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CWAG Weekly Roundup
October 16, 2014


 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

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INDIAN LAW

 

CWAG Associate Attorney General George Jepsen of Connecticut filed official comments with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on behalf of the state in opposition to proposed rules issued that would significantly weaken the substantive requirements for federal tribal recognition. Governor Dannel P. Malloy said that he supports the Attorney General's comments and that, if ultimately enacted, the BIA's proposed rules would have a unique impact in Connecticut. "The proposed rules would have a grave and unfair impact on Connecticut and should not be adopted in their current form," said Governor Malloy. "Such a change would likely result in federal acknowledgement for groups that have made land claims to large areas of settled land here in Connecticut, and who have already been denied recognition after a long, intense, and fact-based federal process." "The proposed rules represent a dramatic departure from the standards and process governing acknowledgment decisions for nearly 40 years," said General Jepsen.  "If adopted as proposed, petitioners could gain recognition in circumstances completely at odds with fundamental principles of tribal acknowledgement. These proposals - which could give previously denied petitioners a second bite at the apple under greatly weakened criteria - are unjustified and should be rejected." 

 

CONSUMER PRIVACY

 

CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced a $28.4 million settlement with Aaron's, Inc., the second largest rent-to-own business in the nation, to resolve allegations that the company violated California consumer protection and privacy laws. "Aaron's concealed its illegal privacy and business practices from customers in a deceptive attempt to avoid California's robust consumer protection laws and increase its profits," General Harris said. "This settlement provides millions of dollars in restitution to consumers and requires Aaron's to make significant changes to its business practices." The complaint alleges that Aaron's violated California state privacy laws by permitting its franchised stores to install spyware on laptop computers rented to its customers. A feature in the spyware program called 'Detective Mode', which was installed without consumers' consent or knowledge, allowed the Aaron's franchisees to remotely monitor keystrokes, capture screenshots, track the physical location of consumers and even activate the rented computer's webcam. The installation of this software without customer consent violated California law. 

 

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN

 

CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana announced that agents with the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) arrested two individuals in Glendive for attempting to have sex with a child. The suspects were arrested after responding in-person to prostitution advertisements DCI agents placed on Craigslist and Backpage.com. When initially responding to the ads online, the suspects were notified that the females would be 13 and 15 years old. They then made arrangements to come to Glendive. "This operation is part of our ongoing efforts to find and prosecute the predators who prey upon Montana's children," General Fox said. "It also testifies to the great results we can achieve when local, state, and federal law enforcement partners work together for a common goal." 

 

MONEY LAUNDERING

 

CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma announced the creation of an Anti-Money Laundering Division at the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office. The division will be a part of the Attorney General's Multicounty Grand Jury Unit and will provide Oklahoma with the first comprehensive, statewide focus on combating criminal money laundering activities. "The Anti-Money Laundering Division will provide a comprehensive focus on combating criminal money laundering activities throughout the state," General Pruitt said. "Oklahoma's central location and interstate highways unfortunately mean we are in the center of trafficking by criminal enterprises. Every day in cities across Oklahoma, the proceeds from drug, firearm and human trafficking by criminal enterprises are laundered in a variety of ways. Until now, there was no statewide focus on anti-money laundering in Oklahoma. These investigations will focus on seizing the assets of criminal enterprises. Assets and operations can outlast the prosecution and incarceration of any individual member of a criminal organization. By seizing assets and disrupting the criminal enterprise, we can more effectively combat organized crime in Oklahoma." 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

 

CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota and CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma filed comments challenging a rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers which would broaden their powers under the federal Clean Water Act. The proposed rule seeks to give authority over the development and use of intrastate water and land resources to the EPA and the Corps, in contravention of specific language in the Clean Water Act that gives primary responsibility over these resources to the States. "The EPA and the Corps are overstepping their Congressional authority and seizing rights specifically reserved to the States," General Jackley said. "The EPA and the Corps are creating uncertainty for farmers, developers and our agriculture community that need to have fairness and a degree of common sense in determining when a federal permit is needed." "The proposed rule unlawfully and unconstitutionally asserts federal control over local water and land by needlessly replacing state and local land-use management with top-down, federal control," General Pruitt said in a release. "If this rule were put into practice, ditches and ponds that only hold water when it rains would be regulated by the EPA and Corps of Engineers. This rule should be withdrawn and replaced with a common-sense alternative that respects states' primary responsibility over lands and waters within their borders while also giving land owners clear guidance."

 

CONSUMER PROTECTION

 

CWAG Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, along with a bipartisan group of 13 other state attorneys general, sent a letter to U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), and U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in  support of their legislation, S2204,  that would improve coordination among federal agencies overseeing the for-profit college industry. "The current status quo allows for-profit colleges to focus more on obtaining federal student loans and less on insuring their students receive a quality education," said General Masto.  "This trend is leaving students with sky-high student debt and a degree they can't use. Increased federal oversight of for-profit schools will ensure students are being prepared to be competent professionals in their field and are getting the quality education they deserve."  

 

CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that the Iowa Superintendent of Banking revoked an Anaheim, California, online lender's Iowa license and the company must pay $1.5 million in restitution costs, in a settlement with Iowa's Division of Banking negotiated with the assistance of General Miller. The agreement with CashCall Inc. requires the company to stop lending to Iowans and pay restitution for more than 3,400 illegal loans the company made to Iowa borrowers. According to a 2013 amended statement of charges filed with the Iowa Superintendent of Banking, an examination conducted by the Banking Division revealed CashCall charged borrowers interest rates of up to 169 percent, far exceeding the maximum rate that Iowa law allows. "CashCall charged outrageous interest rates and illegal fees, and we're pleased that the Superintendent of Banking and our office were able to obtain restitution for Iowa borrowers through this agreement," General Miller said. 

 

CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Sorrell of Vermont announced that Intercept Corporation, a North Dakota company that processes electronic payments, will pay $75,000 to Vermont consumers and pay the State of Vermont $10,000 to settle claims that the company violated Vermont consumer protection laws. "Vermont currently has the strongest law in the nation to combat predatory high-interest, unlicensed loans - loans that historically were called payday loans," said General Sorrell. "Our consumer protection law makes payment processors and others who assist illegal lenders directly responsible for the harms caused by illegal loans. This is the second settlement against a payment processor and a further warning to those who assist illegal lenders." 

 

PUBLIC HEALTH

 

A temporary restraining order has been granted blocking the disposal of incinerated waste from the Dallas Ebola victim's personal items and belongings at a Louisiana landfill, announced CWAG Associate Attorney General Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana. It was reported that six truckloads of potential Ebola contaminated material collected from the apartment where the Dallas Ebola victim became ill were brought to Port Arthur, Texas, to be processed at the Veolia Environmental Services incinerator. From there the incinerated material was slated to be transported to the Chemical Waste Management hazardous material landfill in Calcasieu Parish for final disposal. General Caldwell said, "We certainly share sadness and compassion for those who have lost their lives and loved ones to this terrible virus, but the health and safety of our Louisiana citizens is our top priority. Even the CDC and our health care workers seem uncertain as to the effectiveness of purported protocols in dealing with Ebola. There are too many unknowns at this point, and it is absurd to transport potentially hazardous Ebola waste across state lines. We just can't afford to take any risks when it comes to this deadly virus."

 

UPDATE FROM CWAG FRIEND JOE JACQUOT

 

Foley & Lardner LLP announced that Joe Jacquot has joined the firm's Consumer Financial Services Litigation Practice as a partner. Mr. Jacquot's extensive experience includes serving as the deputy attorney general of Florida and chief of staff for the Florida Attorney General from 2007-2011. His achievements include successfully arguing the state's position before the U.S. Supreme Court in Florida v. Powell. Additionally, he was the lead strategic lawyer for the constitutional case, Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, brought by 26 states. More recently, Mr. Jacquot was senior vice president and corporate counsel to a Fortune 1000 company in the financial services industry. Prior to his work at the attorney general's office, Mr. Jacquot worked for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as the deputy chief counsel where he oversaw constitutional and legislative issues.

 

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

505-222-9175

505-660-5901 (cell)

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CCoppin@cwagweb.org

Ccoppin@nmag.gov