2022 AG Elections
Kansas Attorney General Eyes Governor’s Mansion
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
CFPB Clarifies Scope of Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s Protections Against Sex Discrimination
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) issued an interpretive rule clarifying that the prohibition against sex discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) and its implementing regulation, Regulation B, also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The interpretive rule makes clear that lenders cannot discriminate against borrowers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including on the basis of actual or perceived nonconformity with sex-based or gender-based stereotypes, or on the basis of an applicant’s social or other associations. The rule cites its consistency with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 140 S. Ct. 1731, holding that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
- The CFPB stated that it will take enforcement action under ECOA against financial institutions that violate this law.
39 Attorneys General, FTC Shut Down Alleged Charity Scammers Using Robocalls
- A bipartisan group of 39 AGs, led by Michigan AG Dana Nessel, and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) reached a settlement with tele-fundraising company Associated Community Services and related entities and individuals (collectively, “ACS”) over allegations that ACS engaged in a fraudulent charitable solicitation scheme that used tens of millions of illegal robocalls to solicit donations from the public in violation of the FTC Act and state consumer protection, business regulation, charitable solicitation, and/or charitable trust laws.
- The complaint alleged that ACS made over 1.3 billion calls to more than 67 million consumers, targeted certain phone numbers with more than ten phone calls in a week and more than twice in an hour, and called some phone numbers over 5,000 times. Through these tactics, ACS collected over $110 million for organizations that claimed to support charitable causes such as homeless veterans, breast cancer patients, and children with autism, but it kept over 90% of donations received. The complaint further alleged that, after ACS stopped operating in 2019, some of the individual defendants continued their deceptive fundraising and illegal robocalling practices under other companies names—Directele Inc. and The Dale Corporation.
- Under the stipulated orders, ACS is subject to a monetary judgment of over $110 million, which is partially suspended for inability to pay, and is permanently barred from conducting or consulting on any fundraising activities, from using any existing donor lists, and from undertaking any telemarketing activities, among other things. Related entities Directele and The Dale Corporation will be dissolved, and their related defendants are similarly barred from future telemarketing, robocalling, or fundraising activities.
Appliance Retailer to Settle Unfair Business Practices Suit for $10.5 Million
- California AG Xavier Becerra reached partial settlement with appliance retail store chain Adir International, LLC d/b/a La Curacao and a related entity and individual (collectively, “Curacao”) to resolve allegations that it engaged in unlawful business practices and misleading advertising in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and other consumer protection statutes.
- As previously reported, the complaint alleged that Curacao targeted low-income, Spanish-speaking immigrants who lacked access to traditional credit through allegedly misleading advertising, unwanted contract add-ons, illegal sales of warranties or failed warranties, and illegal debt collection practices. Curacao also allegedly violated consumers’ rights by bringing small claims actions over allegedly delinquent loans without issuing proper notice to consumers.
- Under the terms of the partial judgment, Curacao will provide $10 million in debt relief and debt forgiveness to consumers and will pay a civil penalty of $500,000. In addition Curacao will be required to prominently display a consumers’ bill of rights in its stores, including its return policies, include additional disclosures in its advertising, provide a contract in the consumer’s language before asking them to sign it, engage a corporate ethics expert to create and maintain a sales program that incentivizes lawful behavior, and report its compliance to the AG’s office for 2.5 years, among other things.
- Unresolved claims related to Curacao’s payment protection plans and insurance practices are set for trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Ticket Agency to Fully Refund Consumers and Event Organizers for Pandemic-Related Cancellations
- Washington AG Bob Ferguson reached a settlement with ticket management company Brown Paper Tickets, LLC to resolve allegations that it failed to pay event organizers for held events and to issue refunds to consumers for cancelled events in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
- As previously reported, the complaint alleged that Brown Paper Tickets owed event organizers millions of dollars for physical events held before the COVID-19 shutdowns and for virtual events held since the shutdowns began, and that Brown Paper Tickets owed approximately $760,000 in refunds to consumers nationwide for cancelled events.
- Under the terms of the consent decree, Brown Paper Tickets will fully refund all purchased tickets to cancelled events, and pay all the money it owes to organizers of past held events, pay $70,000 to the AG’s office for attorneys’ fees and costs, and submit detailed reports to the AG’s office every 30 days on the status of the refunds.
FTC Cracks Down on CBD Retailers for Allegedly Deceptive Health Marketing Claims
- The FTC approved final administrative consent orders against cannabidiol (“CBD”) companies Bionatrol Health, LLC, HempmeCBD, Epichouse LLC, CBD Meds, Inc., Reef Industries, Inc., and Steves Distributing, LLC, and related companies and individuals that allegedly used unsubstantiated or deceptive health claims to market CBD products in violation of the FTC Act.
- The complaints against Bionatrol Health, Epichouse, CBD Meds, HempmeCBD, Reef Industries, and Steves Distributing alleged that they made scientifically unsupported claims about the ability of their products to treat serious medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and AIDS, and to manage pain better than prescription medications like OxyContin, among other things.
- Under the terms of the consent decrees, Bionatrol Health will pay $20,000, HempmeCBD will pay over $36,000, Epichouse will pay $30,000, Reef Industries will pay $85,000, and Steves Distributing will pay $75,000 to the FTC. All defendants, including CBD Meds, must cease using unsubstantiated health claims in their marketing and notify consumers who bought relevant products about the FTC’s action and that the vendor has no proof of its marketing claims, among other things.