Louisiana Attorney General Sues Drug Maker for Allegedly Delaying Generics
- Louisiana AG Buddy Caldwell filed a lawsuit alleging that GlaxoSmithKline LLC (GSK) violated the Louisiana Monopolies Act and Unfair Trade Practices Act by preventing or delaying Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval of generic versions of Flonase (fluticasone propionate) to keep them from entering the market.
- The complaint is based on a novel theory of liability, alleging that GSK used a "brand maturation" scheme, described as a combination of the following four actions: influencing the FDA bioequivalence guidance process; filing "baseless" citizen petitions with the FDA; drafting a new set of procedures and acceptance criteria in order to set standards for quality, purity, strength and consistency; and supplementing its original New Drug Application in an attempt to delay the FDA from approving applications from generic producers.
- The case was originally filed in state court, but has been noticed for removal to the Middle District of Louisiana. In its Notice of Removal, GSK asserts that its actions were done in compliance with standard FDA procedures. The AG is seeking restitution for "unlawfully inflated prices" paid by the state and treble damages.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
CFPB Secures $2 Million in Civil Penalties From Nonbank Mortgage Lender
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reached an agreement with New Day Financial, LLC, to resolve claims that the non-bank lender engaged in deceptive advertising in violation of the Dodd-Frank Act and paid illegal kickbacks in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
- New Day's primary business was to originate refinance mortgage loans guaranteed by the Veterans Benefits Administration. The CFPB alleged that New Day agreed to pay "lead generation" fees to a veterans' organization and a broker that facilitated the arrangement, in addition to a monthly licensing fee to the broker. In exchange, the veterans' organization named New Day its exclusive lender and referred veterans to New Day. New Day also allegedly advertised its exclusive endorsement to the members of the veteran's organization without disclosing the financial relationship between them.
- In accordance with the consent order, without admitting any of the allegations, New Day will implement a compliance plan to ensure its marketing of mortgage products complies with the law and must pay $2 million to the CFPB's Civil Penalty Fund.
Stealth Solar's Alleged Violations Detected by Arizona Attorney General
- Arizona AG Mark Brnovich settled with Stealth Solar, LLC, and its owners, resolving a lawsuit alleging that Stealth's sales force violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act by making false and deceptive statements to consumers in order to sell photovoltaic electricity generation (PV) systems.
- The consent judgment outlines a series of allegedly false or deceptive statements made by Stealth, including claims that utility bills will increase 10 to 12 percent per year without a PV system, or that 70 percent of the costs of a PV system are covered by government incentives.
- Pursuant to the terms of the consent judgment, Stealth is enjoined from making unsubstantiated claims and will pay $72,000 in restitution to consumers, as well as additional restitution based on consumer complaints received by the AG until July 1, 2015.
West Virginia Cracks Down on Pool Company Allegedly Violating Mortgage Laws
- West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey settled with Blue World Pools, Inc., regarding allegations that the company violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act in connection with the sale and financing of swimming pools in West Virginia.
- AG Morrisey alleged that Blue World used deceptive sales practices to secure finance agreements by filing a deed of trust against the consumer's property in which it was named as trustee, a practice the AG alleged was tantamount to making mortgage loans without a license. In addition, Blue World allegedly failed to make necessary financial disclosures and, in some cases, charged annual percentage rates that exceeded limits allowed in the state.
- Blue World did not admit to the allegations, but agreed to resolve the AG's claims through an assurance of discontinuance, in which it agreed to pay $1 million to the state with $500,000 designated for consumer restitution. Blue World also agreed to cancel almost $650,000 in consumer debt, and to request that credit reporting agencies delete any adverse information it may have reported.
Attorneys General Take Action in Health Insurer's Data Breach
- Massachusetts AG Maura Healey formally announced that her office is investigating the data breach at Anthem, Inc., through which hackers were able to gain access to information pertaining to Anthem's current and former customers and employees, including names, birthdates, social security numbers, addresses, email addresses, and employment and salary information.
- In addition, at least ten other AGs sent a letter demanding that Anthem provide better information as to who might be affected and to reimburse consumers who suffer losses during the delay between the breach and the notification and provision of credit monitoring.
- Anthem has created a website to provide information and guidance on this issue, on which it indicates that it will contact affected consumers directly. In addition, Anthem has posted answers to frequently asked questions and will be offering credit monitoring services for affected consumers.
Illinois Attorney General Asks Congress for Strong Data Breach Law, but Not Preemption
- Illinois AG Lisa Madigan testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, urging Congress to enact a strong federal law to address data protection, but to do so without preempting state efforts. AG Madigan stated, "A weak national law that restricts what most state laws have long provided will not meet Americans' increasing and rightful expectation that they be informed when their information has been stolen."
- As we have previously reported, data security has become a vibrant issue in state legislatures, and State AGs have been very active in investigating data breaches and pushing for stronger state laws.
False Claims Act
Attorneys General Look to Strengthen State False Claims Acts
- Maryland AG Brian Frosh urged the Maryland General Assembly to adopt a broader version of the state's False Claims Act, calling it his "top priority for the 2015 legislative session." Currently, the Maryland law only applies to Medicaid and health-related fraud.
- Under the bill submitted to the Senate and House of Delegates, which would apply to both state and local government, individuals would be able to report fraud committed by state contractors to the AG or local State's Attorney, who would review and pursue those claims with the most merit. If a case is successful, the state may receive triple damages, while the whistleblower would collect a reward and also receive protection against on-the-job retaliation.
- Other AGs are also pushing for more potent legislation to address false claims. In addition, states that enact federally compliant laws are able to keep a larger percentage of the money recovered from national lawsuits and settlements based in part on the federal False Claims Act.
Iowa Settles With Home Medicaid Services Provider
- Iowa AG Tom Miller, together with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), settled with ResCare Iowa, Inc., resolving claims that, from 2009 to 2014, the medical services provider violated the False Claims Act by submitting false home healthcare billings to Medicare and Medicaid programs.
- AG Miller and the DOJ accused ResCare of failing to provide proper documentation demonstrating that an independent physician performed a face-to-face assessment of each patient and that the physician certified that home care was medically necessary.
- ResCare agreed to pay $5.63 million to resolve both state and federal claims, with $2.32 million going to Iowa.
Attorney General Counsels Council That It Lacks Authorization to Enact Marijuana Law
- The District of Columbia Council canceled a hearing to debate Bill 21-23, the "Marijuana Legalization and Regulation Act of 2015" (Bill) after being advised by District AG Karl Racine that to do so would be unlawful.
- In a letter to various Council members, AG Racine advised that the Federal Appropriations Act for 2015 expressly prohibited the D.C. government from using 2015 funds to "enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties" for the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. AG Racine iterated this would apply to even a preliminary hearing, and thus Council members and District employees could be liable under the Anti-Deficiency Act, which prohibits the expenditure of funds that have not been appropriated. Among other things, AG Racine also highlighted that the Bill in current form goes beyond simply decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, and thus expands the measure approved by voters in last year's Ballot Initiative 71.
States v. Federal Government
Oklahoma Attorney General Voices Concerns to Congress Over EPA Rule, Threatens Legal Battle
- Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt testified at a Senate-House committee hearing, and continued to voice objections shared by other AGs to a proposed rule that would expand Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction under the U.S. Clean Water Act.
- The EPA's proposed rule seeks to broaden and clarify the definition of water that falls under the regulatory powers of the EPA to include seasonal and rain-dependent streams, as well as wetlands that are close to rivers.
- The AGs arguing against the rule highlighted the potential to disrupt small businesses ranging from farmers to home builders by requiring them to obtain EPA approval for any action that might affect surface water. However, other AGs and federal lawmakers indicated that the AGs' concerns were not supported by the text and purpose of the rule. The EPA plans to make the rule final this spring, but according to EPA head Gina McCarthy, the final wording of the rule will "provide more clarity on the basis of the comments that we received."
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