Election News

The State AG Report Weekly Update May 19, 2016

2016 AG Elections

Save the Date: Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Practice Co-Hosts Teleconference on Prognostications for the 2016 Attorney General Elections

  • On Tuesday, May 24 from 12pm to 1pm, Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Practice Co-Chairs Bernard Nash and Lori Kalani will provide their insights and prognostications on the 2016 state AG elections, as part of Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies’ series of 2016 briefings on the presidential election.
  • Click here to learn more about next week’s briefing and how to participate.

Climate Change

Texas and Alabama Attorneys General Seek to Intervene in Climate Change Investigation Against Oil Company

  • Texas AG Ken Paxton and Alabama AG Luther Strange moved a state court in Texas to intervene in a case that seeks to quash a subpoena issued to Exxon Mobil Corp. (“Exxon”) by U.S. Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker, the territories’ law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC (“Cohen Milstein”), and the law firm attorney handling the matter, Linda Singer.
  • In the case, Exxon alleges, among other things, that a subpoena that sought internal company documents regarding climate change violates Exxon’s constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process of law.
  • The AGs similarly argue that the investigation violates Exxon’s First Amendment rights, adding that the case “appears to be driven by ideology, and not law.” According to the AGs, the investigation constitutes an improper fishing expedition that seeks to punish Exxon for its opinion with respect to climate change.

Consumer Protection

Supreme Court Holds that Private Counsel Can Use Attorney General Letterhead when Representing the State in Debt Collection

  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overruled a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decision, finding that letters sent by private debt collection attorneys on behalf of Ohio AG Mike DeWine, using AG DeWine’s official letterhead, did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).
  • In its decision, Sheriff et al. v. Gillie et al., the Supreme Court held that the letters were not misleading because the private debt collection attorneys, or “special counsel,” acted with the authorization of the AG’s office and were required by the AG to use official letterhead when communicating with debtors. The Court did not decide whether the special counsel, hired by an AG qualify as “state officers” who are exempt under the FDCPA, as the private attorneys had argued.
  • 8 AGs, led by Michigan AG Bill Schuette, filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to find special counsel to be state officers under the FDCPA, noting in part that States should be entitled to exercise their sovereign power to implement solutions through independent contractors and benefit from those contractors having state-officer status.
  • The Sixth Circuit had held that special counsel were not exempt from the FDCPA as officers of the state and that a jury could find their use of state letterhead misleading.

Financial Industry

Vermont Attorney General Announces that His Office Assisted Google’s Ban of Payday Loan Advertisements

  • Vermont AG William Sorrell announced that his office assisted Google in the company’s efforts to ban advertisements for high-interest personal loans, also referred to as “payday” loans. Google recently announced that effective July 13, 2016, it would ban advertisements for personal loans that charge more than a 36 percent annual interest rate or require repayment within sixty days.
  • In April and December of 2014, AG Sorrell provided Google with listings of online money vendors that did not comply with Vermont state laws because they made online loans without state lending licenses and charged interest rates higher than limits set in state usury laws.

State v. Federal

6 Attorneys General File Amicus Brief in Support of Keystone Pipeline

  • 6 AGs from Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in support of TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline LP’s (“TransCanada”) motion for summary judgment in the case it filed earlier this year. TransCanada filed a complaint against the Obama Administration arguing that the Administration exceeded its authority by blocking completion of the pipeline.
  • In the brief, the AGs contend that the Obama Administration unlawfully interfered with Congress’s power to regulate interstate and international commerce by failing to approve a required permit that would have allowed the pipeline to be completed. The Obama Administration argued that completion of the pipeline conflicted with the national interest because it would have hurt its efforts to persuade other countries to address climate change.


Illinois Attorney General Settles with Energy Company Over Alleged Misrepresentations Regarding Pipe Replacement Project

  • Illinois AG Lisa Madigan settled with Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (“Peoples”) and its parent company, Integrys Energy Croup (“Integrys”), which is owned by WEC Energy Group, Inc. (“WEC”), to resolve an investigation into alleged misrepresentations made to the state about the cost of a pipe replacement project known as the Accelerated Main Replacement Program.
  • According to the AG’s office, Peoples and Integrys allegedly failed to advise the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”) when seeking approval for their merger that the project, which replaces aging gas mains in Chicago with modern pipes, would cost its customers $8 billion in fees. According to the AG’s office, prior to Peoples’ merger with WEC, company executives allegedly estimated the cost of the program at $4.5 billion.
  • Under the terms of the settlement with the AG and the ICC, Peoples, Integrys, and WEC agreed to pay a total of $18.5 million.