SAVE THE DATE
CWAG Chair, Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum, announces that she will hold her CWAG Chair initiative on May 24, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. The one day conference will address the issue of education debt. The agenda is being formed now and will address such issues as loan consolidation, student/parent education, analyzing educational institution value and debt relief. The CWAG Roundup will feature stories on education debt as the date for the conference approaches.
NEW CONTACT INFORMATION FOR CWAG LEGAL DIRECTOR
CWAG Legal Director, Chris Coppin, will be moving soon from his offices at the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. CWAG thanks New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and his staff for providing support and assistance to Chris and CWAG since he took office. The new contact information for Chris is below.
UPDATE ON ATTORNEY GENERAL v. GOVERNOR STORY
The Colorado Supreme Court denied the Governor's challenge to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman's independent authority. General Coffman issued the following statement on the Court's order denying the Governor's petition: "Today, the Supreme Court declined to hear the Governor's challenge to the Attorney General's independent constitutional authority. The roles of the Governor and Attorney General are separate and distinct. The two executive officers must work independently to best serve all the citizens of Colorado. I look forward to a successful working relationship with Governor Hickenlooper while always remembering my duty to Coloradans as their lawyer."
CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon and 38 state Attorneys General and the District of Columbia announced a multi-state settlement with Education Management Corporation (EDMC), the for-profit college consortium that operates 110 online and mortar schools, including The Art Institute of Portland. Under the settlement, more than 650 former Oregon EDMC students will have approximately $750,000 in loans forgiven, and the company will significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices. "The massive amount of school debt that Oregon students face each year is overwhelming young adults, and even older ones, who are saddled with debt for life. When a for-profit school impacts Oregon students with what we believe are deceptive recruitment and enrollment practices, we must find some relief for students, and get those practices changed. This settlement stops those practices." said General Rosenblum.
In an effort to help borrowers struggling to repay student debt, Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts announced a new student loan assistance unit and a crackdown on unlawful debt relief companies. "These are so similar to some of the problems we saw and some of the practices we saw with the mortgage crisis," General Healey said. "Families struggling to get by, servicers not doing their job, and scam artists stepping in to take advantage of vulnerable people." Going after what she described as a "new cottage industry" of debt-relief companies targeting students, Healey said she has banned two such businesses from operating in Massachusetts. An investigation by her office into Irvine Webworks Inc. and Interactiv Education LLC turned up allegations of illegal upfront fees, aggressive marketing and deception of borrowers, she said.
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico announced that a state court judge imposed an additional 24 years of incarceration on convicted human trafficker Wallace Carson. The Office of the Attorney General successfully investigated and prosecuted Mr. Carson's case. The additional time was imposed under New Mexico's "Habitual Offender Enhancement" laws. Judge Whitaker found that Mr. Carson was a "habitual offender" with two prior felony convictions from Texas. This finding requires Mr. Carson to serve an additional four years on every felony of which he was convicted last spring.
Jerome Elam is an author, lecturer, and human trafficking survivor. When he was 5-years-old Elam's stepfather started molesting him. Before long, his stepfather started using him for child pornography and then introduced him to his pedophile ring. CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah invited Mr. Elam to meet with him to share his story. "Americans are truly some of the biggest perpetrators and provide most of the demand for child sex trafficking that's going around," said General Reyes. Child sex trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It surpasses gun running and counterfeiting, both of which are multi-billion dollar industries. It is second only to the drug trade. "It was critical for me. Meeting with people like Jerome, they're heroes to me. They inspire me and from a very practical standpoint they can help our office of the attorney general be a better servant to the people of the state of Utah," said General Reyes.
CWAG Attorney General Edward Manibusan of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and CWAG Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson of Guam have signed a cooperative agreement to enhance the protection of consumers on Guam and in the CNMI. "Under both CNMI and Guam law, the attorney general must cooperate with and assist other government agencies to protect and promote the interests of consumers," explained General Manibusan. "This agreement aligns with those statutory duties." The cooperative agreement sets forth a framework for collaborative efforts related to consumer protection issues. Among other things, the agreement provides that the Guam and CNMI offices will pool resources and conduct joint investigations regarding matters that affect consumers in both jurisdictions.
CWAG Associate Attorney General William Sorrell of Vermont joined with eight other state attorneys general in urging leadership of the nation's largest credit card issuers to speed up implementation of chip and PIN technology, which is widely considered a more secure means of processing credit card transactions than that used with traditional magnetic-stripe payment cards. "I applaud the industry's recent move to providing CHIP technology to its credit card holders. Adding the PIN feature, the standard used throughout the world, will provide consumers even more security than a signature. Signatures are easily forged and often not even reviewed during a credit card transaction. Consumers deserve the most secure technology up front to avoid the many headaches and financial risks down the road that occur when a card is compromised and cancelled through no fault of the consumer," said General Sorrell.
FIGHTING PUBLIC CORRUPTION
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona filed a Petition for Special Action to remove Arizona Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith from office. The Petition is the result of an ongoing investigation regarding an alleged violation of a conflict of interest statute. The Attorney General's Office alleges Bitter Smith is ineligible to hold office because of her conflict of interest as a registered lobbyist and executive for a trade association of cable companies regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission. "Arizonans deserve fair and impartial regulators," said General Brnovich. "We filed this case today to protect the integrity of the Commission and to restore the faith of Arizona voters in the electoral process. Arizona law clearly prohibits a Commissioner from receiving substantial compensation from companies regulated by the Commission."
SERVING THOSE WHO SERVED US
CWAG Attorney General Adam Laxalt of Nevada launched a program to provide free legal assistance to members of the military, pointing to a service gap that arises because military lawyers are limited in their ability to help with civilian court matters and private attorneys are often too expensive for service members. General Laxalt marked the debut of the Office of Military Legal Assistance, which is believed to be the first attorney general-led program in the country that connects military members and veterans to pro bono legal services. "I am proud to honor these military heroes who have given so much in service to this country and state," General Laxalt said. "It is my hope that the Office of Military Legal Assistance will continue to expand its services and become a lasting legacy for the military families of Nevada."
Low prices for oil and natural gas have driven federal minerals revenue down to the lowest point in five years, even as oil and gas production booms nationwide. The federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue tracks federal revenue from sales of fossil fuels including oil and gas. Revenue from both offshore and onshore development nationwide over the 2015 federal fiscal year was $9.9 billion, down 26 percent from 2014's $13.4 billion, according to figures released by the agency. The federal government shares its minerals revenue with American Indian tribes and 37 states with minerals development on federal land. Home to vast expanses of federal land and a top producer of oil, gas and coal, Wyoming gets a bigger slice than any other state by far. Wyoming's share last year was $886 million, down from $1 billion the year before.
The U.S. Postal Service office in Portland delivered some potentially bad news last week to Northwest newspapers: If news outlets run ads for the region's booming marijuana industry, they might be violating federal law. The memo pointed out it was illegal "to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance." The memo quickly caused confusion and concern among publishers whose newspapers have published ads for dispensaries and manufacturers in the region's now two legal cannabis industries, medical and recreational marijuana.