2020 AG Election Updates | Price Fixing on Canned Tuna | Google Sued for Tracking Users

COVID-19

Attorneys General Continue to Address Alleged COVID-19-Related Fraud and Abuse

  • Florida AG Ashley Moody reached a settlement with Sunshine Community Rx d/b/a PrecisionMed Pharmacy (“PrecisionMed”) to resolve allegations that it marketed and sold COVID-19 test kits by falsely promoting them as appropriate for at-home use. Under the terms of the settlement, PrecisionMed will fully refund its customers’ purchases of the kits, pay $5,000 in civil penalties, and cease selling the test for at-home use.
  • New York AG Letitia James sued wholesale grocery distributor Quality King Distributors, Inc. and its CEO (collectively “Quality King”) for allegedly selling Lysol products at an increased price to retailers in violation of New York’s anti-price-gouging laws. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, civil penalties, and attorneys’ costs, among other things.
  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson reached a settlement with property management company JRK Residential Group Inc. (“JRK”) to resolve allegations that it knowingly violated the state’s emergency eviction moratorium by sending eviction notices and other allegedly harassing communications demanding rent to tenants. Under the terms of the consent decree, JRK will pay nearly $300,000 to affected tenants and $50,000 to the state for attorneys’ fees and costs, and will be enjoined from violating the emergency eviction moratorium, among other things.

2020 AG Elections

Montana and Pennsylvania Hold Primary Elections

  • Two states, Montana and Pennsylvania, held primaries in their AG races on June 2, 2020.
  • In Montana where the AG’s seat will be open in November, Roosevelt County Attorney Austin Knudsen has won the Republican nomination, and he will compete against Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor Raph Graybill, who prevailed in the Democratic primary.
  • In addition, Montana’s term-limited incumbent AG Tim Fox competed in the Republican primary for governor, but lost to U.S. Congressman Gregory Gianforte.
  • In Pennsylvania, Democratic incumbent AG Josh Shapiro will face Pittsburgh-area trial attorney and former Allegheny County Council member Heather Heidelbaugh, who clinched the Republican nomination.
  • For more AG election news, insights, and polls, visit Cozen’s State AG Election Tracker.

Consumer Protection

Arizona Attorney General Alleges that, Like It or Not, Google Always Knows Where You Are

  • Arizona AG Mark Brnovich sued Google LLC for allegedly using deceptive practices to collect users’ location data in violation of Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act.
  • The complaint alleges that Google misled consumers into believing that they could disable their location history so that their physical location would no longer be tracked and stored, while in reality Google collected location information through other settings and used that data to target its clients’ advertising. The complaint also alleges that Google made it unreasonably difficult for users to understand its data-collection practices and to opt out of being tracked.
  • The complaint seeks disgorgement, restitution, civil penalties, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Smells Fishy: Washington Attorney General Sues Canned Tuna Manufacturer for Price Fixing

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson sued canned foods manufacturer StarKist Company, its parent company Dongwon Industries, and the former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, a competitor, for allegedly engaging in a price-fixing conspiracy to drive up the price of canned tuna in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
  • The complaint, which is based in part on evidence uncovered in a federal criminal case against the same parties, alleges, among other things, that executives from competitor canned tuna companies routinely communicated and exchanged internal company policies and data in order to keep the price of tuna artificially high, costing Washington consumers at least $6 million.
  • The complaint seeks restitution, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Environment

Energy Company Agrees to Pay $2.5 Million to Settle Allegations Its Power Plant Polluted the Potomac River

  • District of Columbia AG Karl Racine reached a settlement with energy company GenOn Holdings, Inc., f/k/a NRG Potomac River LLC (“GenOn”), to resolve allegations that one of its power plants discharged pollutants into the Potomac River in violation of the District’s Water Pollution Control Act.
  • The AG’s office alleged that the now-closed coal-fired power plant, Potomac River Generating Station, allowed oil and other pollutants to seep from underground storage tanks into a storm-water drainage system that runs into the Potomac on at least 93 separate days, and “repeatedly ignored” the District’s orders to cease polluting.
  • Under the terms of the settlement, GenOn will pay $2.4 million in civil penalties, $50,000 to the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership to improve water quality, and $50,000 to the Northeast Environmental Enforcement Project to support environmental enforcement training.

False Claims Act

Alleged Falsification of Equal Opportunity Compliance Certification Costs Contractor $381,712

  • Massachusetts AG Maura Healey reached a settlement with mechanical contractor ENE Systems, Inc. to resolve allegations that it falsely certified compliance with equal opportunity and personnel requirements on contracts with the state in violation of the Massachusetts False Claims Act.
  • According to the AG’s office, ENE Systems allegedly met only 13% of the minority- or women-owned business participation goals set forth in its contracts with the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (“DCAMM”). In addition, ENE Systems allegedly misrepresented the number of hours its project manager was present on-site.
  • Under the assurance of discontinuance, ENE Systems will pay $300,000 to the state and will waive $81,712 held by DCAMM. In addition, ENE Systems must have a bid manager for each bid it submits to a political subdivision of the state and a contract manager to ensure compliance with contractual obligations.
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