2019 AG Elections
Republican Primary for Mississippi Attorney General Heads to Runoff; Winner Will Face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins
- None of the three Republican candidates for AG received a majority of the vote in the Republican primary for Mississippi AG. The top two vote-getters, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch and former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Mississippi Andy Taggart, will proceed to a runoff election on August 27.
- The winner will face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, former Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi and a 32-year veteran of the U.S. Army who ran uncontested and secured her party’s nomination for AG, in the November 5, 2019 general election.
- For more AG election news, insights, and polls, visit Cozen’s State AG Election Tracker.
2020 AG Elections
Democrat Jim Cossitt Announces Bid for Montana Attorney General
- Jim Cossitt, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for Montana AG in 2020.
- Cossitt is a bankruptcy attorney in private practice in Kalispell, Montana.
- As previously reported, Cossitt joins Kimberly Dudik and Raph Graybill in seeking the Democratic nomination, and Chief Deputy AG Jon Bennion and Austin Knudsen are seeking the Republican nomination. Current AG Tim Fox is serving his second consecutive term and is term-limited.
Democrat Sam Petsonk Announces Bid for West Virginia Attorney General
- Sam Petsonk, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for West Virginia AG in 2020.
- Petsonk is an attorney in private practice with a background non-profit legal services and past president of the West Virginia Employment Lawyers Association.
- Current AG Patrick Morrisey, a Republican who is serving his second term, has said that he has not formally announced whether he is seeking reelection.
California Attorney General Issues Medicinal Cannabis Guidelines
- California AG Xavier Becerra announced the release of “Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Cannabis Grown for Medical Use” (“Guidelines”) to clarify California law governing medicinal cannabis following changes in state law regarding recreational cannabis use.
- The Guidelines summarize applicable laws and provide recommendations for qualified patients and primary caregivers, best practices for prescribing, enforcement guidelines for state and local law enforcement agencies, and guidance for collectives and cooperatives, among other things.
- The Guidelines provide clarification following the passage of Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act in 2016 and Senate Bill 94 in 2017.
Connecticut Attorney General to Investigate E-Cigarette Manufacturer Over Health Claims and Marketing Practices
- Connecticut AG William Tong has announced an investigation into e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”) over health claims and marketing by the company that allegedly violate the state Unfair Trade Practices Act.
- According to the AG’s office, the Civil Investigative Demand (which was attached to the AG’s press release) is intended to investigate the extent to which JUUL has allegedly marketed its electronic nicotine delivery systems (“ENDS”) as a smoking cessation device, despite not having received approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and seeks information related to agreements with health plans, health providers, employers and the public sector, and promotional pricing offered to certain demographics, among other things.
- As previously reported, North Carolina AG Josh Stein opened an investigation of JUUL in October 2018 and filed suit against JUUL in May 2019, and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey initiated an investigation of JUUL in July 2018, over allegations that it targeted advertising towards minors and misrepresented the risks of its products.
False Claims Act
18 Attorneys General Settle with Software Provider Over Alleged Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
- 18 AGs reached a settlement with Cisco Systems, Inc. (“Cisco”) over allegations that Cisco sold software to public entities that was vulnerable to hacking, in violation of state False Claims Acts.
- According to the AGs, Cisco allegedly sold a security video monitoring system to federal, state, and local public entities containing flaws that made it vulnerable to hacking into each individual system and into a broader network on which those systems were deployed.
- Under the terms of the settlement, Cisco will pay $6 million to the participating states and the whistleblower who brought the original qui tam action. Cisco has reportedly entered into a separate settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over similar allegations.
Bipartisan Coalition of 39 Attorneys General Urge Congress to Remove Barriers to Opioid Addiction Treatments
- The National Association of Attorneys General (“NAAG”) sent a letter to congressional leaders signed by a bipartisan coalition of 39 AGs, led by North Carolina AG Josh Stein and Oklahoma AG Mike Hunter, seeking removal of federal barriers to health care providers offering treatment for opioid use disorder.
- The letter urges the replacement of privacy rules for substance use with more easily navigable standards similar to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; passage of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, H.R. 2482, to remove barriers to prescribing medication-assisted treatment; and repeal of the Institutions for Mental Diseases exclusion that prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for certain mental health or substance abuse disorder treatments.
Arizona Attorney General Files Bill of Complaint Invoking Original Jurisdiction in U.S. Supreme Court Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturer and Board Members
- Arizona AG Mark Brnovich filed a Bill of Complaint in the U.S. Supreme Court against pharmaceutical manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Inc., Purdue Pharma, L.P., The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., eight members of the Sackler family who currently and previously served on the company’s Board of Directors, and several Sackler family-held entities (collectively, “Purdue Pharma”) over allegations that Purdue Pharma has committed intentional and constructive fraudulent conveyance by transferring funds and assets to avoid paying judgments in ongoing litigation.
- The Bill of Complaint alleges that Purdue Pharma has fraudulently transferred billions of dollars to individuals and holding companies, thereby threatening the ability of Purdue Pharma to satisfy any relief the State of Arizona may obtain in its ongoing lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over alleged violations of a 2007 consent decree entered into with the State.
- The State filed the Bill of Complaint pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution and federal law conferring original jurisdiction to the U.S. Supreme Court over “actions or proceedings by a State against the citizens of another State or against aliens,” and filed a concurrent Motion for Leave to File Bill of Complaint.
- The Bill of Complaint seeks a declaration that the transfers are void, garnishment against the transfer recipients, attachment of assets, and an injunction against further disposition of assets or other property.
State AGs in the News
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood Wins Democratic Primary Election for Governor
- Mississippi AG Jim Hood defeated seven opponents to win the Democratic nomination for Governor.
- In the general election on November 5, 2019, AG Hood will face the winner of the Republican primary, which is proceeding to a runoff on August 27.
2019 AG Elections
Republican Daniel Cameron and Democrat Greg Stumbo Secure Party Nominations for Kentucky Attorney General
- Daniel Cameron defeated state Senator Wil Schroeder to win the Republican nomination for Kentucky AG in the primary election.
- Democrat Greg Stumbo, who ran uncontested, secured his party’s nomination for AG.
- For more AG election news, insights, and polls, visit Cozen’s State AG Election Tracker.
2020 AG Elections
Republican Austin Knudsen Announces Candidacy for Montana Attorney General
- Austin Knudsen, a Republican, announced his candidacy for Montana AG in 2020.
- Knudsen serves as Roosevelt County Attorney, and previously served as Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives and worked as an attorney in private practice.
- As previously reported, Chief Deputy AG Jon Bennion is also seeking the Republican nomination for AG, and state Representative Kimberly Dudik and Raph Graybill, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Steve Bullock, are seeking the Democratic nomination.
- Current AG Tim Fox, a Republican who is serving his second term, is term-limited and seeking the Republican nomination for Governor.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
25 Democratic Attorneys General Oppose CFPB Proposed Rule to Rescind Certain Provisions of Payday Lending Rule
- 25 Democratic AGs, led by New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal and District of Columbia AG Karl Racine, submitted a comment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) in response to the CFPB’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would rescind certain provisions of its 2017 Final Rule Governing Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans (“Final Rule”).
- In the comment, the AGs—who share enforcement authority with the CFPB under the Final Rule—urge the CFPB not to rescind certain provisions of its Final Rule, such as a provision that requires lenders to consider consumers’ ability to repay when underwriting loans, because the Final Rule was adopted to curb abuses in the payday and vehicle title lending industries and end the cycle of debt for consumers, and rescinding these provisions would eliminate protections and leave borrowers vulnerable to debt traps that the Final Rule was designed to eliminate.
- As previously reported, 25 Democratic AGs submitted a comment in opposition to the CFPB’s concurrent NPRM that would delay the compliance date of its Final Rule from the original deadline of August 19, 2019 to November 19, 2020.
CFPB Sues Debt-Collection Law Firm Over Allegedly Misrepresenting Attorney Involvement in Lawsuits
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against debt-collection law firm Forster & Garbus, LLP over allegations that it misrepresented attorney involvement in lawsuits in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act.
- According to the complaint, Forster & Garbus allegedly filed debt collection lawsuits that bore the names and signatures of attorneys when, in fact, attorneys had not reviewed the merits of lawsuits, conducted factual inquiries, or prepared the pleadings; relied on non-attorney staff and automated processes to identify accounts for potential lawsuits; and designated only a few associate attorneys to review and sign tens of thousands of complaints, among other things.
- The complaint seeks injunctive relief, damages, restitution, disgorgement, civil penalties, and costs.
FTC Sues Telemarketing Companies Over Allegedly Deceptive Robocalls to Small Businesses
- The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) filed a lawsuit against telemarketing companies Pointbreak Media, LLC, DCP Marketing, LLC, Modern Spotlight LLC, Modern Spotlight Group LLC, Modern Source Media, LLC, Modern Internet Marketing LLC, Perfect Image Online LLC, and related individuals over allegations that they made deceptive robocalls to small businesses falsely threatening removal from and offering placement among internet search results in violation of the FTC Act.
- According to the complaint, the telemarketing companies allegedly made robocalls to small business owners falsely claiming, among other things, that they were authorized by Google to make the call, that the businesses must pay the telemarketing companies to “claim and verify” their businesses to avoid being removed from Google search results, and that paying the telemarketing companies to link certain keywords to the businesses’ listings would result in first-page placement in Google search results; and also made unauthorized withdrawals from the businesses’ accounts, among other things.
- The complaint seeks injunctive relief, rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, disgorgement, and costs.
FTC Settles With Online Subscription Company Over Allegedly Misrepresenting Customer Reviews and Terms of Free Trials
- The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) reached a settlement with online subscription company UrthBox, Inc. and its principal (collectively, “UrthBox”) to resolve allegations that it misrepresented the independence of its customer reviews and terms of its free trials in violation of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
- According to the complaint, UrthBox allegedly offered customers store credit or free snack boxes in exchange for positive reviews—which customers did not disclose were not independent reviews—on the company’s Better Business Bureau profile, TrustPilot.com, and on customers’ personal social media accounts, and paid cash bonuses to its customer service representatives for inducing customers to post positive reviews. UrthBox also allegedly misrepresented that customers were receiving “free” snack boxes, when it actually was enrolling these customers in subscription plans.
- Under the terms of the decision and order, UrthBox must pay $100,000 to the FTC, cease misrepresenting the independence of customer reviews, disclose any connections between the company and its reviewers, remove reviews not in compliance with the terms, fully disclose the terms of its “free” snack box offers, obtain customers’ informed consent before obtaining payment, provide a simple mechanism for consumers to cancel subscriptions, and monitor compliance with the terms of the order.
North Carolina Attorney General Sues E-Cigarette Manufacturer Over Allegedly Advertising to Minors and Misrepresenting Product Risks
- North Carolina AG Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”) over allegations that it targeted advertising towards minors and misrepresented the risks of its products in violation of the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
- According to the complaint, JUUL allegedly designed the flavors, appearance, and chemical composition of its e-cigarette products to appeal to minors, marketed its products on social media platforms known to attract minors using youth-oriented “influencer” personalities, failed to adequately verify online purchasers’ ages, and misrepresented the nicotine strength and risks of addiction of its products.
- The complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, disgorgement, and attorney’s fees and costs.
- As previously reported, AG Stein initiated the investigation of JUUL in October 2018 and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey initiated an investigation of JUUL over similar concerns in July 2018.
Labor & Employment
Connecticut Attorney General Issues Formal Opinion on Proposed Labor Legislation
- Connecticut AG William Tong issued Formal Opinion 2019-03 analyzing whether two bills, one that would prohibit employers from keeping employees as a “captive audience” at employer-sponsored meetings if the primary purpose of the meeting is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning the decision to join or support a labor organization, and another that would define the scope of protections of employees’ freedoms of speech and association, are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
- In the Opinion, AG Tong wrote that the “captive audience” bill, S.B. 64, is preempted by the NLRA and therefore unconstitutional, based on Formal Opinion 2018-02, in which former AG George Jepsen concluded that substantively identical legislation was likely unconstitutional.
- AG Tong further wrote that the freedoms of speech and association bill, S.B. 440, is likely not preempted by the NLRA or unconstitutional because it provides a cause of action for employees who have suffered adverse employment actions as a result of exercising their rights, which makes it akin to the kind of generally applicable law aimed at protecting state employees’ rights that the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded states can enact.
State AGs in the News
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear Wins Democratic Primary Election for Governor
- Kentucky AG Andy Beshear defeated three opponents to win the Democratic nomination for AG.
- AG Beshear will face Republican first-term incumbent Governor Matt Bevin in the general election on November 5, 2019.
State v. Federal
15 Democratic Attorneys General Oppose U.S. Department of Labor Proposed Rule to Rescind Overtime Protections for Workers
- 15 Democratic AGs, led by New York AG Letitia James and Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) in response to the DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would amend certain provisions of the 2016 Final Rule Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees (“Final Rule”).
- In the comment, the AGs argue that the NPRM—which would expand the Final Rule’s exemptions for certain executive, administrative, and professional (“EAP”) employees from the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)—would contradict congressional intent under the FLSA to afford federal overtime protections for certain workers, harm workers in the AGs’ states, and violate the Administrative Procedure Act.
- The AGs urge DOL to refrain from further expanding the EAP exemption and to issue a final regulation that is at least as protective of workers as the Final Rule.