Consumer & Antitrust Leadership Sessions
On this page you will find important information and materials from the Consumer and Antitrust Leadership Sessions on March 1-3, 2007. Please feel free to download and print the documents that you wish from each session. Materials with ** are strongly recommended.
The Art of Public Litigation
As newly-elected attorneys general and their senior staff take office, they quickly come to learn that serving the citizens of their states as their primary client necessarily requires a new perspective on fulfilling their legal responsibilities. This session, therefore, seeks to set the stage for looking at public legal service through this new lens. It does so in the context of consumer protection, an office division that regularly has a high public profile in the press and in the public mind.
Columbia Law School Professor James Tierney will moderate a group of nationally experienced senior consumer attorneys, led by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who have directed some of the largest and most complex cases handled by state attorneys general in recent years. As a group, we will take a case through a hypothetical situation that will reveal the basics of consumer law as well as the intra-office dynamics that typify the range of related events that occur in a well-organized AG office. This will provide a practical point of departure for the program and inform ensuing sessions.
Current Issue 1: Net Neutrality
Over the last several years, attorneys general have found themselves face-to-face with an increasing number of matters that lie at the intersection of law and the brave new world of high-tech and intellectual property matters. Grokster, MySpace, internet facilitated crime, and related issues have firmly pointed to a need to gain a greater understanding of these complex matters.
Tim Wu is a Columbia Law School Professor who has concentrated upon the juncture of law and high-tech and intellectual property. His Wireless Neutrality paper has implications for attorneys general across the country. It effectively raises questions critical to areas of policy and that touch on a number of areas that are increasingly in the realm of our responsibility. The paper provides a blueprint for understanding some industry practices, which seems to have a significant impact on consumers everywhere.
Wu, who works with the department of Justice and testified before the Federal Trade Commission, spoke about wireless and internet governance issues.
Current Issue 2: The Immigration Challenge
The paper that has helped drive this subject has been written by Addison Thompson, a former student of Columbia's James Tierney. Addison points out unequivocally that the issue is not on the horizon for attorneys general, but, rather, it's upon us, and we are now beginning to address it in various states. Only a few states have really begun thinking about this and we have shaped a presentation around the issues we commonly face. We will examine how to deal with the problem at a strategic organizational level, both within the office and with the community, including methods of funding new initiatives. It is not a case of knowing all of the answers, but of sharing present strategies and experiences to think about how to deploy attorney general assets to get to an answer and deal effectively with the problem.
Jim Walsh, chief deputy of Arizona, has brought this matter to our attention and has thought a lot about this issue. Attorney General Rob McKenna has begun to explore new ways to use staff and funding to address the problems. Al Sheldon, Consumer Division Chief California, and Debbie Hagen, Consumer Division Chief Illinois, have some very good insights into the issues, the needs, and strategies for proceeding from experiences in their states.
Current Issue 3: Predatory Lending Challenge
A major initiative in the Consumer Protection arena for the last several years, predatory lending by sub-prime lenders, touches countless citizens in our states and has yielded the largest recoveries for consumers in the nation’s history: the Household settlement of 2003 returned $484 million to consumers and the $325 million Ameriquest settlement suggest the scale and importance of these cases. These cases were not only multistate in conception and implantation, they were multi-agency, linking not only Consumer Protection Divisions, but also Civil Rights Divisions from attorneys general offices as well as State Banking Regulators and County Attorneys to investigate, prepare for litigation, settle the claims and implement distribution of funds. Add to this complex mix the growth and legal intricacies of payday lending and car title loans, and we have a full plate on this front.
We have presenters who have been at the epicenter of these initiatives: Attorney General Tom Miller, co-chair of the Predatory Lending Subcommittee of National Association of Attorneys General, has helped direct these cases, and Josh Stein, who helped manage these major cases, from the crucial staff level. Columbia Visiting Professor Ron Mann, who is unable to be with us because of family matters, has framed up the strategic importance of payday lending. Tom and Josh, as well as many others serving on the faculty here for this program have helped pioneer the multistate case process, procedures, and protocols which we will examine in the predatory lending context.
A Primer for Antitrust Law
Rightly seen, one of the other great pro-business roles that our offices play is our joint antitrust enforcement responsibilities under the federal law. Since the late 1970s, state attorneys general have taken increasing responsibility for aspects of antitrust violations that have a direct and serious impact upon the states. A complex body of law that inevitably attracts substantial public attention, antitrust must be generally understood by senior leaders in all attorneys general offices. James Tierney pointed out that we must always begin by reading the relevant statutes and urges people to do that. The last four NAAG antitrust committee chairs were invited to outline the law in a primer.
The panel was moderated by Bob Hubbard of New York, the current chair of the committee, and he was joined by past chairs: Trish Conners, Florida deputy attorney general, Tom Green, California first assistant attorney general, and Kevin O’Connor, who now serves as a board bember of State Center.
Current Issue 4: The Airline Merger Challenge
One of the places that we have seen this occur is in airline mergers, business transactions which can have a profound and lasting impact on any state and its principal communities. We have witnessed an increasing concentration in the airline industry for years, and we now are at a point where further alliances and mergers will have a necessarily substantial impact on the states served by those airlines. A few years ago the states cooperated closely with one another, with the DOT and with DOJ to investigate, analyze, and then respond to a proposed merger of USAir and United Airlines, which was abandoned by the companies.
This year, USAir flirted with a hostile takeover of Delta, a merger that many believed to pose an even greater risk than the previous merger attempt. At the time, all of the major legacy carriers floated possible mergers with one another, which could have brought the major players in the industry to a few. It is in this setting that Jim Donohue reviewed the recent history of the industry and the attorney general role in it. The dynamics of a multistate response to these potential threats to our states were played out.
Resources: Where to go for the right tool
Offices of State Attorneys General as a group have enjoyed a general strategic advantage of having experienced and talented collective consumer protection and antitrust staffs, located in larger numbers in a few key states and, in more instances, by more modest divisions in smaller states. This capacity, which some have called a virtual law office, has long served the citizens of our states. However, given the scale of the problems, occurring at the local level as well as national, we regularly turn to organizations that share our goals to fulfill our mission more effectively and with a greater awareness of our fiscal and staffing constraints.
Representatives for a number of these partners with us help us think strategically about how we can interact with them to advance the work of our offices individually and collectively. We will find out about the resources they can provide and ways in which they can share them, directly or indirectly, with the states as we do our jobs.
Current Issue 5: The Pharmaceutical Industry Challenge
For a number of years state attorneys general have found themselves engaged in matters relating to the pharmaceutical industry, touching on it across a range of divisions in their offices, ranging from consumer to antitrust, from Medicaid to corrections. The stage has proven to be quite broad nationally as well, with DOJ and the FTC heavily engaged with pharmaceutical cases. The states are further finding that the legislative and regulatory processes are asking for the AGs to take part in the policy and statutory discourse at both the state and federal levels, through the interests of state agencies and legislatures. Similarly, Congress and federal agencies are regularly involved in a broad spectrum of issues that touch upon state interests and the role of state AGs.
Attorney General Bill Sorrell, who will lead this session, directed a NAAG Presidential Initiative intended to gather in a usable form much of the information that state AGs needed to begin to understand and appreciate the complex pharmaceutical industry. He will place this issue in an historical context, outline the extensive range of state involvement with the issue, and guide us through a hypo that demonstrates in very practical terms the multidisciplinary breadth of challenges implicit in enforcing state laws in this complex arena. He will be joined by experienced state senior staff, an FTC official, and an NGO leader to reflect upon the variety of matters and settings in which the office becomes engaged with pharmaceutical issues.