Attorneys General Take Action to Help Constituents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- AGs across the country are using their prominent public profiles to provide reliable information during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey launched a new website with information for first responders and healthcare workers, California AG Xavier Becerra publicized resources to combat intimate-partner violence during the lockdown, and Florida AG Ashley Moody shared tips for safe videoconferencing.
- A bipartisan group of 25 AGs, led by New York AG Letitia James, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calling on the Department of the Treasury to ensure that emergency stimulus payments authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) are protected from garnishment by debt collectors.
- Massachusetts AG Healey also sent a letter to the state’s Division of Insurance asking for an immediate reduction in personal auto insurance premiums, arguing that car travel and accidents have fallen significantly as a result of stay-at-home orders and that insurance premiums should also be lowered until driving picks up again.
State and Federal Authorities Combat COVID-19-Related Fraud and Abuse
- Ohio AG Dave Yost sued several individuals for allegedly hoarding and selling N95 respirator masks online at nearly 18 times the retail price in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and the Valentine Act (Ohio’s antitrust law). The complaint seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement of unlawful proceeds, civil penalties, litigation costs and fees, and statutory forfeiture.
- Among other COVID-19 related scams, State AGs were recently urged by the American Resort and Development Association-Resort Owners’ Coalition to crack down on timeshare-exit scammers falsely claiming that, for an upfront payment, they can relieve owners of having to pay purported future assessments and maintenance fees related to the pandemic.
- The FTC issued letters to 10 companies warning them to stop marketing their products with false and unsubstantiated claims that these products can cure or prevent COVID-19. Recipients of the letters include Bioenergy Wellness Miami, Face Vital LLC, LightAir International AB, MedQuick Labs LLC, New Performance Nutrition, PuraTHRIVE LLC, Resurgence Medical Spa, LLC, Rocky Mountain IV Medics, Suki Distribution Pte. Ltd., and Vita Activate. This round of letters follows a previous round of more than 25 letters that the FTC issued in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration.
Attorneys General Launch Investigations into COVID-19-Impacted Nursing Homes
- Massachusetts AG Maura Healey is investigating the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke to determine whether any legal action is warranted after nearly half the veterans there have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 22 likely have died from COVID-19.
- New Mexico AG Hector Balderas is investigating La Vida Llena Assisted Living Facility over its management of the health and welfare of vulnerable residents after it suffered an outbreak of more than 50 COVID-19 cases and 6 COVID-19-related deaths.
Safety on the Bus: Washington AG Sues Greyhound for Allegedly Allowing Warrantless CBP Immigration Sweeps
- Washington AG Bob Ferguson sued inter-city bus company Greyhound Lines Inc. (“Greyhound”) for allegedly allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) agents to board its buses and conduct searches in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and Law Against Discrimination.
- According to the complaint, Greyhound allegedly continues to allow CBP agents to conduct warrantless and suspicionless immigration sweeps on its buses without providing adequate notice to its customers of the possibility of such sweeps, despite Greyhound’s public statements that it would no longer allow the CBP to board its buses.
- The complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties, restitution, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Democratic AG Coalition Argues that the Affordable Care Act Guarantees Women’s Right to Birth Control, Regardless of Employer’s Religious Views
- 21 Democratic AGs, led by California AG Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated cases of Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania and Donald Trump v. Pennsylvania, Nos. 19-431 and 19-454, respectively, in support of Pennsylvania’s defense of contraceptive coverage and counseling mandated by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).
- In 2017 and 2018, the Trump Administration issued rules that allowed employers to forgo birth control coverage to their employees based on religious or moral objections. Pennsylvania obtained an injunction in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which the federal government appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- In the brief, the AGs argue that the states have an interest in safeguarding the ACA’s contraception coverage requirement because affordable birth control is critical to the health, wellbeing, and economic security of the states’ residents, and that the Trump Administration’s rules are inconsistent with the Women’s Health Amendment to the ACA, which guarantees women full and equal access to health care.
Labor & Employment
FTC and DOJ: COVID-19 No Excuse for Anticompetitive Labor and Employment Practices
- The FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued a joint statement regarding their focus on employers, staffing agencies, and recruiters, among others, who they warn may take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to engage in collusion or anticompetitive conduct that harms the interests of employees who provide essential services and reduce the competitiveness of the labor market.
- According to the statement, unlawful anticompetitive conduct includes agreements to lower wages or to reduce salaries, no-poach agreements, anticompetitive non-compete agreements, and the unlawful exchange of competitively sensitive employee information.
- The FTC and DOJ warn that unlawful anticompetitive conduct may subject companies and individuals involved in the hiring, recruiting, retention, or placement of workers to civil and criminal liability.