The State AG Report Weekly Update May 2019 #4

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2019 AG Elections

Republican Daniel Cameron and Democrat Greg Stumbo Secure Party Nominations for Kentucky Attorney General

2020 AG Elections

Republican Austin Knudsen Announces Candidacy for Montana Attorney General

  • Austin Knudsen, a Republican, announced his candidacy for Montana AG in 2020.
  • Knudsen serves as Roosevelt County Attorney, and previously served as Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives and worked as an attorney in private practice.
  • As previously reported, Chief Deputy AG Jon Bennion is also seeking the Republican nomination for AG, and state Representative Kimberly Dudik and Raph Graybill, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Steve Bullock, are seeking the Democratic nomination.
  • Current AG Tim Fox, a Republican who is serving his second term, is term-limited and seeking the Republican nomination for Governor.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

25 Democratic Attorneys General Oppose CFPB Proposed Rule to Rescind Certain Provisions of Payday Lending Rule

  • 25 Democratic AGs, led by New Jersey AG Gurbir Grewal and District of Columbia AG Karl Racine, submitted a comment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) in response to the CFPB’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) that would rescind certain provisions of its 2017 Final Rule Governing Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans (“Final Rule”).
  • In the comment, the AGs—who share enforcement authority with the CFPB under the Final Rule—urge the CFPB not to rescind certain provisions of its Final Rule, such as a provision that requires lenders to consider consumers’ ability to repay when underwriting loans, because the Final Rule was adopted to curb abuses in the payday and vehicle title lending industries and end the cycle of debt for consumers, and rescinding these provisions would eliminate protections and leave borrowers vulnerable to debt traps that the Final Rule was designed to eliminate.
  • As previously reported, 25 Democratic AGs submitted a comment in opposition to the CFPB’s concurrent NPRM that would delay the compliance date of its Final Rule from the original deadline of August 19, 2019 to November 19, 2020.

CFPB Sues Debt-Collection Law Firm Over Allegedly Misrepresenting Attorney Involvement in Lawsuits

  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit against debt-collection law firm Forster & Garbus, LLP over allegations that it misrepresented attorney involvement in lawsuits in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act.
  • According to the complaint, Forster & Garbus allegedly filed debt collection lawsuits that bore the names and signatures of attorneys when, in fact, attorneys had not reviewed the merits of lawsuits, conducted factual inquiries, or prepared the pleadings; relied on non-attorney staff and automated processes to identify accounts for potential lawsuits; and designated only a few associate attorneys to review and sign tens of thousands of complaints, among other things.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief, damages, restitution, disgorgement, civil penalties, and costs.

Consumer Protection

FTC Sues Telemarketing Companies Over Allegedly Deceptive Robocalls to Small Businesses

  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) filed a lawsuit against telemarketing companies Pointbreak Media, LLC, DCP Marketing, LLC, Modern Spotlight LLC, Modern Spotlight Group LLC, Modern Source Media, LLC, Modern Internet Marketing LLC, Perfect Image Online LLC, and related individuals over allegations that they made deceptive robocalls to small businesses falsely threatening removal from and offering placement among internet search results in violation of the FTC Act.
  • According to the complaint, the telemarketing companies allegedly made robocalls to small business owners falsely claiming, among other things, that they were authorized by Google to make the call, that the businesses must pay the telemarketing companies to “claim and verify” their businesses to avoid being removed from Google search results, and that paying the telemarketing companies to link certain keywords to the businesses’ listings would result in first-page placement in Google search results; and also made unauthorized withdrawals from the businesses’ accounts, among other things.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief, rescission or reformation of contracts, restitution, disgorgement, and costs.

FTC Settles With Online Subscription Company Over Allegedly Misrepresenting Customer Reviews and Terms of Free Trials

  • The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) reached a settlement with online subscription company UrthBox, Inc. and its principal (collectively, “UrthBox”) to resolve allegations that it misrepresented the independence of its customer reviews and terms of its free trials in violation of the FTC Act and the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act.
  • According to the complaint, UrthBox allegedly offered customers store credit or free snack boxes in exchange for positive reviews—which customers did not disclose were not independent reviews—on the company’s Better Business Bureau profile, TrustPilot.com, and on customers’ personal social media accounts, and paid cash bonuses to its customer service representatives for inducing customers to post positive reviews. UrthBox also allegedly misrepresented that customers were receiving “free” snack boxes, when it actually was enrolling these customers in subscription plans.
  • Under the terms of the decision and order, UrthBox must pay $100,000 to the FTC, cease misrepresenting the independence of customer reviews, disclose any connections between the company and its reviewers, remove reviews not in compliance with the terms, fully disclose the terms of its “free” snack box offers, obtain customers’ informed consent before obtaining payment, provide a simple mechanism for consumers to cancel subscriptions, and monitor compliance with the terms of the order.

E-Cigarettes

North Carolina Attorney General Sues E-Cigarette Manufacturer Over Allegedly Advertising to Minors and Misrepresenting Product Risks

  • North Carolina AG Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer JUUL Labs, Inc. (“JUUL”) over allegations that it targeted advertising towards minors and misrepresented the risks of its products in violation of the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
  • According to the complaint, JUUL allegedly designed the flavors, appearance, and chemical composition of its e-cigarette products to appeal to minors, marketed its products on social media platforms known to attract minors using youth-oriented “influencer” personalities, failed to adequately verify online purchasers’ ages, and misrepresented the nicotine strength and risks of addiction of its products.
  • The complaint seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, disgorgement, and attorney’s fees and costs.
  • As previously reported, AG Stein initiated the investigation of JUUL in October 2018 and Massachusetts AG Maura Healey initiated an investigation of JUUL over similar concerns in July 2018.

Labor & Employment

Connecticut Attorney General Issues Formal Opinion on Proposed Labor Legislation

  • Connecticut AG William Tong issued Formal Opinion 2019-03 analyzing whether two bills, one that would prohibit employers from keeping employees as a “captive audience” at employer-sponsored meetings if the primary purpose of the meeting is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning the decision to join or support a labor organization, and another that would define the scope of protections of employees’ freedoms of speech and association, are preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).
  • In the Opinion, AG Tong wrote that the “captive audience” bill, S.B. 64, is preempted by the NLRA and therefore unconstitutional, based on Formal Opinion 2018-02, in which former AG George Jepsen concluded that substantively identical legislation was likely unconstitutional.
  • AG Tong further wrote that the freedoms of speech and association bill, S.B. 440, is likely not preempted by the NLRA or unconstitutional because it provides a cause of action for employees who have suffered adverse employment actions as a result of exercising their rights, which makes it akin to the kind of generally applicable law aimed at protecting state employees’ rights that the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded states can enact.

State AGs in the News 

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear Wins Democratic Primary Election for Governor

  • Kentucky AG Andy Beshear defeated three opponents to win the Democratic nomination for AG.
  • AG Beshear will face Republican first-term incumbent Governor Matt Bevin in the general election on November 5, 2019. 

State v. Federal

15 Democratic Attorneys General Oppose U.S. Department of Labor Proposed Rule to Rescind Overtime Protections for Workers

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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Updated: May 25, 2018:

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Privacy Officer
JD Supra, LLC
10 Liberty Ship Way, Suite 300
Sausalito, California 94965

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