Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to the Federal Housing Administration, asking it to address the failure of mortgage servicers to satisfactorily implement the COVID-19 Recovery option. According to the letter, mortgage services have failed to inform homeowners of the option, incorrectly denied it exists, and required unnecessary paperwork or conditions. The letter asks the agency to require mortgage servicers to take affirmative steps to implement the option through communications with borrowers and training of staff.
- A bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general sent a letter to Director Chopra of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seeking stronger consumer protections for money sharing apps and platforms. The letter expresses concern about three specific areas: ease of contacting customer service representatives, account access, and third-party scams.
- A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in support of its efforts to promote agricultural industry competition by bolstering enforcement under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The letter encourages the agency to work with states on enforcement.
- California Attorney General Bonta conditionally approved a change in control of general acute care hospital Mary Medical Center, which will allow health insurer Kaiser and the hospital to form a new company, St. Mary Medical Center, LLC, and construct a new hospital. The conductional approval also includes requirements for competitive and health impact mitigation.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners subsidiary SFPP for discharging gasoline from a cracked pipeline into a waterway that ultimately went into the Walnut Creek Canal. The company was ordered to pay $2.5 million in fines, penalties, and assessments and placed on an 18-month probation. During the probation the company must revise its practices, such as through training programs, a leak detection system, and revised spell volume calculation methods.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that construction company Superior Carpentry, Inc. and its president and vice president must pay over $540,000 in restitution and penalties to resolve allegations that the company failed to pay prevailing wages and submitted false payroll records. Attorney General Healey’s office also separately sued construction management firm BPI Construction Management, Inc. for allegedly violating the state False Claims Act by facilitating the submission of false payroll records.
- Massachusetts Attorney General Healey announced that under an assurance of discontinuance, drug company Collegium Pharmaceutical, Inc. agreed to pay $185,000 and stop advertising opioids through in-person detailing and speaker programs. The company was accused of falsely advertising the risks of its opioid Xtampza ER.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced a new online consumer protection resource related to gas prices, which will allow consumers to more easily compare prices and report price gouging.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel announced the issuance of a Notice of Intended Action against Planetary Toys, LLC d/b/a Treasure Trove Toysfor allegedly violating Michigan’s consumer protection law after receiving complaints that the business charged consumers but then did not send them purchased items and often failed to provide refunds.
- Nebraska Attorney General Peterson announced he will not seek a third term as Attorney General after his term ends in 2022.
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced initiatives that would promote racial justice throughout the state. For example, the package includes rulemaking to reduce discrimination among licensed professionals and a directive to prioritize racial justice in enforcement actions, such as civil investigations.
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced a settlement with cancer care providers Regional Cancer Care Associates LLC, RCCA MSO LLC, and RCCA MD LLC, for allegedly failing to adequately protect patient data after two data breaches. The providers have agreed to pay $425,000 and adopt more stringent privacy and security policies.
- New Jersey Acting Attorney General Bruck announced an enforcement action against individuals and related entities, such as Woodbridge Group of Companies for selling unregistered securities. One of these actions is a six-count lawsuit against two individuals and two related companies, and the other is a Summary Penalty Order against an individual that includes a $120,000 payment.
- New York Attorney General James filed a lawsuit and secured a court order against pet store Shake a Paw for, among other things, illegally selling puppies that were sick or injured while falsely advertising the puppies as healthy, failing to disclose legitimate health information, and declining to provide reimbursement for veterinary bills. The court order bans the stores from purchasing or adopting new animals for resale, freezes the business’s bank accounts, and requires vet examination of puppies currently in the business’s possession.
- New York Attorney General James sent a letter to mortgage servicers in New York and industry trade associations, repeating her expectation that these businesses provide long-term relief to homeowners in accordance with New York and federal law.
- New York Attorney General James issued a press release warning against price gouging of over-the-counter COVID-19 testing products for at-home use and other essential products. In connection with the consumer alert, Attorney General James stated, “If New Yorkers see exorbitant price increases on testing kits or other goods vital and necessary for health, safety, and welfare, they are encouraged to report it my office immediately. And fraudsters are on notice that if they attempt to price gouge during this new surge, we will not hesitate to take action.”
- North Carolina Attorney General Stein announced that the Federal Communications Commission has shortened the time by which smaller companies must adopt STIR/SHAKEN technology to help reduce robocalls. The deadline is now shortened to June 30, 2022 from June 2023.
- Texas Attorney General Paxton announced that his office is investigating Endo Pharmaceuticals, , and AbbVie Inc. under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act for allegedly advertising and promoting hormone blockers without disclosing potential risks.
- Virginia Attorney General Herring announced settlements with Terry Singh Corp. d/b/a Waynesboro Marathon and Springfield-based Tahir and Sons LLC d/b/a Interstate Fuel LLC for allegedly violating state law against price gouging during the state of emergency for the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The gas stations allegedly increased the prices for gas by over 30%.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson testified that CenturyLink is responsible for technological failures causing a 911 outage in December 2018. He also asserted that CenturyLink illegally failed to notify its call centers of the outage. The company is facing $7.2 million in penalties.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced a bill that will be proposed in the next state legislative session to increase access to affordable health care. The bill would make 2.2 million more individuals in the state eligible for free or reduced-cost health care at hospitals and clinics.