State AG Monitor

State AG Enforcement of Data Security Breaches Expected to Increase Following Recent Federal Court Decision Empowering the Federal Trade Commission to Bring Suit

Posted in Consumer Protection, Data Privacy

Last week, a highly anticipated question in data privacy was finally answered, clarifying the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee commercial data security practices and to sue businesses that fail to secure customer information adequately from data breaches.  F.T.C. v. Wyndham Worldwide Corp., CIV.A. 13-1887 ES, 2014 WL 1349019 (D.N.J. Apr. 7, 2014). Refusing to “carve out a data security exception” from the FTC’s authority, U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas held that the FTC’s enforcement powers under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, 15 U.S.C. 45(a) (“FTC Act”) (prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices) extends to data breaches. Because State Attorneys General (AGs) have often been granted similar consumer protection authority under their state unfair and deceptive trade practices statutes, (UDAP statutes, commonly known as “mini-FTC Acts” which are largely analogs of the FTC Act), we can expect this decision to similarly empower AGs to sue companies for data breaches.

The FTC sued Wyndham Worldwide Corporation and its subsidiaries (collectively, Wyndham) over three data breaches of company computer systems alleged to have occurred between April 2008 and January 2010 that resulted in the loss of personal and transactional data for over 619,000 customers and over $10 million in losses to fraud. The FTC’s complaint alleged that Wyndham violated the FTC Act’s unfair trade practices prohibition due to its “failure to implement reasonable and appropriate security measures exposed consumers’ personal information to unauthorized access, collection, and use” that “caused and is likely to cause substantial consumer injury, including financial injury, to consumers and businesses.”

Wyndham moved to dismiss the FTC’s claims, arguing that Congress had not authorized the FTC to broadly regulate data security because of its enactments of industry-specific laws which contain data security standards, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The court found that these statutes did not contain consumer injury provisions and therefore did not conflict with FTC authorization under the FTC Act which could preclude Section 5 enforcement in the field.

Wyndham also argued that the FTC authority violated basic principles of fair notice and due process because the agency did not provide guidance or notice of what would constitute an unfair data security practice under the FTC Act. Finding that the FTC was not required to publish such regulations or guidance before bringing a Section 5 enforcement action, the court held FTC’s interpretations of the Act, “while not controlling upon the courts by reason of their authority, do constitute a body of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for guidance.” Wyndham Worldwide, at *15 (citing Gen. Elec. Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125, 141–42 (1976)). The court also cited the FTC’s public statements and brochures, as well as Wyndham’s references to standard industry practices, as providing indications of reasonable data security standards.

Now that the FTC has clear enforcement authority over data security, AGs cannot be far behind in asserting analogous authority under their mini-FTC Acts. The AGs have been very active in data security for years, and recent state enforcement actions and investigations of large data breaches (e.g., Target Corp., Neiman Marcus, Experian) as well as consumer concern have pushed this issue to the forefront. As we have said in past posts, AGs have made protecting their citizens’ data security and privacy a key priority, triggering close scrutiny of business practices and enforcement. After Wyndham, businesses must be attentive not only of the FTC, but also of State AGs including reviewing the substance of any complaints, consent decrees, and public statements by the agencies as data security standards and duties regarding data breaches continue to evolve in this highly dynamic field.

Filing Deadline/Primary Update: AG Races in California, Colorado, North Dakota, and Oklahoma

Posted in 2014 Election

Over the past week, the filing period for candidates in state elections closed in North Dakota and Oklahoma. Also, California certified its candidates for its primary election and Colorado Republicans held their General Assembly vote to be on the primary ballot. Below is a list we have compiled of the candidates who will be in the upcoming AG primaries in those states.

California – Certified Candidates for June 3 Primary:

  • Democrat – Incumbent Attorney General Kamala Harris
  • Republicans – Attorney Ron Gold, Attorney John Haggerty, Attorney David King, Former State Representative and State Senator Phil Wyman
  • Libertarian – Attorney Jonathan Jaech
  • Independent – Attorney Orly Taitz

Colorado General Assembly Results – Candidates for June 24 Primary:

  • Democrat – Former District Attorney Don Quick
  • Republicans – Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and State Representative Mark Waller (At the Republican assembly Ms. Coffman received 69% of the vote and Mr. Waller received 30% of the vote, both qualifying to be candidates for the June 24 primary)

North Dakota Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 24 Primary:

  • Democrat – Attorney Kiara Kraus-Parr
  • Republican – Incumbent Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem

Oklahoma Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 10 Primary:

  • Democrat – None
  • Republican – Incumbent Attorney General Scott Pruitt

We will continue to provide updates on AG filing deadlines and primary results on a weekly basis. For breaking news, please follow us on Twitter @StateAGMonitor.

State AGs in the News

Posted in 2014 Election, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Protection, Data Privacy, For-Profit Colleges, Medicaid Fraud

Hot News

Association of Corporate Counsel Webcast: Preview of the 2014 State Attorney General Elections

  • Dickstein Shapiro and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) are partnering for a webcast on Wednesday, April 30 at 11:00 AM EDT to preview the 2014 state attorney general elections.
  • Bernie Nash and Lori Kalani of Dickstein Shapiro will lead an interactive discussion about the candidates who are vying for the office of state attorney general in the upcoming elections for nine open seats.
  • This webcast is free and open to the public. Register here.

2014 Election

District of Columbia Council Objects to Bill Seeking to Place Attorney General on 2014 Ballots

  • According to a media report, the District of Columbia Council, during a council breakfast meeting, objected to a bill introduced by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh that would allow candidates to petition for a place on the election ballot.
  • The council allegedly objected to the bill because of timing, the nature of the nomination process, and the lack of a runoff. Councilmember Cheh admitted that the bill would likely not get enough votes to pass, stating, “It’s dead. There’s no way to revive it.” In a letter to the council, Mayor Vincent Grey implied that he would veto the bill if it were to come to him. A veto from the mayor would require the council to obtain two additional council votes for the proposal.
  • An appeal, filed by potential candidate for attorney general, Paul Zukerberg, to overturn the grant of a motion to dismiss by the District of Columbia Superior Court, is still pending with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Zukerberg had sued to place the attorney general position on the ballots in 2014.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB Releases Consumer Response Annual Report

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its 2013 Consumer Response Annual Report. The report highlights that consumer complaints increased almost 80 percent, from 91,000 complaints in 2012 to 163,700 complaints in 2013.
  • According to the report, the top three types of complaints in 2013 related to mortgages (37 percent), debt collection (19 percent), and credit reporting (15 percent). Other types of complaints highlighted in the report include those related to bank accounts, credit cards, consumer loans, money transfers, private student loans, and payday loans.
  • The report also outlines the remedies provided for these complaints. Most complaints were closed with an explanation (68 percent).  Others were resolved with monetary relief (7 percent) or other non-monetary relief (11 percent).

Consumer Protection

Lawsuits Filed Against Payday Lenders by Illinois Attorney General

  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan filed five lawsuits against four payday lenders and a loan lead generator alleging illegal and predatory lending practices. The lawsuits followed cease and desist orders issued to the lenders and the loan lead generator by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
  • AG Madigan alleges that online payday lenders BD PDL Services LLC, Mountain Top Services I LLC, Red Leaf Ventures LLC, and VIP PDL Services LLC illegally offered expensive and predatory loans to Illinois borrowers. The Illinois Payday Loan Reform Act (the “Act”) limits the fees a lender can charge to $15.50 per $100 loaned. These lenders allegedly charged borrowers $30 per $100 loaned.
  • The Act also bars lenders from issuing a loan if that loan would result in the borrower being in debt to more than one payday lender for more than 45 consecutive days or carrying a balance on two loans. There is also a mandatory seven-day waiting period for a new loan once the prior loan is paid. These lenders allegedly allowed borrowers to take out multiple loans at once and MoneyMutual LLC, the loan lead generator, allegedly generated customer leads on payday loans with unlicensed vendors.
  • The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, cancelation of pending payday loans, consumer restitution, and civil penalties for violations of the Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act.

West Virginia Attorney General Settles With Auto Title Lenders for $1.2 Million

  • West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey settled with Fast Auto Loans Inc. and Virginia Auto Loans Inc. for $1.2 million to resolve allegations of improper loan practices and violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and the Virginia Motor Vehicle Title Lending Statute.
  • West Virginia does not permit title loans. Title loans are high-interest, short-term loans secured by the title to a consumer’s vehicle. Fast Auto Loans and Virginia Auto Loans allegedly seized over 200 cars from West Virginia residents using coercive techniques and false threats.
  • Under the settlement, the companies agreed to close all accounts, cancel all debt owed to them by West Virginia consumers (estimated at $816,000), return any unsold vehicles seized from state residents, and remove any liens on those vehicles. The companies also agreed to pay the state $450,000. Of that money, $150,000 is for consumer restitution and another portion is for consumer protection.

Data Privacy

Multistate Investigation of Alleged Experian Data Breach

  • Multiple AGs will jointly investigate Experian plc’s alleged data breach that may have exposed over 200 million social security numbers.
  • According to a media report, the investigation will most likely focus on whether Experian complied with laws that require companies to appropriately secure customer information and to disclose breaches.
  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan’s office confirmed that it was a part of a multistate investigation and Connecticut AG George Jepsen’s office confirmed that it was also investigating the matter.

For-Profit Colleges

For-Profit College Sued by Massachusetts Attorney General for Alleged Deceptive Practices and Unfair Loans

  • Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley sued Corinthian Colleges Inc. and Corinthian Schools, Inc. (Corinthian), which operate Everest Institute, for alleged deceptive and unfair practices related to their marketing, enrollment tactics, and loan programs.
  • Corinthian responded, “[The] action by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office disregards substantial, independent evidence that our two schools in Massachusetts have a strong record of offering students a quality education and treating them honestly and fairly…We will vigorously defend the record of our campuses in Massachusetts and our employees’ commitment to the success of students and graduates.”

Medicaid Fraud

Kansas Strengthens Medicaid Anti-Fraud Law

  • The Kansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 271, proposed by Kansas AG Derek Schmidt and sponsored by the state senate judiciary committee, to strengthen the Medicaid Fraud Control Act.
  • The amendments to the law increase criminal penalties for defrauding the Medicaid program and allow the AG to obtain fines between $1,000 and $11,000 per violation of the act.
  • The bill, which the state house and the state senate unanimously passed, was sent to the governor on April 5, 2014.

State AGs in the News

Posted in Consumer Protection, Environment, False Claims Act, Financial Industry, Healthcare, Mortgages/Foreclosures

Consumer Protection

Massachusetts Attorney General Sues Travel Companies for Alleged Deceptive Marketing

  • Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley has sued Berkshire Concepts, LLC, and several affiliates for alleged violation of the state’s consumer protection laws in their marketing of travel services.
  • The AG’s suit against the companies alleges that they engaged in deceptive marketing by using “high pressure sales tactics” to offer travel discounts, overcharging customers for access to a database that did not provide the stated discounts, and engaging in other activities. The suit seeks over $278,000 in restitution and civil penalties.
  • The Suffolk Superior Court has entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendants from violating consumer protection laws, including barring them from advertising travel as free if it requires customers to pay fees and taxes, advertising access to nonexistent discounts, and holding customers who have not yet received access to the companies’ websites to a three-day cancellation period.

Environment

Iowa Attorney General Announces Record $1.5 Million in Civil Penalty Against Grain Processor Over Emissions-Related Claims

  • An Iowa state court entered a consent decree in a lawsuit Iowa AG Tom Miller filed against Grain Processing Corporation.  The lawsuit alleged that the company violated air quality and water pollution control requirements at its corn processing facility.
  • In addition to the $1.5 million civil penalty, the consent decree requires Grain Processing to convert certain boilers from coal-fired to natural gas-fired, and take other steps to maintain environmental compliance at the facility.
  • According to AG Miller’s announcement, the penalty is the largest ever paid to Iowa for environmental violations.  AG Miller described the court’s order as “a comprehensive and historic resolution of an environmental enforcement action.”

Financial Industry

New York Attorney General Announces $25 Million Settlement of Claims Related to Bank’s Acquisition

  • New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office has settled claims against Bank of America and its former chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis related to the bank’s 2009 acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
  • The AG’s suit had alleged that the defendants violated the state’s Martin Act and Executive Law by failing to disclose certain Merrill Lynch losses to shareholders and by engaging in other activities related to the merger.
  • Under the settlement, the bank will pay $15 million to reimburse the AG’s office for the fees and costs of its investigation. The former officer will pay another $10 million. The bank also agreed to undertake corporate governance reforms, and the officer is prohibited from serving as an officer of a public company for three years. Neither defendant admitted wrongdoing under the settlement.
  • AG Schneiderman noted that claims against another former corporate officer remain ongoing.

False Claims Act

Kansas Attorney General Obtains a Default Judgment in Suit Alleging False Billing

  • Kansas AG Derek Schmidt announced that his office has obtained a default judgment for $132,000 in civil penalties against UST Development, Inc. The company does business as US-Telecom, Inc., according to the AG’s office.
  • AG Schmidt’s suit alleged that the company sent invoices to Kansas state agencies and local governments for a “telecom maintenance agreement” even though the company had no previous dealings with the recipients. The suit asserted that the company’s conduct violated the Kansas False Claims Act.
  • In a release describing the judgment, the AG said that “[f]alsely billing government agencies in an attempt to defraud Kansas taxpayers is a serious violation of the law” and “[w]e take seriously our responsibility to guard the public treasury.”

Healthcare

New York Attorney General Sues Shipper for Alleged Illegal Cigarette Shipments

  • New York AG Eric T. Schneiderman has sued Federal Express Corporation (FedEx), alleging that the company unlawfully shipped over 400,000 cartons of cigarettes to New York consumers between 2006 and 2012.
  • The suit asserts that the company violated the federal Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, New York tax and public health laws, and a 2006 agreement between FedEx and the AG’s office relating to cigarette shipments.
  • The suit broadens an existing complaint filed by the City of New York in December 2013.

Mortgages and Foreclosures

Washington Attorney General Takes Action Against Foreclosure Trustee

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson has entered into a consent decree with Quality Loan Service Corp. (QLS). The AG described QLS as among the largest foreclosure trustees in Washington.
  • The decree resolves allegations that QLS engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by failing to notify borrowers in the foreclosure process that the company had moved and by operating from an office that was not properly accessible to borrowers.
  • Under the consent decree, QLS will pay $250,000 to certain homeowners, place a six-week moratorium on foreclosures, restart foreclosure proceedings for 24 homeowners, and pay $25,000 to cover the costs and fees of the AG’s proceedings, among other steps. The company did not admit wrongdoing.
  • AG Ferguson’s office will contact homeowners eligible for payments under the decree.

Filing Deadline/Primary Update: AG Races in Colorado and South Carolina, Polling on New Mexico Governor’s Contest

Posted in 2014 Election

Over the past week, the filing period for candidates in state elections closed in Colorado and South Carolina. Below is a list we compiled of those who have declared their candidacy for AG in those states.

Colorado Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 24 Primary:

  • Democrat – Former District Attorney Don Quick
  • Republicans – Current Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and State Representative Minority Leader Mark Waller
  • Libertarian – Attorney David Williams

South Carolina Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 10 Primary:

  • Democrat – Attorney Parnell Diggs
  • Republican – Incumbent Attorney General Alan Wilson

Additionally, in the New Mexico Governor’s race, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling has current AG Gary King leading the field for the Democratic nomination for Governor by nearly 20 points. The poll also found AG King within five percent of incumbent Republican Governor Susana Martinez.

We will continue to provide updates on AG filing deadlines and primary results on a weekly basis. For breaking news, please follow us on Twitter @Stateagmonitor.

State AGs in the News

Posted in Antitrust, Consumer Protection, Energy, Environment, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, State AGs in the News, States v. Federal Government

Antitrust

Attorneys General To Review $45 Billion Comcast And Time Warner Merger for Antitrust Violations

  • AGs will allegedly join the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the proposed $45 billion merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable to determine the impact on their states and whether there are any antitrust violations.
  • “We are part of a multistate group reviewing the proposed transaction along with the U.S. DOJ Antitrust Division,” Florida AG Pam Bondi’s office stated. In addition, Indiana AG Greg Zoeller’s office confirmed that it would also be reviewing the deal, but did not disclose whether it was part of the multistate group. Pennsylvania AG Kathleen Kane’s office confirmed that it would independently review the merger.

 Consumer Protection

Twenty Attorneys General And The City Attorney of San Francisco Settle Unsafe Energy Drink Allegations

  • Twenty AGs and the city attorney of San Francisco settled with Phusion Projects, LLC over allegations that it marketed and sold its energy drink, Four Loko, in violation of consumer protection and trade practice statutes.
  • Four Loko is a flavored caffeinated alcoholic malt beverage. The AGs and the city attorney alleged that Phusion: promoted its drink to underage individuals; promoted dangerous and excessive consumption of its drink; failed to disclose to consumers the effects and consequences of drinking alcoholic beverages that are combined with caffeine; and before 2011, manufactured, marketed, and sold caffeinated beverages that were unsafe.
  • Under the agreement, Phusion will pay $400,000 and agree to discontinue a number of practices related to the sale and distribution of its beverage, including promoting the misuse of alcohol or the mixing of alcohol with caffeine.

 Illinois Attorney General Sues Lender for Allegedly Evading State Reforms for Short-Term Loans

  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan sued short-term lender CMK Investments, Inc., which operates All Credit Lenders, for allegedly selling short-term loans intended to evade state protections against predatory lending.
  • The complaint alleges that CMK violated the state Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Dodd-Frank Act by: including mandatory account protection fees that acted as interest when factored into the total cost of the loan and exceeding the state’s 36 percent interest cap; misrepresenting the true cost of the loan; and failing to inform consumers that they must pay more than the minimum to pay off the loan—leaving many consumers in an endless cycle of debt.
  • This is the AG’s first lawsuit under the Dodd-Frank Act. The lawsuit seeks to: enjoin CMK from offering unlawful products and marketing or providing lines of credit or revolving credit plans; rescind all unlawful contracts; require restitution to consumers; impose civil penalties, including a $10,000 penalty per violation for violations committed against elderly victims; obtain disgorgement or compensation for unjust enrichment; and require public notification.

 Delaware Attorney General Proposes Debit Card Fraud Legislation

  • Delaware AG Beau Biden, in collaboration with State Representative Trey Paradee, proposed legislation that would impose the same penalties on individuals that steal or misuse debit cards as those who steal or misuse credit cards.
  • House Bill 246 would update the state criminal code and expand the state statute governing unlawful use of a credit card to include debit cards and other types of payment cards. The bill also expands definitions to include the number assigned to these cards so that the law would apply to an individual who commits a crime without using the physical card.
  • “Thieves using a debit card to commit their crimes should not be able to avoid being held accountable because of a technicality,” said AG Biden.

 Texas Attorney General Obtains Restraining Order and Freezes Assets Of Alleged “Diploma Mills”

  • Texas AG Greg Abbott obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against two organizations that allegedly falsely claim to be nationally accredited home schools. The restraining order prohibits the organizations from accepting payments from students or promoting unlawful services.
  • Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy, allegedly offer fraudulent online high school diplomas and General Education Development (GED) degrees. AG Abbott claims that these two “diploma mills” are not qualified under state law as a home school or to provide GED testing.
  • The AG is seeking civil penalties and restitution from the academies for multiple alleged violations of the state Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Business and Commerce Code’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.

 Energy

Agreement With Connecticut Attorney General Leads to Power Company’s $2.5 Million Donation to Operation Fuel

  • Connecticut AG George Jepsen is withdrawing his petition seeking penalties against Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) subject to an agreement that its parent, Northeast Utilities, donate $2.5 million to Operation Fuel, an organization that provides energy assistance to those in need.
  • AG Jepsen had filed a petition against CL&P alleging that it had impaired and impeded the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) during the authority’s investigation of CL&P’s restoration of power after a large snowstorm in October 2011.
  • “This is a true compromise. While I am agreeing to disagree with CL&P on whether its conduct in the PURA investigation was appropriate, we can agree that directing substantial funds to Operation Fuel is a vitally important and meaningful result,” said AG Jepsen.

 Environment

Oklahoma Attorney General Sues Federal Government Over Alleged “Sue and Settle” Tactics

  • Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt sued the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Administrative Procedure Act, and the U.S. Constitution.
  • The complaint alleges that the Department of Interior and the FWS engaged in alleged “sue and settle tactics” by agreeing to enter into “friendly settlements” with a special interest environmental group over the listing status of animal species, circumventing the legislative and regulatory process, making fundamental changes to ESA imposed obligations, and excluding the state from participating in shaping the substantive policy choices embedded in the settlement.
  • “Using courts to impose regulations undermines the rule of law,” according to AG Pruitt.

 Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals

Arkansas Supreme Court Reverses $1 Billion Judgment Against Johnson & Johnson

  • The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed and dismissed in part and remanded in part, a more than $1 billion judgment against Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its parent Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) on the grounds that AG had erred in suing under the state Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (MFFCA) and that the circuit court had abused its discretion in admitting evidence.
  • Arkansas AG Dustin McDaniel received a verdict against Janssen in a lawsuit alleging that it had concealed the risks associated with its antipsychotic drug Risperdal by downplaying risks of strokes, seizures, and other side effects allegedly associated with the drug. The opinion held that MFFCA did not apply to Janssen because it was not a healthcare facility and that the circuit court erred in allowing a warning letter that was prejudicial hearsay to be used as evidence of violation of the state Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • A verdict against Janssen related to the marketing of this drug was reversed in a case in Louisiana, but the company has settled with Montana and with the District of Columbia and other states.

 State AGs in the News

Five Attorneys General Sign Letter of Intent With Mexico to Fight Money Laundering

  • The California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico AGs formed a working group and signed a letter of intent with the National Banking and Securities Commission of Mexico to fight money laundering.
  • The AGs, working with Mexico, will establish the scope of coordination on money laundering enforcement issues, develop a training and technical assistance plan, and share best practices on money laundering enforcement techniques.

 States v. Federal Government

South Carolina Attorney General Files Complaint in Federal Court Regarding MOX Facility

  • South Carolina AG Alan Wilson filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) alleging that the reduction of funding for a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility (MOX facility) violates the Constitution and federal law.
  • In 2000, the United States and Russia agreed to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, which resulted in the DOE recommending construction of the MOX facility in South Carolina for disposal. Congress appropriated money in the 2014 fiscal year budget for the continued build of the facility, which is about 60 percent complete. The president’s budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year included a reduction in funding for the facility, indefinitely suspending the build. The DOE and NNSA allegedly announced plans to accelerate the president’s proposal and suspend the build before the end of the 2014 fiscal year.
  • AG Wilson argues that the actions of the DOE and NNSA violate: the Constitution because the separation of powers doctrine requires the executive branch to follow the directions of the legislative branch; constitutional and statutory authority because the recommendations were not approved by Congress; federal appropriation statutes; and the congressional mandate to build the facility. AG Wilson requests declarations of these violations and an injunction against DOE and NNSA.

Filing Deadline/Primary Update: AG Races in Illinois and Utah

Posted in 2014 Election

Over the past week, the filing period for candidates in state elections closed in Utah, and Illinois held its primary election. Below is a list we compiled of those who have declared their candidacy for AG in Utah, as well as the Illinois primary results.

We will continue to provide updates on AG filing deadlines and primary results on a weekly basis. For breaking news, please follow us on Twitter @Stateagmonitor.

State AGs in the News

Posted in Antitrust, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Protection, Data Privacy, Employment, False Claims Act, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, State AGs in the News, States v. Federal Government

Antitrust

Oklahoma Attorney General Sues to End Alleged Software Piracy

  • Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit against an oil equipment supply company, Neway Valve Co., alleging that it used pirated software to sell equipment in Oklahoma at artificially low prices and to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
  • Neway allegedly stole manufacturing process-related software used by Oklahoma companies and used the pirated software to sell its equipment at lower costs creating an unfair market in violation of the state’s Antitrust Reform Act and state common law. The lawsuit is the first of its kind filed in Oklahoma.
  • The suit seeks to enjoin Neway’s allegedly unlawful business practices, impose civil fines and penalties, and award restitution, monetary damages, investigative costs and fees, and attorney fees.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Attacks “Zombie” Foreclosures

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is beginning to look at “zombie” foreclosures, or foreclosures that banks allegedly begin and then abandon without notifying the homeowners, who may have moved out, that they are still responsible for the property.
  • According to the CFPB, banks and servicers are not technically required to communicate with borrowers about lien-interests or charge-offs, but the Truth-in-Lending Act, which requires periodic statements to borrowers who have liability for a delinquent mortgage debt, may push banks and servicers to release the borrower from liability for the debt.
  • To alleviate the alleged issues, the CFPB is proposing a national definition of “abandonment,” hastening the foreclosure process, and creating a national registry of “zombie” foreclosures.

Amicus Brief Filed by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Collection of Time-Barred Debt

  • The CFPB, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit regarding interpretation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as applied to the collection of time-barred debt.
  • Time-barred debt refers to a debt with an expired statute of limitations. According to the amicus brief, it is settled law that a collector who sues or threatens a suit based on a time-barred debt violates the FDCPA. The CFPB and FTC argue, however, that actual or threatened litigation is not necessary; a communication that deceives or misleads an unsophisticated consumer can be sufficient to violate the statute.
  • “[A] settlement offer can erroneously lead unsophisticated consumers to believe a debt is enforceable in court even if the offer is unaccompanied by any clearly implied threat of litigation,” reads the brief.

Consumer Protection

Washington State Passes “Pension Poacher” Legislation

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act passed the state legislature. “Pension poachers” are those who allegedly try to defraud elderly veterans on benefit matters.
  • AG Ferguson, working with State Senator Andy Hill and State Representative Kevin Parker, secured approval for Senate Bill 6208, which gives the AG enforcement authority and prohibits certain unfair and deceptive practices against elderly veterans, including:
    • Receiving compensation for advising or assisting with a veterans’ benefit matter;
    • Representing that the receipt of a certain level of veterans’ benefits is guaranteed; and
    • Misusing personal or financial information gathered in a veterans’ benefit matter.
  • The bill was delivered on March 13, 2014 to the Governor to sign.

South Dakota Strengthens Consumer Protection Laws

  • The South Dakota legislature passed Senate Bill 23, sponsored by the state senate judiciary committee at the request of AG Marty Jackley, to strengthen consumer protection laws—many of which had not been updated since their inception in 1971.
  • The laws introduce several new provisions, including:
    • Allowing the AG’s office to recoup attorney’s fees if it prevails;
    • Adding protection for consumers that are victim to identity theft through the use of their debit card;
    • Increasing the crime classification for deceptive acts; and
    • Creating the crime of “organized retail crime.”

Data Privacy

Child Online Protection Act Proposed by Delaware Attorney General Would Permit Children to Remove Online Posts

  • Delaware AG Beau Biden, with State Representative Darryl Scott, proposed new legislation titled Child Online Protection Act aimed at strengthening online privacy protections for children.
  • House Bill 261proposes that operators of Internet websites, online services, online applications, or mobile applications with actual knowledge that a child is using their site or service must:
    • Permit users to remove or request to remove content posted by those users when they were children;
    • Provide notice of the feature and instructions on use;
    • Not market certain products or services, including tobacco or alcohol, on their site;
    • Not use children’s personally identifiable information to direct marketing or advertising of prohibited products or services; and
    • Establish an age verification system.
  • Violations would be subject to prosecution by the AG under the existing state Consumer Fraud Act, with penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. The bill is modeled after California House Bill 261, a first of its kind state law scheduled to take effect in January 2015.

Ohio Attorney General Seeks Legislation for Harsher Identity Fraud Penalties

  • Ohio AG Mike DeWine, in collaboration with State Representatives Mike Dovilla and Terry Blair, proposed legislation to impose harsher penalties for those who commit identity fraud against active-duty military members and their spouses and to create a private cause of action for all identity fraud victims.
  • House Bill 471 amends the current identity fraud statutes to include active-duty service members in a protected class, as defined by the legislation, which was previously reserved only for elderly or disabled victims of identity fraud. The Bill also adds a private cause of action for all victims of identity fraud.
  • Active-duty-military reportedly experienced heightened exposure to identity fraud during periods of deployment, when service members may not be aware that their personal information has been compromised. Military identity fraud complaints increased in Ohio by almost 20 percent in the last year, according to the AG’s office.

Employment

New York Attorney General Addresses Alleged Illegal Hiring Practices Through Settlement With Employee Background Check Companies

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman settled with four of the nation’s largest background check agencies over allegations that those companies automatically disqualified job applicants based solely on criminal history, in violation of New York state law.
  • HireRight Inc., First Advantage, General Information Services Inc., and Sterling InfoSystems agreed not to issue automatic rejection letters on behalf of employers based solely on criminal history to ensure that employers conduct an individualized assessment of candidates required under New York law.
  • New York law requires employers to consider a number of mitigating factors, including the nature and gravity of an applicant’s criminal conviction, its bearing on the specific responsibilities of the job, the time that has elapsed since the conviction, the age of the applicant when the offense was committed, and any evidence of rehabilitation.

Environment

Wisconsin Attorney General Settles Air Pollution Allegations Against Ethanol Plant

  • Wisconsin AG J.B. Van Hollen settled with Marquis Energy-Wisconsin, LLC for violations of the state’s air pollution control laws, requiring the company to pay $125,000 in penalties, fees, and costs.
  • Marquis allegedly failed to obtain timely air pollution control permits from the state department of natural resources, which are required if there is the potential to emit elevated levels of air contaminants, and allegedly violated the emission limits and other air pollution control requirements.

False Claims Act

New York Attorney General Settles Whistleblower Tax Fraud Allegations for $6.2 Million

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman settled a qui tam action alleging that a medical imaging company, Lantheus Medical Imaging Inc., and its parent company at the time, Bristol-Myers Squibb, evaded applicable state franchise taxes, city corporation taxes, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority surcharges.
  • According to the AG’s office, out of the thirty state and the federal false claims acts, New York’s False Claims Act is the only one to cover tax fraud.

Healthcare

Twenty-Eight Attorneys General Urge Retailers with Pharmacies to Stop the Sale of Tobacco Products

  • Twenty-eight AGs sent letters to five of the nation’s largest retailers encouraging them to cease selling tobacco products in their retail stores that have pharmacies.
  • The letters, which were sent to Rite Aid Corporation, Walgreen Co., The Kroger Company, Safeway Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., stated that there is a contradiction in selling tobacco products in a retail chain that services health care needs.
  • The letter follows the announcement of CVS Caremark Corporation that it will stop selling tobacco products in its stores that also have pharmacies, as the chain moves to offer more heath care provider services, such as in store mini-clinics. CVS estimated that the decision might cost the company up to $2 billion in sales.

Pharmaceuticals

Thirty Attorneys General Send Letter to FDA Supporting Its Proposed Generic Labeling Plan

  • Thirty AGs sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supporting its proposed rule, titled Supplemental Applications Proposing Labeling Changes for Approved Drugs and Biological Products. The proposed rule would enable generic drug manufacturers to update labeling of their products without prior FDA approval under a process similar to that used for brand name drugs.
  • According to the letter, if the proposed rule were enacted, generic drug manufacturers would have the ability to keep the public informed of any risks or benefits of their products, inform consumers of any potential safety hazards, and allow consumers who are adversely harmed by generic drugs to sue manufacturers in court.
  • The AGs believe that allowing consumers access to courts will alleviate some of the burden on Medicaid programs, which are allegedly paying for healthcare costs that arguably should be recouped in lawsuits against manufacturers of defective generic drugs.

State AGs in the News

“Insider Trading 2.0” Alleged Against High-Frequency Traders by New York Attorney General

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman called for tougher regulations and market reforms to address what he calls the unfair advantages obtained by high-frequency traders using high-speed technology to allegedly gain early access to market information—a practice he is calling “insider trading 2.0.”
  • AG Schneiderman believes that high-frequency traders have unique access to technology services offered by trading venues. These services include co-location of computer servers within trading venues, extra network bandwidth, and special high-speed connection cables and network switches. Allegedly, high-frequency traders are able to use these technologies to gain a timing advantage, often measured in milliseconds, which can potentially allow a technology enabled rapid trade before the rest of the market has access to the information.
  • To address this issue, the AG proposed a new methodology for processing orders in batches in frequent intervals, rather than continuously as the orders come in, to shift the deciding factor of who obtains a trade to price and not speed.

Court Validates Louisiana Attorney General’s Decision to Allow Use of Outside Counsel 

  • A state court held that Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell acted within his authority under state law when he approved a resolution that allowed a state political subdivision to hire outside legal counsel.
  • The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, a political subdivision of Louisiana, sued almost 100 oil and gas companies for alleged damage to coastal wetlands. AG Caldwell approved a resolution that allowed the Authority to hire outside legal counsel to represent it in this lawsuit rather than be represented by the AG. The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit challenging the AG’s approval.
  • State District Judge Janice Clark ruled that the AG’s approval was valid under state law and that the AG is only required to serve as the political subdivision’s counsel when called upon to do so. The media reports that the Association plans to file an appeal.

State v. Federal Government

New Mexico Attorney General Opposes Federal Government in the U.S. Supreme Court Regarding Rio Grande Water Rights

  • New Mexico AG Gary King filed a response to the U.S.’s motion for leave to intervene in an action between Texas and New Mexico regarding Rio Grande water rights. In that action, Texas alleges New Mexico is improperly allowing the flow of water to be diverted from a Rio Grande project.
  • In its brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, New Mexico argues that the U.S. fails to state a claim and that the U.S. should not be allowed to inject a new issue of whether groundwater is a source of water for the project because that issue has already been decided by the state court. New Mexico also argues that it should be allowed to combine its already planned motion to dismiss the Texas claims with a motion to dismiss the U.S. claims.

Filing Deadline Update: AG Races in Idaho, Iowa, and Nevada

Posted in 2014 Election

Last week, the filing period for candidates in state elections closed in Idaho, Iowa, and Nevada. Below is a list we compiled of those who have declared their candidacy for AG in those states.

Idaho Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for May 20 Primary:

  • Democrat – Attorney Bruce Bistline
  • Republican – Incumbent Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis

Iowa Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 3 Primary:

  • Democrat – Incumbent Attorney General Tom Miller
  • Republican – No opponent

Nevada Filing Deadline – Declared Candidates for June 10 Primary:

  • Democrat – Secretary of State Ross Miller
  • Republican – Attorney Adam Laxalt
  • Independent American – Attorney Jonathan Hansen

We will continue to provide updates on AG filing deadlines and primary results on a weekly basis. For breaking news, please follow us on Twitter @Stateagmonitor.

State AGs in the News

Posted in 2014 Election, Antitrust, Consumer Protection, Environment, False Claims Act, Intellectual Property, Medicaid Fraud, Pharmaceuticals, State AGs in the News

Hot News

National Consumer Protection Week: Attorneys General List Top Consumer Complaints

  • In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, a number of AG offices have posted lists of the top consumer complaints received by their offices in 2013. Topics have included debt collection, telecommunications (mobile phones, cable, satellite television), lending, identity theft, health services, and more. For additional coverage, please see our in-depth blog post.

Filing Deadline and Primary Update: AG Races in Arkansas, California, Georgia, Nebraska, and Texas

  • With the 2014 election season well underway, the filing period for candidates in state elections closed last week in Arkansas, California, Georgia, and Nebraska. In addition, Texas recently held its primary election. We have compiled a list of those who have declared their candidacy for AG in these states, as well as the Texas primary results. Please see our recent blog post to learn more.

Antitrust/Energy

Michigan Attorney General Files Criminal Charges Against Two Energy Companies for Alleged Conspiracy to Cause Oil and Gas Lease Price Decline

  • Michigan AG Bill Schuette filed criminal charges against Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Encana Oil and Gas USA alleging that the two companies conspired to cause oil and gas lease prices to drop by collaborating to avoid bidding wars against each other both in Michigan public auctions and private negotiations for these leases.
  • The companies allegedly agreed to divide counties so that each company would be an exclusive bidder for public and private leases in those counties. In the auction that followed the alleged agreement, the state-held lease price dropped from $1,510 per acre to less than $40 per acre.
  • The companies were charged with one count each of antitrust violations relating to a contract or conspiracy in restraint of commerce and one count each of attempted antitrust violations. Representatives from each company are scheduled to be arraigned on March 19, 2014 before Cheboygan County’s 89th District Court.

Consumer Protection

North Dakota Attorney General Issues Cease and Desist Order Against Massachusetts Telemarketer

  • North Dakota AG Wayne Stenehjem issued a cease and desist order against Northshore Publishers (also doing business as Northshore Publishing and North Shore Marketing) for alleged violations of North Dakota’s consumer fraud, do not call, and home solicitation laws.
  • The AG alleges that Northshore Publishers solicited magazine renewal subscriptions from North Dakota consumers by telephone, including consumers who were registered on a do not call list, and charged their credit cards immediately in violation of a state law requiring a signed sales contract from the consumer.
  • The order prohibits future advertising, solicitation, or selling of merchandise to North Dakota consumers. Violations of the order are subject to a $1,000 penalty per violation, with additional penalties provided for violations of any consumer protection laws.

Missouri Attorney General Files Multiple Lawsuits Against Telemarketers

  • Missouri AG Chris Koster filed five lawsuits recently against telemarketers for allegedly violating the state’s no call and telemarketing laws. The AG seeks $5,000 per violation of Missouri’s No Call Law and $1,000 per violation of the Telemarketing Law, as well as injunctive relief prohibiting future telemarketing calls in the state.
  • Three of the lawsuits involved telemarketers allegedly attempting to sell home security systems by falsely telling consumers that law enforcement officials had reported an increased number of burglaries. According to AG Koster, home security companies generate the second highest number of complaints related to the state’s no call law. The other lawsuits relate to solicitations for timeshare liquidation services and home health care supplies.
  • AG Koster also recently settled two other telemarketer suits, for $30,000 and $75,000, and received a $150,000 judgment against another telemarketer.

Environment

In Second Lawsuit Against KCBX Terminals, Illinois Attorney General Alleges Water Pollution and Open Dumping Violations

  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan sued KCBX Terminals Company alleging that it violated state laws by insufficiently storing piles of petroleum coke and coal, allowing storm runoff to contaminate a nearby river. KCBX allegedly maintained a narrow concrete walkway as a barrier between the mounds of petroleum coke and coal and the river, which the AG argued was insufficient to prevent runoff into the river.
  • AG Madigan previously sued KCBX in November 2013 for alleged air pollution violations at another site. AG Madigan also recently proposed legislation to strengthen regulation of bulk materials storage facilities that handle petroleum coke and other refinery production materials.

False Claims Act/Medicaid Fraud

Several Attorneys General and the Federal Government Settle With Genzyme for $22 Million

  • Several AGs and the federal government settled with Genzyme Corp. for $22.28 million to resolve state and federal Medicaid fraud and false claim allegations related to its product, Seprafilm.
  • Seprafilm is an adhesion barrier approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in open abdominal surgeries to create a barrier between abdominal tissue and organs to reduce adhesions after surgery. Genzyme allegedly taught doctors and staff  how to make a Seprafilm “slurry” to be used in laparoscopic surgeries, allegedly causing false claims to be submitted to state and federal health care programs for uses of Seprafilm that were not approved by the FDA and therefore not reimbursable.
  • The settlement stems from a qui tam action that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Intellectual Property

Virginia Passes “Patent Troll” Legislation

  • Virginia AG Mark Herring crafted “patent troll” legislation that was recently passed by the state General Assembly.
  • Senate Bill 150, patroned by Senator Richard Stuart, and House Bill 375, sponsored by Delegate Israel O’Quinn, prohibit any person from making a bad faith assertion of patent infringement. Under the legislation, the AG is empowered to accept assurances of voluntary compliance and seek injunctive relief. The AG is also authorized to issue civil investigative demands.
  • “I’ve signed on to efforts to fight patent trolling because far too many of our businesses, especially small business, are being forced to spend huge sums of money defending themselves against these frivolous claims,” stated AG Herring.
  • This legislation is part of a growing trend: as recently reported on our blog, Oregon became the second state, behind Vermont, to enact “patent troll” legislation and Nebraska was considering similar legislation.

Louisiana Attorney General Settles Software Piracy Allegations

  • Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell settled allegations of violation of the state’s unfair trade practices law with Guangdong Canbo Electrical Appliance Co. Ltd. (Canbo).
  • Louisiana’s unfair trade practices law includes software piracy as a form of unfair trade practices. Canbo was allegedly running company operations using pirated software.
  • The settlement requires Canbo to fully legalize all of its software and audit the software next year to ensure ongoing compliance.

Pharmaceuticals

Montana Attorney General Settles for $5.9 Million with Subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson Over Allegations of Improper Marketing

  • Montana AG Tim Fox settled for $5.9 million with Janssen Ortho LLC and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Janssen), subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, over allegations of unfair and deceptive marketing of the drug Risperdal. As part of the settlement, Janssen agreed not to make misleading claims in the sale of their drugs and to present information about the benefits and risks of any drugs in promotional material.
  • Janssen allegedly concealed known risks associated with its antipsychotic drug Risperdal. According to the AG’s office, most of the settlement will be used for a new prescription drug abuse prevention program, mental health services and programs, and ongoing consumer protection services.
  • Johnson & Johnson and Janssen have had verdicts against them related to the marketing of this drug in cases with Louisiana (reversed on appeal) and Arkansas (on appeal) and have also entered into settlements related to the marketing of this drug with other states and the District of Columbia.

Ohio Attorney General Settles Conspiracy Allegations Against McKesson for More Than $18 Million

  • Ohio AG Mike DeWine announced that he has reached a settlement with McKesson Corporation for $18.3 million resolving allegations that it inflated the price of drugs prescribed for beneficiaries of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
  • AG DeWine accused McKesson of conspiracy to inflate average wholesale prices of hundreds of brand-name drugs that are used by the two state pensions and the state workers’ compensation system to set prescription drug reimbursement rates.
  • “When companies mark up prices, it increases costs for our pension systems, workers’ compensation system as well as their retirees and beneficiaries,” stated AG DeWine.
  • McKesson previously settled similar allegations of inflating prescription drug prices with other states, including Wisconsin, Virginia, and 29 other states and the District of Columbia. McKesson was also previously sued by Arizona, Oregon, Kentucky, and Michigan for similar claims.

Pharmaceuticals/Medicaid Fraud/False Claims Act

Illinois Attorney General and the Federal Government Settle with Teva Pharmaceuticals for $27.6 Million

  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan and the federal government settled with Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and its subsidiary IVAX LLC for $27.6 million to resolve state and federal false claims and federal anti-kickback allegations related to the prescription drug Clozapine.
  • Clozapine is a rarely used anti-psychotic medication that is generally regarded as a drug of last resort allegedly due to potential serious potential side effects. Teva and IVAX allegedly paid a psychiatrist kickbacks to prescribe the drug to thousands of patients at nursing homes and hospitals, which resulted in the submission of more than 100,000 false claims to state and federal Medicaid and Medicare programs.

State AGs in the News

National Association of Attorneys General Sends Letter to West Virginia Legislative Leaders Regarding Bill Potentially Limiting Attorney General Powers

  • The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter signed by 36 AGs to the West Virginia legislative leadership expressing concern about House Bill 4490, currently under consideration, which would allegedly impose unprecedented, strict new standards on the West Virginia Attorney General.
  • The letter focuses on a section of the bill that requires an attorney general to withdraw from any matter in which the office holder or member of his or her immediate family received economic compensation. NAAG states, “We are not aware of any statute that imposes such a broadly sweeping prohibition on an attorney general’s office— at the state or federal levels.”
  • The letter also expresses concern that the bill would prohibit the entire AG’s office from ever representing a state agency, official, or political subdivision if the attorney general asserts any legal position that is contrary to the legal opinion ever taken by a state agency, official, or political subdivision of the AG’s office.
  • Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Corey Palumbo states that there is little interest in his committee to hear the bill and that the bill is “close to dead.”

Five States Join Lawsuit Challenging California Farming Legislation

  • Alabama AG Luther Strange, Kentucky AG Jack Conway, Nebraska AG Jon Bruning, Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad joined a lawsuit filed by Missouri AG Chris Koster last month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The lawsuit alleged that a California farming law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and infringes on the state’s sovereignty.
  • As we previously reported, California legislation (AB 1437) requires all egg producers selling in California to comply with Proposition 2, a California voter-approved ballot initiative. Proposition 2 requires enclosures to provide “sufficient room” for egg-laying hens.
  • Plaintiff AGs believe that this lawsuit addresses the question of whether elected officials in one state may regulate another state’s citizens. A spokesperson for California AG Kamala Harris stated that if the lawsuit is successful, “it will limit the ability of voters in any state to enact laws they deem in their best interest.”

New York Attorney General Partners with Facebook to Curb Illegal Online Gun Sales

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman joined Facebook and gun safety organizations to announce new policies to curb illegal sales of firearms on Facebook and Facebook’s photo-sharing platform, Instagram.
  • While Facebook and Instagram are not e-commerce sites, users have allegedly used these sites to promote the sale of firearms and negotiate terms of sale using comment features on the sites, sometimes promising no background check required.
  • The new educational and enforcement efforts will include:
    • Removing reported users that seek to circumvent gun laws
    • Taking action to prevent minors from viewing posts aimed at selling firearms
    • Providing education to better inform private sellers of guns
  • “I congratulate Facebook and Instagram for taking these simple, common-sense steps to protect the safety and security of their users, and encourage other social media sites to follow their lead,” stated AG Schneiderman.

Washington Attorney General’s Open Government Bill Passed by Legislature

  • The Washington state legislature recently passed AG Bob Ferguson’s bill to strengthen state open government laws by requiring training for most public officials.
  • AG Ferguson worked with Senator Joe Fain and Representative Gerry Pollet to secure approval of Washington Senate Bill 5964, also known as the “Open Government Trainings Act.” The law is meant to improve public disclosure practices through mandatory training.
  • “Open government is vital to a free and informed society. This new law will enhance government transparency and ensure that public officials know and understand our state’s public disclosure laws, which were overwhelmingly approved by voters,” provided AG Ferguson.