.
New York’s Attorney General Challenges Federal Defense of Marriage Act (July 26, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed papers challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which excludes same-sex unions from them definition of marriage. While New York’s new marriage equality law recently took effect, DOMA prevents same-sex couples from enjoying tax, health care, and other advantages from which opposite-sex couples benefit. Attorney General Schneiderman has requested the federal court to accept an amicus curiae brief that asserts that DOMA violates same-sex couples’ Constitutional equal protection rights. He also argues that DOMA is an improper intrusion on the traditional role of states in defining marriage, and that it does not advance any legitimate federal interest.
Vermont AG Announces Settlement for Lead Drinking Glasses Complaint (July 25, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced a $10,000 settlement with Vandor LLC, a Utah-based company that imported decorative drinking glasses. The complaints alleged that the imported glasses contained high levels of lead. The settlement also prevents Vandor from selling children’s products in the state unless they meet specific requirements regarding lead and cadmium content. Additionally, Vandor must report its test results and allow Vermont consumers to return the glasses at issue for a refund.
Virginia AG Settles with Loan Modification Company (July 25, 2011)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has announced that his office has reached a settlement with Nationwide Loan Modification Bureau LLC, a mortgage loan modification company. The company allegedly charged its customers illegal advance fees in violation of the Foreclosure Rescue Law, which prohibits a supplier of foreclosure avoidance services from charging a fee prior to the performance of the services. Nationwide also allegedly violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by failing to assist consumers in getting mortgage loan modifications, after promising to do so. The settlement granted the state $25,000, and $21,700 restitution for consumers that filed complaints about the advance fees.
First Charges Filed under Michigan’s New Human Trafficking Law (July 25, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has announced that the state will file its first criminal charges under its new human trafficking law. Following an investigation by Michigan State Police and the FBI, Sedrick Leman-Isaac Mitchell has been arrested and accused of human trafficking. Mitchell, who allegedly kidnapped, enslaved, and forced two girls, ages fourteen and fifteen, into prostitution, is charged with two counts of human trafficking, as well as other charges for criminal sexual conduct, racketeering, prostitution, and possession of firearms. Attorney General Schuette has emphasized that his office is committed to fighting human trafficking, and that those in violation of the new law will be prosecuted.
Maine AG Announces Contract for Tobacco Compliance Program (July 25, 2011)
Maine Attorney General William Schneider announced a one-year contract with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products to prevent access to tobacco by minors. The one-year contract also includes two one-year options. The total value of the contract if all options are exercised is $2.1 million. These funds will be used to enforce existing compliance efforts to prevent the sale and distribution of tobacco to minors. Schneider’s office will administer the funds on behalf of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Missouri AG Sues Internet Radio Operator for Charity Fraud (July 25, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is suing Steven Blood, operator of Cowboy Bill's Radio, for violating the Merchandising Practices Act. Blood sold t-shirts and claimed he would use the proceeds to set up a benefits concert for victims of the Joplin tornado. Instead, Blood allegedly used the almost $5,000 he collected to pay for his personal expenses. Blood told the Associated Press that he was using the money to cover his operating costs, and that he did not say the money was "going to anybody." Attorney General Koster is seeing an injunction, full restitution to donors, and civil penalties of $1,000 per violation.
Mississippi AG’s Tobacco Payment Suit Goes to Trial (July 25, 2011)
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is claiming that the State has received less than it should have under a settlement agreement with R.J. Reynolds, a tobacco company. Attorney General Hood alleges that the company failed to report shipments of free, continuity, and lost or stolen cigarettes, and that its base-year profits were misreported. Hood asserts that R.J. Reynolds should be required to report the number of cigarettes it shipped for domestic consumption, and account for the cigarettes it previously failed to report. Only after these numbers are corrected can the amount the State should receive can be properly calculated.
“Questionable” Veterans Charity Vows to Resume Operations (July 25, 2011)
Hawaii Attorney General David Louie is investigating Stay Strong Nation, a Maui-based veterans charity. Stay Strong is attempting to raise funds in order to build a post-traumatic stress disorder/traumatic brain injury treatment facility in Maui for service members. Attorney General Louie previously had to ask Stay Strong to cease all fundraising activity until it registered with the state as a charity. Although the organization subsequently registered, Daniel Borochoff, president of charity watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, has raised concerns about Stay Strong, asserting that the organization’s president and vice president lacked professional expertise in PTSD, and referring to Stay Strong as “highly questionable.” Stay Strong’s president has stated that, once Louie concludes the investigation, the organization will resume its operations.
Conway Announces $26.4 Million Settlement with Passport Members (July 22, 2011)
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has announced that Passport Health Plan improperly paid four of its member organizations $26.4 million as part of a settlement, and that the money must be repaid. Attorney General Conway alleges member organizations, including Jewish and St. Mary’s Inc., Norton Hospital, University Physicians Associates, and University Medical Center, received $30.5 million in disbursements in 2008 and 2009. Passport, a nonprofit care organization that provides health care to the indigent, made these disbursements illegally, as nonprofit corporations cannot pay dividends to its members. Portions of the disbursement that were used to serve Medicaid patients will not be repaid to Passport. If the money is not repaid to Passport in a timely fashion, Conway can triple the amount the members owe.
Fake Nursing School Network Accused of Fraud (July 21, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a number of arrests stemming from an investigation into a network of fake nursing schools accused of defrauding immigrants. According to Schneiderman, this network, made up of five schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, accepted money from mostly Caribbean immigrants and awarded them fake nursing certifications. Students paid between $7,000 and $20,000 to attend these schools, some spending up to two years in the programs. The total amount defrauded from students by these fake schools is estimated to be $6 million. Schneiderman’s office states four of the schools have already been shut down and authorities are trying to close the fifth.
Arizona AG Investigates Redistricting Commission (July 21, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced his office is investigating possible violations of Arizona procurement and open meeting laws by the Independent Redistricting Commission. The commission is charged with redrawing the boundaries of electoral districts in the state. Horne says his office has received a number of complaints from concerned citizens regarding allegations of improper conduct by members of the commission, which prompted the investigation. While noting that his office does not have much reason to believe the commission acted improperly, he states “we think it's best for confidence in the system that we investigate thoroughly."
Maryland AG Announces “Fracking” Education Efforts (July 21, 2011)
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced an information campaign designed to help protect Maryland landowners from “high-pressure sales tactics” by speculators looking for natural gas deposits. Western Maryland sits on a natural gas rich area known as the Marcellus Shale, making it attractive to companies drilling for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Gansler states, "Fracking poses significant risks to the land and the groundwater beneath it. Every landowner needs to be armed with accurate knowledge of these risks in order to safeguard his or her legal rights when being asked to lease mineral rights." Gansler’s office has produced two documents intended to help landowners that are now available on the Maryland Attorney General’s webpage.
Kentucky AG Negotiates Passport Repayment to Medicaid (July 21, 2011)
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway says a settlement has been reached in which hospitals and healthcare groups will repay Passport Health Care Plan, which provides health care for about 165,000 low-income and disabled Medicaid patients in Kentucky, $26.4 million that was taken from the plan’s surplus funds in 2008 and 2009 and paid to health providers on Passport's board. Conway said an investigation found that the payouts violated state and federal law, since nonprofits like Passport can't pay cash dividends to members.
Missouri AG Files Suit Over Post-Tornado Scams (July 21, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is filing suit over two alleged fundraising scams involving the Joplin tornado: one targeting a Puerto Rico-based group called the Alivio Foundation and the other focusing on Georgia resident Steve Blood, who runs an Internet radio business. Koster says the Alivio Foundation solicited donations for Joplin tornado victims by claiming the money would go to a Catholic church and charity, but the church has never heard of the foundation nor received any money. Steve Blood claims to help tornado victims by selling T-shirts and setting up benefit concerts, but Koster says the man has instead used the money for his own expenses.
West Virginia AG Wins Case Against BlueHippo (July 20, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced that a court enjoined BlueHippo Funding LLC and BlueHippo Capital LLC from operating in the state. Additionally, the court cancelled all contracts BlueHippo made with West Virginia residents. The amount of cancelled debt from these contracts is estimated to be over $500,000. The judgment stems from McGraw’s suit against BlueHippo for consumer protection violations after allegations that consumers never received the computers they purchased from the company. McGraw adds that any attempt to collect on the now cancelled contracts violates West Virginia law.
Connecticut Attorney General Calls Banks to Meet over Mortgage Servicing (July 20, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen has requested meetings with four lenders to discuss their disclosure practices. Attorney General Jepsen, who intends to meet with representatives of Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Ally Financial, asserts that the lenders failed to devote sufficient resources to servicing mortgages. These meetings are being scheduled in the midst of the negotiations of a nationwide settlement from the four companies and Bank of America. Jepsen and other officials are seeking a settlement that will set standards for how banks service loans, conduct foreclosures, and interact with borrowers.
National Grid, Attorney General Settle Costs of December 26 Storm (July 20, 2011)
Following an investigation conducted by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, National Grid has agreed to pay $1.2 million to customers as part of a settlement in connection with its response to a December 26 storm. The investigation examined National Grid’s preparation for a storm that left over 113,000 customers without power. A preliminary settlement consisting of $1 million in training, service improvements, and charitable contributions was reached with the attorney general’s office in June. The $1.2 million will be added to the agreement pending approval by the state Department of Public Utilities.
Reapportionment Vote Unlikely to Stand, Official Says (July 20, 2011)
Hawaii Attorney General David Louie has expressed his opinion that the Hawaii Supreme Court would rule against a recent reapportionment vote. The Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to include nonresident students, members of the military and their dependents, and incarcerated felons into the state’s population for redistricting purposes. Attorney General Louie insists that the state Supreme Court interprets the “resident population” of Hawaii County to consists of actual residents only. The commission will be publishing its redistricting maps next month, and will hold hearings to encourage correspondence and suggestions from the public.
Veterans Get Good News (July 19, 2011)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has decided that a constitutional amendment passed last November applies more broadly than originally interpreted. The law exempts veterans with a service-connected, permanent and total disability from paying property taxes on their primary residence. Clarification was sought when some localities interpreted this amendment as only including veterans who are 100-percent disabled. According to Attorney General Cuccinelli, this includes veterans with a total disability rating form the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Cuccinelli emphasized the value of Virginia’s veterans to the state, and the importance of demonstrating appreciation for their sacrifices.
Texas Seeks Clearance for Political Maps (July 19, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has bypassed the Department of Justice and has asked the federal courts to review the redistricting of the political maps for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Attorney General Abbott requested preclearance from the court in order to expedite the matter. The redistricting has been met with considerable opposition, with the state facing multiple lawsuit over the new political maps. Opponents of the redistricting question Abbott’s decision to bypass the Department of Justice, and assert that the new political maps abridge their voting rights. The state denies that the redistricting plans have the purpose or effect of denying rights on the basis of race or membership in a language minority.
Payday Lender to Reimburse Idaho Borrowers (July 19, 2011)
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced that Idaho residents are eligible for restitution from Flobridge Group, LLC, a payday loan lender. Flobridge, which harassed borrowers with calls, emails, and threats of unauthorized legal action, was not licensed to practice in Idaho, and attempted to garnish the wages of borrowers without obtaining court orders. As part of the settlement, Flobridge has agreed to refund borrowers who sent the company payments in response to wage garnishment requests and collection notices.
Virginia Beach Loan Modification Firm to Pay $54K to Settle Suit (July 19, 2011)
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has announced that Nationwide Loan Modification Bureau LLC has agreed to pay $54,200 to settle a lawsuit Cuccinelli filed against it. The company, which was formed in 2009 when foreclosure problems in Virginia Beach became more prevalent, allegedly violated Virginia law by demanding money upfront for services, and in some cases failed to perform the purchased services. Part of the money recovered from the settlement will be used to repay homeowners who paid Nationwide without receiving any services.
Federal Court Denies Motion for Injunction in Vermont Yankee Case (July 19, 2011)
The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont denied a motion for preliminary injunction in the Entergy suit against the state of Vermont. Entergy, owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, is suing Vermont Governor Shumlin, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, and members of a state regulatory agency for a judgment ruling that state attempts to regulate the plant are preempted by federal law. The court determined Entergy would not suffer any irreparable harm that a preliminary injunction could address. Sorrell, representing Vermont, states, "We will continue to defend the constitutionality of Vermont's laws regulating Vermont Yankee and will be working hard to prepare for the critical merits stage of this litigation." The trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.
California AG Approves Referendum Language Concerning Online Retailer Tax Laws (July 19, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that opponents may start gathering signatures to overturn a new sales tax collection law and issued ballot language for the proposed referendum. The new California law expands the definition of “retailer” in the state and requires online retailers to collect sales tax from customers in California. The proponents of the referendum have until late September to collect 505,000 signatures. If they get the necessary signatures the law will be suspended until voters decide on the referendum.
Wisconsin Grain Company Ordered to Pay $100k Forfeiture (July 18, 2011)
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced a judge ordered Bowers Feed and Grain Inc. to pay $100,000. The judgment stems from the company’s alleged violations of Wisconsin grain security laws, including failing to have the proper grain storage license, storing over 50,000 bushels of grain, and improper grain quality maintenance. Van Hollen settled with Bowers in 2010 but allegedly the company failed to comply with the terms of the agreement. A court of appeals reinstated the forfeiture amount after a lower court had struck the forfeiture in earlier proceedings.
Connecticut Settles Suit with Covanta Power Plant (July 18, 2011)
The Connecticut Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection settled with Covanta Projects of Wallingford over alleged violations at a power plant. The suit alleged that Covanta’s dioxin levels at one unit of the power plant exceeded the maximum state allowance. Covanta agreed to pay $400,000 in penalties to the state, $200,000 of which will go to support environmental protection projects. Covanta may reopen the closed unit after meeting conditions mandated in the settlement agreement.
Blaine Immigration Adviser Responds to State Suit (July 18, 2011)
In response to a lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, an immigration adviser has agreed to pay $3,000 in legal costs and change his business practices. Jason Ankeny was accused of violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act by advertising “special professional skills,” despite the fact that he is not licensed to practice law or authorized to represent others in immigration matters. According to the consent decree, Ankeny will no longer give advice about immigration matters, and will surrender his registration as an immigration assistant.
Tribune Investigation Prompts Push to Strengthen Laws on Child Abduction (July 16, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has opined that state law should require first-time offenders convicted of luring a minor to register as sex offenders, and have their photos and criminal records posted online. She also wishes to expand the range of offenses against minors that result in lifetime supervision by law enforcement upon conviction. Under current Illinois law, child abduction is not defined as a sex crime. There are also shortcomings in enforcement, with inconsistent arrest rates and low rates of successful prosecution. Illinois officials are pushing for the reforms of various laws aimed at protecting predators, and are awaiting Governor Pat Quinn’s approval of a bill that would facilitate prosecution of child abduction, define it as a sex crime, and increase the likelihood of sending recidivists to prison.
Walgreens to Pay Massachusetts $2.8m (July 15, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced that Walgreen Co. has agreed to pay $2.8 million to the state and to various Massachusetts cities and towns to resolve allegations that it overcharged for prescription drugs. According to a press release, the company overcharged an estimated $1.4 million since 2002 by filling prescriptions for workers’ compensation claimants at prices higher than those permitted by Massachusetts law. The company has agreed to pay the overcharges, as awell as an additional $1.4 million.
Iowa AG Reaches Agreement with Rental Car Company (July 15, 2011)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has announced an agreement with a car rental company to disclose Iowa’s rental car tax in its online quotes. Advantage Rent a Car allegedly omitted the five percent tax in its online quotes for rental vehicles. The price quotes were misleading and gave the company an unfair advantage over companies that included taxes and fees in compliance with Iowa law. Advantage did not admit to any violation of Iowa law, and says the omission was the result of a programming error and was unintentional. Future violations of the agreement could result in civil penalties.
Indiana AG Sues Two Firefighters for $24,000 in Pay (July 14, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed a lawsuit against two former firefighters seeking repayment of $24,0000 in payment for hours they did not work. According to an audit conducted by the Indiana State Board of Accounts, Mike Rude owes $17,737.50 for hours he claimed when he was not scheduled to be on duty; while Anthony Slusher owes $7,810.16 for reporting overtime hours that he did not work. The audit report also stated that Rude's hours had been altered by unauthorized usage of a payroll password. Attorney General Zoeller emphasized the value the community places on firefighters while simultaneously lamenting the violation of the public trust as a result of the two former firefighters' actions.
Massachusetts Couple will Pay $58K for Labor Violations (July 14, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced that Alexander and Tatiana Shlepakov will pay $58,000 in restitution and fines for alleged labor violations. Employers with state or municipal contracts must properly classify their employees in their records, in accordance with the Massachusetts Employee Misclassification Law, and all workers on public construction projects must be paid prevailing wages. The Shlepakovs, owners of Padi USA Inc. and Elad Industrial Inc., allegedly misclassified workers as independent contractors, failed to pay prevailing wages to workers, and failed to keep proper records. The couple will pay a $32,215.15 in withheld wages and $25,000 in fines to the state.
Missouri Attorney General Files Lawsuit against Joplin Landlord (July 13, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against a Joplin landlord for alleged price gouging. David Box Jr. has been accused of increasing the rent at two apartment complexes in the aftermath of the May 22 tornado. Attorney General Koster received complaints that rents had been increased, and that rents had been increased, and that they had only three days to agree to the rent increase before their apartments would be rented to someone else. While rent increases are not a violation of Missouri’s merchandising practices law, there are prohibitions against price gauging in a natural disaster area declared by state or federal government. The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the landlord from engaging in unfair rental practices, full restitution, and civil penalties.
New York Attorney General May Challenge Bank of America Pact (July 13, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is inquiring into whether public agencies or state-affiliated pension funds were included in an $8.5 billion settlement with Bank of America Corp. Bank of America agreed to settlement claims by investors who lost money on securities purchased prior to the housing collapse. The settlement was subsequently approved by a New York court. Attorney General Schneiderman requested information about any clients that are governmental entitites or public authorities in New York, as well as pension funds affiliated with those groups and any nonprofit organization in New York.
West Virginia AG Sues Mortgage Modification Assistance Company (July 15, 2011)
West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed suit to enforce a subpoena against National Relief Group, a California-based company. The subpoena regards allegations that National Relief Group defrauded a West Virginia homeowner by promising to obtain a mortgage loan modification on his house and charging a fee in advance. In West Virginia, it is illegal to charge an advance fee for mortgage modifications. The company allegedly failed to provide the promised loan modification and the homeowner lost his property to foreclosure.
Connecticut AG Examines Groupon’s Gift Certificate Status in State (July 14, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson announced that his office is investigating whether the company Groupon is actually selling gift certificates under Connecticut law. Groupon sells discounts on a variety of items and services and these discounts often have expiration dates. In Connecticut, gift certificates may not be subject to expiration dates. Jepson requested more information on Groupon’s business in Connecticut from Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, but states, “I have not prejudged Groupon or reached any conclusions. I am hopeful that any issues can be resolved through discussion and cooperation.”
Iowa AG Announces Civil Penalties Assessed Against Pharmaceutical Company (July 14, 2011)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced that Sioux Pharm, a pharmaceutical company, has been assessed a $20,000 civil penalty by a district court judge for wastewater violations. Miller sued Sioux Pharm in 2009, alleging a number of wastewater violations, including illegal discharge of wastewater into groundwater. Sioux Pharm was further ordered to permanently close their wastewater storage facility and level it.
Illinois AG Calls for Ban on “Cramming” Phone Charges (July 13, 2011)
Testifying before the United States Senate Commerce Committee, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called for a national ban on a practice known as “cramming.” Cramming is the practice of allowing third parties to charge services to a phone number, which then appear on the phone bill. According to Madigan, consumers have entered their phone numbers for things such as free trials and surveys only to find unauthorized charges on their phone bill. Madigan says, “Cramming is a fraud epidemic affecting consumers in every state. We must enact legislation to ban third-party businesses from cramming charges on phone bills."
Mississippi AG Sues Administrator of Gulf Spill Victims Fund (July 13, 2011)
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed suit against Ken Feinberg, administrator of the fund for victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last spring. The suit alleges that Feinberg did not turn over claims documents relating to the oil spill, as requested by the Mississippi Attorney General’s office. Hood also subpoenaed Feinberg in February, but says Feinberg did not comply with the subpoena. Hood asked the court to order Feinberg to comply with his office's subpoena. The suit is scheduled to be heard September 15 of this year.
Missouri AG Sues Towing Company over Joplin Work (July 11, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has announced a temporary restraining order against Northland Tow Services,for allegedly defrauding Joplin residents. Attorney General Koster alleges that Northland towed over fifty motor vehicles damaged by the May 22 Joplin tornado without some owners’ permissions, and also falsely informed customers that it was working with an insurance company. The court order prohibits the company from conducting business in Joplin, as well as other Missouri counties, without having previously been solicited to do so.
Maine AG Declares Warden Land Deal Illegal, Plans to Void It (July 11, 2011)
Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider has found the sale of state-owned property to Sheehan Gallagher and Maine State Prison Warden Patricia Barnhart to be illegal, and is declaring the transaction void. Prison Warden Barnhart and Gallagher purchased a parcel of land from the state, with the alleged intention to sublease a building located on the property back to the state. The sale presents a potential conflict of interest, as no state employee may hold a pecuniary interest in contracts made in behalf of the state, or of the institution where the employee holds a place of trust. Governor Paul LePage has issued an executive order mandating that the Department of Administrative and Financial Services create internal policy guidance for the sale of state-owned real estate.
Vermont AG Takes Issue with Entergy Filing (July 11, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell has moved to strike certain portions of Entergy Corporation’s supplemental proposed findings of fact regarding the relicensing of its nuclear power plant. Attorney General Sorrel asserts that Entergy’s filing relies on new evidence that was not submitted to the U.S. District Court of Vermont during previous hearings and motions. He also argues that Entergy violated the court order, which did not authorize either party to raise new claims or introduce new evidence regarding the lawsuit Entergy filed against Vermont for its role in deciding whether Entergy’s nuclear power plant can operate after its license expires next year.
Texas AG Files Suit against Debt Collector (July 8, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged Encore Capital Group with state debt collection law violations. Attorney General Abbott alleges that Midland Funding, LLC, a subsidiary of Encore, purchased debt portfolios from creditors and attempted to collect the money that was owed with debt collection letters that contained little information about the debt they were attempting to collect, and no evidence that they had acquired the debt from the original creditor. Defendants also allegedly made no effort to verify whether the collection efforts were proper, and targeted the wrong individuals for collection. The enforcement action seeks to establish a restitution trust fund for the unlawfully coerced Texans, civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and penalties under the Texas Finance Code.
Ohio AG Sues over Alleged Craigslist Scam (July 8, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced lawsuits against two men who allegedly ran a Craigslist scam by offering to sell various electronics and electronic accessories. The two Ohio residents, Nicholas Lamb and Robert White, allegedly offered phone cards, cell phones, Playstation 3 systems, and other items via hundreds of Craigslist advertisements, yet failed to deliver the products or provide refunds once customers had paid. Lamb and White are charged with violating Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act, and are liable for full restitution of consumers, as well as civil penalties. The lawsuit also seeks permanent injunctive relief.
New York AG has Antitrust Concerns with NFL Lockout (July 7, 2011)
New York Attorney Eric Schneiderman has expressed concerns that the National Football League’s lockout is threatening New York’s economy, and is reportedly investigating whether the lockout violates New York antitrust law. The lockout is the result of the failure to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, which could lead to the shortening or cancellation of the entire season. Three teams—the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and New York Jet—hold their training camps in New York, and thus the lockout could have an impact on the state’s economy. The lockout will be investigated under the Donnelly Act, which punishes conduct that harms competition, and allows for treble damages.
Texts Part of Flood Scam, North Dakota AG Says (July 7, 2011)
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has warned residents of the state that scam artists are attempting to reap profits, via text message, from flood victims. Attorney General Stenehjem has advised residents to avoid responding to the texts, which ask that the recipients respond with “flood” in order to receive assistance if their homes or businesses were damaged by the flood, or “no” for recipients that were not flood victims. Similar scams resulted in respondents being registered for expensive text messaging subscriptions and other various offers of which they were unaware. The Attorney General’s office has emphasized the importance of vigilantly monitoring flood-related scams, as the text messaging scam is likely to be only one of many that will develop over the next few months.
Pennsylvania AG Suing Oklahoma Companies (July 6, 2011)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has announced a consumer protection lawsuit against United American Technology Inc. and the National Campaign for Moral Values Fund for allegedly violating the Telemarketer Registration Act. The two Oklahoma based companies allegedly circumvented Pennsylvania’s Do Not Call list by using a non-profit company, NCMFV, to call consumers. Callers warned consumers about pornography and child predators, but allegedly did not disclose the purpose of their calls. The lawsuit seeks both companies’ full compliance with Pennsylvania’s Telemarketer Registration Act, and forfeiture of all profits obtained as a result of their deceptive and unfair business practices. Each company is liable for up to $1,000 in civil penalties per violation of consumer protection law, and $3,000 for each violation involving victims age sixty or older.
Vermont AG Announces No Charges Against Nuclear Power Plant Executives (July 6, 2011)
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that no charges will be brought against Entergy Corp. officials for lying to regulators regarding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The investigation examined statements by executives that there were no underground pipes at the Vermont Yankee site that could be leaking radioactive material. Entergy officials later admitted that there were in fact underground pipes at the facility that were leaking radioactive substances. The officials stated that they had mislead regulators but not intentionally. Sorrell determined that while it was clear the executives had “repeatedly failed to meet a minimally acceptable standard of credibility and trustworthiness,” there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges.
Michigan Attorney General Says That Blue Cross Agreement Is Working For Seniors (June 30, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette, says that an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is resulting in reductions in proposed insurance rate premiums for seniors. Blue Cross was seeking an average rate increase of 27.1 percent on all Medigap subscribers and a sliding scale rate increase up to 94 percent, depending on a subscribers' income. The agreement eliminates the sliding rate and keeps the overall rate increase at a minimum of 9 percent.
New York AG Names 14 Public Integrity Officers (June 30, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday he has designated one attorney in each of the agency's 14 regional offices to serve as public integrity officer — an initial contact for citizens with complaints that could lead to public corruption cases. “From town halls to the state capital, it is essential to bring both a ‘top down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach to reforming our state and giving taxpayers the government they deserve. We must clean up Albany, but we must also root out possible corruption hidden in the nooks and crannies of local governments and special districts,” Schneiderman said in a press release.
Utah AG Seeks Legal Team to File BCS Antitrust Lawsuit (June 30, 2011)
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on Wednesday put out the call for law firms interested in taking on the BCS through a federal lawsuit that seeks to have the bowl series declared an illegal monopoly. The lawsuit will seek damages for so-called ‘non-BCS schools’ that have lost out on millions of dollars over the years because the existing system keeps such non-preferred conferences such as the Mountain West — Utah’s former conference home — at a competitive disadvantage, Shurtleff has said. He further remarked that antitrust violations involving taxpayer-funded institutions need to be examined, especially when many such institutions are hurting, raising tuition or asking for more general fund money to help sustain them.
Michigan AG Backs City in Marijuana Case (June 30, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a brief Monday to intervene and support the city of Livonia's motion for summary disposition in its defense of an ordinance that prohibits any activity, including medical marijuana use, that violates federal law. In December, the ACLU sued the cities of Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham regarding the authority of communities to prohibit medical marijuana use or sales on the grounds that marijuana possession violates federal law. In his brief filed with the Wayne County Circuit Court, Schuette argued that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, approved by voters in November 2008, is preempted by federal law and that local communities “should not be forced to sanction criminal activity.”
Oregon AG Kroger Sues Sikh-Controlled Food Company (June 29, 2011)
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger is suing Kartar Singh Khalsa and the executives of Golden Temple Management, which oversees the Golden Temple of Oregon food company, and Unto Infinity, the organization controlling Golden Temple along with several other for-profit and non-profit businesses, for squeezing funding to the religious community and for unjustly enriching themselves. Kartar Khalsa took the stand on June 7, facing charges that he and the personal lawyer of Yogi Bhajan (the late former CEO of Unto Infinity) masterminded a 2007 reorganization of the multi-million dollar businesses that included the sale of Golden Temple foods to the top managers of the company for only $100 each. Kartar Khalsa also sold the company’s cereal division, as well as ownership and use of the Golden Temple brand name and logo, to Hearthside Food Solutions. The transaction netted Khalsa $17 million that the Attorney General is now requesting he return. Complicating this case are politics surrounding the use of a Sikh religious name, “Golden Temple,” by a non-Sikh company such as Hearthside. Manmohan Singh, general secretary of the World Sikh Council – America Region, said “WSC-AR does not support use of trademarks that closely resemble Sikh religious association… for marketing purposes for any for-profit business.”
Wisconsin AG Reaches Settlement Agreement with Wire Manufacturer (June 29, 2011)
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that a settlement agreement was reached in the civil prosecution of Northern Wire, a Wisconsin-based wire manufacturer. The action centered on Northern Wire’s alleged discharge of chromium and zinc into the local sewer system in violation of Wisconsin water pollution laws. The agreement requires Northern Wire to pay $65,000 in penalties to the state.
Indiana Attorney General Appeals Freeing of Planned Parenthood Funds (June 28, 2011)
Indiana Attorney General, Greg Zoeller, filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Tuesday appealing a preliminary injunction that blocked a state law restricting public funding for Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood provides abortions. The law was signed by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels on May 10, cutting off $1.4 million in funding to Planned Parenthood and denied Medicaid funds. Zoeller is arguing that although Medicaid funds are not used directly for abortions, the funds subsidize the procedures. The White House has threatened to cut off all Medicaid funds to the state totaling $5 billion.
Schneiderman says Breast Cancer Charity Funneled Donations (June 28, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Long Island-based Coalition Against Breast Cancer, alleging that the charity solicited $9.1 million over the past five years but spent virtually no money on the breast cancer programs it claimed to support, instead using the funds to pay for exorbitant fundraiser fees, benefits packages, unjustified salaries and other personal goods like cell phones, TV, internet services and home phones. Other allegations against the organization include advertising a bogus relationship with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, falsely telling donors that their money would be used to fund breast cancer research, mammogram screenings, support seminars and forums for survivors and their families, and spending less than one-half of 1 percent of donations raised for any purpose related to breast cancer prevention or detection. Schneiderman is seeking to shut down CABC and hold the defendants financially accountable for the alleged waste and misappropriation of CABC's charitable assets.
Missouri AG Sues Man over Air Conservation Laws Violations (June 24, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against Scott Porter for allegedly burning trade, construction, demolition, and salvage wastes without a permit. Attorney General Koster has sought a permanent injunction that would require Porter to comply with the Missouri Air Conservation Law, and to pay civil penalties. This lawsuit is one of many Attorney General Koster has filed against Missouri residents for violations of Missouri’s conservation laws this year.
Nevada AG Fines UnitedHealth $1 Million (June 24, 2011)
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has fined UnitedHealth Group Inc. $1 million for violating an antitrust agreement with the state. According to the agreement, which set a penalty of $100,000 per intentional violation, UnitedHealth was allowed to acquire Sierra Health Services Inc. as long as it would not attempt to buy Fiserv Nevada. UnitedHealth, in violation of the agreement, acquired both companies, further reducing competition in Nevada. UnitedHealth asserts that it did not violation the agreement because the company did not acquire an interest in, or engage in a joint venture with Fiserv.
Illinois AG Files Suit against Medical Imaging Company (June 24, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit accusing the owner and manager of Heart Check America of deceptive business practices. Owner Sheila Haddad and her son, David, allegedly used unfair and deceptive business practices to convince customers that they needed the scans, pressuring patients into purchasing long-term medical imaging contracts. The company did not inform consumers about the risks and inaccuracies of the scans, and exaggerated the importance of early detection of diseases, according to the allegations.
U.S. Supreme Court Determines Vermont Law Violates Companies’ First Amendment Rights
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who supported a Vermont law banning the use of prescriber-identifiable data for marketing prescription drugs without the prescriber’s consent, expressed his disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision rejecting the law. The Court held that the Prescription Confidentiality Law violates the First Amendment rights of data-miners and pharmaceutical companies, which should be permitted to purchase and sell information about which doctors are prescribing which drugs, and the ages and genders of the patients taking the drugs, without the consent of the patients or care-providers. The opinion stated that the law disfavored marketing and specific pharmaceutical marketers. Three dissenters, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kagan, asserted that Vermont’s law protected public health and privacy, and thus was in the state’s best interests.
Ohio AG orders Tennessee Company to Halt Charitable Solicitations in Ohio (June 23, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Non Profit Services, a Nashville, Tennessee company that solicits contributions for nine charities, have reached an agreement that the company will refrain from doing business in Ohio for five years. Non-Profit Services is alleged to have committed several violations of the Ohio Charitable Organizations Act, including "misleading potential donors by sending pledge confirmations to donors when no pledge had been made, falsely telling donors that charities would receive a larger percentage of funds than they actually received, failing to disclose that they were a paid fundraiser, and failing to file solicitation notices and financial reports in a timely manner," DeWine's office said.
Washington AG Launches Trafficking Initiative (June 23, 2011)
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has launched a national initiative to fight human trafficking. Attorney General McKenna, who was recently chosen as the new president of the National Association of Attorneys General, said there is substantial potential for public support for the initiative, due to increased awareness of human trafficking. He also emphasized the prevalence of human trafficking, condemning it as both an international problem and a local one. McKenna acknowledged that prosecutors must change their approach to human trafficking crimes, encouraging them to protect, rather than prosecute, victims of trafficking. The initiative will focus on data collection and prosecution of traffickers and buyers, as well as providing victims with support communities.
Illinois AG Presses GlaxoSmithKline and SB Pharmaco into Agreement with 37 States (June 23, 2011)
GlaxoSmithKline LLC and SB Pharmco Puerto Rico Inc. entered into a $40.8 million accord with 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to resolve allegations they breached drug manufacturing standards. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that between 2001 and 2004 the companies made bad batches of the anti-nausea drug Kytril, which is used by chemotherapy patients; Avandamet, a drug used to treat diabetes; the antidepressant Paxil CR and the antibiotic topical treatment Bactroban. The settlement money will be divided among Illinois, Oregon, 35 other states and the District of Columbia.
Delaware AG Battles Blue Cross Blue Shield Over Bill (June 23, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware testified in the state legislature's Insurance Committee on a bill that would “essentially perform end-run” around Biden's recent ruling that Blue Cross' proposed merger with Highmark Inc. would constitute a "conversion" under a 2004 law intended to protect public investment in nonprofit companies. Blue Cross requested intervention from legislators, warning that the ruling could break up the deal with Highmark and potentially trigger a sale to a for-profit insurer. In testimony on June 22, Biden said that, despite Highmark's nonprofit status, at least a portion of Blue Cross' reserves must be protected for Delaware, which has invested in the company in the form of tax breaks.
Tennessee Company to Halt Charitable Solicitations in Ohio (June 23, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Non Profit Services, a Nashville, Tennessee company that solicits contributions for nine charities, have reached an agreement that the company will refrain from doing business in Ohio for five years. Non-Profit Services is alleged to have committed several violations of the Ohio Charitable Organizations Act, including "misleading potential donors by sending pledge confirmations to donors when no pledge had been made, falsely telling donors that charities would receive a larger percentage of funds than they actually received, failing to disclose that they were a paid fundraiser, and failing to file solicitation notices and financial reports in a timely manner," DeWine's office said.
Massachusetts AG Finds Selectmen Intentionally Violated Open Meeting Law (June 21, 2011)
An investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office revealed “sufficient evidence” that the Wayland Board of Selectmen intentionally violated the state’s Open Meeting Law (OML) on July 8, 2010. The ruling stems from a complaint that alleged that “a quorum of the Wayland Board of Selectmen gathered in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room at 6:53 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, 2010 and engaged in substantive communication on public business within the Board’s jurisdiction but outside of a posted meeting.” According to the AG Martha Coakley, “This is not a mere technical violation, but a violation of a bedrock principle of government transparency.” In addition to future remedial action as determined by a hearing, Coakley ordered the Board of Selectmen to attend training on the Open Meeting Law and provide certification of attendance to the attorney general’s office.
Cow Hearts in the Sausage, Missouri AG Alleges (June 21, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against John’s Butcher Shoppee, a meat processor, for allegedly mislabeling meat products. The processor allegedly sold products labeled as “sausage” and ground beef,” despite the fact that the products contained cow hearts, as prohibited by state and federal law. Attorney General Koster has requested a temporary restraining order to prevent Michael Kolish, president of John’s Butcher Shoppee, and his brother, Thomas Kolish, from operating the business. Attorney General Koster is seeking full restitution for customers, and penalties.
Arkansas AG Sues Payday Lender (June 21, 2011)
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has filed a lawsuit against National Credit Adjustors LLC, a debt collection agency, for allegedly fialing to answer two formal investigative requests. National Credit Adjustors allegedly failed to respond to inquiries regarding the agency’s payday loaning practices. Attorney General McDaniel alleges the agency is seeking to collect old payday-lending debts, despite the fact that payday lending is illegal in the state. The lawsuit asks Pulaski County Circuit Court to prohibit the agency from collecting from Arkansas customers until it responds to investigative requests with the necessary documentary evidence.
Kentucky AG Files Suit against Developers (June 20, 2011)
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against 3D Resorts-Bluegrass LLC and 3D Resort communities LLC, the developers of Green Farm Resort. The two organizations allegedly violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Recreational and Retirement Use Land Sales Act by engaging in unfair, false, misleading, or deceptive acts in marketing and sales. The defendants are also accused of breaching a 2008 agreement with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office.
Texas AG Settles with Online Ticket Broker (June 20, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has announced a settlement resolving an enforcement action against TicketCity, an online ticket broker. Allegedly, TicketCity unlawfully marketed advance tickets to the Beijing Summer Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies, and made false statements promising customers 200 percent refunds. TicketCity was never in possession of tickets to the Beijing Olympic events and refused to issue refunds to customers, who incurred substantial costs by arranging to attend the events in Beijing. The company has agreed to provide the 200 percent refunds it promised to purchasing customers, and must also provide customers who incurred traveling expenses with restitution.
Ohio AG Files Suit Against Dental Services Provider (June 20, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed a lawsuit against New York-based Allcare Dental, a national dental chain that provided dentures and other dental services to consumers in several states, for failing to deliver promised services to consumers. Shortly after January 1st, Allcare closed all its Ohio offices and canceled all scheduled appointments with no advance notice to consumers, leaving many Ohioans who had paid for dental products and services without care. DeWine's office received more than 940 complaints from consumers disputing nearly $2 million in payments to Allcare. The Attorney General's lawsuit charges Allcare with violating the Consumer Sales Practices Act by failing to provide promised products and services and failing to provide refunds.
Ohio AG Reaches Housing Settlement with Cleveland Apartment Operators (June 16, 2011)
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the settlement of a discrimination claim against the developers of Stonebridge Properties, located in Cleveland, Ohio. In June 2008, the non-profit organization Housing Research & Advocacy Center (HRAC) filed a charge of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission alleging that the apartment units designed within Stonebridge Properties were not in compliance with federal and state accessibility guidelines, systematically denying equal access to housing opportunities within these properties in violation of the fair housing laws. Per the terms of the settlement, the defendants have agreed to create a fund to be administered by HRAC to assist persons with disabilities to secure modifications to their housing accommodations, making them accessible.
Police Shooting Determined to have been Justified (June 16, 2011)
According to a report from South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley, police were justified in using lethal force against a man they shot and killed in May of this year. The report revealed that Aaron Thompson was suicidal, and under the influence of alcohol and cough syrup when he initiated a firefight with the police. The police demanded that Thompson drop his weapon,and used non-lethal plastic bullets before Thompson shot on the police and was killed in the ensuing firefight.
Connecticut AG Demands Details on Citigroup’s Credit Card Breach (June 15, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen demanded “critical facts” about Citigroup’s recent data breach affecting 210,000 customers in a June 13 letter to CEO Vikram Pandit, specifically requesting the “number and characteristics of impacted accounts, the cause of the breach, the steps taken to notify and protect the affected individuals, and the nature of any procedures adopted to prevent future data breaches.” The Attorney General said he expects Citigroup to compensate Connecticut consumers affected by the data breach.
Missouri Grand Jury Indicts Former US Fidelis Owners (June 15, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Coster has announced a fourteen-count indictment against Darain Atkinson, and a thirteen-count indictment against Cory Atkinson, his brother. The two owners of US Fidelis in Wentzville, Missouri filed for bankruptcy in 2010, following consumer fraud allegations. The men allegedly withheld refunds due to consumers, charged fees exceeding contracted amounts, and misled consumers. Darain Atkinson, a prior and persistent felon, could face up to life in prison, while Cory Atkinson faces up to fifteen years.
City Cleaning Company fined $26,000 by Attorney General for Labor Law Violations (June 15, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has ordered Kelly Raleigh, owner of KJR Commercial Cleaning, Inc., to pay $26,000 in fines and restitution for violating Massachusetts’ wage, independent contractor and payroll record-keeping laws, and for retaliating against an employee who filed a complaint. The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division initiated an investigation of the company in 2010, after receiving complaints alleging that workers had not been paid properly. Another complaint alleged that Raleigh attempted to force a former employee to withdraw a wage complaint. Employees are protected under Massachusetts wage and hours laws, which include anti-retaliation provisions.
Delaware AG’s Office Withdraws Proposal to Withhold Names of Victims in Court Records (June 15, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has agreed to withdraw proposed legislation which would allow authorities to keep the names of crime victims and witnesses secret. The proposed bill faced criticism from the public defender’s office that information about victims and witnesses is essential to defending the accused, and that the rights of the accused must be protected. Furthermore, concerns have been expressed that the bill would make the criminal justice system less accountable to the public. Attorney General Biden’s office will not reconsider the bill until next year.
Alabama AG Intervenes in Sewer Debt Crisis (June 15, 2011)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion to intervene on behalf of consumers in matters involving Jefferson County's sewer debt crisis. This week, the court-appointed receiver in charge of the Jefferson County sewer system recommended a 25% rate increase for sewer customers. Strange seeks to intervene because of the substantial impact of the pending rate increases "on the rights of ratepayers and their ability to obtain service at just and reasonable rates from a public utility which is a monopoly provider."
New Hampshire Supreme Court Issues Opinion Upholding AG Authority (June 15, 2011)
New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has issued a unanimous slip opinion stating that the legislature can not force New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney to join a multistate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The New Hampshire Senate had sought the opinion of the court concerning the constitutionality of a bill passed by the state House of Representatives. The court stated that the bill violated the separation of powers clause and was unconstitutional since the bill, “"which removes entirely from the executive branch the decision as to whether to join the state as a party to litigation, would usurp the executive branch's power to execute and enforce the law."
New York Drug-ring Bust Nets 37 Arrests (June 15, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that thirty-seven individuals have been arrested and charged in connection with an East Coast drug distribution network. The six-month investigation culminated in a bust that led to the seizure of $140,000 of cocaine, most of which was funneled into New York from Atlanta, Georgia. The 178 count indictment includes various felony charges for possession and sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy.
Michigan AG Issues Subpoenas over Mortgage Document (June 15, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued criminal investigative subpoenas against several national mortgage service support providers. Subpoenas have been filed against DocX, Lender Processing Services Inc., Fidelity National Financial Inc., and CT Corporation System. The subpoenas are a part of Attorney General Schuette’s investigation of mortgage documentation, which was initiated in April after county officials statewide indicated they had received forged documentation. One goal of Attorney General Schuette’s investigation is to establish whether certain mortgage processing companies allowed robosigning of legal documents filed in connection with Michigan foreclosures.
Colorado AG Files Lawsuit against Florida Company (June 15, 2011)
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has filed a lawsuit against Enhanced Services Solutions, a Florida-based company, for allegedly engaging in unregistered debt management services. The company and its president, Thomas Rolland, were named in the suit for providing “back end” debt management services, and for failing to register with the state of Colorado in compliance with the Colorado Debt Management Protection Act. Attorney General Suthers also alleges the company refused to obtain a certificate of registration as required by the Act.
Iowa Bans Fundraising by Florida-based Charity (June 15, 2011)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has announced that a Polk County judicial order has banned Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc., a Florida-based charity, from fundraising in Iowa for at least ten years. Attorney General Miller alleges Andrew and Jerald Mandell, the foundation president and treasurer, respectively, approved misleading telemarketing scripts and failed to ensure donations were being raised honestly.
Massachusetts AG Sides with Vermont over Nuclear Plant Case (June 14, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed a brief supporting Vermont’s position on whether the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant should close. The plant’s owner, Entergy Corporation, sued the state after state officials indicated it was unlikely Vermont would renew the plant’s federal license, despite the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the renewal. State officials in both Vermont and Massachusetts are concerned about the potential for harm in the event of a disaster, and are also interested in ensuring that states are able to regulate their power generating facilities. The state plans to close the Vernon plant on March 21, 2012, if Entergy is unable to secure a judgment preventing the shutdown.
New York AG Announcing Online Prescription Drug Database (June 14, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing a bill requiring the state Health Department to develop a statewide database of patient prescription histories. The “Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act,” or “I-STOP,” will be a database that can be easily checked by pharmacists and doctors prior to doling out medications, and is designed to make it easier for health providers to avoid overprescribing drugs. The database, which will be available in real-time should also assist law enforcement in tracking prescription drug trafficking.
South Carolina AG Sues North Charleston over Rails (June 14, 2011)
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has filed a lawsuit against North Charleston. The city contends that an agreement it made with the State Ports Authority against rail lines to a new port terminal was approved by the state Budget Control and Board, and thus covers all branches of state government. Attorney General Wilson’s suit asks the South Carolina Supreme Court to declare that the agreement is inapplicable to other state agencies. North Charleston officials are attempting to preserve the agreement in the face of the Commerce Department’s plan that would expand rail traffic through the north end of the city, a plan the city asserts would spoil growth around the Park Circle area.
Penalties for Ohio Gas Station (June 14, 2011)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that an Akron gas station has been ordered to pay civil penalties and attorneys fees for noncompliance with air pollution laws. The owners Wafa, Nasser, and Ali Kahook, allegedly operated a Gas Express that had not passed required testing and was not properly maintained; the three owners also operated without a permit, and failed to keep proper records for the facility. The Gaw Express owners have been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $39,680 and attorneys fees of $4,236.
California Attorney General Cautions Anthem Blue Cross Over Credit Card Fees (June 14, 2011)
California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, warned Anthem Blue Cross that imposing a $15 convenience fee upon customers for making payments with credit cards may violate state law. Anthem has announced that it will reconsider the proposed fees that may violate California Civil Code Section 1748.1, which forbids business from charging higher prices for using credit cards. Anthem intends to end automatic credit card payments beginning in August, but members will still be able to pay by check or have payments deducted from checking accounts directly online.
Hawaii AG Prosecuting First Electronic Enticement Case Involving Child Victim (June 13, 2011)
Hawaii Attorney General David Louie is prosecuting the state’s first electronic enticement case involving a child victim. Douglas Lopez, a lunch supervisor at an Oahu elementary school, was charged with electronic enticement of a child after arranging to meet with a 13-year-old girl for sex. The attorney general’s office worked with the Hawaii Police Department and the Hawaii Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in order to secure the indictment. Lopez faces up to a mandatory ten years in prison, if convicted.
Attorney General Foreclosure Probe Closer to Settlement (June 13, 2011)
The fifty-state foreclosure probe begun in October 2010 is approaching settlement, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says. The investigation, a response to the robo-signer controversy, involves Bank of America, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. State Attorneys General were dissatisfied with the $5 billion settlement proposed by the involved lenders, but have not specified how much they are seeking. It is speculated that a major deterrent to settlement has been the AGs’ inability to agree on the terms of settlement.
Minnesota AG Petitions for Authority to Continue Core Government Services (June 13, 2011)
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed petitions in court requesting the legal authority to continue funding core state government services in the event of a shutdown. The government shutdown will occur on July 1 if the Legislature and Governor Mark Dayton are unable to agree on a budget for the upcoming two years. Attorney General Swanson argues the shutdown, if it includes certain state services such as prisons and other core state government services, would deprive Minnesota citizens of rights guaranteed under the state and federal constitutions.
New York Attorney General Launches Investigation into Mortgage Securitization (June 13, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is questioning the validity of thousands of mortgage securities and foreclosures at Bank of America. The probe is part of an investigation into whether Wall Street firms and mortgage companies took required steps, under New York state law, when creating mortgage-backed securities. If the legal steps guiding securitization were not fulfilled, banks may be unable to prove they own certain mortgage loans, and investors could force the banks to buy back the bundled loans, resulting in enormous losses. The Congressional Oversight Panel speculates that pervasive paperwork problems involving mortgage securities could cause billions in losses to the largest U.S. banks, threatening the stability of the financial system.
Account Wants Utah to Pay Land Trust Debts (June 13, 2011)
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has opposed an accountant’s demand that the state pay off $4.6 million in debts incurred for a land trust’s management. The accountant, Bruce Wisan, was appointed after allegations of mismanagement were made against the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS,) who managed the trust until 2005. The FLDS has rejected Wisan’s authority and refuses to pay court-imposed monthly occupancy fees. The Utah Attorney General’s office says Wisan’s request violates state and federal court orders that block all but the most necessary administrative work pending the resolution of several lawsuits.
Text Messages Sent to Gateway Bank Customers Result in Net $100,000 Theft (June 13, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says Gateway Bank customers in North Carolina and Virginia have been receiving false text messages stating their debit cards have been deactivated. The messages prompt customers to call a provided phone number and enter their debit card account number, PIN, and expiration date. The thieves have used the information to make new debit cards and withdraw funds. Unauthorized withdrawals have been made as far away as California.
Two States Probe Paperwork in Mortgage Bundling (June 12, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Delaware Attorney General Joseph Biden III are investigating Wall Street’s bundling of mortgage loans into securities in order to determine whether they were valid. The probe was initiated following criticism of the mortgage foreclosure process, which has been scrutinized due to careless execution of procedure and possible forgeries of legal documents. Although trustee banks have not been the focus of prior investigations, Bank of New York Mellon and Deutsche Bank, the two largest firms acting as trustees whose administrative duties included ensuring loan documentation was properly completed, are now being investigated. One goal of the investigation is to determine whether the trustees fulfilled their obligations to investors who purchased mortgage deals.
Arkansas Attorney General Starts Lab to Help State Law Enforcement Investigate Sexual Predators (June 12, 2011)
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is lending a lab at his offices to state law enforcement in an effort to investigate online sexual predators. The lab, which Attorney General McDaniel says is identical to that used by the FBI, cost the state nearly $500,000. Although some say the lab’s tasks duplicate ongoing efforts in Arkansas, state law enforcement officers say they appreciate the assistance.
Connecticut Contractor Fraud Cases Led to 33 Convictions (June 12, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and the Department of Consumer Protection announced that their investigations into home improvement contractors’ criminal activities have led to thirty-three convictions. Many of the convictions involved unregistered individuals and companies performing home improvement work. The convictions have resulted in approximately $233,000 in restitution for consumers, and two of the contractors have been sentenced to jail time.
Midwest Ice Makers to Pay $600K in Fines for Price-Fixing (June 10, 2011)
Three packaged ice makers will pay Illinois almost $600,000 in civil penalties, following Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s allegations that the companies fixed bagged ice prices. The companies have allegedly worked together and fixed prices since 2003, depriving individual consumers and business of competitive pricing. Home City Ice of Cincinnati; Sisler’s Dairy and Products of Ohio, Illinois; and Stoutin Premium Ice of Casey, will pay $512,500, $44,500, and $40,000 respectively to the state of Illinois. Each company has agreed to a ten-year injunction prohibiting anticompetitive activity.
Gang Takedown Sweeps through Central Valley (June 10, 2011)
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that multi-agency operations led by the state attorney general’s office have resulted in the arrest of 131 suspected gang members in recent days. The operations, launched after intelligence on gang activities was obtained in earlier operations, resulted in the confiscation of weapons, narcotics, and cash. Attorney General Harris declared Operation Red Zone and Operation Gateway to be significant steps in eradicating gang activity in California.
Rhode Island AG Warns of Citibank Data Breach (June 10, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin informed Rhode Island Citibank customers that their information has been compromised. In May 2011, 210,000 Citibank customer accounts were attacked, the company announced publicly in June. Although the information necessary for the hackers to access customer funds was not stolen, Attorney General Kilmartin asserts, the information that was stolen is enough for scammers to try to elicit more information from customers through targeted attacks.
Agreement Reached with Pharmaceutical Manufacturer, UCB Inc. (June 10, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced that Rhode Island has joined the federal government and nine other states in reaching a $34.3 million agreement with UCB Inc., a pharmaceutical manufacturer. UCB, which promoted the sale and use of the drug Keppra for uses that were not FDA-approved, agreed to the settlement to resolve the criminal and civil off-label marketing allegations against it. UCB pled guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor count of misbranding violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The company also agreed to pay fines, and to pay the United States and participating state Medicaid companies.
New Jersey AG Suing Travel Company Owner Again (June 9, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow filed a second lawsuit against the owner of Travel Deals Limited Liability Company. Daryl T. Turner settled a previous multimillion dollar lawsuit in February, which alleged that Turner accepted money from over 670 consumers and failed to provide vacation packages. In the current lawsuit, Dow alleges Turner violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising. According to the lawsuit, Turner induced attendance at sales presentations by making false promises of complimentary cruises and airfares, and also failed to provide vacation packages at the discounted prices offered during the sales presentations.
AGs, FTC Team Up Against Immigration Services Companies (June 9, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, and Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper have filed lawsuits against immigration services companies for failing to help paying customers with their immigration statuses. Attorney General Madigan filed suit against Martha Fernandez, Corrianne Chairez, and Calvin Meziere, alleging that the servicers accepted money from consumers and used misleading tactics to convince the consumers that the government was considering their citizenship, work permit, or permanent residency requests. Attorney General Gansler issued cease and desist orders against Latin Service LLC for allegedly falsely advertising that they were immigration lawyers. Attorney General Cooper filed suit against Martha Salazar for preparing immigration materials despite not being, or working under the supervision of, a licensed attorney. The attorneys general filed suits as part of a nationwide crackdown against illegal immigration service providers.
Oklahoma AG Audit of Public School District finds Possible Criminal Violations (June 9, 2011)
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt released the findings in an audit of the Broken Arrow Public School District, revealing potential criminal violations in two areas: open records and special favoritism for vendors. The audit is the second review of the school system and was requested by the Attorney General’s Office after an initial audit was deemed unsatisfactory. The allegations covered in the second audit included bribery, open meeting violations, and contract work from July 2006 to March 2009.
New York AG Investigates Stalled W. 48th Street Condo (June 9, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued subpoenas in an investigation into Sorrento New York, a luxury condominium tower. Sorrento Asset Management, an Ireland-based group of investors, alleges their deposit funds were misappropriated by the developers of the tower. The developers, Esplanade Capital’s Jay Eisenstadt, and Kevin and Donal O’Sullivan of Time Square Construction and Navillus Contracting, respectively, are alleged to have improperly comingled $17.1 million of deposit funds, before negotiations for a bulk purchase deal with Sorrento Asset Management failed in 2009. The Attorney General is also investigating whether the lenders in the deal, PB Capital and TD Bank, knew about the misappropriation when they agreed to help sell the property’s $84 million debt at a discount.
New York AG Orders Gas Stations to Stop Deceptive Gas Pricing (June 9, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued cease and desist letters to Watertown gas stations, warning them that they face court action if they continue to post deceptive gas prices. The Nice N Easy gas stations, which have been advertising gas prices that are lower than the prices being charged at the pump, displayed large street-view signage with prices that only applied to “cash only” transactions. The signs included notices that the prices were only for cash transactions, but the notices were small and easily missed, resulting in what Attorney General Schneiderman referred to as “a classic example of bait and switch.”
Illinois AG Files Immigration Fraud Cases (June 9, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed two lawsuits against Chicago area immigration servicers for accepting more than $30,000 from consumers but failing to help them with their immigration status. The suits, jointly filed with the Federal Trade Commission, were part of a national crackdown against illegal immigration service providers found to have defrauded consumers across the country. Martha Fernandez of West Chicago, Corrianne Chairez of Chicago, and Calvin Meziere of Huntley were accused of using misleading and deceptive tactics to convince consumers that the government was considering their requests for a work permit, permanent residency, or U.S. citizenship.
Iowa AG Reaches Agreement with Yellow Page Ad Marketer (June 9, 2011)
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced that he has reached an agreement with Yellow Publishing LTD, which will prevent the company from soliciting business to Iowa residents. Yellow Publishing, doing business as Yellow Page B.V. and YellowPage-Iowa.com, allegedly advertised using a logo similar to the Yellow Pages’ “walking fingers” logo. Yellow Publishing also charged its customers registration fees, despite prominently advertising “free submission” of listings. This agreement, an assurance of voluntary compliance, compels the company to cease all marketing to Iowa residents.
Michigan AG Charges Gas Stations with Price Fixing (June 9, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed criminal charges against five gas station operators for alleged gasoline price-fixing. The stations, all located within two miles of each other, were allegedly involved in a scheme that involved each of the stations setting artificial prices within a cent or two of each other, in an attempt to eliminate competition from other gas stations in the area. Such price-fixing agreements are prohibited because they create artificially higher prices for consumers. The owners have each been charged with five counts of violating Michigan’s Antitrust Reform Act, and face up to two years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for each count.
Car Dealer Faces Civil Suit and Criminal Charges (June 9, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing the owner of a car dealership for allegedly swindling his customers. Laurence Sessum III, owner of Maxx Auto Sales, is accused of failing to deliver vehicles to dozens of customers, despite accepting over $100,000 in payments. Sessum was previously convicted for stealing $500,000 from the New York Tax Department, and allegedly accepted the car payments in the present case in order to make restitution for his previous conviction. Charged with one count of scheming to defraud in the first degree, four counts of grand larceny in the third degree, and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree, Sessum faces up to seven years in prison.
Alabama AG Acts as Coordinating Counsel in BP Case (June 8, 2011)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, acting as Coordinating Counsel for the Gulf States, deposed former BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward, primarily questioning Hayward about the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. While specific details of the deposition have not been released, Attorney General Strange did question Hayward about BP’s role in the oil spill. Strange was appointed coordinating counsel by order of the federal district court overseeing the national lawsuit against BP.
Vermont AG and Papa John's Settle Menu Dispute (June 8, 2011)
Papa John’s and Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell have settled a dispute over the restaurant’s failure to comply with a calorie disclosure law. Papa John’s store manager Brian Dooley asserted Papa John’s did not know they were required, under the disclosure law, to include caloric information on menus and menu boards. Papa John’s, the only restaurant the Office of the Attorney General took enforcement action against under this law, was fined $7,500.
Texas Devleoper Charged with Unlawful Leasing of Lots (June 8, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged a Texas developer with violating state colonias prevention laws. The enforcement action charges Phillip and Jeanine Watrous with unlawfully subdividing property and leasing lots that lack water and wastewater infrastructure. The state is seeking an injunction, which would compel the Watrouses to provide the proper infrastructure to properties being leased or sold, and may prohibit them from marketing property leases until these prerequisites are met. The state is also seeking civil penalties.
Oregon AG Reaches Agreement Banning United Telecom from State (June 8, 2011)
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger reached an agreement on June 8th, 2011 banning California-based United Telecom Inc. from doing business in the state of Oregon. This agreement comes at the conclusion of a state investigation of the long distance plan reseller concluding that it engaged in the illegal practice of “slamming,” or transferring long distance telephone services without prior authorization.
Illinois AG Investigates State’s Prepaid Tuition Program (June 8, 2011)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has commenced an investigation of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s administration of College Illinois, a prepaid tuition program run by the state that offers parents a chance to purchase contracts on behalf of their children to attend state colleges in the future. The program was 31% underfunded as of June 30, 2010, and ISAC has since moved more of participant’s college funds from stocks and bonds to riskier wagers, such as hedge funds and real estate, in order to close the gap. College Illinois, which backs 55,000 contracts with $1.2 billion in investments, has been sold by ISAC as a “worry-free college savings vehicle for parents” despite a lack of any guarantee that it will honor prepaid contracts if the investment fund runs short.
D.C. AG Sues Councilmember for Diverting Public Funds (June 7, 2011)
Washington, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan has filed a civil enforcement action against D.C. councilmember Harry L. Thomas, Jr., for the alleged diversion of council-earmarked grants and charitable donations for personal use. The complaint seeks a judgment of over $1 million for the District, accusing Thomas of obtaining $300,000 that had been earmarked for “youth baseball programs” and soliciting over $80,000 from private donors for “charitable purposes” that were never established. In addition to spending the funds on, among other purchases, a luxury SUV titled in Thomas’ name, the Attorney General’s office also alleges that Thomas knowingly made false statements, conspired to commit fraud, and violated the D.C. charitable solicitations law.
Michigan AG Files Suit Over Generic Drug Prices (June 7, 2011)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit against McKesson, a national pharmaceutical wholesaler, and Hearst, a leading drug pricing publisher. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office alleges McKesson and Hearst conspired to secure higher reimbursements from the Michigan Medicaid program by manipulating drug price data. These artificially inflated prices for certain brand-name and generic drugs resulted in the Michigan Medicaid Program overpaying for pharmacy claims from 2001 to 2009. The lawsuit seeks to recover millions of dollars of Medicaid overpayments, as well as civil penalties.
Contractor Found in Violation of North Carolina Court Order (June 7, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that a contractor was found in contempt for violating a court order. Attorney General Cooper previously won a court order permanently barring Tommy Edward Clack from all residential paving work in North Carolina. Clack has allegedly used false names and paved two residential driveways in violation of the court order. Clack must repay his victims $79,600, or risk at least ninety days of jail time.
Newark Daycare Center Operator Pleads Guilty to Stealing $234,000 (June 7, 2011)
New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced that the former executive director of a Newark daycare center pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition of property received. With the assistance of her ex-husband and her son, the director, Muslimah Suluki, diverted public funding from New Africa Day Care Center, a non-profit daycare, and withdrew the funds in order to subsidize her personal expenditures. The state will recommend restitution of $234,664 to the Department of Education, and up to four years in state prison.
Texas AG Abbott Files Opening Brief in Tailpipe Challenge (June 6, 2011)
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a brief on the behalf of nine states challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tailpipe Rule. The brief asserts that the rule, which is intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles, violates the federal Clean Air Act. According to the brief, the EPA has exceeded its statutory authority because the rule does not constitute a regulation of air pollutants that are dangerous to human health and welfare. Attorney General Abbott also asserts that the rule is arbitrary and improperly fails to consider regulatory costs.
Oklahoma AG Files 8 Fraud Charges Against Contractor (June 6, 2011)
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed six counts of violating the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act in Oklahoma County and two counts in Cleveland County against Harold Whitt, a building contractor who, under the company name “All Pro Construction,” homeowners said took money from them for roof repairs that weren't performed. Pruitt's office said Whitt's whereabouts are unknown, and he has no telephone listing. The Attorney General warned that home repair schemes typically follow in the wake of weather damage, and he advised homeowners to be patient and make sure they are hiring a reputable home repair contractor.
Massachusetts House Passes Bill Imposing Tough Penalties for Human Trafficking (June 6, 2011)
In cooperation with Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts State House has passed a bill imposing strict penalties for human trafficking. The bill was passed by a 146-0 vote and imposes penalties of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both for those involved in trafficking; up to life in prison for those found to be exploiting minors; and a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for repeat offenders. Although Massachusetts is one of the few states without laws criminalizing human trafficking - a fact noted with disapproval by Attorney General Coakley - the bill provides prosecutors with new and important tools that them to penalize those engaged in human trafficking.
Massachusetts AG fines Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees for child labor violations (June 6, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has fined the owners of five Dunkin’ Donuts franchises for violating state child labor laws. Timothy E. Cloe and Sebastian Agapite are being fined $6,000 after an audit revealed that in 2008, the franchises employed minors without work permits, before the earliest permissible hour, after the latest permissible hour and beyond the maximum number of daily hours. Massachusetts law restricts 16- and 17-year-olds from working over nine hours a day, 48 hours in a week, or more than six days a week. They are additionally restricted from working past 10 p.m. or before 6 a.m., with exceptions for nonschool days. According to Attorney General Coakley, the laws are designed to enable minors to balance jobs with education.
Delaware Attorney General Rules Blue Cross Blue Shield Must Create Foundation (June 2, 2011)
Delaware Attorney General, Beau Biden, ruled that a health care foundation must be created and funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware if it seeks to move forward on a proposed merger with Highmark Inc. The ruling is based on a 2004 law designed to protect public investment in nonprofits that are the target of takeovers. The 2004 law gives the Attorney General authority to determine if a deal involving a healthcare company will result in a conversion of a non-profit into a for-profit health care company.
New York Attorney General Suing Federal Government Over Gas Drilling (May 31, 2011)
New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, is suing the federal government for a full environmental review of proposed regulations concerning natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Natural gas drilling, particularly hydraulic fracturing, has come under criticism for the risk it posses to drinking water. Schneiderman is challenging the conduct of federal agencies that approved the Delaware River Basin Commission proposing regulations without the Commission having conducted a full environmental review.
Arizona Attorney General Sues Federal Justice Department Over Medical Marijuana (May 27, 2011)
Arizona Attorney General, Tom Horne, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Justice Department over whether strict compliance with Arizona state law on medical marijuana precludes federal prosecution. Arizona voters decriminalized distribution, possession, and use of medical marijuana in November of 2010. The U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Davis Burke, sent a letter on May 2 to state policy makers warning that federal prosecution could occur if plans to implement the Arizona law proceeded. Similar letters were sent by U.S. Attorneys in other states.
New Hampshire Attorney General Files Brief in Separation of Powers Dispute with House (May, 23, 2011)
New Hampshire Attorney General, Michael Delaney, filed a brief with the New Hampshire Supreme Court arguing that the state House of Representatives lacks the constitutional power to order the attorney general to join a lawsuit challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The New Hampshire Supreme Court’s opinion was sought by the state Senate concerning whether lawmakers have the power to order the attorney general to join a lawsuit, the Senate has passed a bill merely encouraging Delaney to join. A memorandum written by former attorneys general supporting the historical independence of the office accompanied Delany’s brief.
Accord With Comptroller Will Help New York Attorney General Pursue Corruption Cases (May 22, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli have established a joint task force on public integrity that will grant the attorney general’s office significantly expanded authority to prosecute cases dealing with public corruption, such as pension fraud and abuse of legislative earmarks. Furthermore, DiNapoli has agreed to allow findings from joint investigations conducted by the attorney general’s prosecutors and the comptroller’s investigators to be turned over to Schneiderman for criminal prosecution. The attorney general’s office has in the past lacked the authority to unilaterally investigate public officials accused of a number of integrity violations, but the agreement between Schneiderman and DiNapoli allows the two offices to, in effect, share DiNapoli’s authority to audit government spending and investigate signs of criminal corruption demonstrated through the comptroller’s findings.
Trump’s For-Profit School Said to Be Under Investigation (May 19, 2011)
As part of a broader examination of the growing for-profit college industry, the New York Attorney General’s Office has announced an investigation into a school founded by Donald Trump, after receiving a number of credible complaints alleging that the school is engaging in illegal business practices. Charging students up to $35,000 per class, the Trump Entrepreneur Institute purports to instruct students in business, with Trump himself claiming the quality of instruction to be “better than the best business school.” Students have alleged, however, that the school uses high-pressure sales tactics, and promises, but fails to provide, assistance in securing and completing business deals. Attorney General Schneiderman is investigating a number of for-profit schools to determine whether they misrepresent to their ability to secure jobs for their students, the quality of instruction, their cost and their accreditation. The schools under examination include Career Education Corporation, which runs the Sanford Brown, Braircliff and American InterContintental Universities; Corinthian Colleges, the parent company of Everest Institute, WyoTech and Heald Colleges; Lincoln Educational Services, the owner of Lincoln Technical and Lincoln Colleges Online; and Bridgepoint Education, the operator of Ashford University.
Massachusetts Attorney General Reaches Civil Rights Settlement with Residential Mortgage Lender (May 18, 2011) Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that her office reached a settlement with Mortgage Master, Inc, the largest residential mortgage lender in the state. The agreement requires Mortgage Master, Inc. to pay $250,000 to the state, a portion of which is to be distributed to African-American borrowers who obtained mortgages from the company, as well as $155,000 to non-profit fair housing and lending groups for educational puposes. The company allegedly was involved in racially discriminatory practices against African-American borrowers. It also agreed to take affirmative steps to ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws.
Washington Attorney General Plans to Cut Tobacco Sales to Minors (May 17, 2011)
Washington Attorney General Robert McKenna said that he joined 39 other state attorneys general in a bold plan to cut down tobacco sales to minors at convenience stores. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance is an agreement with Circle K Stores, Inc. and Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC, owners of Circle K, Dairymart, and On The Run convenience stores, to enforce more stringent ID verification and eliminate marketing that targets minors. One of the measures will require the stores to eliminate outdoor advertising of tobacco products for stores located within 500 feet of playgrounds or schools.
New York Attorney General Demands That Jackson Repeal English-only Law (May 17, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman demanded that Jackson, a town in Washington County, get rid of its English-only law, calling it discriminatory and a violation of the Fifth Amendment. In a letter to the Jackson Town Supervisor Alan Brown, Janet Sabel, Schneiderman’s executive deputy attorney general for social justice, explained that the law not only discriminates against those who do not speak English, but could also deter those who want to report a crime, seek medical attention, or get access to other services and benefits.
DirectBuy Holdings Class-Action Accord Rejected by Judge as Too "Meager" (May 17, 2011)
A federal judge rejected the terms of a settlement to a class-action lawsuit brought against DirectBuy, ruling the settlement did not provide adequate benefit to consumers who were harmed by the consumer club’s alleged kickbacks from manufacturers resulting in fraudulent price markup practices. Attorneys general from 37 states argued against accepting the settlement in court last month, arguing the settlement’s value, estimated at $55 million, was overstated and that it did not take state consumer protection claims into account.
New York Attorney General Investigates Banks' Role in Fiscal Crisis (May 17, 2011)
New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, has asked three Wall Street banks for information and documents concerning their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom that preceded the fiscal crisis that began in 2008. Schneiderman's investigation appears to be broad including information related to the banking practice of bundling home loans into securities that were sold to investors, a practice that critics believe hid risky loans. The investigation also signifies that Schneiderman is not taking part in negotiations for a settlement over banking foreclosure practices.
Mass. AG presses anti-human trafficking initiative (May 15, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is pushing lawmakers in her state to pass legislation addressing human trafficking. Coakley filed a bill that would prohibit trafficking in sex and labor, and would establish a task force – led by the Attorney General – to examine the issue. The legislation additionally attempts to shift the prosecutorial focus to the demand side of the sex trade by increasing penalties for customers. Massachusetts is one of only four states without a law addressing human trafficking.
Florida Attorney General Seeks to Protect Babies Born to Mothers Addicted to Prescription Drugs (May 13, 2011)
Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, hosted a round table discussion on what can be done to stop the growing problem. In Florida an estimated 1,300 babies were treated for withdrawal in 2010 and 15-20% of babies admitted to neonatal care units were treated for withdrawal from prescription drugs like oxycodone, methadone, and Xanax. Legislation was introduced this session to increase reporting requirements to a prescription drug database, increase penalties for doctors that overprescribe, and implement dosage caps dispensed from pharmacies.
Massachusetts AG Coakley Secures Restitution, Penalties Over Wages (May 6, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has ordered construction firm Hampton Building Company Inc. and its President to pay $100,000 in fines and restitution for alleged wage and record keeping violations. Specifically, the company is alleged to have violated prevailing wage, wage and hour, and payroll record keeping laws in its carpentry work on three public works projects: a housing project, a town hall and a police station. “All workers on public construction projects deserve to be properly paid for all of the hours they have worked,” Coakley said. “Any company that has the privilege of doing business with a public entity must abide by the rules.”
Attorneys General File Brief in Health Care Suit (May 5, 2011)
23 Attorneys General have filed a brief in Florida v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, No. 11-11021 (11th Cir. filed Mar. 9, 2011) and No. 11-11067, (11th Cir. filed Mar. 11, 2011) being heard in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In total, 26 states filed the brief asking the appellate court to affirm an earlier decision that found the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s provision requiring an individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Oral arguments are scheduled for June 8.
Pennsylvania Hospital Sales Finalized (May 3, 2011)
After a review by the state attorney general's office, the Vatican and Lackawanna County Judge Carmen Minora, the sale of three Pennsylvania hospitals was finalized on May 3. The formerly nonprofit Mercy Hospital in Scranton, Tyler Memorial Hospital in Tunkhannock and Special Care Hospital in Nanticoke now belong to Community Health Systems, Inc., a for-profit company. Under the sales agreement, the hospitals will implement charity care policies comparable to those in place when the facilities were owned by Mercy Health Partners and will participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, officials said.
Illinois’s Hospital Tax Exemption Status in Limbo (May 3, 2011)
More than a year after a landmark Illinois Supreme Court case that upheld the State Department of Revenue’s decision to strip a hospital’s tax-exempt status, state officials have not taken action on a single hospital applications for tax-exempt status. The state’s inaction comes amid a wave of consolidations by local hospitals. Representatives of Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Department of Revenue have participated in talks with the Illinois Hospital Association, which has requested a moratorium on tax status determinations until the state clarifies how to define charity care and how much a hospital must provide to qualify for property- and sales-tax exemptions. The hospitals take the position that their tax-exempt status is justified by more than the charity care they provide, while state officials believe that nonprofit hospitals must dedicate a greater percentage of their revenues to charity care than the 6.4% they do currently. The state says that the delay in making tax status determinations is the result of hospitals’ failure to provide additional information requested by the state in the wake of the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision.
Attorneys General to Federal Labor Board: Get off Boeing's Back (April 29, 2011)
Nine state attorneys have signed a letter criticizing the National Labor Relations Board for its decision to issue a complaint against aerospace company Boeing. The NLRB’s complaint alleges two violations of the National Labor Relations Act in Boeing’s decision to assemble 787 Dreamliner airplanes in a South Carolina facility instead of in the Puget Sound area of Washington in retaliation for past strikes at the Puget Sound facility. South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson accused the NLRB of filing the complaint for the sole purpose of aiding union activity, which Wilson portrayed as harming South Carolina’s economy, and undermining citizens' right to work as well as their ability to compete globally. Most broadly, the letter asserted that the NLRB’s action “seeks to drive a stake through the heart of the free enterprise system.” Attorneys general joining Wilson in the letter were Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, Jon Bruning of Nebraska, Greg Abbott of Texas, Sam Olens of Georgia, Pam Bondi of Florida, Luther Strange of Alabama, Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma and Tom Horne of Arizona.
Massachusetts Attorney General Settles Case with AIG (April 26, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, has settled a case with a subsidiary of insurance company American International Group over the sale of faulty health insurance products. United States Life Insurance Co. sold insurance products in Massachusetts that did not cover state mandated benefits including mental health, maternity care, infertility care, mammography, pap test screening, and preventive care for children up to age 6. U.S. Life agreed to pay a total of $760,000 consisting of $500,000 in premium refunds and $260,000 as a fine to the state.
Supreme Court Rejects Virginia Attorney General’s Request to Expedite Review of Healthcare Law (April 25, 2011)
The Supreme Court rejected Virginia Attorney General’s, Ken Cuccinelli, request to expedite Virginia’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The case will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond on May 10. Cuccinelli had sought to expedite the case due to the amounts of money being spent by the states on implementation.
Boston Nonprofits Asked for Voluntary Payments (April 24, 2011)
The city of Boston, Massachusetts is asking for voluntary payments from tax-exempt institutions, including hospitals, universities and cultural centers. City officials mailed letters asking nonprofits to pay up to 25% of what they would have to pay if their properties were not tax-exempt. Boston hopes to increase tax-exempt institutions’ payments to the city from $15M to $48 over five years. Officials say the plan is necessary to cover the rising costs of basic city services such as police and fire protection when $13.6 billion in property (more than half the city’s commercial tax base) is tax-exempt. A number of nonprofit leaders, including Boston University President Robert A. Brown and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center President and CEO Eric Buehrens, support the initiative on the grounds that the money is needed to make the city safe and well-managed during a time of great financial strain.
North Carolina Attorney General Settles Public Nuisance Case Against Coal-Fired Power Plant Operator (April 22, 2011)
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced a settlement with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to reduce emissions from its coal-fired plants. Cooper filed the suit on behalf of North Carolina as a response to speculation that TVA’s nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions were linked to an increase in asthma, bronchitis, and premature mortality in North Carolina. The settlement requires that pollution be reduced in more than the four plants. The four plants closest to North Carolina will be the first to be either shut down or controlled. Ultimately, emissions at the TVA units will be reduced by retiring at least 18 of its 59 coal units and installing emission-control equipment on nearly all the remaining units. It is Cooper’s hope that the settlement will dramatically change the way TVA's coal-fired units operate. The TVA will also pay $11.2 million to North Carolina over the next five years. The money will be used by North Carolina for electricity demand reduction and energy efficiency programs.
Georgia Attorney General Challenges Hospital Merger (April 20, 2011)
Georgia’s Attorney General, Sam Olens, and the FTC have challenged Phoebe Putney Health System’s merger with Palmyra Medical Center as being anti-competitive. The complaint alleges that the merger would violate federal law by eliminating “vigorous competition” in a six-county area of Georgia. The complaint also alleges that Phoebe Putney sought to use the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County to exempt the merger from federal antitrust scrutiny under the “state action” doctrine. If the merger were to go forward there would be only one other independently operated hospital in the six-county area resulting in Phoebe Putney having a market share of 85%.
Montana Attorney General Opens Inquiry into Charity Run by ‘Three Cups of Tea’ Co-author (April 20, 2011)
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has announced that he is scrutinizing the charity run by “Three Cups of Tea” co-author Greg Mortenson, after allegations arose of inaccuracies in the book and misspending by the organization, Central Asia Institute. The book - in which Mortenson describes becoming lost while hiking in the mountains of rural Pakistan, stumbling upon the village of Korphe and helping to build a school there - was published in 2006 and has helped raise nearly $50 million for the Institute. The television program “60 Minutes” and author Jon Krakauer allege that Mortenson’s story contains falsehoods and that Mortenson has used Institute funds for personal expenses and for advertising and marketing his book. Citing his Office’s responsibility to ensure that charitable assets are used for their intended purpose, AG Bullock announced that he is as yet only “looking into” the issue and has not announced a full scale investigation of the charity.
New York Attorney General Vows to Sue Federal Government Over Fracking Safety (April 18, 2011)
New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, stated Monday that he will sue the Federal Government if it fails to commit to an environmental review of natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin within 30 days. The review would include an examination of hydraulic fracturing which Schneiderman says poses risks to the environment, health, and communities.
California Attorney General sues funeral trust, says $14M diverted (April 18, 2011)
California State Attorney General Kamala Harris has sued the California Master Trust, one of the nation's largest funeral trust funds, claiming it diverted $14 million intended saved by consumers for cemetery plots, caskets and services. According to Attorney General Harris, the trust used the money to pay its administrators excessive fees, and $4.6 million in illegal kickbacks to the 300 funeral homes that participate in the trust. AG Harris has asked the court to issue an injunction to stop the alleged illegal practices, and to order the trust to pay back the $14 million with interest. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs' Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, which regulates the funeral industry.
Connecticut Attorney General Settles Antitrust Case (April 15, 2011)
Connecticut Attorney General, George Jespen, has settled an antitrust and unfair practices lawsuit against James E. Galante, the former owner of Automated Waste Disposal Inc. and Thomas Refuse Services Inc., waste disposal companies. The suit alleged that Galante ordered his employees to raise prices by 10 percent at each waste disposal company for certain customers and to falsely represent that the increases were mandatory. Galante agreed to pay the state $600,000.
Massachusetts Attorney General Determines Pay for Non-Profit Board Members Unjustified (April 14, 2011)
On Thursday April 13th, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced plans to file legislation outlawing public Massachusetts charities from compensating directors. Coakley’s review of the organizations found “no justification for the state’s four largest nonprofit health insurers to continue paying board members.” Since the review began, several insurance providers (including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts- the state’s largest insurer) announced they would suspend compensation to board members. According to Coakley, other organizations, which enjoy tax and other benefits provided to nonprofits, were given the opportunity to present rationale for paying directors, but failed to do so. However, the insurers claim that board compensation is necessary considering the large amount of time and effort directors devote to highly complex issues. Nonetheless, Coakley will persist with her legislation which would bar nonprofits from paying board members unless they receive special permission from her office. Coakley will additionally begin publishing annual reports detailing any payments given to charitable board members and the rationale behind these payments.
Oregon Attorney General Requests and Passes Bill to Regulate Non-Profit Spending (April 12, 2011)
On Monday April 11th, the Oregon Senate passed a bill requiring nonprofit organizations to spend at least 30 percent of raised money toward charitable causes. Nonprofits that do not comply will still be able to collect contributions, but will no longer be considered tax-deductable. The Senate Bill was requested by Attorney General John Kroger and was moved to the House on a 28-2 vote.
Massachusetts Attorney General Files Amicus Brief in Affordable Care Act Lawsuit (April 11, 2011)
Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services being heard in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief cites Massachusetts’ healthcare reform as proof of the ACA’s constitutionality, arguing “that Congress had a rational basis for concluding that free-riding by individuals, taken in aggregate, has a substantial effect upon interstate commerce, and that reducing or eliminating free-riding has a salutary impact on the health insurance market as a whole.”
Missouri Attorney General Files Amicus Brief in Affordable Care Act Lawsuit (April 11, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General, Chris Koster, has filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the plaintiff Attorneys General in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Koster argued that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be ruled unconstitutional where it requires citizens to purchase health insurance, but Koster did not join the ongoing litigation now in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Wrentham, MA Firm Fined for Labor Violations (April 9, 2011)
The Fair Labor Division in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has ordered a Wrentham firm to pay fines and restitution for failing to pay overtime to several construction workers. Glen Pisani and Dana Pisani of D.F.M. Industries, which has filed for bankruptcy, were required to pay over $226,000 over allegations that D.F.M. failed to pay workers for several projects conducted in March.
California AG Receives Law Enforcement Recommendation (March 16, 2011)
A panel of 435 law enforcement experts issued a briefing document urging California Attorney General Kamala Harris to take on a greater role in the fight to reduce the recidivism rate of parolees. According to the panel, seven out of 10 California parolees are back in jail within three years, while the state pays almost double the national average in incarceration costs and almost a third more to supervise parolees. "There is no systematic coordination of California's approach to the issue," wrote the panel, "but the Attorney General is uniquely positioned to step into this vital role."
Oregon AG Helps Veterans Receive Fair Pay (March 15, 2011)
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced that the state had come to an agreement with Fred Meyer Stores to provide back pay and pension benefits to employees who had been deployed for military service. Fred Meyer Stores had violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) and state law by not giving step increases and pension benefits to its employees.
Minnesota AG Files Suit Against California Mortgage Company (March 14, 2011)
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed suit against Meredian Financial Corp., alleging that the mortgage company scammed homeowners by falsely claiming to be their current lender and collecting fees for refinancing services that were not delivered. "Meredian targeted homeowners struggling in the troubled economy who were looking to get out of an adjustable-rate mortgage or lower their interest rate by refinancing," Swanson said in a release announcing the lawsuit.
"Bath Salts" Banned By Alabama AG (February 22, 2011)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined Florida and Louisiana in temporarily banning synthetic stimulants often sold as “bath salts”. The ban will be in effect for 120 days while Alabama lawmakers construct a bill to make the “bath salts” permanently illegal. According to Strange, this is the first time the attorney general’s office has issued an emergency rule for a controlled substance. Mississippi and Georgia also have bills in the works to ban the drug.
Louisiana AG Sues GlaxoSmithKline Over Diabetes Drug Avandia (February 17, 2011)
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has filed a lawsuit against British drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC, claiming that the company hid harmful side effects of the diabetes drug Avandia. Caldwell, more specifically, accuses Glaxo of illegally marketing, pricing, and promoting Avandia in violation with Louisiana's consumer protection and unfair trade practices laws. The lawsuit seeks financial penalties and repayment of the $36 million Louisiana's Medicaid program has paid in Avandia reimbursements. The medication is under investigation by several other state attorneys general and by federal law enforcement officials.
Oregon AG Sues Founder Of Veterans Charities (February 16, 2011)
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger has filed a lawsuit against Gregory Warnock, the founder of The Military Family Support Foundation and the Oregon War Veterans Association. The lawsuit claims that Warnock kept at least $690,000 raised to help Oregon veterans and improperly used charitable donations to make unreported political contributions.
Pennsylvania Catholic Hospital Group Announces Sale to For-Profit Company (February 11, 2011)
Pennsylvania catholic hospital system Mercy Health Partners’ has announced that it will be purchased by for-profit Community Health Systems Inc. (CHS), pending review by the State Attorney General, courts, and the Vatican. The sale would include three hospitals and a number of outpatient facilities employing more than 1,700 people, and comes four months after Mercy Health Partners President and CEO Kevin Cook revealed that the hospital system was looking for a buyer amid struggles to generate sufficient revenue to break even and make necessary capital investments. CHS, which already owns ten hospitals in the state, has agreed as part of the sale to invest at least $68 million in the health facilities and to donate $2 million to create a new foundation that will promote community wellness. Mercy employees and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania had expressed concerns about a potential sale to CHS, due to the company's history with union members at another hospital, Wilkes-Barre General, and because of questions regarding Mercy's ability to retain its Catholic affiliation if it is sold to a for-profit company.
Massachusetts Nonprofits Want Off Charity Website (February 6, 2011)
Several Massachusetts nonprofits have complained to the public charities’ division of the State Attorney General’s office regarding a California-based website’s unauthorized use of their names and information. The website, Charity Blossom, maintains a directory of registered nonprofits and solicits visitors to make “pledges” of donations to these organizations. After pledging, visitors are directed to outside websites where payment can be made. Although Charity Blossom does not directly collect donations, the Massachusetts nonprofits object to the solicitation made without their approval or oversight. “We have a great interest in keeping our name squeaky clean,’’ said Eric Cody, president of one of the complaining nonprofits, Friends of the Ellisville Marshes. “We don’t use outside fund-raisers. We have raised $80,000 without hiring anybody. We do not give a penny away. We do not pay a finder’s fee.’’ The nonprofits allege that Charity Blossom generated its database in part by downloading the names of all the registered tax-exempt groups in the country from the Internal Revenue Service.
Rhode Island AG Drops Appeal Over Proposed Offshore Wind Farm (February 5, 2011)
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has dropped an appeal filed by his predecessor to overturn the state's approval of a wind farm off the coast of Block Island, about 13 miles south of the coast of Rhode Island. As a state representative and candidate for attorney general, Kilmartin has supported developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid's efforts to build turbines in the waters around Block Island and elsewhere. Local environmental advocacy groups and manufacturers objected to Deepwater's plans due to costs and what was seen as "special-interest legislation" supporting the project.
Missouri AG Koster Urges Consumers to Guard Against Internet Snoops (January 28, 2011)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has issued a set of guidelines to protect consumers from Internet fraud and data theft. "The huge explosion of social networking websites has attracted millions of Missouri computer users, both adults and children," Koster said. "Unfortunately, many people don’t take necessary precautions to ensure their personal privacy and open the door to becoming the target of criminal activity."
AG Schneiderman Announces Move to Sue Power Plant for Polluting NY Air (January 7, 2011)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he will join with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to file suit against the Homer City Station in Pennsylvania. The power plant's emission of about 100,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution per year, the attorney general's office claimed, has contributed to acid rain and a number of health issues, including asthma attacks and lung diseases.
Vermont Lawmakers Will Debate Soda Tax in Upcoming Session (January 3, 2011)
The Vermont legislature will debate a proposal by state attorney general William Sorrell that would add a tax of one cent per ounce of "sugar-sweetened beverages," a proposal that would raise roughly $30 million per year. Audio of the report is available at the Vermont Public Radio website.
Miller Calls for More Transparency in Political Influence (January 3, 2010)
Citing increases in outside money spent in his own and other political races in Iowa, state Attorney General Tom Miller discussed the need for greater transparency in campaign funding. Referring to the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which lifted restrictions on corporate spending in elections, Miller argued that "state and federal government should require quick, immediate, clear reporting of who is spending that money outside — no matter what the forum, no matter what the vehicle. Because the public has a right to know who is competing with them for the allegiance of public officials."