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.
Michigan AG Bill Schuette has intervened in a federal lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of the Michigan Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (Privacy Act), which “places limitations on the disclosure of a consumer’s personal information,” according to the Michigan AG’s brief in the suit. In the suit, the plaintiff claimed that defendant Consumers Union disclosed his personal information to “‘data mining’ companies and other third parties without obtaining his consent or providing him notice” of the disclosure “in violation of the Privacy Act,” and in response Consumers Union argued that the “Privacy Act is an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment,” according to the Michigan AG’s brief. The Michigan AG argued, in part, that the Privacy Act is constitutional because the speech regulated by the Privacy Act is “commercial speech,” which is entitled to “lesser protection [than] other constitutionally guaranteed expression,” and that the state of Michigan has a “substantial interest . . . in protecting the privacy of its citizens.” The court has not yet ruled in the case.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced that his office had entered a settlement with a New York furniture company “for engaging in deceptive acts and making false statements in its advertisements. Specifically, York Furniture Centers, Inc. advertised that they were holding a Warehouse Closing sale when in fact it did not intend to close its warehouse and while continuing to receive pieces of furniture, which is a violation of New York State law,” according to a December 1 Press Release. AG Schneiderman stated in the Press Release that under New York law, “businesses must obtain a license to conduct a Going out of business type sale which includes a warehouse closing sale.” As part of the settlement, York Furniture Centers, Inc. will pay $10,000 in civil penalties.
Vermont AG William Sorrell has advised consumers to be careful in this holiday season about charitable donations made through “paid fundraisers – companies hired to solicit charitable donations” – because many such donations “result in a fraction of the gift going to the chosen cause,” according to a November 28 Press Release. AG Sorrell advised that if donations are made through a paid fundraiser, “in most cases the bulk of that gift is going straight to the caller, not the charity.” For example, between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016, “paid fundraisers raised over $1.4 Million from Vermonters, but the named charities, both local and national, received only about $400,000,” and the 11 Vermont charities that used paid fundraisers during that time period received “barely more than a quarter out of every dollar given.” AG Sorrell advised Vermonters to check the “breakdown of contributions between fundraisers and charities on the Attorney General’s website” here.
Massachusetts AG Maura Healey said in a November 29 fundraising email that she “won’t hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional campaign promises,” according to a Boston Globe report. Per the Globe’s report, AG Healey stated that “Trump plans to roll back much of the progress we’ve made in Massachusetts and as a nation,” and that “[w]hen the federal government overreaches, state attorneys general have an enormously important role to play . . . [and are] the first line of defense against illegal action by the federal government.” AG Healey listed issues that “could be litigated” include “health care, gun laws, climate change, and Wall Street reforms,” according to the Globe’s report.