Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A bipartisan coalition of 49 attorneys general is asking the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to adopt a broad rule targeting impersonation scams. These scams may take a variety of forms, including government entity impersonation, business impersonation, and person-to-person scams. The coalition is specifically asking the FTC to, among other things, provide clarity on what impersonation is, allow states to enforce their own laws against impersonation, and increase options for states to collaborate with the FTC against imposters.
- A multistate action led by Minnesota Attorney General Ellison secured a settlement with the current owners of Argosy University’s student debt, canceling almost $2.1 million in student debt from the school’s 12 United States campuses. The agreement resolves allegations that the university used deceptive marketing and recruitment methods, including misrepresenting itself as nonprofit. The agreement also prohibits negative credit reporting against and further collection from the affected students.
- A multistate coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy, asking it to update its “petroleum equivalency factor,” which decides how to account for electric vehicles when considering automobile makers’ average fleetwide fuel economy as part of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program. Currently, the coalition believes that the standard is too easy to meet.
- A coalition of 14 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulatory rule which would increase greenhouse gas emissions standards for light trucks and vehicles. The coalition is concerned, among other things, with the rule’s potential effect on state economies.
- California Attorney General Bonta announced the arrests of 14 individuals charged in connection with hospice companies New Hope Hospice, Inc. and Sterling Hospice Care, Inc., which allegedly stole over $4.2 million from the federal and state Medicare programs. For example, the defendants allegedly enrolled individuals who were not terminally ill into hospice care, many times without the individuals’ knowledge or consent.
- Colorado Attorney General Weiser announced a lawsuit against 15 companies that make a firefighting foam that contains polyfluoroalkyl substances, alleging that these companies knew or should have known of the harmful effect of these substances on the environment and individuals’ health. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the companies to pay for all costs to investigate the presence of and clean up contamination caused by these substances.
- Florida Attorney General Moody announced that her office and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission obtained court orders prohibiting the operators of an alleged telemarketing credit card interest rate lowering scam from working in the debt-relief space. The complaint had alleged that the defendants promised through telemarketing calls to reduce or lower credit card interest rates, when these claims were false or unsubstantiated and, in some cases, left consumers more in debt.
- Iowa Attorney General Miller announced that his office is scrutinizing unprecedented price increases for fertilizer. These price increases are affecting farmers, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association has asked Attorney General Miller to investigate their cause.
- Michigan Attorney General Nessel’s office announced that Attorney General Nessel will argue before the Michigan Supreme Court that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act bars discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation.
- Montana Attorney General Knudsen announced an investigation into social media company TikTok for potential violations of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act. For example, the company potentially intentionally distributed a dangerous product without providing sufficient warnings and publicly misrepresented the safety of its product.
- New York Attorney General James announced a $2.25 million settlement against a Brooklyn landlord, resolving allegations of illegal evictions and unlawful short-term rental operations. Under the settlement, the property will be converted into affordable housing.
- New York Attorney General James sent a letter to Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., seeking an explanation of why consumers’ energy bills have been unexpectedly high. Attorney General James is particularly concerned about consumers who have seen over double the cost increase from their bills last year for the same amount of energy usage.
- New York Attorney General James announced that her office recovered over $1 million from live theater company Westchester Broadway Theater for those who bought tickets to performances that were cancelled due to the pandemic.
- New York Attorney General James sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Raimondo and Acting Director of the National Weather Service Erickson, seeking increased language accessibility for severe weather alerts. Severe weather alerts are currently only available in English and Spanish, and Attorney General James is asking for them to also be issued in Chinese, Russian, French Creole, Bengali, and Korean.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson announced a lawsuit against several hospitals and state facilities, alleging that they failed to ensure that eligible low-income individuals would receive their legally mandated discounts and aggressively collected from low-income individuals who were eligible for charity care financial assistance. The lawsuit seeks restitution, refunds, and civil penalties.