The State AG Report Weekly Update July 27, 2017

2018 AG Elections

Republican Sam McClure Announces Bid for Alabama Attorney General

  • Sam McClure, a Birmingham adoption lawyer, announced his candidacy to become the Alabama AG.
  • McClure is the fourth Republican to officially enter the 2018 Alabama AG race, following incumbent AG Steve Marshall, former Acting AG Alice Martin, and former Trump campaign state chairman Chess Bedsole. To date, no Democrat has declared their candidacy for AG.
  • McClure is founder of The Adoption Law Firm. He gained national attention in February 2017 when he filed an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar against former AG Luther Strange following his appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Charities

Washington Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Non-Profit Fundraiser Over Allegedly Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit and received a temporary restraining order against campaign and non-profit fundraising company Blue Utopia, LLC and its owner (collectively “Blue Utopia”) for allegedly misleading donors and clients in violation of the state Consumer Protection Act.
  • According to the temporary restraining order, Blue Utopia allegedly misrepresented to clients the amounts and dates of donations, failed to remit the correct donation amounts, and misrepresented to donors how their payments would be distributed.
  • The lawsuit seeks to compel Blue Utopia to make timely remission of donations to its clients, requests Blue Utopia pay restitution to affected consumers, and seeks civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.

 Consumer Protection

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr Files Lawsuit Against Recreational Company Over Allegedly Defrauding Consumers

  • Georgia AG Chris Carr filed a lawsuit against recreational activities company Marvelay, LLC d/b/a Rushcube and its owner and manager (collectively “Marvelay”) for allegedly failing to provide services paid for by consumers in violation of the state Fair Business Practices Act (“FBPA”).
  • According to the complaint, Marvelay allegedly advertised and accepted payments for sky diving, hot air balloon rides, helicopter tours, and airplane flying lessons through numerous websites operating under non-existent company names and then failed to provide the paid-for activities.
  • The lawsuit seeks to permanently enjoin Marvelay from unfair and deceptive business practices, seeks restitution for consumers affected by Marvelay’s acts, seeks civil penalties of $5,000 per violation of the FBPA, and other discretionary relief.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Creates New State Consumer Financial Protection Unit

  • Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro has established a state Consumer Financial Protection Unit and has appointed Nicholas Smyth, who helped create the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), as Assistant Director of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
  • The establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Unit comes in the wake of Pennsylvania joining several recent multistate consumer protection actions, such as a lawsuit filed against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education over the student loan Borrower Defense Rule and a comment letter to the Federal Communications Commission to block illegal robocalls.

Texas Attorney General Obtains Final Judgment and Injunction Against Debt Collection Law Office for Allegedly Improper Business Practices

  • Texas AG Ken Paxton obtained a final judgment and permanent injunction following a jury trial against debt collection law firm Samara Portfolio Management, LLC, the Law Office of Joseph Onwuteaka, P.C., and Joseph Onwuteaka (collectively “Onwuteaka”) for allegedly filing improper debt collection actions and failing to protect debtors’ sensitive personal information in violation of the state consumer protection and debt collection laws.
  • According to the AG’s office, Onwuteaka allegedly improperly targeted consumers who neither signed loan contracts nor lived in Harris County (the jurisdiction in which the actions were filed), failed to redact sensitive personal information in court filings, such as social security numbers and driver’s license numbers, and collected on 63 motor vehicle debts without a license.
  • Under the terms of the final order, Onwuteaka must pay $25 million in civil penalties, $560,000 in attorneys’ fees, court costs as determined by the district clerk, post-judgment interest, and is permanently enjoined from further violations of state consumer protection and debt collection laws.

 Health Care

New York Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s Office Reach Joint Settlement with Health Care Service Provider to Resolve Allegations of Improper Public Fund Use

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim reached a settlement with health care service provider Visiting Nurse Service of New York, its Managed Long-Term Care Plan VNS Choice, and VNS Community Care (collectively “VNS”) to resolve allegations that VNS retained over $1.6 million in Medicaid overpayments in violation of state and federal Medicaid fraud laws.
  • According to AG Schneiderman and the U.S. Attorney’s office, VNS allegedly collected monthly capitation payments from Medicaid for members that should not have been enrolled in the Managed Long-Term Care Plan.
  • Under the terms of the settlement, VNS must pay $4.4 million collectively to the federal government and the state and must cooperate with further investigative efforts.
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