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: STUDENT DEBT: THE OBLIGATION OF A LIFETIME? A registration packet is attached and an agenda is under development.
There is no greater category of consumer debt today than education-related debt. Even credit card debt has been surpassed by the 1.3 trillion dollars of outstanding debt owed by former students and their families today.
Never before have college students entered the workforce with such a staggering debt burden as they do today. This burden is crushing young people's hopes to move on in their lives in the ways many of us who went to school in a bygone era simply took for granted: getting married, starting a family, buying a car -- buying a home -- starting a business, etc. How ironic it is that, rather than improving young people's chances to advance in life, incurring significant debt in order to go to school may be having the opposite effect and stopping -- or at least slowing down-- this advancement.
What can we, as state Attorneys General, do to address and help resolve this crisis? After all, we do not want our families or the people we serve to be stuck with these student debt obligations for their entire lifetime. Right?
First and foremost, we can inform ourselves about it and discuss options and strategies that AG's can use to address it. That's what this conference will do. It will be worth your time -- I promise!
We play an important role in protecting consumers -- which includes students, and former students -- from misleading, unfair and deceptive practices. These practices may involve those who work for educational institutions as well as in the loan industry itself. In this context, they could involve debt servicing, debt consolidation, debt collection and loan underwriting. They might involve loan co-signers and issues pertaining to discharging a student loan through bankruptcy. Complaints relating to veterans being targeted by educational institutions for enrollment in programs that are not likely to lead to the jobs they are hoping for, but instead only to burdensome debt, will be discussed as well. I think we can all agree that our veterans, who may have put off their education in order to serve our country, deserve a very hard look at whether they have been treated deceptively and unfairly.
Please join me to help explore the problems that have brought us to this untenable situation. We will have speakers discussing all aspects of this issue of educational debt. They will describe the problem and offer constructive recommendations for best practices to be employed by educational institutions, the loan industry and government regulators.
Together, we can work toward helping to ensure that students and their families make wise and informed choices when deciding to take on educational debt; and that when the time comes to pay it back, the former student has graduated and is gainfully employed and prepared to repay his or her loans in amounts and on a schedule that works for everyone. Only then can we rest assured that education-related debt will NOT be the obligation of a lifetime!
Thanks for considering this important invitation. I hope to see you in Portland and I promise to show you a good time here in addition to putting on a fabulous conference.
Ellen F. Rosenblum
State of Oregon
Chair of CWAG
CWAG ANNUAL MEETING REGISTRATION NOW OPEN
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG), Oregon Attorney General and CWAG Chair Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden invite you to join your colleagues for the CWAG Annual Meeting, July 17-20, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho at the Sun Valley Resort.
Please note the important dates and information below:
To register online or download and print the registration information in a PDF form to register manually use the following link: https://www.cwagweb.org/sunvalley/registration
If you have attended an annual meeting in the past few years your contact information has been saved in the registration system. Please review your contact information during the registration process to make sure it is current.
To register, go to "Sign In" and enter the email address and password you or your assistant previously provided. If you can't recall your password, click on the "Forgot Password" link and your password will be sent to the email that is saved in the system.
If you have not previously registered for the annual meeting go to "New Registration", enter your email and create a personal password to be used for future registrations.
Early Bird Registration: The cutoff date for Early Bird registration is Friday, June 3, 2016 at 5:00p (PT). Your online registration must be finalized or your manual registration form received via fax or email to the CWAG office by 5:00p (PT) on June 3. All registrations received after this time and date will be charged the regular registration fee.
Onsite Registration: Pre-registering for primary attendees and guests who would like to attend any of the substantive or social opportunities is required. CWAG must make commitments to the hotel and activity vendors based on pre-registered guests prior to our arrival. The registration fees cover the cost of activities and meals at the conference which have been pre-arranged. Given the necessity of pre planning, we will not be accepting any onsite registrations.
Hotel Room Cut Cutoff: The last day to reserve your room within the CWAG room block is Thursday, June 23, 2016. If the room block sells out prior to that time, reservations will be accepted on a space available basis. The reservation number for the Sun Valley Resort is 800.786.8259. Ask for the CWAG room block to receive our discounted rates.
FIGHTING INTERNATIONAL CRIME
On Tuesday, March 1st, CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona hosted his Attorney General Colleagues from the U.S. and Mexico in an International Cooperation conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Attorneys General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado, Lawrence Wasden of Idaho, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, Hector Balderas of New Mexico and Sean Reyes of Utah joined General Brnovich, along with eight State Attorneys General from Mexico and various federal authorities, to discuss transnational crime, money laundering and human trafficking efforts at the state and federal levels.
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California, along with seven states, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"), urging the Secretary to use his authority to restore educational and vocational rehabilitation benefits to thousands of veterans victimized by predatory practices carried out by for-profit schools such as Corinthian Colleges, Inc. ("Corinthian"). The letter also asks VA Secretary Robert McDonald to take steps to ensure that veterans are given full and accurate information about the risks associated with using their benefits at certain schools. "We honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans by ensuring that when they return home, they have access to benefits that will help them transition to civilian employment and build lives for themselves and their families," stated General Harris in the letter. CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, who also signed the letter, said, "Our veterans earned these benefits by serving our country. These institutions specifically preyed upon them, using false promises and dishonest statistics about their programs and job placement. These deceptive schools took veterans' education benefits and left them without the right training and qualifications to reach their goals."
Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts has sued a for-profit nursing school, Hosanna College of Health, alleging that it charged high fees for an inadequate education and held classes in the state even though it was not licensed. The complaint says the Florida-based school targeted Boston's Haitian community and charged as much as $10,000, promising to prepare students to pass the state nursing exam. General Healey says only about 3 percent of the school's students passed the exam, and many were saddled with debt. She alleges the school told prospective students it was licensed in Massachusetts and held classes here.
FIGHTING PUBLIC CORRUPTION
CWAG Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson of Guam officially launched its search for a special prosecutor to further investigate retroactive raises given to Governor Adelup staffers in 2014. General Barrett-Anderson announced last week that an independent prosecutor was needed to continue the investigation. She assigned Chief Prosecutor Philip Tydingco to head up the request for proposal while she and her staff set up an "ethical wall" during the solicitation, meaning she will have no say in the search for the prosecutor. The independent attorney would "review and collect evidence of allegations of unauthorized or illegal retroactive payments" given to 107 unclassified Adelup employees in December 2014, according to the RFP document.
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado received the Federal Trade Commission's Partner Award in recognition of her office's outstanding work to combat illegal debt collection and fight deception in the marketplace. "Protecting Coloradans from deceptive advertisers and illegal collection practices continues to be a high priority for me and the Department's Consumer Protection Section. I am honored that the Colorado Department of Law is being singled out for our important work to educate and protect all Colorado consumers," said General Coffman during her acceptance. "I thank the FTC for this recognition and for continuing to be a good partner." The Colorado Attorney General's Office has a long history of successful partnership with the Federal Trade Commission - Bureau of Consumer Protection.
CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon announced a $819,059 civil settlement with Alsco, a commercial linen laundry facility in Portland, Oregon, over allegations that the company manipulated water testing samples by diluting its waste water discharge before releasing it into the City of Portland's sewer system. To avoid extra costs, Alsco would submit reports to the City of Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services that showed Alsco's discharges were cleaner than they actually were. The General Manager of the Alsco plant and the Chief Engineer previously pled guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges relating to the same conduct. "The environment, and especially our public water system, is something we all have to protect," said General Rosenblum. "Fortunately, DOJ's Environmental Crimes Unit was able to move on this case-and we will make sure that this bad behavior does not continue."
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that his office has asked a court to rule that an out-of-state organization and its late-registered political committee illegally evaded the state's campaign finance disclosure laws. The case concerns Food Democracy Action!'s (FDA) financial support of a 2013 campaign supporting Initiative 522, which sought to require labeling of genetically engineered products. FDA, an Iowa-based organization, raised almost $300,000 to support the "Yes on I-522" political committee. Rather than registering as a political action committee, FDA made the contributions under its own name without disclosing the identities of its donors. This is one of two campaign finance disclosure cases related to I-522. The Grocery Manufacturer's Association is accused of a systematic effort to conceal the sources of $11 million in contributions to oppose I-522. That case, also brought by General Ferguson, awaits the judge's decision on summary judgment. "The crux of this case is transparency," General Ferguson said. "FDA concealed the identities of thousands of individuals who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will continue to protect the public's right to know who is funding Washington elections."
A new report from CWAG Attorney General Kamala Harris of California presents some alarming figures about data breaches in California since 2012. "In the last four years, nearly 50 million records of Californians have been breached and the majority of these breaches resulted from security failures. Furthermore, nearly all of the exploited vulnerabilities, which enabled these breaches, were compromised more than a year after the solution to patch the vulnerability was publicly available. It is clear that many organizations need to sharpen their security skills, trainings, practices, and procedures to properly protect consumers," General Harris writes in the California Data Breach Report. Since 2012, businesses and government agencies have been required to report data breaches affecting more than 500 Californians to the Attorney General's Office. More than 650 breach incidents have been sent in during the past four years.
The Supreme Court quashed state efforts to gather health-care data from insurance plans, ruling that such reporting requirements run afoul of federal laws regulating employee benefits. The case came from Vermont, where a 2005 law mandates that larger health insurance plans report "information relating to heath care costs, prices, quality, utilization or resources required" to a state database. Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. objected, contending the law conflicts with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which pre-empts state laws that "relate to any employee benefit plan." The Supreme Court by a 6-2 vote agreed with Liberty Mutual. Another 17 states have similar database initiatives, according to a brief filed by the National Governors Association.
STATE MARIJUANA LAWS
The State of Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2014, joining several other states where the drug has been decriminalized in some form, but Visa and MasterCard will not process transactions for pot dispensaries and most banks will not open accounts for the businesses - leaving dispensaries dealing with a constant influx of cash, and nowhere good to put it. Mr. Zarrad's start-up, Tokken (pronounced token), is one of several recently created companies looking to solve one of the most vexing problems facing marijuana businesses in Colorado and several other states: the endless flow of dirty, dangerous, hard-to-track cash. The special sauce that sets apart Tokken is that every transaction will be recorded on the ledger underlying the Bitcoin system, known as the blockchain. Because transactions on the blockchain are irrevocable, pot dispensaries and banks will have a reliable and complete record of all Tokken transactions, including the specifics of each transaction, without requiring any Bitcoins to change hands.
Visitors to Colorado are turning up at the emergency room with marijuana-related issues in higher rates than people who live here, according to a study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 25, found that the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits to the University of Colorado Hospital doubled among those from out-of-state from 2013 to 2014, while remaining steady for residents.
The study can't positively peg marijuana use as the cause of the visit, said Andrew Monte, assistant professor of emergency medicine and toxicology at the CU School of Medicine. Visitors to University of Colorado Hospital from outside the state with marijuana complaints climbed from 85 per 10,000 visits in 2013, to 168 per 10,000 in 2014, the first year of retail marijuana sales in the state, the study found.
For the fifth time in less than a week Colorado cannabis regulators have issued a health advisory and recall of marijuana over concerns it is contaminated with potentially dangerous pesticides not approved for use on the crop. Thursday's order by the Marijuana Enforcement Division involves 446 batches of recreational and medical marijuana grown at a Denver cannabis cultivation facility servicing two pot shops owned by Michelle Tucker - High Street Growers at 330 N. Federal Blvd. and Back to the Garden at 1755 S. Broadway.