Amid allegations by workers' groups of widespread wage theft across the state, the state attorney general's office has announced that subpoenas have been sent out to several franchises and one parent company. As many as 84% of surveyed workers replied that their employer had committed one form of wage theft in the past year.
Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced a new initiative to assist areas of the state that have a high rate of foreclosed home. The program is accepting applications for $1 million grants designed to return bank-owned properties to use.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced plans to overhaul the regulations for non-for-profit charities in the state. The proposed bill not only would address financial abuses and poor management practices, but also make it easier for nonprofits to operate properly.
Due to a discrepancy between state firearm laws governing holders of concealed handgun permits, Attorney General has been urged to clarify the issue. Louisiana state police believes an older, more restrictive law takes precedence over a recent statute allowing handgun owners more latitude.
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has outlined why Maryland’s proposed gun-control measure is constitutional in a 25-page letter to Governor Martin O’Malley. Gansler writes that the legislation is legally defensible and was written to “to balance the rights of legitimate gun owners with the need for increased public and law enforcement safety from gun violence.”
New Jersey AG Jeffrey Chiesa is defending the state’s gun-buyback program and arguing that it has removed thousands of weapons from the streets. The initiative pays $250 for each weapon turned in and over 10,000 firearms have been collected, 1,200 of which were illegal.
NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced plans to file suits against both Bank of America and Wells Fargo over claims that the banks breached last year’s agreement intended to end foreclosure abuses. The $26 billion dollar agreement, the National Mortgage Settlement, came after widespread accusations of shoddy paperwork, erroneous fees and wrongful evictions. Mr. Schneiderman maintains that the two banks did not follow guidelines regarding fielding and processing requests from homeowners to modify their mortgages.
Massachusetts state attorney general Martha Coakley alleges that some of the country’s biggest lenders are violating last year’s mortgage settlement. Among other issues, Coakley is arguing that banks are not offering assistance to homeowners in a timely fashion and sending borrowers inaccurate and confusing information.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called Kansas’ new gun law unconstitutional in an open letter written to Governor Sam Brownback. The new Second Amendment Protection Act, which excludes from federal regulation any gun made or owned in Kansas, would allow state law enforcement to charge federal authorities with crimes if they attempt to enforce federal gun laws in the state.
After reaching settlements with 25 other gas stations, NY Attorney General Schneiderman is filing lawsuits against four stations for violating the state’s price gouging statute. The stations allegedly disproportionately hiked gas prices during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last fall.
Attorney General Pam Bondi is seeking $5.48 billion in a federal lawsuit against BP Exploration & Production In., BO America Production Co., and Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. for lost revenue to the state of Florida. The lawsuit seeks to recover actual and potential lost revenue from the impact of the spill that includes lost sales and taxes for expected economic losses. The lawsuit is separate from other litigation including Mississippi.
Attorney General Doug Gansler released his 2012 Chesapeake Bay and Maryland Watersheds Environmental Audit. After his visits to four of the Bay’s tributaries AG Gansler highlighted the need for enhanced enforcement of pollution laws and increased public awareness of environmental issues.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has urged the state legislature to pass bills urged the legislature to make hospital bills easier to understand and to control in aggressive bill-collecting practices. Cooper also wants hospitals to notify his office and the Federal Trade Commission before they acquire other hospitals or physician practices, a frequent occurrence both nationally and in North Carolina. Cooper’s proposals were incorporated into a bill that was introduced last month to require hospitals to publicly disclose their prices on their most common medical procedures.
By a vote of 22-9 the Tennessee Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how the state selects an attorney general. The state Supreme Court justices currently select the AG, but if the amendment passes he or she would be appointed by a joint vote of both chambers of the Legislature.
While applauding charitable contributions in the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston, multiple state attorneys general have joined Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley in urging the public to choose wisely. Oregon AG Rosenblum has advised contributors to beware of callers soliciting fast cash and Pennsylvania AG Kane has released a set of tips for donors to ensure their money is going to the right place.
Attorney General Ferguson has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a florist in Richland, Washington. The shop, Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, allegedly refused to provide wedding flowers to a customer because of the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
The city council of Bisbee, AZ has decided to reword their controversial ordinance which granted civil unions after state attorney general Tom Horne had advised city officials that including jurisdiction such as property, adoption and guardianship would bring it into conflict with state laws.
The Calguns Foundation has filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven Californian residents against state attorney general Kamala Harris and the Bureau of Firearms. The suit alleges that the state makes firearm purchasers wait longer than the mandatory ten-day period and requires buyers to prove their legal standing.
The Louisiana attorney general’s office released an opinion stating that after lawmakers amended a statute the LSU Board of Supervisors no longer need legislative approval for hospital leases. The opinion states that the governor would have needed such approval before 2003 and concludes that LSU-run public hospitals can now be privatized.
A bipartisan group of 35 state and territory attorneys general have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and congressional leaders expressing their support for federal immigration reform.
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli was denied a rehearing of the decision to overturn the state’s ban on sodomy. After a three-judge panel ruled on March 12 to invalidate “Crimes Against Nature” statute, Cuccinelli asked for the full 15-judge 4th Circuit of Appeals to reconsider.
The North Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee has approved state attorney general Wayne Stenehjem’s request for a $400,000 litigation budget to defend the state’s new abortion restrictions. The new measures make the state the hardest place in the U.S. to have an abortion and abortion-rights activists have promised a legal fight.
New Hampshire attorney general Michael Delaney and Commissioner Thomas Burack announced a jury verdict of $236 million in the suit the state brought against ExxonMobil. The oil company was deemed liable for water contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE.
Michigan AG Schuette filed a motion to dismiss a suit that would stop state officials from enforcing the right-to-work law that was enacted last week. The suit argues that the law violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. A federal judge in Indiana recently dismissed a similar suit.
Wyoming state attorney general Greg Phillips has added 11 synthetic compounds to the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act. Under state law the attorney general is able to criminalize any substances except for distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages and tobacco.
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is petitioning the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision to strike down the state’s “Crimes Against Nature” law. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that most anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas.
Arizona state attorney general Tom Horne announced the extradition of a high-ranking drug cartel member from Mexico. The successful extradition is the result of a joint effort between the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of Justice, a Federal Court in Mexico City and the Arizona attorney general’s office.
Arkansas state attorney general Dustin McDaniel’s office announced the beginning of an investigation into the cause and impact of the Mayflower oil spill. Thousands of gallons of crude oil have leaked into a residential neighborhood near Lake Conway, significantly
Although state attorneys general have recently been worried about consumer protection and financial scams, Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt was forced to issue an alert to his constituents that mail from a paying agent, Rust Consulting, is legitimate.
Arguing that it would threat constitutional liberties of U.S. citizens, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott is urging President Obama to reject a United Nations treaty regulating international arms trade.
After a federal judge struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control insurance coverage, state attorney general Chris Koster has asked the judge to clarify the intended scope of the decision. Koster’s office released a statement arguing that the ruling has created vague uncertainties for insurers and individuals.
Board members of the Providence Medical Center and St. John Hospital are urging state Attorney General Derek Schmidt to approve the hospitals’ sale to California-based Prime Healthcare Inc. Opponents argue that the labor disputes and federal investigations of the private hospital chain should derail the sale.
Supporting the full enforcement of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, Attorney General Janet Mills has signed on to a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The act sets up federal standards to protect the rights of Native Americans in child custody proceedings. At least 11 other state attorneys general have also expressed support for the Supreme Court’s amicus brief.
Texas state attorney general Greg Abbott released a statement cautioning scam artists who are calling senior citizens and claiming that Medicare’s current identification cards are being phased out. The callers then ask for the citizens’ Medicare number and bank account information. The attorneys general of Texas and Illinois have recently issued similar warnings about identity theft.
The state attorneys general of Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking that broaden the religious exemptions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller released an explanation of why he and several other state AGs filed briefs in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. AG Zoeller argued that he must defend Indiana’s authority and stated that his duty is “not to represent [his] personal views or what polls might suggest is popular opinion.”
South Dakota AG Marty Jackley’s office has put out a warning to senior citizens and their relatives to watch for a telemarketing scam that has targeted the elderly. One victim of the scheme reported a loss of more than $75,000 to the state’s Consumer Protection Division.
Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt has filed three briefs in the environmental Tarrant Regional Water District vs. Herrmann, a case being reviewed before the Oklahoma Supreme Court that could affect interstate water allowances between Oklahoma and Texas.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that he would welcome a chance to defend the state’s affirmative action ban in the U.S. Supreme Court, stating that admission to college “must be based upon merit.” ACLU lawyers argue that the ban is discriminatory because schools are still allowed to give preferential treatment to “legacy” applicants.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined legislative leaders to talk the effect of consumer plans in the state, specifically focusing on debt problems and identity theft. She also reported that her office received 26,000 fraud complaints last year.
Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) William R. Brownfield and Delaware Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden signed an agreement that will have Delaware join more than 50 other state and local agencies in assisting foreign partners in law enforcement.
The Arkansas Attorney General released a statement arguing that the state’s Supreme Court should decide the constitutionality of a new law detailing execution procedures before lifting stays of execution for sex death row inmates.
Georgia AG Launches Campaign against Sex Trafficking (March 19, 2013)
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and other state law enforcement officials have recently started a new effort targeting sex trafficking. Employing the slogan “Georgia’s not buying it,” the public awareness campaign has a specific focus on those who pay for sex. The initiative is a public-private partnership between Olens’ office, law enforcement, nonprofit advocates Street Grace and youthSpark, and the Governor’s Office of Children and Families.
5 State AGs, Mexican AG Will Meet in Mexico City (March 19, 2013)
The attorneys general of Colorado, California, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico will meet tomorrow with Attorney General Karam of Mexico to discuss human trafficking, drug trafficking, and judicial reform.
Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to stay the ruling against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was denied, yet Judge Janis Jack’s original order was amended to allow the TCEQ to approve water permits deemed “necessary to protect the public’s health and safety.” Last week’s original ruling had found the state’s water management guilty for the death of 23 whooping cranes.
State attorney general J.B. Van Hollen announced today that although a circuit court declared Wisconsin’s collective bargaining law unconstitutional, his office will not attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court. Van Hollen maintained that because the ruling was made in Dane County it does not apply statewide.
A group of state attorneys general announced their support for a bill currently in Congress that would ban colleges from spending federal aid dollars on marketing and recruitment. In a letter to key lawmakers in both the House and Senate, the AGs wrote that the measure is a “vital first step” toward ending deceptive practices by for-profit colleges.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that medical marijuana dispensaries must be allowed statewide in order to provide “reasonable access.” In the past year several municipalities passed ordinances outright banning the sale of the drug. However, Coakley stated that towns may still set up specific zoning rules that limit where dispensaries may be opened
Illinois Governor Quinn has stated that he wants state AG Lisa Madigan to appeal the 7th US Court of Appeals’ decision to strike down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons. A three-judge panel ruled last year that the ban was unconstitutional and gave state lawmakers until this summer to remove it.
It was announced today that State Attorney General Bill Schuette will head up a new human trafficking initiative in his state that will review state policies on the issue. The commission will include lawmakers, law enforcement and activists and is scheduled to report its findings in six months.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced a $7 million settlement between the attorneys general of 38 states and the District of Columbia and Google concerning a multistate probe over the collection of data from unsecured wireless networks across the U.S. by Google vehicles. Under terms of the agreement, Google agreed to institute stricter privacy policies including educating employees on the privacy and confidentiality of user data. Google also agreed to sponsor a national consumer outreach program to educate the public on securing their wireless networks.
The Attorneys General of forty-eight states have signed a letter prepared by the National Association of Attorneys General urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt design requirements for prescription pain medication. The attorneys general expressed concern of the possibility that generic versions of extended-release opioid prescription drugs and other non-tamper-resistant products may reach the market. The letter highlighted new physical and chemical features to prescription opioids that can be included in their design to deter abuse and thereby reduce misuse of the drugs and the possibility deadly consequences.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has joined attorneys general of ten other states in opposing a motion that the lawsuit calling for the Dodd-Frank financial reforms of 2010 be dismissed. The claim was first filed by several conservative policy groups and asserts that the reforms ignored several constitutional issues, specifically regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Governor Matt Mead signed House Bill 133 after it passed through AG Greg Phillips’ office. International anti-human trafficking advocates had been lobbying intensely for a formal classification of human trafficking as a state crime. The governor agreed that although Wyoming’s cooperation with federal law enforcement has worked thus far, companion state laws are necessary for the future. According to lawmakers the bill also closes several loopholes in the federal system and provides better social support to victims. The bill can be found here.
Attorney General Eric Holder defended President Obama’s proposed gun policies on Tuesday to National Association of Attorneys General. He argued that the actions taken by the President are necessary to strengthen gun laws and will not encroach on the rights legal gun owners. Holder stressed the importance of state attorneys general to utilize the National Crime Information Center for performing background checks when guns are sold.
The attorneys general of thirteen states and the District of Columbia have filed law suits against Standard & Poor’s alleging that the rating agency engaged in and used deceptive practices in rating certain complex securities and “operated with an inherent conflict of interest, prioritizing profits over objective ratings,” leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The lawsuits came from the offices of the Attorneys General of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced a probe into whether marshals are working with the nation’s largest polygamous sect to prevent women from leaving the church run by imprisoned Warren Jeffs. The probe focuses on the Marshal’s Office of Colorado City, AZ, located near the Utah border and home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Marshal’s Office serves as a small police force in the twin polygamous towns of Hildale, UT and Colorado City. Horne has unsuccessfully sought a bill from the Arizona Legislature to abolish the Marshal’s Office in Colorado City and replace it with deputies from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills warned the public of a scam targeting Medicare recipients. Scammers have been contacting Medicare recipients claiming to be issuing new Medicare cards and asking for Medicare numbers and bank account information. Mills advised Mainers to “protect themselves by never giving any personal information to anyone over the phone," and to review their Medicare statements carefully and report any questionable calls to the Maine Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline.
Attorneys for the office of Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrel, argued that the Vermont Legislatures decision to close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant was based on financial considerations and not safety. Federal District Judge Garvan Murtha had ruled that state lawmakers had overstepped their authority by considering the plant’s safety, which is exclusively regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Due to the complexity of the case a decision is not expected for six months to a year.
The Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington are supporting federal regulation of particulate matter in the air, a pollutant that leads to respiratory symptoms and diseases. The new annual standard would limit particulate matter to no higher than 12 micrograms per cubic meter and a daily standard not to exceed 30 micrograms per cubic meter. Under a consent decree the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into with the states and several public health organizations, the agency is required to sign the final rule on a national ambient air quality standard for particulate matter by Dec. 14.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announce that Lorraine Brown, former president of mortgage document processor DocX, has been charged with racketeering for her alleged role in authorizing fraudulent signing of mortgage documents filed in Michigan. An investigation conducted by Schuette’s office revealed the Brown allegedly started and ran a scheme of “robo-signing,” where employees are directed to fraudulently sign an authorized person’s name on mortgage documents in order to process the documents quickly. DocX called the signings “facsimile signing” or “surrogate signing.” The investigated uncovered more than 1,000 unauthorized and improperly executed documents filed with county registers of deeds in Michigan. The charge of racketeering (conducting criminal enterprise) carries a 20 year felony sentence.
Attorneys General of 38 states announced a $90 million settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceuticals company, over allegations of unlawful promotion of the diabetes drug Avandia. The lawsuit alleged that GlaxoSmithKline engaged in unfair and deceptive market practices when it misrepresented the effects Avandia would have on patients’ cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health. Under the settlement GlaxoSmithKline is prohibited from: making false, misleading or deceptive claims about diabetes drugs; making safety claims not supported by substantial evidence or substantial clinical experience; presenting favorable information of drugs that have been proven invalid; promoting drugs before they have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; or misusing statistics or otherwise misrepresenting the nature, applicability or significance of clinical trials. States included in the settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced price gouging enforcement actions against 13 gas stations following hurricane Sandy for violations of New York State Price Gouging statute. The statute prohibits merchants from adjusting prices so that they are “unconscionably excessive” during a state of emergency or other “abnormal disruption to the market.” There are expected to be more actions as the Schneiderman’s office continues to investigate claims of price gouging in the aftermath of the storm.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced a $210 million settlement with Ivy Asset Management, a subsidiary of Bank of New York. Ivy was charged with deliberately concealing negative facts it uncovered in its due diligence of Bernard Madoff in order to keep earning millions of dollars in fees and resulted in clients losing $236 million after the Ponzi scheme collapsed. The settlement ended the lawsuit by the New York Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Labor, and private plaintiffs.
The case is expected to be argued as early as November 26th before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The court granted Vermont’s motion to expedite oral arguments on October 3rd and Entergy submitted its reply brief on November 9th. The central question of the case is whether Vermont has the authority to not renew the operational license of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and thereby shutdown the plant, or whether that authority is preempted by the Federal Government which renewed the plants operating license for another 20 years.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is holding to her position that her office does not need legislative approval of her plans for $300 million in funds awarded to the state as its share of a $25 billion national settlement with five of the country's largest mortgage lenders. Legislative leaders maintain that they must approve any proposal for spending that money. Bondi has recently filed her 2013 budget request with state legislators.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, head of the President's mortgage fraud task force, filed suit against JPMorgan in New York State Supreme Court on Monday, alleging the fraudulent issuance of mortgage-backed securities amidst the 2008 financial crisis. The suit asserts that bankers from Bear Stearns, acquired by JPMorgan in 2008, "failed to fully evaluate loans, largely ignored the defects that their limited review did uncover, and kept investors in the dark about both the inadequacy of their review procedures and the defects in the underlying loans." The attorney general's complaint, the first such action filed by the task force, described the alleged scheme as a "systemic fraud on thousands of investors."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an agreement to expand and coordinate prosecutions and convictions of those engaged in human trafficking. The targets of the agreement are gangs that sell and traffic people across the Mexico-California border. The agreement aims to increase integration between the two offices for investigations, share best practices for law enforcement to recognize human trafficking, and to provide support for victims.
The Office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, is seeking information regarding the increasing concentration of medical providers and subsequent effects. Increased consolidation has raised the concern that the mergers of hospitals and physician groups could raise the costs of treatment. While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act encourages medical providers to collaborate more on patient care in an effort to reduce costs, the increase in acquisitions raises the concern that consolidations will result in lesser competition in certain markets.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced its receipt of $717,000 in federal grants to aid state residents make health care decisions. The grant is for the Health Education and Advocacy Unit of the Attorney General Office to start or bolster existing programs that allow consumers to have more influence on their health care decisions. The funds are part of the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight’s (CCIIO) Consumer Assistance Program Grants. To date, the Health Education and Advocacy Unit has received a total of $1.5 million in funds from CCIIO.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced that the attorneys general of 54 states, districts, and territories had reached an antitrust settlement with three publishers of e-books. The publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster agreed to the settlement while Apple, Penguin Group and MacMillan have not settled. The attorneys general had filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York following a two-year antitrust investigation by the US Department of Justice and the attorneys general of Connecticut and Texas. The investigation found that the publishers had worked with Apple to set prices for e-books and limit the discount available for retailers to provide.
Illinois AG Madigan Responds to First Progress Report on National Foreclosure Settlement (Aug. 30)
In response to the release of the first progress report on the $25 billion settlement reached earlier this year with five of the nation's largest mortgage servicers, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stated that she was "cautiously optimistic" and outlined the benefits that Illinois borrowers have seen. The report was issued by an independent monitor established to oversee compliance with the terms of the settlement reached with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Bank, formerly GMAC. According to the report, llinois consumers have received more than $357 million in relief, in the form of principal reductions and refinancing for underwater loans. The Attorney General’s office determined that Illinois ranks among the top five states for the amount of relief directed to homeowners.
Massachusetts Officials Announce Anti-foreclosure Grants (Aug. 20)
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced the award of HomeCorps grants to cities, towns and organizations across the state to assist communities and homeowners mitigate the impacts of the foreclosure crisis. Two of the grants will go to programs providing direct assistance to homeowners. Eighteen other grant recipients will apply funds to broader community revitalization efforts. The HomeCorps Program is funded by the state's share of a nationwide settlement with five of the country's largest mortgage servicers over their foreclosure and loan servicing processes.
Arizona AG Horne Sues Companies for Allegedly Targeting Distressed Homeowners (Aug. 15)Arizona AG Tom Horne has announced a lawsuit against three companies and the companies' owners for allegedly telling consumers that they offer favorable mortgage modifications when they in fact only provide information available for free on government websites. According to AG Horne, one of the companies posted fake customer testimonials on its website and charged a fraudulent 9.3% sales tax. Additionally, two of the companies are allegedly not licensed in Arizona to conduct the loan modification services they claim to provide.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, has announced that her office will begin an investigation into allegations made in a New York Times report that at hospitals owned by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), the nation’s largest for-profit operator of health care facilities, some cardiac surgeries were unjustifiable between 2002 and 2010. These allegations came to light as a result of a 2010 internal review which showed that half of the invasive diagnostic procedures were done on patients “without significant heart disease.” The internal review was prompted by a registered nurse who was later fired allegedly in retaliation for bringing the procedures to light.
Missouri AG Reaches $2 million Settlement With Mortgage Company (Aug. 2)
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has announced a settlement with now-closed mortgage services company DocX, over criminal allegations that the company applied fake signatures to documents in order to speed processing. Under the settlement, DocX's parent company, Lender Processing Services Inc., will pay $1.5 million to the state and $500,000 to the Missouri AG's office as reimbursement for costs of the investigation. The settlement also requires Lender Processing Services to submit quarterly reports on its compliance with a federal consent order under which the company must allow an independent consultant to review document services from 2008 through the end of 2010.
Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, announced in a press release that her office had settled with Accretive Health Solutions a hospital billing and debt collection contractor over aggressive collection techniques. Swanson had brought suit against Accretive alleging that Accretive employees badgered patients over billing while still in hospital. As part of the settlement Accretive has agree to not do business in Minnesota for six years and has agreed to pay $2.6 million. Accretive does not admit to wrongdoing or liability and agreed to settle with Swanson to "prevent this matter from being a continued distraction."
The Attorneys General of Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas have said that they will continue in a lawsuit against the Federal government concerning a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services despite the Supreme Court recently upholding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit argues that the rule requiring all employers, including church-affiliated hospitals, schools and outreach programs, to provide contraception coverage in health care plans violates the rights of employers that object to the use of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. The attorneys general argue that the rule would effectively force religious employers and organizations to drop health insurance coverage, which will raise enrollment in state Medicaid programs and increase patient numbers at state-subsidized hospitals and medical centers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is named as a defendant.
New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Cheisa has issued a directive calling for an increase in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions by law enforcement in the state. In addition to ordering better training and resources to identify and assist trafficking victims, Chiesa announced the establishment of a Human Trafficking Unit within the Attorney General Office's Division of Criminal Justice to help implement these measures. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports receiving nearly 500 human trafficking hotline calls in the past two years for New Jersey, more than all but seven states.
In an effort to combat prescription drug abuse, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw announced lawsuits against 14 out of state drug distributors over their supplying certain drug stores with drugs that were over prescribed for non-legitimate medical purposes. McGraw stated, "These out of state drug distributors have substantially contributed to, benefited from and gained improperly from prescription drug abuse in West Virginia… We now ask them to accept responsibility and pay for their illicit actions just as our office has done with others."
Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, has moved to broaden the lawsuit against Accretive Health over aggressive hospital bill collection methods after more patients have come forward. The Chicago-based Accretive handles billing and collections for hospitals and health systems including Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis. Swanson released a report in April outlining the extent of the alleged aggressive practices done on behalf of Accretive employees in collecting past due hospital bills.
Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, released a report focusing on the practices of an Illinois medical debt collection company in Minnesota. Swanson had filed a lawsuit against Chicago-based Accretive Health Inc. in January asserting misuse of private patient information and creating “high-pressure, boiler room-style sales atmospheres” in which employees were coached to aggressively collect debt. Accretive has contracts with two Minnesota based hospitals. The allegations are detailed in a six volume report release by the Swanson’s office.
Minnesota’s Compliance Review of Fairview Health Services' Management Contracts with Accretive Health, Inc.
Salt-mining companies Cargill and Morton Salt coordinated over the past decade to keep road salt prices artificially high, resulting in prices up to $50 million above market prices, according to an antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The two companies divided the Ohio market, covertly agreeing not to compete, submitting bids designed to conceal their conspiracy and to prevent competitors from obtaining state business. The lawsuit seeks an order severing the companies' contracts with the state, as well as repayment of their “ill-gotten gains” to the Ohio Department of Transportation and other agencies.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has announced a settlement with three companies over allegations of wage and hour law violations. The settlement includes over $2.8 million in penalties, fines and restitution. Tri State Drywall Systems LLC, National Water Main Clearing Company and Central Mass Disposal are alleged by AG Coakley to have violated Massachusetts prevailing wage laws and misclassification law, resulting in underpayment to workers of approximately $1.7 million. The companies were fined more than $1 million for the violations.
A coalition of eleven attorneys general have filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of New York after the EPA failed to meet a deadline in October of 2011 setting new soot pollution standards. Soot pollution is also called fine particulate matter pollution and is a result of diesel engines and power plants. EPA last issued standards in 2006 that were deemed too lax following a lawsuit by 17 states in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The court remanded the standards to the EPA to issue new standards to better protect public health. The states that have filed the current lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The case is U.S. v. Jackson, 2-cv-10064, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
After a year of negotiations, at least 49 state attorneys general have signed on to a settlement with five banks over alleged home foreclosure abuses. The agreement, worth approximately $26 billion, includes $5 billion in cash payments to states and federal authorities, $17 billion for homeowner relief, $3 for refinancing, and a final $1 billion would be paid to the Federal Housing Administration. Although the settlement will directly assist only a small percentage of one in five Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, some analysts suggest that the deal could help turn around the housing market by giving banks certainty and sufficiently reducing the percentage of homes that are distressed to stabilize housing prices. The deal will additionally provide for limited release of banks from civil prosecution for actions related to the foreclosure process, such as robosigning, but prosecutors and regulators will still be able to investigate other wrongdoing by banks related to the housing crisis, including the assembly of risky mortgages into securities that were sold to investors and later soured, insurance and tax fraud, and any allegation of criminal wrongdoing..
The Attorneys General of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, and Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, have led a National Press Club Newsmaker debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Four questions concerning the ACA will be present to the Supreme Court for oral argument from March 26-28. The attorneys general discussed several aspects of the ACA including the insurance coverage mandate, the tax basis, the general welfare aspect, expansion of Medicaid, severability, the law’s provisions and other areas.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has filed a lawsuit against a construction company and its owner for failing to deliver goods and services paid for by victims of the Joplin, Missouri tornado disaster. The lawsuit against ABP Quality Construction, alleges that the company halted work on homes damaged by the tornado and refused to provide goods after victims had paid tens of thousands of dollars for them. The lawsuit seeks restitution for the company’s customers, a restraining order preventing the company from operating and civil penalties of $1,000 per violation.
Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, filed a lawsuit alleging that Standard & Poor’s, one of the nation’s largest credit rating agencies, compromised its independence as a ratings agency by doling out inflated ratings to risky investments in order to increase market share and revenue. Madigan says investors relied on S&P’s ratings due to the agency’s purported independence and objectivity, but that the agency misrepresented the rating of risky investments such as mortgage-backed securities to help drive profit margins and resulted in investors purchasing securities that were much riskier than the ratings suggested.
In an effort to educate law enforcement and the public about the problem of human trafficking, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has placed ads on buses and billboards featuring photos of men, woman and children with declarations such as “Stop Slavery,” and “We are not for sale.” The ads additionally urge viewers to contact a national hotline if they suspect someone is being enslaved. The New Mexico AG’s Office has initiated 12 trafficking cases since 2008, when New Mexico past a new law defining and outlawing trafficking. Ten of the twelve cases are tied to prostitution rings, while the final two involve forced labor. The ads aim to increase prosecutions of the crime by enabling the public and law enforcement to recognize signs of trafficking when they see them.
The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have filed a joint amicus curiae brief supporting the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with the Supreme Court. The brief focused on the constitutionality of the minimum-coverage provision, commonly called the individual mandate, requiring non-exempt individuals to have health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Four questions are before the Supreme Court with oral arguments scheduled for March 26th to March 28th.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced a US District Court judge ruled in favor of North Dakota and a local power provider on a motion to resolve a dispute between the state and the Environmental Protection Agency on air quality rules. North Dakota argues that the new rules would require two power plants in the state to upgrade to expensive pollution-control technology that might not work. The federal judge held that North Dakota’s findings about the technology were not unreasonable and that the EPA, who had the burden of proof, did not meet their burden for the dispute resolution process. In a statement praising the ruling Stenehjem said, “These issues are about North Dakota's sovereignty, its authority, and its demonstrated commitment to protect its environment and economic well-being.” Stenehjem also said he hoped the ruling would encourage the EPA to adopt North Dakota’s proposal for the power plants.
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell filed suit against the Department of the Interior over new petroleum drilling boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico. The new boundaries impact how the state will receive royalties from petroleum drilling. According to Caldwell, the new boundaries would require Louisiana to share petroleum royalties collected over the past 25 years with the states of Texas and Mississippi. Caldwell’s suit alleges that the boundaries could cost Louisiana $2.8 million immediately.
The Supreme Court on Monday announced the schedule for oral arguments concerning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Arguments will take place over three days from March 26th to the 28th. Four questions are being presented to the court: whether the minimum coverage provision is constitutional, whether the minimum coverage provision is severable, whether the suit brough to challenge the minimum coverage provision is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, and whether the Medicaid expansion provisions are constitutional.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a new “eCrime unit” in the state that will focus on the category of crimes using electronics and the internet, often called cybercrimes. According to Harris, this cybercrime unit will focus on child exploitation, Internet fraud, intellectual property violations, identity theft, and theft of computer parts and services. In the announcement Harris said, "I am creating the eCrime unit so that California can be a leader in using innovative law enforcement techniques to target criminals.” The unit already has several cases pending, including some involving ATM-based identity theft scams.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced a lawsuit against Gridiron Fantasy Sports for failure to pay promised cash prizes to participants. According to Koster, Gridiron failed to pay $389,000 to 331 fantasy football participants by February 15, 2011 as the company had promised. Additionally, Koster alleges an investigation revealed entrance fees for a fantasy baseball game were used to pay prizes for fantasy football winners. The suit also alleges Gridiron used entrance fees for some non-contest purposes. Koster is asking the court for a preliminary injunction and for Gridiron to pay restitution.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a change to policy in the state regarding sexual assault evidence kits. According to DeWine, all kits must now be submitted for DNA evidence processing, even if the case ultimately will not be prosecuted. In a statement DeWine said, “The new policy is fairly simple: if a crime was committed, the kit should be submitted.” The office estimates that under the new policy the percentage of sexual assault kits tested will rise from 50% to 90%.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that the state is launching the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network, a new network to alert Wisconsin communities on important law enforcement messages. According to Van Hollen, citizens and businesses in the state are encouraged to sign up for the alerts, which will include messages by fax, text, or email to subscribers regarding stolen property, missing persons, or other incidents. Subscribers must pay an annual fee of $12, which covers the operational costs of the network.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has sued Grain Processing Corp. over alleged violations of state air and water pollution control laws. According to Miller, the company emitted more than the allowable amount of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, failed to maintain equipment used to prevent excess emissions, failed to get proper construction permits, and failed to comply with notification and reporting requirements. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for the violations and an injunction requiring the grain processor to comply with state law.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that five people have been charged with human trafficking offenses and operating a prostitution ring. According to Schuette, the group offered prostitution services via a website, with one woman telling investigators she was only 15 when she worked for the alleged ring. The group also faces drug trafficking charges. The investigation was conducted through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force and included investigators from the FBI and Michigan State Police.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has said he will fight the proposed electricity rate increase requested by Duke Energy. Recently Duke Energy requested an 18.6% increase for residential rates, but lowered that amount to 7.2%. Cooper says this amount is still too high. In a statement Cooper said, "Most working families and businesses would like to be able to have a 7.2 percent increase in income right now. But, in fact, many of them are having to deal with cuts. I think it's important for the company to have to deal with economic realities. Right now is not the time to get this money from consumers.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged the operator of a tire scrap facility for violating state waste disposal laws. According to Abbott, the operator of the facility failed to get the required permits to burn outdoors and scrap tires, prevent fire outbreaks, and remove the unauthorized tire collection. The charges follow a fire at the facility in early August that burned approximately 22,000 scrap tires. McGraw’s suit seeks a penalty of up to $25,000 per day the facility was in violation of the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act.
Following charges by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw that the owner of a modeling agency was conning clients out of money, a county court judge has ordered the business to shut down and bans the owner from opening any modeling agencies in the state. According to McGraw’s suit, the modeling agency owner charged clients thousands of dollars for photo shoots and portfolio building services but failed to follow through on these services. Additionally McGraw alleged that the owner violated consumer protection laws requiring him to warn clients of the right to cancel contracts within three days. In a news release McGraw said, "I caution those with dreams of becoming a model to do their homework before paying an agency upfront for their services.” The judge ordered the owner to pay $5,000 in restitution, as well as $25,000 in penalties.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that his office is launching new initiatives to crack down on child sex offenders. As part of the new initiative, DeWine’s office is creating the Crimes Against Children Unit to focus on identifying offenders who use the internet to commit sex offenses involving children. Additionally, DeWine appointed two attorneys in the special prosecutions unit to address crimes against children, as well as create a team to help victims, help train local law enforcement, and publicly identify wanted sex offenders. In a statement DeWine said, "We're going to go after these predators and we're going to lock them up and we're going to keep them locked up…. We're going to find these child molesters and we're going to put them in jail."
State Attorneys General in 35 states have asked the Federal Trade Commission to limit the percentage of alcohol allowed in single-serving cans, specifically targeting the beverage Four Loko. The alcoholic beverage Four Loko contains 12 percent alcohol in a 23.5-ounce can, roughly equivalent to 5 beers. In a news release Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said, “The company claims that that you can safely drink one can of Four Loko in a single occasion, which is absurd.” The attorneys general are asking the FTC to limit the alcohol content of Four Loko to two servings per can.
The Delaware River Basin Commission has indefinitely postponed a meeting that was supposed to take place November 21st to vote on natural gas regulations that would lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Delaware River Basin. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman supported the move saying, “This delay further demonstrates that the proposed regulations for fracking in the Delaware River basin are not ready to see the light of day. Without a full, fair and open review of the potential risks of fracking in the basin, the public will continue to question the federal government's ability to protect public health and environment." Schneiderman has sued the federal government over alleged failures regarding fracking studies. The delay follows an announcement by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who is a member of the Commission, that he would not support the regulations.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced a temporary restraining order against the owners of foundry Didion and Sons. According to Koster, the owners violated several Missouri environmental laws by illegally dumping and storing toxic substances. The owners were allegedly evasive about having their foundry inspected while in the middle of demolishing buildings on the site, prompting state Department of Natural Resource officials to obtain a search warrant, which revealed the alleged violations. In a statement Koster said “Taking care of our environment is a responsibility we all share. This office takes that responsibility seriously and will continue to vigorously enforce the laws governing the use of our natural resources.”
A federal district court judge ruled that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s lawsuit against the administrator of BP’s oil spill fund will be heard in state court. This decision follows an earlier move by the fund’s administrator to have the lawsuit heard in federal court. According to Hood’s office, the lawsuit was filed in response to alleged failures on behalf of the BP fund administrator to provide documents regarding Mississippi claims.
New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney issued a warning to consumers over an event advertising itself as “For Us Women’s Expo.” According to Delaney, his office was contacted by the Radisson Hotel in Manchester to notify the office that contrary to what the online ads for the Expo said there was no such event scheduled to take place at their establishment in December. The ads were allegedly selling tickets for $6 to $10 and booth space ranging from $565 to $1,000. The New Hampshire Department of Justice is attempting to identify the person or persons behind the ad to investigate.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office has issued subpoenas to mortgage lenders Freddie and Fannie Mac as part of an ongoing investigation into mortgage lending practices in the state. According to an anonymous source, Harris’ subpoena asked the lenders questions regarding their business in California, including acting as landlords for foreclosed properties in the state. Additionally the subpoena allegedly requested information on their mortgage-servicing and foreclosure practices.
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court over the loss of the state’s seventh Congressional seat following the 2010 Census. Based on the U.S. Census, which showed that Louisiana’s population growth was far exceeded by other states, the state lost their seventh seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 2010 Census included illegal immigrants in their population counts. In a statement Caldwell said, "Louisiana's complaint simply asks the court to require the federal government to recalculate the 2010 apportionment of U.S. House of Representative seats based on legal residents — just as the Constitution requires.”
The Supreme Court Order List issued Monday Morning included three petitions for certiorari concerning challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court has set a total of five and a half hours to hear three questions before the court: 1) Whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision; 2) Whether the ACA must be invalidated in its entirety because it is nonseverable from the individual mandate that exceeds Congress’ limited and enumerated powers under the Constitution; and 3) Whether the suit brought by respondents to challenge the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a). To date three U.S. appellate courts have upheld the constitutionality of the individual and two have ruled it unconstitutional.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources filed suit against the owner of Missouri bar The Upper Deck. According to Koster’s office and the state DNR, the owner violated state clean water laws when he failed to register before operating his septic tank, among other related violations. The suit alleges the owner failed to renew his operating permit, illegally discharged into Missouri waters, failed to follow discharge limits, and failed to submit required annual sludge and discharge monitoring reports. The owner could be fined as much as $10,000 per day for each violation, though a spokeswoman for Koster’s office said the state would likely work with the owner to reduce the fine amount.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took issue with new regulations on hydrofracking proposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The proposed rules would permit natural gas companies to collectively drill a maximum of 300 natural gas wells when the moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale of the Delaware River Basin is lifted. Once the limit on wells is reached the Commission would have to vote to allow any additional drilling. According to Schneiderman, the regulations are inadequate given the lack of an environmental impact study. In a statement regarding the lack of an environmental impact study Schneiderman said the "federal government does not have a complete understanding of the health and safety risks fracking poses, even as it stands to open up the Delaware River Basin to thousands of new gas wells.”
Incumbent Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway was re-elected to the post after Tuesday’s election. In his victory speech Conway said “As Kentucky attorney general, I’m going to continue to stand up for people who need someone to stand you for them. I’m going to continue my efforts to go after the few, not all, of the for-profit colleges, that are more interested in getting their hands on federal student loan money than education.”
Voters in Mississippi re-elected incumbent state Attorney General Jim Hood to the office in Tuesday’s election. Following his victory Hood said, “I’m honored the voters have chosen me again.” He also said he believes voters reelected him because “I’ve done what people expected our office to do — prosecuting cybercrimes, filling gaps where district attorneys can’t.”
The Delaware Attorney General’s Office announced that their Mortgage Fraud Task Force is sponsoring free workshops in November on foreclosure prevention. According to the office, the workshops are aimed at providing information that will help residents keep their homes, assist with loan modifications, and generally reduce foreclosures. In a statement Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said “Our goal is to make sure that homeowners who are seeking ways to meet their mortgage obligations are able to have meaningful conversations with their lenders and avoid being victimized by mortgage rescue scams that strip homeowners of their equity and their home.” The workshops will include mortgage service providers, state employees, and housing counselors.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a settlement with high fructose corn syrup supplier Tate & Lyle Ingredients America LLC over alleged violations of state clean water and wetland laws. According to Coakley, the distributor dumped water used to clean the inside of corn syrup tanker trucks into a culvert behind their plant, which then flowed into a nearby swamp and caused vegetation in the swamp to turn black. Coakley’s office says rinse water caused approximately 12,000 square feet of damage to vegetated wetlands. Under the terms of the agreement Tate & Lyle will pay $105,000 in penalties and restore the damaged wetland.
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow filed suit against Philadelphia lawyer Michael Kwasnik over allegations he operated a Ponzi scheme that took money from the retirement accounts of elderly investors. According to Dow, Kwasnik told investors that money would be used to promote the business Liberty State Investments when some of the money was actually used to pay returns to other investors. In the lawsuit Dow’s office alleges, "Investor funds were partly used in a Ponzi scheme to pay existing investors and for other improper purposes, including the fraudulent and unjust enrichment of individual defendants and members of their families.” Dow’s suit asks the court to order restitution for investors and permanently bar Kwasnik and other members of the alleged scheme from selling investment securities.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against Charles Cooper LLC, a concentrated animal feeding operation or CAFO, alleging violations of the state’s Clean Water Law. According to Koster, the CAFO polluted a creek by applying wastewater to farm fields. Additionally, Koster alleges the CAFO breached an agreement to correct prior violations and pay a penalty. The suit asks the court to require the CAFO comply with the Clean Water Law, pay the $9,000 suspended from an earlier penalty, and assess a new penalty of up to $10,000 per day per violation.
Oil giant BP has agreed to pay $50 million in fines to Texas following an explosion at an oil refinery in 2005 that unlawfully released pollutants into the air. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the fine will settle all state claims against BP over emissions at the refinery. At a news conference Abbott said, "This sends a strong, clear message ... that you don't mess with Texas air quality.” The fine against BP is the largest ever for a violation of the Texas Clean Air Act at a single facility.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced the state is suing Minnesota over carbon dioxide emissions restrictions that could affect power sales in North Dakota. In a statement Stenehjem said “It is unfortunate it has come to this. As Minnesota seeks to rebuild its economy, it will need energy. Much of that energy will need to come from sources outside Minnesota. Over the last four years, we in North Dakota have made every effort to convince Minnesota officials to rescind this act.” Stenehjem filed after Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill that would have overturned the restrictions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine determined that permits granted by the state Environmental Protection Agency to Patriot Water Treatment and the City of Warren to process gas and oil well brine were not legal. According to DeWine, the permits issued “did not have a basis in law.” In the ruling DeWine also stated, “The safety of Ohio's water is too important to put at risk as most wastewater treatment plants don't currently have the proper technology for adequately treating fracking fluids." DeWine has asked the Environmental Review Appeals Commission to dismiss Patriot’s appeals and send the permits back to the Ohio EPA director for further action. Ohio EPA says DeWine’s ruling on the permits was a declaration of error on behalf of the EPA and is consistent with their determinations.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is reviewing utility companies’ responses to power outages after the October snow storm. According to Coakley, her office is investigating the reason behind the duration of power outages following the storm, as well as whether the companies prepared sufficiently for the storm and whether fines may be necessary. Additionally, Coakley is investigating how the utilities manage their resources when storms are not expected.
Attorneys General from 44 states and territories signed a letter sent by the National Association of Attorneys General, urging the U.S. Senate and House to pass legislation aimed at combating human trafficking. The letter supports Senate Bill 1572 and House Resolution 2596, which would provide funding for a series of programs to combat slavery and human trafficking. In the letter the Attorneys General said "The fact that the enslavement and trade in human beings exists in our modern world has a disturbingly large, highly profitable illicit industry is unacceptable. Slavery damages our communities, taints the products and services we consume and the profits we earn, and is one of the most pressing human rights challenges of our time."
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd. alleging environmental violations following a train derailment in which ethanol-filled tankers caught fire. According to Illinois authorities, while the fire burned off much of the spilled ethanol an unknown quantity seeped into the soil. There are at least three wells for drinking water in the area around the spill. Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to order Iowa Interstate completely cleanup the area and pay all costs associated with the cleanup. Additionally, Madigan and Iowa Interstate entered an agreement with the court, which the court granted, requiring Iowa Interstate to work with the state on cleanup while the lawsuit pends, including conducting surveys and reporting test results. In a statement Madigan said, “With an ethanol spill of this magnitude, we must ensure that the proper steps are taken to clean up the area and protect the public’s health and safety during that process.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is warning fellow state Attorneys General over data used by the Environmental Protection Agency to measure emissions from natural gas production. According to Pruitt, the EPA is relying on inaccurate methods to measure methane emissions into the atmosphere from natural gas production. Addressing the data collection methods Pruitt said, “This misstep or deception by the EPA has resulted in new figures that are faulty, unreasonable and based on a distorted understanding of how gas drilling operates.” Pruitt’s letter to other Attorneys General follows a letter he sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson earlier this month expressing concerns over the data collection methods.
Attorneys General from several states have joined with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ad Council to launch a campaign aimed at educating teens on the dangers of texting while driving. The campaign is reaching out to teenagers through television, radio, social media, and public service announcements after studies showed 82% of young adults admitted to reading text messages while driving. Studies by the NHTSA also found that the number one killer of people under 20 is distracted driving. In a statement Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said “The nation’s attorneys general join the Ad Council, consumer protection agencies and NHTSA in reminding young drivers to stop texts and stop wrecks. No text, Tweet or Facebook update is worth your life.” Emphasizing that texting is a dangerous distraction Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said, “Reading a text message is no less dangerous than any other diversion that takes your eyes off the road, and it can carry deadly consequences.” The social media aspect of the campaign began this week.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed suit against a plastic bottling company and two bottled-water companies over allegations that designating their plastic containers as biodegradable is false and illegal. In California, it is illegal to label plastic food or beverage containers as biodegradable. In a statement Harris said, "Californians are committed to recycling and protecting the environment, but these efforts are undermined by the false and misleading claims these companies make.” Harris’ suit seeks to prohibit sale of the allegedly mislabeled products and up to $2,500 in penalties per violation.
Five states—Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case involving the threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes. The states hope to force the Army Corps of Engineers to work faster to study permanently separating the Mississippi River and Great Lakes to prevent Asian Carp invasions. In a news release Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said, “Time is running out for the Great Lakes and we can’t afford to wait years before the federal government takes action.” The states previously appealed their case to the Supreme Court on a different legal theory but the petition for certiorari was denied.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied a request from a Texas water district to appeal an earlier decision upholding an Oklahoma law that restricts exporting stream water from the state. The Tarrant Regional Water District in Texas sought to have the courts overturn the Oklahoma law and require the state to allow them to purchase water. In a statement about the decision Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said that the decision “underscores that the people of Oklahoma should not be mandated through litigation to shape water policy. Water is an important resource that is vital to Oklahomans, and my office will continue to defend our state's interests.”
Seven states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia—filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency in the legal challenge over the Cross-State Air Pollution rule. The rule would require some states to significantly reduce emissions of air pollutants that adversely impact pollution levels in downwind states and is being challenged by several states. In a statement Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said, "While Connecticut has stringent laws controlling sources of air pollution emissions, the same cannot be said of other states. The EPA proposed a rule that controls sources of pollution in other states, which would otherwise blow into our region. We are working to ensure that this rule is not overturned.''
California Attorney General Kamala Harris warns consumers to be cautious of scams capitalizing on Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to Harris, several “sound-alike” organizations and scam artists are attempting to take advantage of people hoping to contribute to breast cancer charities. Harris says consumers should follow several tips to avoid being taken advantage of, including not giving credit card numbers over the phone or email and researching organizations before giving money. Additionally, Harris suggests consumers inquire with the organization on what the funds will be used for, what percentage will be used for various purposes, and whether it only supports research. More information on giving to charities can be found on the California Attorney General’s website.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and attorneys general for 18 other states filed an amicus brief in the case of Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The amicus brief was filed in support of Oregon State Forester Doug Decker’s petition for certiorari to the U.S Supreme Court. The brief argues that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit failed to give deference to the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act determining that logging roads are not point sources. In a statement about the brief Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Congress has held that states are the appropriate entities to determine best management practices for protecting our waters and wildlife from stormwater runoff related to timber harvesting. The Ninth Circuit's ruling contradicts more than 30 years of practice and Congress' and the EPA's directives.”
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has called for the Rhode Island Department of Health to label “bath salts” as a controlled substance. The bath salts in question are a methamphetamine-like recreational drug. Labeling these bath salts as a controlled substance would effectively ban them in the state. According to Kilmartin, the bath salts pose a severe hazard to those who use them and poison control centers nationwide have received more than 4,000 calls involving bath salts this year. Twenty-nine states have already banned the substance.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is preparing to sue some mortgage lending companies for improper foreclosure procedures. Coakley is investigating allegations of foreclosure improprieties by the lenders, such as threatening homeowners with fees and property seizures despite having granted permanent loan modifications to the owners. In a statement Coakley said, “To the extent that banks are not meeting their obligations, this conduct is inexcusable and my office will work to hold them accountable.” Coakley did not reveal what banks her investigation or potential lawsuit target.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and three major credit rating agencies—Moody’s Investor Service Inc., Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Inc.—reached a settlement over allegations the agencies misrepresented their ratings. Jepsen’s office filed suit against the agencies after receiving complaints that cities, towns, and school districts in the state were paying higher than necessary interest rates and bought unnecessary bond insurance. The settlement requires the agencies to give a $900,000 credit to the state to be used for future bond ratings and to meet with public bond issuers to explain their rating scales and factors.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced that a Wisconsin couple was ordered to pay $99,999 in fines by a judge for shoreline damage. According to Van Hollen, the couple built a stone wall without a permit which damaged more than 10,000 square feet of shoreline and lake bed on the Upper Nashotah Lake. The couple also allegedly dumped large amounts of sand into the lake without a permit. The judge also ordered the couple to buy $5,000 worth of native plants for their property on the lake.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler’s office announced a settlement agreement with the Sparrows Point steel mill for alleged violations of Maryland pollution laws. According to Gansler’s office, the violations occurred when a blast furnace caught fire after gases escaped due to a pressure surge and forced a raw material into release valves, which then ignited. The agreement between Gansler’s office, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and Sparrows Point requires the mill to pay a $135,000 penalty and prevent unnecessary openings of the pressure relief valves.
After an investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly’s office, a doctor has been charged for allegedly giving prescriptions for pain medications in exchange for sexual favors. According to Kelly, the doctor gave prescriptions for oxycodone to a woman despite never conducting a full medical examination on her. The doctor is charged with unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance, not documenting prescriptions, and criminal conspiracy.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court asking the court to uphold a permit to construct a power plant in the state. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a permit allowing Sunflower Electric to build a coal power plant in the state and has since been sued by the Sierra Club. Schmidt’s office is defending the state and the Department in the suit. In a statement Schmidt said, “No law authorizes or requires KDHE to refuse to license an electric generating plant because its fuel source is coal.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced that the owners of two Chinese restaurants in the state were ordered to pay $181,000 for labor violations. According to Coakley’s office the restaurants violated state labor laws by paying kitchen staff less than minimum wage and allowing staff to work more than 70 hours a week. Additionally Coakley’s office alleged that a 16-year-old worker was not paid for 9 months of work and many employees lived in an unsatisfactory rooming house owned by a former owner of the restaurant. The restaurant owners must pay more than $52,000 in restitution and $129,000 in penalties.
To benefit domestic violence victims, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is holding a drive to recycle old cell phones through October. People may drop off cell phones at the Attorney General’s Office in Providence, as well as various courthouses. The cell phones will then be donated for either 911 Emergency phones for local communities or to Verizon’s HopeLine program for domestic violence coalitions. Any phones that cannot be salvaged will be recycled in an environmentally friendly manner. In a statement Kilmartin said, “Cell phones can serve as a vital link to emergency or support services in a time of crisis or as a reliable, safe connection to employers, family and friends as survivors rebuild their lives. Through the simple act of donating an old cell phone sitting around your home or office, together we can use technology to empower domestic violence victims and help change lives.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is pushing for tougher laws to crack down on time-share resale fraud in the state. According to Bondi, her office has received 6,863 complaints involving unfair and deceptive timeshare telemarketing practice this year. Bondi, along with other Florida lawmakers, is pushing for legislation that would increase penalties for violations, require resale companies to recognize cancellations made within 7 days of a contract, and require companies to give a full refund within 20 days of contract cancellation.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna warned consumers to be cautious of text messages looking for their bank account information in a text message scam known as “smishing”. According to McKenna, people have been receiving text messages claiming to be from a bank but then ask people to hand over their bank account information. In a statement McKenna said, "If you don't wish to be smished, ignore text messages that look like they're coming from your bank or credit card. Flip over your credit or ATM card and call the number on the back. If there's a problem with your account, that's the best way to find out."
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed changes to the Cross-State Air Pollution rule that the agency says will soften the rule. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is suing the EPA over the rule, said the revisions were minor. The revisions include allocating additional allowances for emissions in a state trading program, most of which will go to Texas for sulfur dioxide emissions. Abbott says his office will continue their legal challenge against the Cross-State rule.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced two initiatives to combat new methamphetamine production methods in the state. The state has seen a rise in small-scale methamphetamine production that makes the drug harder for authorities to detect. Madigan says she will work with state legislatures to amend an Illinois law to make a temporary program that tracks the sale of pseudoephedrine cold medicines permanent. Additionally, Madigan’s office is launching an awareness campaign aimed at those who buy pseudoephedrine pills to produce meth. In a statement Madigan said, “When meth first hit our communities, we hit back hard to drive meth makers and users out of Illinois. But meth is a unique drug. It’s like a virus that mutates, so we must retool our responses to how this drug is made.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has reached an agreement with internet advertiser SubscriberBASE Holdings, Inc. over allegations of deceptive practices. Bondi alleged that SubscriberBASE offered free gifts online but failed to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose the conditions of the offer. SubscriberBASE must pay $800,000 and disclose the proper information in all future free gift ads.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withhold a 20 year operating permit to the Pilgrim Nuclear Station until the safety of the plant is confirmed. Coakley said that the radiation leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, which shares the same basic design with the Pilgram facility, underscored the need for safety reviews of U.S. reactor pools. NRC has not indicated when it will make a decision on the future of the plant.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder objecting to the federal policy banning the sale of guns and ammunition to medical marijuana users. In September the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives notified firearms dealers across the country that there was no exception to the federal law outlawing sales of guns or ammunition to drug users for medical marijuana patients. Bullock is concerned about constitutional and policy issues raised by ATF’s letter. In his letter to Holder Bullock cautioned that the federal government should act carefully “when its laws and policies involve conflicts with those of the states.”
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office ruled that the city of Dover, Delaware must disclose the price citizens are paying for power from a new solar installation. The decision came after Biden’s office received complaints that the city released a redacted version of the power contract that excluded per-hour price for power. Dover allegedly stated that releasing the price would damage the competitive standing of LS Power Group. The city says it is making an unredacted copy available and LS Power has decided not to contest Biden’s decision.
Maine Attorney General William Schneider announced Maine resident Tammy Barker's sentence for misappropriating proceeds from the sale of mobile homes on consignment, largely on the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Schneider’s office alleged Barker stole over $400,000 from the sales of 17 homes over 18 months to gamble at a local casino. Barker was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.