Each week, Crowell & Moring’s State Attorneys General team highlights significant actions that State AGs have taken. Here are this week’s updates.
- A coalition of seven attorneys general submitted a letter to U.S. congressional leaders urging support of legislation to protect investors’ privacy. The legislation is S.2230/H.R. 4551, the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act, which protects investors against the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT). The CAT collects information on all investment trades. The coalition argues that need for protection of investors’ privacy is self-evident as the CAT is a comprehensive surveillance database that stores all equity and option trades made by an investor, subjecting every person with money in the stock market to constant surveillance of individual financial actions without suspicion of wrongdoing.
- A coalition of fifteen attorneys general submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urging the agency to strengthen its proposed rule for advanced recycling facilities. Advanced recycling, sometimes known as chemical recycling, refers to heat or solvent-based processes to recycle additional types of plastic beyond standard recycling practices. The coalition argues that advanced recycling processes are under-regulated. EPA’s proposed rule, announced on June 15, 2023, seeks to prevent the use of plastic waste that contains impurities in advanced recycling. The impurities are identified by the EPA. The coalition’s comment letter recommends that the EPA require testing and certification to ensure the rule is enforceable.
- A bipartisan coalition of seven attorneys general secured judgments against Scott Shapiro, Michael Theron Smith Jr., and Health Advisors of America, Inc. of Florida regarding a robocall scheme responsible for billions of calls across the country. For example, in 2019, 19 million Michiganders on the Do Not Call Registry received robocalls under this scheme. The case is part of a larger lawsuit against Rising Eagle Capital Group LLC, JSquared Telecom LLC, and Rising Eagle Capital Group-Cayman alleging violations of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule, and various state consumer protection lawsuits. The judgments include permanent injunctions banning the defendants from all telemarketing, lead generation, or providing/selling telephone numbers for ten years and civil penalties totaling $146,153,860 against the defendants.
- A coalition of sixteen attorneys general filed an amicus brief in Texas v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The coalition supports President Biden’s Parole Program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans (CHNV Parole Program). The CHNV Parole Program offers qualified individuals an opportunity to apply for advance travel authorization and to be consider for temporary parole for up to two years, including employment authorization.
- Various offices of attorneys general have issued consumer alerts warning state residents about charity scams in relation to the Maui wildfires (such as West Virginia and Florida). The alerts recognized the devastation from the wildfires and simply ask anyone wishing to donate to be cautious of scammers and to avoid providing personal or financial information in unsolicited communications. Similarly, California Attorney General Bonta issued a consumer alert regarding illegal price gouging during a state of emergency, following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency due to Hurricane Hilary.
- Montana Attorney General Knudsen responded on behalf of the State of Montana in a lawsuit filed by TikTok regarding TikTok’s request for a preliminary injunction against the statewide ban on the company. The Montana legislature passed Senate Bill 419, which required TikTok to stop operating in the state and prohibiting application stores from making TikTok available for download starting on January 1, 2024. Attorney General Knudsen argued the ban was appropriate while the case proceeds citing documented concerns of TikTok’s data harvesting practices and access to that data granted to Chinese Communist Party officials.
- New Mexico Attorney General Torrez filed an action against New Mexico Solar Group to help consumers recover monies paid for services that were not completed before the business’s decision to end operations. Attorney General Torrez also announced investigations into Meraki Solar and Titan Solar after receiving a significant number of consumer complaints alleging unfair and deceptive business practices related to the operations of these solar companies.
- Attorney General Henry and the Federal Trade Commission approved a settlement agreement to address antitrust concerns of a $5.2 billion cash-and-stock deal between private equity firm, Quantum Energy Partners, and natural gas producer, EQT Corporation. The agreement prevents entanglements between the two companies and the exchange of confidential or competitively sensitive information. The two companies are competitors in the production and sale of natural gas in the Appalachian Basin. The proposed acquisition would make Quantum one of EQT’s largest shareholders and provide Quantum a seat on the board of directors. The agreement provides structural relief by prohibiting Quantum from occupying the board seat, requiring Quantum to divest the EQT shares and imposing additional restraints to protect competition. The final consent judgment resolves the concerns raised by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and Federal Trade Commission.
- Washington Attorney General Ferguson filed a lawsuit against O’Reilly Auto Parts for systemic discrimination and retaliation against pregnant employees. The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court and alleges O’Reilly Auto Parts unlawfully refused pregnant workers reasonable workplace accommodations, such as the ability to sit or rest, limit how much they lift or handle hazardous materials, allow flexibility for restroom breaks, and pump breastmilk for their babies after returning to work. The lawsuit further alleges that the company routinely engaged in retaliation against the women seeking accommodations by demoting them, threatening termination, and forcing them to take unpaid leave. Twenty-two women have alleged physical, emotional, and financial harm based on O’Reilly Auto Parts actions. Attorney General Ferguson filed the suit under Washington’s Healthy Starts Act, the Washington Law Against Discrimination, and the Consumer Protection Act.