The State AG Report Weekly Update August 20, 2015

Antitrust

Alaska Attorney General Denies LNG Acquisition Citing Anticompetitive Concerns

  • Alaska AG Craig Richards rejected the proposed acquisition of a liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) facility in Port MacKenzie by Harvest Alaska, a subsidiary of Hilcorp Energy (“HilCorp”), over concerns that the deal, without additional safeguards, would be anticompetitive, as the company would become the only gas utility supplier in the city of Fairbanks.
  • According to reports, the Alaska AG rejected the deal between Hilcorp and Fairbanks Natural Gas, the existing plant owner, after Harvest refused to provide a cost-based pricing system, a safeguard requested by AG Richards to account for potential decreases in gas prices.
  • Hilcorp argued that this provision and others would place additional market risks on the company and further reduce the already slim profit margin.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB, FDIC, and OCC Settle with Bank for Allegedly Pocketing Funds from Deposit Discrepancies

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) reached a settlement with Citizens Bank, N.A., and Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania for allegedly engaging in unfair and deceptive practices when it failed to credit consumers the full amounts of their deposited funds.
  • According to the CFPB, the bank allegedly told consumers that it verified deposits, yet did not correct mistakes, including misreading by the bank’s scanners or incorrect deposit slips that fell below $25 dollars, and instead pocketed the difference, which led to millions of dollars in losses by consumers.
  • Under the settlements, the bank must halt the allegedly illegal practice, refund affected consumers, and pay $20.5 million in federal penalties.

Consumer Protection

Ohio Attorney General Sues Operators of Alleged Loan Modification Scheme

  • Ohio AG Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against companies operating a California-based loan modification scheme for allegedly violating Ohio’s consumer protection laws by falsely promising to help consumers avoid foreclosure in exchange for advanced fees.
  • According to the complaint, the companies advertised online and by phone to help consumers obtain loan modifications to avoid foreclosure and took advance payments of $995 to $5,495, but failed to obtain the modifications promised or provide refunds.
  • The lawsuit seeks restitution for harmed consumers, penalties, and to stop the company from engaging in the allegedly unlawful activity.

Texas Attorney General Sues Companies for Selling Fraudulent High School Diplomas and Transcripts

  • Texas AG Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against a group of learning centers and its officers for allegedly marketing and selling fraudulent high school diplomas and transcripts in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • According to the complaint, the learning centers misrepresented that they were “accredited” diploma programs and that diplomas from the program would aid in consumers’ admission to community colleges and the military, when in fact the learning centers were not accredited and their diplomas were not accepted.
  • The complaint seeks a permanent injunction against the individuals and learning centers, civil penalties, and restitution for harmed consumers.

Pharmaceuticals

49 Attorneys General Settle with Pharmaceutical Company for Off-Label Marketing

  • 49 AGs reached a settlement with Amgen, Inc., for allegedly promoting two prescription drugs, Aranesp and Enbrel, for uses and doses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) in violation of state consumer protection laws.
  • According to the complaints, Amgen allegedly promoted Aranesp for anemia caused by cancer and for longer dosing frequencies without FDA approval, and similarly promoted Enbrel for mild plaque psoriasis when it was only approved to treat chronic moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
  • Under the agreement, Amgen will pay $71 million, reform its marketing practices, and cease promoting off-label uses of the prescription drugs.

State v. Federal

Vermont Attorney General Challenges NRC Decision on Use of Power Plant Decommissioning Trust Fund

  • Vermont AG William Sorrell, the Vermont Department of Public Service, and two utilities filed a petition seeking judicial review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (“NRC”) recent decision regarding the use of the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund for Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station (“VY Trust Fund”) by Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (“Entergy”) and sent a letter to NRC urging the agency to halt any withdrawals pending this review.
  • NRC provided an exemption from its regulations to the VY Trust Fund, which limits use of the trust’s funds to decommissioning expenses only and not managing spent nuclear fuel.
  • According to Vermont’s petition, NRC acted arbitrarily, abused its discretion, and violated the Atomic Energy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act in approving the exemptions, and further failed to provide due process where there was no opportunity for public participation in the exemption request.
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