United States: State AGs In The News - March 5th, 2015

Hot News

Received a State AG Subpoena? Determine if Your Insurer Must Pay

  • In a recent blog post, Dickstein Shapiro partners Maria Colsey Heard and Ann-Marie Luciano offer advice for companies facing AG investigations.

Consumer Protection

New York Attorney General Teams With FTC to Sue Debt Collectors

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed lawsuits against two groups of related entities: Vantage Point Services, LLC, and Four Star Resolution, LLC. The lawsuits alleged violations of the U.S. FTC Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as New York State laws against abusive debt-collection, and unfair and deceptive practices. Although located in Buffalo, defendants are alleged to have collected more than $45 million in supposed debts, nationwide.
  • In collection calls to consumers, the Vantage Point defendants allegedly held themselves out as government agencies—including the FBI—used abusive language, and threatened consumers with arrest if they did not pay.
  • The Four Star defendants allegedly claimed to be attorneys, investigators, process servers, court officials, government agents, and criminal law enforcers during collection calls, and "spoofed" real law enforcement phone numbers, and threatened consumers with criminal action, wage garnishment, and seizure of their property for failure to pay.
  • The lawsuits were filed in the Western District of New York. The court granted temporary restraining orders against defendants, enjoining their debt collection practices and freezing their assets.

FTC Settles With Company That Allegedly Paid Customers for Online Endorsements

  • The FTC entered into a consent order with Amerifreight, Inc., to resolve claims that the automobile shipment broker committed unfair and deceptive practices under the FTC Act. This administrative complaint marks the first time the FTC has charged a company for failing to disclose that it gave cash discounts to customers to post reviews.
  • The FTC alleged that Amerifreight deceived consumers by providing cash discounts and other incentives to customers who agreed to provide good reviews in online forums. The FTC also alleged that Amerifreight did not disclose that it compensated consumers to provide reviews, and represented its favorable reviews as a product of unbiased and unprompted customer reaction.
  • The consent order precludes Amerifreight from making future misrepresentations and requires it to disclose any material connection between an endorsing entity and Amerifreight. It also requires, among other things, that the company maintain, for five years, copies of advertisements or promotional materials containing representations covered by the consent order, as well as complaints or inquiries against the company concerning any endorsement of its services. Amerifreight did not admit to the claims made by the FTC, other than those facts necessary to establish jurisdiction.

Data Privacy

Connecticut Attorney General Probes Computer-Maker Over Software Vulnerability

  • Connecticut AG George Jepsen inquired into Lenovo Group Ltd., and software-maker Superfish, Inc., seeking information related to allegations that Lenovo computers were sold with built-in software that tracked users' internet browsing and made the computer more vulnerable to "man-in-the-middle" hacking, where a third party intercepts communications sent to and from the affected computer.
  • AG Jepsen sent letters to Lenovo and Superfish, requesting information on the companies' contractual and financial relationship. AG Jepsen also requested information on the number of affected computers sold, testing and quality control measures, and any current or future remedial measures. The AG indicated that such information is necessary to determine whether the companies had violated Connecticut's laws prohibiting unfair or deceptive trade practices.
  • Lenovo has promised to stop shipping products with Superfish installed and issued the following statement: "We have thoroughly investigated this technology, and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns."

President Obama Sparks Discussion With Draft Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights

  • President Obama released a "discussion draft" of a proposed bill for the creation of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The bill is designed to bolster transparency in how companies use consumer data, and to foster greater consumer control.
  • The response from interest groups, and the public, however, has been generally negative. In addition to finding the bill to be too lax, objectors note that the bill would preempt state data privacy laws that are already operating and that provide greater levels of protection to consumers.


Exxon Settles With New Jersey, Lawmakers and Interest Groups Object

  • Exxon Mobil Corporation has agreed to settle with New Jersey for $225 million (the New York Times had previously reported $250 million) over the company's liability for alleged environmental damage resulting from oil refining and petrochemical production at two sites dating back to the 1870s.
  • The court was rumored to be close to issuing a decision on damages, but Acting AG John Hoffman asked Judge Michael Hogan to defer his decision as the parties had agreed on the general parameters of a settlement. AG Hoffman called it an "important settlement" that "holds the company financially accountable through payment of a historic Natural Resource Damages settlement on top of Exxon's obligation to clean up the sites."
  • Although the settlement would end an eleven-year litigation, numerous interest groups have criticized the settlement as being too small in relation to the State's original claims of $8.9 billion, and in light of the fact that Exxon had essentially conceded liability.
  • The public will have a chance to comment on the agreement next month and it will be submitted to the court for approval in May. State Senators Steve Sweeney and Raymond Lesniak have indicated that they will challenge the proposed settlement, beginning with filing a motion to oppose the settlement with the court. Lesniak indicated the agreement can be overturned if it is fraudulent, arbitrary or capricious and that this settlement "certainly appears to be arbitrary and capricious, to say the least."

Attorneys General Testify Before Congress on EPA Proposed Rule

  • Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge and Montana AG Tim Fox appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Subcommittee on the Interior to testify regarding the scope and potential effects of three rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are scheduled to go into effect later this year.
  • The hearing focused on how certain state interests and small businesses will be affected by the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone, and the Waters of the United States rule.
  • State AGs have been increasingly active, on both sides, of EPA rule-making. Currently, a group of 20 AGs is challenging an EPA rule under the Clean Air Act at the U.S. Supreme Court, (with 17 AGs as co-respondents). AGs have also sued the EPA in other contexts, have joined in multiple amici briefs in support of, and opposition to EPA rules, and have submitted numerous comments to proposed rules.

Financial Industry

New York Attorney General Pushes Bill to Protect and Reward Whistleblowers

  • New York AG Eric Schneiderman has indicated that he will propose legislation to protect and reward insiders who report information about illegal activity in the financial services industries.
  • The Martin Act, a New York securities law that predates the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, gives the AG broad powers to investigate suspected fraud in the offer, sale or purchase of securities. However, it does not currently provide direct monetary incentives for industry insiders to come forward and aid in investigations.
  • The bill would create incentives for insiders to report fraud: it provides monetary rewards—10 to 30 percent of the final settlement or penalty—to individuals who voluntarily provide original and useful information, not previously known to the AG; keeps the identity of the whistleblower confidential; and it would prohibit employers from discharging, demoting, suspending, or otherwise retaliating against employees who report suspicious or fraudulent activity.
  • AG Schneiderman stated, "New York has a unique opportunity to set the gold standard for states seeking to expose and hold individuals accountable for financial crimes. This law will be the strongest, most comprehensive in the nation, and is long overdue for a state with the world's most important financial markets."

States vs Federal Government

Supreme Court Holds Tax Injunction Act Does Not Block Challenge of Tax Notification Requirements

  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Petitioner Direct Marketing Association (DMA), holding that the U.S. Tax Injunction Act (TIA)—which purports to restrict federal district courts from restraining the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law—does not preclude tax payers from challenging other aspects of state tax laws in federal court.
  • At the core of this dispute is a Colorado law that requires online retailers to report information for sales made to Colorado residents to the State Department of Revenue, to aid the state in collecting "use" taxes on those purchases. Petitioner, not wanting to litigate Colorado tax policy in state courts, filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the notification requirement burdened out-of-state retailers disproportionately as compared to in-state retailers. The State asserted that the TIA precluded the Petitioner from bringing a lawsuit to challenge the state tax law in federal court. Twenty-five AGs filed an amici brief in support of Colorado's position.
  • Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas indicated that the TIA did not apply to "notice and reporting requirements" that were tangential to the collection of state taxes. Thus, the TIA did not preclude DMA from challenging the law in federal court. However, the Court left it to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether the doctrine of comity could be applied to achieve a similar result.
  • In a separate opinion, Justice Kennedy observed, "[t]here is a powerful case to be made that a retailer doing extensive business within a state has a sufficiently substantial nexus to justify imposing some minor tax-collection duty, even if that business is done through mail or Internet." Kennedy's observation may indicate a willingness to break with previous decisions banning states from requiring retailers who lack a physical presence to collect and submit taxes to the state for sales made to residents.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.