The State AG Report Weekly Update March 30, 2017

Breaking News

Florida Attorney General Appointed to President Trump’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission

  • President Donald Trump appointed Florida AG Pam Bondi to serve on his Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.
  • The Commission will provide recommendations to the Administration to help combat the nation’s growing opioid addiction epidemic.
  • AG Bondi will continue her role as Florida AG while serving on the Commission.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB Issues Order Against Credit Reporting Agency for Allegedly Deceptive Advertising

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an order against credit score reporting companies Experian Holdings, Inc., Experian Information Solutions, Inc., and ConsumerInfo.com (collectively, “Experian”) for allegedly engaging in misleading marketing practices in violation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • According to the CFPB, Experian allegedly advertised that its propriety credit scoring model would calculate scores identical to the ones that lenders use to make credit decisions, even though in some instances the model produced very different scores. The CFPB also alleged that Experian posted advertisements when directing consumers to free annual credit reports on AnnualCreditReport.com, in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Under the terms of the consent order, Experian must agree to clearly disclose the usefulness of its credit scores, institute a compliance management system to avoid advertising on websites that consumers access through AnnualCreditReport.com, and pay a $3 million penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, among other things.

Consumer Protection

New York Attorney General Settles with Mobile Health Application Developers for Allegedly Misleading Consumers and Breaching Privacy

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman reached settlements with mobile application developers Cardiio, Inc. (“Cardiio”), Runtastic GmbH (“Runtastic”), and Matis Ltd. (“Matis”) over allegations that the developers misled consumers into believing that their applications (“apps”) operated as approved medical devices and mismanaged consumer information, in violation of the state’s Executive and General Business Laws.
  • According to the AG’s office, developers Cardiio and Runtastic allegedly claimed their apps would accurately measure heartrates during exercise, while Matis allegedly claimed its app would measure an unborn baby’s heartrate. All three developers allegedly made these claims without sufficient substantiation and without approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Further, the developers allegedly did not request consent prior to collecting users’ personal data.
  • Under the assurances of discontinuance filed against Cardiio, Runtastic, and Matis, the developers agreed to disclose additional information regarding the testing of their apps, correct misleading advertisements, provide disclaimers that the apps are not approved medical devices, obtain affirmative consent from consumers for the developers’ privacy policies, and pay a combined $30,000 in civil penalties to the AG’s office.

North Carolina Attorney General Settles with Student Loan Debt Relief Company for Allegedly Engaging in Illegal Debt Relief Services

  • North Carolina AG Josh Stein settled a lawsuit against student loan debt relief company Student Loan Group, resolving allegations that the company violated state law by requesting upfront payment for debt relief services.
  • According to the AG’s office, Student Loan Group allegedly charged borrowers illegal upfront fees, and further failed its promise to reduce consumers’ student loan debt.
  • According to the consent judgement, Student Loan Group must refund nearly $400,000 to 377 borrowers and refrain from engaging in similar conduct going forward.

Employment

Washington Attorney General Settles with Aerospace Company for Alleged Discrimination and Retaliation Against Employees

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson reached a settlement with aerospace company Electroimpact, following an investigation into allegations that the company discriminated against Muslims, retaliated against employees, and engaged in deceptive advertising practices in violation of Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) and its Consumer Protection Act.
  • According to the initial complaint, Electroimpact’s president allegedly screened-out Muslim applicants from hiring, discriminated against unmarried employees, sent harassing emails on a company listserv, and retaliated against employees who spoke out against such practices.
  • Under the terms of the consent decree, Electroimpact’s president is prohibited from participating in non-management hiring, offering compensation based on marital status, and handling harassment complaints. In addition, Electroimpact will provide annual trainings on WLAD compliance, implement initiatives for minority hiring, submit semi-annual reports to the state on all discrimination or harassment complaints made against the company, and pay $485,000 to cover restitution, damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Environment

Republican and Democratic AGs Respond to the President Trump’s Rollback of the Clean Power Plan

  • AGs from across the country responded to President Trump’s executive order (“Order”) rolling back Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency regulations of power plant emissions, commonly known as the Clean Power Plan.
  • In a statement released by the Republican Attorneys General Association (“RAGA”), West Virginia AG and RAGA Chairman Patrick Morrisey announced support for the Order.
  • A separate coalition of 23 states, cities, and counties, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, announced their joint opposition to the Order.

State AGs in the News

Republican Attorneys General Association Eliminates Ban on Opposing Democratic Incumbents

  • As recently covered in media reports, RAGA has eliminated the so-called “incumbency rule,” under which RAGA and the Democratic Attorneys General Association (“DAGA”) had agreed not to target incumbent AGs in re-elections. DAGA is expected to follow suit.

State v. Federal

Texas Attorney General Leads Coalition in Support of President Trump’s Revised Executive Order on Immigration

  • A coalition of 12 Republican AGs and the governor of Mississippi, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in support of President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration entitled Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.
  • In the amicus brief, the 12 AGs and governor assert that Trump’s new immigration order is a lawful exercise of the President’s executive authority over national security issues and that Congress delegates to the Executive Branch the power to prohibit non-citizens’ entry into the country.
  • This follows actions earlier this year over Trump’s initial executive order on immigration, which was successfully challenged by Washington AG Bob Ferguson and Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, as well as more recent challenges to the revised immigration order by Hawaii AG Doug Chin.
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