Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.

In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging in the previous week.

Litigation

On Wednesday, January 18, Illinois AG Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Navient Corporation, certain Navient Corporation subsidiaries, and Sallie Mae Bank “over widespread abuses across all aspects of its business, including student lending, student loan servicing and student loan debt collection,” according to an Illinois AG press release. The Illinois AG alleges that “Navient and its lending predecessor Sallie Mae engaged in widespread unfair and deceptive subprime lending, failed to offer proper repayment options [and] engaged in deceptive collection practices,” according to the press release. The press release states that such “deceptive collection practices” include that “Navient and its debt collection companies allegedly repeatedly misled borrowers about their options to get their federal loans current through the federal student loan rehabilitation program.” The Illinois AG’s suit asks the court to “provide restitution to all borrowers affected . . ., impose civil penalties, and rescind or reform all contracts or loan agreements between Navient and any Illinois consumers affected by the company’s unlawful practices,” per the press release.

Mississippi AG Jim Hood has filed a lawsuit against Google Inc. “over how the internet giant maintains and uses data collected from Mississippi public school students who have Google’s G Suite For Education accounts,” according to a Tuesday, January 17 Mississippi AG press release. The G Suite For Education consists of “free, web-based tools” including “Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Docs,” and were previously known as “Google Apps for Education,” according to the press release. The Mississippi AG alleges that Google is “collecting personal information and search history obtained from its users in order to advance its own business interests and increase its profit, in violation of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act,” according to the press release. The press release further states that in 2015, Google signed the “K-12 School Service Provider Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy” in which it “promised, among other things, to ‘not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student.’” The lawsuit alleges that Google “fails to live up to its pledge and does not properly disclose the types of information it collects, maintains and uses, as well as whether and how that information is shared with third parties,” according to the press release.

Ohio AG Mike DeWine and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey are leading a group of 13 states in a lawsuit filed in federal court “challenging the federal government’s ‘Steam Protection Rule’ as drastically and illegally limiting coal mining in disregard of state regulatory authority,” according to an Ohio AG News Release. Per that News Release, the Steam Protection Rule – which was issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement – “seeks to prohibit any change to the land and environment around coal mines.” The Department of the Interior stated that the rule comprises “reasonable and straightforward reforms” that would in part “require companies to avoid mining practices that permanently pollute streams, destroy drinking water sources, increase flood risks, and threaten forecasts,” according to a December 19, 2016 press release. The states allege in the lawsuit that the rule was adopted “without meaningful consultation with the states and despite objections raised by the states” and that it “ignores Congress’ instruction . . . that the states should be the primary regulators of coal mining,” and the states ask the court in part to “vacate the rule” and “prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule,” according to the Ohio AG’s News Release.

AGs DeWine and Morrisey also led a group of 14 states in issuing a letter urging Congress to “use its power under the Congressional review act to disapprove the ‘Steam Protection Rule,’” which the states argue in the letter is “burdensome and unlawful” and “would have a disastrous effect on coal miners, their families, workers in related industries, and their communities.”