State Attorney General Enforces Federal Statute: Something New or Déjà Vu?
- In a recent blog post, Dickstein Shapiro partner Maria Colsey Heard discusses the expanding authority of State AGs to enforce federal laws and provides insight and specific examples of federal statutes that “deputize” State AGs.
Live-Tweeting: Attorney General Election Results
- On Tuesday, November 4, Dickstein Shapiro Associate Chris Allen will be live-tweeting as AG election results are confirmed throughout the evening.
- Join the discussion at #2014StateAGElection.
ACC Webcast: Expert Post-Election Analysis of the New Attorney General Landscape
- Dickstein Shapiro and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) are partnering for a webcast on Wednesday, November 5 at 3:00 PM EST for a post-election analysis of the new Attorney General landscape.
- Bernie Nash, head of Dickstein Shapiro’s State AG practice, will lead an interactive discussion about that new landscape and its implications for the business community.
- This webcast is free and open to the public. Register here.
Connecticut Regulators Approve Frontier Communication’s Purchase of AT&T’s Wireline Business
- The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority recently approved Frontier Communications Corporation’s purchase of AT&T Inc.’s wireline operations in Connecticut, after months of negotiations with Frontier, Connecticut AG George Jepsen, and Governor Malloy to address consumer protection issues.
- As part of the approval process, Frontier agreed to a three-year freeze on landline telephony rates, reduced broadband prices for veterans, assurances not to pass on costs to consumers, and an agreement to invest $63 million in capital improvements to bring faster Internet service to Connecticut residents.
- Frontier’s acquisition was approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year, and the parties can now move forward with finalizing the $2 billion acquisition.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
CFPB Publishes Revised List of Rural and Underserved Counties
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published its 2015 list of counties designated as rural or underserved for purposes of federal consumer financial regulation.
- The designation of rural or underserved determines how CFPB regulations and the Truth in Lending Act are applied in the designated counties, specifically affecting the types of mortgages available and the terms for lending.
Federal Court Approves LCD Flat Screen Settlements Reached by Eight AGs
- A federal court approved the distribution of the LCD Flat Screen Settlements reached by Missouri AG Chris Koster, as co-liaison counsel, seven other AGs, and class counsel for a nationwide class of consumers. The settlement, which was originally reached in 2012, will resolve claimed violations of state and federal antitrust laws, and state consumer protection laws.
- In 2010, AG Koster originally filed suit together with the AGs of Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia against leading TFT LCD panel manufacturers, which was consolidated in federal court for the Northern District of California with a similar lawsuit filed by the AGs of Florida and New York, and a nationwide consumer class action.
- The settlement provides $1.1 billion in restitution nationwide, with $24 million designated for Missouri consumers. In addition, AG Koster secured $2.2 million in civil penalties, to be placed in the Missouri School Fund.
California Attorney General Issues Report Analyzing 2013 Data Breaches; Shows Malware and Hacking Dominant in Retail Breaches
- California AG Kamala Harris published her office’s second annual report regarding the 167 data breaches reported in 2013 (as compared to 131 in 2012), affecting potentially 18.5 million California residents.
- The report, which provides an analysis of the breaches by industry sector and breach type, indicates that approximately 53 percent of the breaches in 2013 were the result of either hacking or malware, with physical theft and loss of data (26 percent) and unintentional errors (18 percent) as the other main sources of data breaches.
- The report provides a variety of practical recommendations specific to the retail and health care sectors, as well as overall recommendations for business and consumers, including recommendations for the implementation of tokenization solutions to devalue payment card data and chip-enabling point-of-sale terminals.
Attorney General Triad Opposes NRC Rule, Again
- AGs from Connecticut, New York, and Vermont challenged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Final Rule on the Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel, issued September 19, 2014.
- In their Petition for Review to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the AGs argued that the NRC has not conducted a thorough analysis to support the conclusion underlying the revised rule – that spent nuclear fuel can be safely stored on site at decommissioned nuclear reactors. The AGs allege violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Atomic Energy Act.
- These same three AGs previously collaborated on this issue in 2011, resulting in a finding by the D.C. Circuit that federal law required the NRC to conduct a review of environmental and public health concerns associated with long-term storage of the highly radioactive spent fuel. The AGs allege that instead of conducting a full environmental analysis as ordered by the D.C. Circuit, the NRC simply reissued the old rule.
False Claims Act
Federal Judge Rules Clean Hands Are Not a Prerequisite for FCA Whistleblowing
- A federal judge in the Southern District of Texas, ruling on a motion for partial summary judgment, stated that a relator’s unclean hands are not a bar to defendant’s liability, but only to the relator’s eventual award.
- The court reasoned that because the qui tam relator is representing the state’s interests, the relator’s “unclean hands” are not a barrier to litigation. Twenty-two AGs are parties to the case, Susan Ruscher et al. vs. Omnicare, Inc., 4:08-cv-03396 (S.D. Tex.).
Wisconsin Attorney General Sues For-Profit College Under Claims of Deceptive Marketing
- Wisconsin AG J.B. Van Hollen filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges, Inc., alleging violations of state consumer protection laws relating to the marketing practices used by the school for its now-closed Everest College campus in Milwaukee.
- The Complaint, which was filed in Wisconsin State Circuit Court, seeks restitution, civil penalties, investigation costs and fees, and injunctive relief. In 2013, Corinthian closed its Everest College Milwaukee campus, and provided refunds to all students who failed to graduate.
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Lawsuit Against Federal Housing Agencies Dismissed
- A federal judge dismissed Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley’s lawsuit against the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and government-sponsored entities (GSE) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, finding that the court did not have oversight over the dispute.
- The lawsuit alleged that the FHFA and the GSEs violated a 2012 Massachusetts state law by refusing to sell distressed mortgages to certain nonprofit organizations. The law was designed to help communities avoid the negative effects of foreclosures through a program that would allow homeowners to reacquire their houses.
States Probe Mortgage Servicer’s Alleged Backdating of Mortgage Assistance Rejection Letters
- Ocwen Financial Corporation is drawing scrutiny from state regulators for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of a December of 2013 Consent Order between 49 states and the CFPB.
- AGs from Florida, Illinois, and Iowa, and New York’s Department of Financial Services, are looking into Ocwen’s practice of allegedly backdating rejection letters to homeowners seeking to modify the terms of their mortgages.
- The Consent Order brought closure to claims that Ocwen had deceived borrowers and impeded homeowners from taking effective mitigation actions during the financial crisis. It specifically required Ocwen to provide $125 million to people who lost their homes to foreclosure.
- States are allowed to withdraw from the Consent Order if Ocwen fails to make the required payments.