United States: State AGs In The News - 30 January 2014


Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley Discusses Patent Trolls with Dickstein Shapiro's Bernie Nash

  • Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley recently sat down with Dickstein Shapiro's Bernie Nash to discuss how the states and federal government are addressing the patent troll problem.
  • AG Coakley stated that the issue is taken up by State AGs because patent troll activities, typically where companies threaten patent infringement litigation based on false claims of rights, run afoul of the state consumer protection laws.
  • Regarding the U.S. Constitution's authority over intellectual property, AG Coakley distinguished the activities of patent trolls from the actual patent process, stating that the patent trolls "are individuals and entities that know or should know they have no real basis for the claims they are making and who take advantage of the complexity of the patent system and expense of intellectual property lawyers and experts to extort money from legitimate businesses."
  • AG Coakley envisions the nation's AGs working with the Federal Trade Commission and Congress to shape laws and regulations that "can best thwart the abuse of the intellectual property system by bad actors while preserving the incentive to innovate."

Patent Troll Roundtable with InsideCounsel and Dickstein Shapiro

  • InsideCounsel and Dickstein Shapiro are co-hosting a roundtable on February 4, 2014 in New York City that will focus on the rise of patent trolls.
  • The issue of patent trolls is an area of mutual concern for State AGs and corporate legal officers. The roundtable will include panelists from both groups. Vermont AG Bill Sorrell and Nebraska AG Jon Bruning will join the panel to discuss their recent efforts to combat harmful business practices involving patent trolls in their states. The general counsels of DuPont, Rackspace and Walmart will also participate in the panel and speak about the impact patent trolls have had on their businesses.
  • Bernie Nash, practice leader of Dickstein Shapiro's State Attorneys General Practice, will moderate the panel.
  • Click here for more information about the event.


Connecticut Attorney General Settles Antitrust Suit Over Snow Removal Services

  • Connecticut AG George Jepsen announced settlements with three Southbury, CT companies over allegations of illegal boycotts and bid-rigging involving snow removal and snowplowing services in violation of the state Antitrust and Unfair Trade Practice Acts.
  • The companies, H. I. Stone & Son, Inc., S&S Asphalt Paving, Inc., and Stone Construction Company, Inc., will each pay the state $30,000 in civil penalties and provide the town of Southbury with snow removal services at the original rate prior to the alleged activities for three years.
  • AG Jepsen is the co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Antitrust Committee.


Data Breach Consumer Advisory Released by CFPB

  • Pursuant to its mission to make markets for consumer financial products and services function well, and in response to questions regarding recent high-profile data breaches in the news, the CFPB has issued a consumer advisory offering guidance on detecting possible debit and credit card data theft and handling fraudulent account charges.
  • The CFPB advises consumers to monitor charge and debit accounts for unauthorized activity, to report suspicious activity immediately, to submit complaints to the CFPB when credit card companies or banks are not responsive in addressing a suspected data breach, and to ignore "phishing" scams that seek access to account information over the phone or by email.

CFPB Issues Order and Fine to Lender for Real Estate Referral Kickbacks

  • The CFPB charged Missouri non-depository mortgage lender Fidelity Mortgage Corporation, and its former owner and current president Mark Figert, with entering into an agreement with a bank where the bank referred potential borrowers to Fidelity in exchange for kickbacks in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
  • "Kickbacks harm consumers by hampering fair market competition and by unnecessarily increasing the costs of getting a mortgage," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
  • The order requires Fidelity to pay $81,076, which includes the company's proceeds from the challenged business.


New York Attorney General Reaches Settlement with New Jersey Beverage Company Over Alleged Bottle Bill Violations

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with New Jersey based beverage company FID Distributors LLC over allegations that it violated New York's Returnable Container Act (commonly referred to as the "Bottle Bill") by collecting deposits on beverage containers it sold, but failing to remit to the state 80 percent of those deposits that were never claimed.
  • "The Bottle Bill is one of New York's hallmark environmental laws," AG Schneiderman said. "Companies that skirt the Bottle Bill not only hurt recycling and anti-littering efforts, they also deprive the state of critical funding for environmental protection programs."
  • FID is alleged to have collected $411,782 between October 2010 and May 2012, and failed to remit $329,426. Under the terms of the Assurance of Discontinuance, FID will pay the state $159,227.


New York Attorney General Settles with Insurer Over Coverage of Young Adults

  • An investigation by New York AG Eric Schneiderman's office has uncovered alleged violations of New York's Age 29 Law by EmblemHealth, Inc. The law extends the availability of health insurance coverage under their parent's policies to young adults until they turn 30 years old.
  • The company was alleged to have denied coverage without sending statutorily required notice letters regarding their coverage and notifying policy holders of the Age 29 Law.
  • The settlement requires EmblemHealth to reinstate health coverage to more than 8,000 young adults whose coverage was terminated and to pay $90,000 in denied claims. EmblemHealth will also be required to submit to monitoring, an independent audit, and will pay a $100,000 civil penalty.


New York Law Firm Banned from State by Rhode Island Attorney General for Mortgage Modification Services

  • Rhode Island AG Peter Kilmartin, following up on a consumer complaint, investigated the Litvin Law Firm for allegedly charging homeowners steep fees for mortgage modification services.
  • The AG found the firm to be in violation of the state's Deceptive Trade Practice and Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Regulation Acts, and found that the principal attorney Gennady Litvin was not licensed to practice law in the state by the Rhode Island Bar Association.
  • The firm has been banned from doing business in Rhode Island and must pay $8,000 to settle the complaint. The firm also agreed to cooperate with any future complaints.


State Attorneys General Seek Protection for Tobacco Regulations in International Trade and Investment Agreements

  • The AGs of 47 states and territories have sent a letter to the U. S. Trade Representative, through NAAG and co-sponsored by Vermont AG William Sorrell and Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden, urging the exclusion of tobacco and related products when negotiating international trade and investment agreements.
  • NAAG believes that the current Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement proposals do not adequately protect state and local regulation of tobacco and tobacco products.
  • The letter states "Experience has shown that state and local laws and regulations may be challenged by tobacco companies that aggressively assert claims under bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements, either directly under investor-state provisions or indirectly by instigating and supporting actions by countries that are parties to such agreements."

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