Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
Monday, April 12, 2021:
- Arizona Attorney General Brnovich and Washington D.C. Attorney General Racine co-led a bipartisan coalition of 22 attorneys general in a letter asking Congress to provide federal funds for states to upgrade their technology and systems in order to expunge and seal criminal justice records.
- On April 12, 2021, a Third Circuit panel upheld a New Jersey federal court dismissal of a proposed class action lawsuit against debt collector Collecto Inc., which does business as EOS CCA. The plaintiff had argued that the fact that the debt collection letter itemized “$0.00” in fees and interest falsely suggested the debt could increase, such as by accruing interest. The Third Circuit, however, found that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claims were insufficient under both the Third Circuit’s “least sophisticated debtor” standard as well as the “unsophisticated debtor” standard other circuits use.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021:
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced that her office entered into a settlement agreement with propane supplier Ferrellgas, LP for alleged consumer protection violations. Consumers had complained of difficulties in contacting the company over the phone, protracted delivery periods, and an inability to get expedited fills when homes were without heat. Among other things, the settlement includes a $49,500 payment, consumer refunds, and injunctive relief.
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced a settlement with online ticket seller Ryadd, Inc., which operates TicketsOnSale.com, for allegedly failing to honor its “100% Buyer Guarantee” for events that were cancelled because of the pandemic. The settlement includes verification of $183,450.67 in refunds that were made during the attorney general investigation, a claims process for those who file complaints within 30 days of court approval of the settlement, the extension of the deadline to use 120% credits the company offered in response to the pandemic, and civil penalties and attorneys’ fees
- Minnesota Attorney General Ellison announced that his office entered into a settlement agreement with student-loan debt-relief company Capital Student Loan Center for allegedly illegally collecting fees from customers and misrepresenting its services. Under the settlement, the company must stop operating in Minnesota and pay $18,190 in refunds to consumers.
- Oklahoma Attorney General Hunter announced a lawsuit against A&K Distributors for failing to deliver ventilators ordered by the Oklahoma State Department of Health after the Department paid more than $890,000 for 40 ventilators in April 2020.
- A bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general sent a letter to Congress asking it to pass the National Opposition to Hate, Assaults, and Threats to Equality Act, which will provide federal grants to state and local law enforcement agencies and governments to train employees on identifying and reporting hate crimes to the FBI, as well as to assist with developing programs to prevent hate crimes, increase community education about hate crimes, and implement state-run hate crime hotlines.
State AG Office News
- Ohio Attorney General Yost announced the one-year anniversary of his office’s Robocall Enforcement Unit. According to the press release, the Unit has, among other things, received over 47,000 notifications of unwanted calls, worked with state and federal partners to investigate illegal robocalls, and is drafting legislation to make illegal robocalls more difficult in Ohio.
- Maryland Attorney General Frosh announced the passage of legislation that will provide funding for civil legal aid; improve health equity; require landlords to provide written notice 10 days before filing eviction complaints; provide essential workers with benefits and protections during health emergencies and require employers to provide free safety equipment and maintain safe working conditions; provide funding to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities; and implement police reform such as by codifying and strengthening standards for the use of force.
Wednesday, April 14, 2021:
Elder Fraud and Abuse
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced that Florida’s annual Seniors vs. Crime report from 2020 reflects almost $1.7 million in recoveries for senior citizens in Florida. The press release also states that protecting Florida seniors is one of Attorney General Moody’s main priorities.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that an individual who is the president, treasurer, and sole shareholder of Forbes Snyder Tri-State Cash Register Company, Inc., which sells technical support and software for Point-of-Sale cash register systems, has been indicted and arraigned for allegedly defrauding Massachusetts by selling sales suppression software to restaurants, allowing them to delete cash sales and keep taxes that customers paid on meals.
- Under a settlement agreement, insurance broker National Securities Corp. must pay $3 million to the New York Department of Financial Services for alleged violations of New York cybersecurity regulations. The company experienced four security breaches from 2018 to 2020, but did not report two of them as it was required to. It also allegedly failed to establish multi-factor authentication and other security controls required by state law.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that the state legislature passed a bill Attorney General Ferguson requested, which creates a database of police use-of-force incidents for public access. According to the press release, “The database will help enact equitable policies, begin to build trust through transparency and measure the effectiveness of policing reform strategies.”
Thursday, April 15, 2021:
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced new housing discrimination protections which make it illegal for housing providers in Virginia to discriminate against someone because of their source of income. Additionally, guidance will go into effect on April 16, 2021 that provides technical assistance to ensure there is maximum compliance with the law.
- New York Attorney General James filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Second Circuit case Riseboro v. SunAmerica, a case in which a non-profit provider of affordable housing is suing a private investor for the ownership of a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit backed-property in Brooklyn. Attorney General James is asking the Second Circuit to overturn a lower court order which she argues will endanger non-profit developers’ ability to obtain ownership of these properties under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
- South Carolina Attorney General Wilson warned consumers about purchasing hearing aids over the counter, as companies may use misleading sales tactics. According to the press release, increasing numbers of companies are attempting to sell hearing aids over the counter that claim to be registered by the FDA or use the FDA logo, when they are not actually approved by the FDA.
- On April 14, 2021, U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton of the District of New Jersey agreed to compel arbitration in a proposed class action lawsuit against debt collector National Enterprise Systems Inc., an agent of student loan servicer Navient Solutions, LLC, for allegedly violating federal debt collection laws. Judge Wigenton reasoned that the arbitration agreement in the debtor’s loan also covers the loan servicer’s agents and affiliates.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced that her office has partnered with PGT Innovations, a national supplier of windows and doors, which employs its own team of truck drivers, to deliver anti-human trafficking training to its employees as part of her Highway Heroes campaign.
Friday, April 16, 2021:
- Connecticut Attorney General Tong responded to a draft decision by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (“PURA”) rejecting an agreement with United Illuminating that would have provided a credit for $46.5 million in COVID relief. Attorney General Tong’s response urges PURA to reconsider its rejection.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced that a Superior Court judge ordered Tim Eyman to pay almost $2.9 million in costs and fees. The payment is related to Attorney General Ferguson’s campaign finance lawsuit accusing Eyman of illegally concealing campaign contributions which were put into Eyman’s personal bank account.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced the arrest of the owner of home and community-based service provider Golden Angels Professional Services, LLC for allegedly overbilling Medicaid by over $50,000 for services that were not provided. An attorney general investigation found that Medicaid was overbilled for services in excess of time limits and for services that were unauthorized for patents who are incarcerated or in a hospital, and that the defendant also overstated time spent with patients.
- New York Attorney General James led a coalition of 14 attorneys general in a letter to Congress asking it to provide a dedicated fund for public housing. The coalition is arguing that the $40 billion President Biden has allocated in his infrastructure plan is insufficient, and at least $70 billion is needed.