CWAG Roundup

March 24, 2016
Greetings! 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
 
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
Attorney General
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.
 
EDUCATION DEBT
 
The federal government needs to do more to help victims trapped by predatory student loans, CWAG Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum of Oregon and CWAG Associate Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina said in a letter to the federal government. "Predatory student loans can haunt victims for years and tarnish their futures," General Cooper said. "We need to make it easier and quicker for victims of unfair student loans to get relief." Many students find the process for seeking relief from predatory student loans to be confusing and difficult. The federal government is considering new rules for student loan debt relief and state attorneys general are actively involved in the negotiations. General Cooper joined attorneys general from 18 other states to encourage the US Department of Education to go further in its reforms. "After years of abuse and deception by predatory for-profit schools, we join in the belief that the borrower defense rule will provide a means to help restore accountability for taxpayers and fairness for students," the attorneys general wrote in a letter to Education Secretary John King.
 
ATTORNEY GENERAL vs. GOVERNOR
 
More than 15 months after 107 Guam employees were given retroactive pay raises deemed unlawful by the attorney general, a spokeswoman for the governor announced the employees are prepared to pay back the wages, a move CWAG Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson had suggested more than three months ago. Between General Barrett-Anderson informing the Governor of the wrongdoing and the decision to repay the funds, an effort to procure the services of an independent prosecutor commenced. "The RFP for an independent prosecutor continues," said Carlina Charfauros, public information officer for the attorney general. "The AG is conflicted out of the case and cannot and will not speak on the issue."
 
WATER LAW
 
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana announced that the United States Supreme Court issued an order in State of Montana v. State of Wyoming that recognizes Montana suffered damages as the result of Wyoming's failure to abide by terms of the Yellowstone River Compact with respect to waters of the Tongue River. The order remanded the case to the Special Master for determination of damages and of other appropriate relief. General Fox said, "Montana has believed all along that appropriate injunctive relief to prevent future violations by Wyoming was a critical component of the lawsuit, and this gives us the ability to seek that relief from the Special Master. Montana and Wyoming are neighbors sharing the resource, and a defined path forward as to how that sharing will occur is key to productivity on both sides of the border."
 
MARIJUANA
 
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit filed by two of Colorado's neighboring states over its legalization of marijuana. Nebraska and Oklahoma said Colorado's decriminalization has increased the flow of marijuana over their borders, forcing them to expend greater law enforcement, judicial system, and penal system resources, thereby harming the welfare of their residents. "Today, the Supreme Court has not held that Colorado's unconstitutional facilitation of marijuana industrialization is legal," said CWAG Associate Attorney General Doug Peterson of Nebraska, "and the Court's decision does not bar additional challenges to Colorado's scheme in federal district court." CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado said, "I'm proud of the legal team in my office that successfully defended this complicated case. I continue to believe that this lawsuit was not the way to properly address the challenges posed by legalized marijuana. But the problems are not going away. Although we've had victories in several federal lawsuits over the last month, the legal questions surrounding Amendment 64 still require stronger leadership from Washington." CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington State said, "I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court today decided not to hear the lawsuit brought by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado regarding Colorado's effort to legalize and regulate marijuana. States should be allowed to respect the will of our voters on this issue, and this positive step allows that to carry on. I will continue to defend the ability of Washingtonians to adopt our own approach to marijuana policy."
 
PUBLIC LANDS
 
CWAG Attorney General Craig Richards of Alaska was prevailed against the federal government in the Supreme Court case of Sturgeon v. Frost. The Court unanimously reversed the Ninth Circuit's interpretation of 103(c) of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which addresses the National Park Service's authority to regulate land within a national park that is owned by the state, a Native Corporation, or a private party. (Such lands are known as inholdings). The National Park Service generally has the authority to regulate activities in national parks. But 103(c) provides that no Alaskan inholdings "shall be subject to regulations applicable solely to public lands within such [national parks]." The Ninth Circuit interpreted the provision as meaning that the Park Service can apply its nationwide regulations to inholdings, but may not apply Alaska-specific regulations to the Alaska inholdings. The Court held that that interpretation is "inconsistent with both the text and context of the statute as a whole":  Why would Congress want nationwide rules to apply in Alaska, but not those rules that "recogniz[e] Alaska's unique conditions"?
 
ENERGY
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General William H. Sorrell of Vermont is leading a multi-state effort to have the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) take into account State interests as the NRC drafts new rules for decommissioning nuclear power plants. . "We greatly appreciate having the support of these other Attorneys General in raising the issues Vermont has been talking about for a while now," said General Sorrell. "They see the importance of changing the rules to give real weight to state concerns relating to critical decommissioning issues. We don't want to see plants simply being mothballed for decades. Nor do we want to have a plant owner without the money to cover an environmentally protective cleanup."
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia announced nearly $20 million in debt cancellation for West Virginia consumers as part of a settlement with a debt collector, known as Cavalry Investments and Cavalry Portfolio Services among other names. The settlement requires Cavalry to forever cease efforts to collect $19.7 million in debt for 2,847 consumers, in addition to paying $350,000 to the State of West Virginia. "This settlement provides significant relief directly to the affected consumers," General Morrisey said. "Companies operating in our state must respect our laws." The settlement stems from an investigation into complaints alleging Cavalry engaged in debt collection practices without a West Virginia license and surety bond. Both are required by the state's Collection Agency Act.
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that a Mesquite, Nevada-based Internet marketing training company will refund Iowa consumers and is prohibited from soliciting its online services to Iowa residents, through an agreement with General Miller's Office. The Consumer Protection Division alleges that Brookwater Ventures LLC, also doing business as Brook Water Ventures, and its owner, Clay Taylor, of Saint George, Utah, violated Iowa's Consumer Fraud Act. The division opened an investigation after an elderly Des Moines woman complained that the company convinced her to sign a $3,500 contract for an online internet marketing training program that she claimed was untenable. The 86-year-old consumer reported being charged a $1,750 down payment on her credit card, added that the company arranged a third-party financing agreement for the balance, and complained that she was unable to earn any income utilizing the company's online sales techniques.
 
FANTASY SPORTS
 
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that Fantasy-sports operators FanDuel Inc. and DraftKings Inc. agreed to shut down in New York, their largest market, as part of a settlement with the Attorney General's Office. The deal comes amid an effort by the attorney general to force the companies to stop accepting money from New Yorkers and pay restitution to contestants who lost money playing on the sites. The sites could reopen if New York lawmakers expressly legalize daily fantasy-sports contests. Otherwise, the companies' paid contests will remain closed to New Yorkers until an appeals hearing in September. FanDuel, in a statement, said New York is a critical state for the company and called the move to shut down "disheartening." "We will continue to work with state lawmakers to enact fantasy-sports legislation so that New Yorkers can play the fantasy games they love," DraftKings said in a statement.
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)
Chris.coppin@cwagweb.org

Conference of Western Attorneys General | 1300 I Street | Sacramento | CA | 95814