Breaking News

New Jersey Governor Names New Acting Attorney General

  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed Christopher S. Porrino as the state’s acting Attorney General, effective June 21, 2016. Porrino comes from Lowenstein Sandler’s national litigation practice, and also served as Chief Counsel to Governor Christie between 2014 and 2015. Prior to that position, he served as Director of the Division of Law in the Attorney General’s office.
  • Porrino is replacing Robert Lougy, who Governor Christie nominated for a judgeship with the Superior Court in Essex County.

2016 Elections

Retired Judge Secures Indiana Democratic Nomination for Attorney General

  • Retired Lake County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo was nominated to be the Democratic nominee for Attorney General on Saturday, June 18, at the Indiana Democratic Party State Convention. Judge Arredondo was unopposed.
  • Indiana selects the Republican and Democratic candidates for AG during their respective state conventions. Last week, Indiana Republicans nominated Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill Jr. to be the Republican nominee.
  • Including Indiana, there are 10 AG races this year. The next AG primary will be in Utah on June 28. Incumbent Republican AG Sean Reyes and his Democratic opponent, Jon Harper, are both running uncontested for their parties’ nomination.

Charities

Former New Jersey Acting Attorney General Settles with Cancer Charity for Alleged Violations of New Jersey Charity Law

  • As one of his final acts in office, now-former New Jersey Acting AG Robert Lougy reached a settlement with the Walker Cancer Research Institute, Inc. (“WCRI”) to resolve an investigation conducted by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs into alleged violations of the New Jersey Charitable Registration and Investigation Act.
  • According to the consent order, the investigation arose from concerns regarding WCRI’s fundraising activities and finances, including that the charity allocated fundraising expenses to operating expenses.
  • Under the terms of the consent order, WCRI agreed to, among other things, submit financial statements to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Registration Section, and pay $375,000 to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and $95,000 to the Division of Consumer Affairs.

Climate Change

13 Attorneys General Write Dear Colleague Letter Regarding Climate Change Subpoenas

  • 13 AGs, led by Alabama AG Luther Strange, wrote a Dear Colleague letter to a separate group of AGs who are investigating whether fossil fuel companies misled investors and the public regarding the risks of climate change.
  • The AGs who joined the letter warn that “using law enforcement authority to resolve a public policy debate undermines the trust invested in our offices and threatens free speech” and urge their colleagues to halt such efforts.

Oil Company Seeks Injunction to Block Massachusetts Attorney General’s CID

  • Exxon Mobil Corporation (“Exxon”) filed a petition in federal court against Massachusetts AG Maura Healey seeking to bar enforcement of a civil investigative demand (“CID”) issued by AG Healey’s office earlier this year that sought internal company documents related to climate change.
  • Exxon’s petition alleges that the CID violates its constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process of law, as well as improperly encroaches on Congress’ exclusive authority to regulate interstate commerce. Exxon recently filed a similar petition against the AG of the US Virgin Islands.
  • In related news, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic filed a complaint against Vermont AG William Sorrell to compel production of certain emails that appear to be related to his office’s participation in an AG climate change conference held earlier this year.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB Sues Structured Settlement Purchasing Company to Enforce CID

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) filed a petition to enforce a CID it issued to J.G. Wentworth, LLC (“JGW”) as part of its investigation to determine whether the company’s business of purchasing structured settlements and annuities from consumers for lump sums violates federal consumer financial protection laws.
  • The CFPB’s petition comes after the CFPB denied JGW’s request that it set aside the CID for lack of jurisdiction over the company. According to JGW, the business practices in question do not constitute a consumer financial product or service within the CFPB’s jurisdiction and also do not violate the Truth in Lending Act.
  • According to the CFPB, it is authorized under the Dodd-Frank Act to issue a CID whenever it has reason to believe that any person may have information relevant to a possible violation of a federal consumer protection statute, without regard to whether they are subject to the Bureau’s enforcement authority.
  • The CFPB’s Petition comes shortly after a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the CFPB lacked authority to enforce a CID request on a for-profit college accreditor after the CFPB filed a similar petition. The CFPB intends to appeal this decision.

Consumer Protection

Missouri Attorney General Announces Court Ruling that National Drugstore Chain Violated Consent Judgment Regarding Sales Tags

  • Missouri AG Chris Koster obtained a court judgment against Walgreens Co. for violating a 2014 consent judgment that AG Koster reached with Walgreens by failing to remove sales tags from store shelves in a timely manner.
  • According to the court, Walgreens violated the 2014 consent judgment by failing to remove 309 expired sales tags within 12 hours after the end of sales periods, as required under the consent judgment, which caused Missouri consumers to be overcharged.
  • The court ordered Walgreens to pay $309,000 in civil penalties. Earlier this year, New York AG Schneiderman reached a similar settlement with Walgreens regarding its alleged failure to remove sales tags promptly.

North Carolina Attorney General Settles with Lender for Allegedly Charging Excessive Interest Rates

  • North Carolina AG Roy Cooper reached a settlement with Future Income Payments LLC (“FIP”), f/k/a Pensions, Annuities and Settlements LLC, an unlicensed consumer lender, to resolve allegations that the company charged interest rates on pension advances above the state’s statutory limit.
  • According to the AG’s Office, FIP’s loans were allegedly above the interest rates allowable under the state usury laws, which cap interest rates at 16 percent for unlicensed lenders such as FIP.
  • Under the terms of the settlement, FIP will, among other things, refund overcharged consumers, set interest rates in accordance with the state’s usury statute, and pay $59,900 in civil penalties and investigation costs. Massachusetts AG Maura Healey reached a similar agreement with FIP earlier this year.

Employment

New York Attorney General Settles with Legal News Website Over Non-Compete Agreements

  • NY AG Eric Schneiderman reached a settlement with Law360, which is owned by Portfolio Media, Inc. to resolve allegations that the company violated New York law by requiring most of its employees to sign non-compete agreements.
  • According to the AG’s office, Law360 allegedly required the “vast majority” of employees, including recent college graduates, to sign non-compete agreements, restricting them from holding positions with competitors for one year after leaving Law360. This requirement allegedly violated New York law, under which non-compete agreements can only be used in limited circumstances.
  • Under the terms of the Assurance of Discontinuance, Law360 must end its use of the non-compete agreements for all non-senior staff and notify all current and former employees from the previous year that the non-compete agreements they signed are void.

State AGs in the News

NAAG Holds Summer Meeting in Vermont

  • The National Association of Attorneys General’s (“NAAG”) held its annual Summer Meeting in Burlington, Vermont between June 21 and June 23.
  • The agenda included several AG round table discussions, perspectives on Supreme Court cases, and discussions of issues such as health coverage for mental health treatment, private sector perspectives on privacy and data security regulation and law enforcement, federalism and preemption, and ethical social media use.
  • On the last day of the meeting, Connecticut AG George Jepsen will assume office as NAAG president for the 2016-2017 term.