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.
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.
NEWS FROM CWAG FRIEND, FORMER KENTUCKY CHIEF DEPUTY AG SEAN RILEY
Sean has worked with CWAG on legal matters of importance, presented at both the CWAG and NAAG meetings and he will be missed by the AG community but we are looking forward to working with him as part of the Cozen O'Connor AG Team.
CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah announced that his office and the Asian Association of Utah are one of sixteen partnerships selected by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2015 for anti-trafficking task force grant awards to support law enforcement efforts and victims services over the next three years. The Utah Attorney General's Office was selected to receive $899,512 as the law enforcement applicant and the Asian Association of Utah will receive $400,000 as the victim's service provider. The combined funding will support the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force. "Over the past two years my eyes have been opened to the atrocities of human trafficking - including right here in Utah. I am honored to work with so many experts and dedicated team members from all the agencies comprising the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force, including those from the Attorney General's Office and our SECURE Strike Force who are individually and collectively dedicated to eradicating human trafficking in Utah," said General Reyes.
CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota announced that more than a million dollars in grants is available for organizations and entities providing services relating to human trafficking. The $1.25 million in grant funds was authorized by the 2015 legislature as part of a comprehensive package of bills to address human trafficking in North Dakota. "During the legislative session the state made a promise to victims of human trafficking that we would help them find a better life. This grant will put funding in the hands of organizations that can do that, just as promised," said General Stenehjem. In addition to organizations already providing prevention and treatment services to victims, the grants are available to entities seeking to expand into North Dakota, and to criminal justice agencies for training and enforcement efforts and prosecution of traffickers.
Parties in a 10-year-old water call are wrapping up an unprecedented settlement agreement to restore the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer in Idaho and end future water battles between the Surface Water Coalition and groundwater users. Major players have signed off on the agreement, and are now working out details that will go to the state Legislature. Affected groundwater users who are a part of the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators have agreed to surrender a staggering 13 percent of their water, among other stipulations. The plan will leave an additional 240,000 acre-feet into the aquifer each year. Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman doesn't remember a more monumental water contract. "The reason this is historic is that it establishes a multi-year, long-term solution that addresses the senior water-right holders' needs and assures them of a reliable source of water," he told the Times-News in August. "And it creates certainty for groundwater users as well."
WESTERN GOVERNORS NEWS
The Western Governors Association called for expansion of a program that screens international travelers at airports abroad, in a bid to encourage tourism and stop terrorists before they arrive in the U.S. "First, it enhances national security by keeping potential terrorists from even arriving on U.S.," Montana Governor Steve Bullock said. "Second, it encourages tourists to travel to the U.S. by reducing the hassle and wait times at customs checkpoints" when they arrive. The governors' resolution asks U.S. customs and immigration authorities to put screeners at airports in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and England. It notes that screeners are currently stationed at 15 airports in Ireland, Canada, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the United Arab Emirates.
FIGHTING MONEY LAUNDERING
One year after issuing the first-ever comprehensive set of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Best Practices, the American Gaming Association (AGA) today released updates that include enhanced emphasis on instilling a strong culture of compliance; more robust assessment of money laundering risks; incorporation of key conclusions from the U.S. Treasury Department; and improved employee training on the latest AML updates. The Best Practices guide the efforts of casinos to protect the U.S. financial system and America's national security from money laundering and other forms of illicit finance. The landmark first version of the document was developed in coordination with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and with compliance representatives from a broad array of AGA member companies.
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced Uncle Joe's Auto Sales is banned from selling cars in Arizona after violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act. The used car dealership and its owners will also pay $70,000 in consumer restitution. The restitution is part of a Consent Judgment reached against Front Line Auto Auction, LLC, doing business as Uncle Joe's Auto Sales and Uncle Joe's Auto Consignment Shop ("Uncle Joe's") and its principals, Joseph and Gina Colombo. The Consent Judgment also bans Uncle Joe's and the Colombo's from owning, operating, or managing a motor vehicle sales or finance business in Arizona. "This dealership targeted Arizona families with no credit or poor credit, charging them outrageous fees," said General Brnovich. "Buying a car is a major investment for most families and this office will continue to take a tough stance against used car scams and auto dealer fraud."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that an international newspaper archiving company and related non-profit, both with Cedar Rapids ties, are barred from using a pre-checked box to obtain charitable donation authorizations from the company's subscribers. The agreement requires Newspaper Archive Inc. to change its business practices in Iowa, including the notices and disclosures it provides to its online subscribers. Consumers had complained about the company's automatic subscription renewals, billing practices, restrictive refund policies, unexpected price increases, difficulty in cancelling, and unresponsive customer service. The billing practice complaints included Iowans who objected to negative-option charitable donation charges to a non-profit organization called Global Way Makers that the consumers had not intended to make. "And that's really the point," General Miller said. "Consumers deserve transparency about what they're being charged for and why, so they can make their own decisions about charitable giving and other spending."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina announced that cash payments of nearly $2 million are on the way to approximately 1,400 North Carolina mortgage borrowers who were wrongly foreclosed on by SunTrust. "This is welcome relief for North Carolina families who suffered foreclosures done wrong," General Cooper said. Eligible North Carolina consumers who had mortgages serviced by SunTrust, lost their homes to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2013, and applied for relief by the June 4, 2015 deadline should receive their payment in early December. Checks of approximately $1,330 each are being mailed to 1,454 affected borrowers in North Carolina starting Friday. The cash payments are part of an estimated $23.5 million in relief for North Carolina consumers that also includes loan modifications and lien forgiveness under a settlement with SunTrust that General Cooper won last year.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Sorrell of Vermont entered into an Assurance of Discontinuance with Aspen Marketing Services, LLC after the Attorney General's investigation revealed that over 81,000 letters Aspen sent on behalf of five GM motor vehicle dealers misrepresented that the consumers had been specially selected to participate in an exclusive motor vehicle buyback program. "Vermont consumers were lured to dealerships in the mistaken belief that they were among a select group of people who were getting a special deal when that was not the case," said General Sorrell. "This type of advertising runs afoul of Vermont's law against deception and will not be tolerated. This case is intended to serve as a warning to any motor vehicle dealer or advertiser who uses such tactics in the future." The letters sent to consumers misrepresented that certain car dealers had been selected as a "host location" for a "unique Buyback Event," and that the dealers were in "desperate need" of their particular vehicles to "fulfill special used vehicle requests." Consumers were told that "due to the nature of the event," they must bring the letter to be admitted because the Buyback event would "not be advertised to the general public."
MARIJUANA AND ENERGY
The issue is pressing enough that it got its own session - "The Straight Dope on Energy & the Marijuana Industry" - at the annual meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Austin, Texas. Attendees learned that Xcel Energy, which serves most of urban Colorado, sells some 300 gigawatt hours of electricity to pot growers per year, or enough to power some 35,000 homes. The U.S. marijuana-growing industry could soon buy as much as $11 billion per year in electricity. One study estimates that it takes as much energy to produce 18 pints of beer as it does just one joint. The data are alarming, and will only get more so as legalization spreads.