In a major development, the States of Missouri, Montana, and Texas have announced their withdrawal from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). For several months, there have been increasing rumblings from certain states over questions and concerns about the organization, leading to this significant announcement. The long term impact of this announcement, however, remains to be seen.
As we have previously reported, NAAG functions as an association that helps facilitate many bipartisan efforts throughout the AG community. NAAG does not control or direct the joint priorities and enforcement efforts of those Attorneys General. Last week, NAAG hosted the first annual Attorney General Symposium (ironically, in the Texas capital of Austin) which included an entire panel highlighting some of these past initiatives – from the tobacco master settlement agreement of the late 90s to the national opioid settlement finalized this year. The AGs discussed some of the odd couples these efforts have created, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former California Attorney General (current Secretary of Health and Human Services) Xavier Becerra, who came together to help shepherd an allocation formula for distribution of opioid settlement funds. As we have discussed, a departure from NAAG does not have to signal an end to these bipartisan efforts, but does raise a number of logistical questions that will have to be worked out. For example, will these states still participate in “NAAG” sign-on letters? Can they participate in a multistate case and be direct or indirect beneficiaries of a NAAG grant? Will they be able to participate in NAAG or NAGTRI sponsored trainings and meetings?
This isn’t the first time that a State AG has left NAAG however – in April 2021 Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced his departure from NAAG. But since that time, Alabama has continued to participate in NAAG sign on letters and multistate settlements, including today’s announced multistate settlement with Intuit regarding its free tax preparation services. (Missouri, Montana, and Texas all participated in that settlement as well). Whether these three states follow a similar path remains to be seen, but businesses should not assume that any instability with membership in NAAG will change the important focus that State Attorneys General place on consumer protection issues. If anything, the erosion of the tools used to help the AGs act in a coordinated way could lead to more individual state activity, which may subject businesses to multiple AG inquiries instead of having them coordinated through a single structure. Our State AG team will keep you updated on these developments.