CWAG Roundup

April 7, 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.
 
CWAG FRIEND MOVES TO PRIVATE PRACTICE
 
Julie Brill, a Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, will be heading into private practice at the law firm Hogan Lovells. Commissioner Brill's nearly six-year tenure at the FTC has been marked by the independent agency's expanding interest in privacy issues, particularly in the technology industry. As one of five commissioners, Brill took a leading role in calling for greater scrutiny of data brokers - companies that trade in the commercial and behavioral information generated when consumers surf the Web or use their credit cards. She also pressed the FTC to look into how data can be used to marginalize vulnerable Americans, and played a role in hammering out a new U.S.-European agreement governing the flow of data across the Atlantic. "[My experience] can really do a lot to help companies do the right thing: Understand this landscape and ultimately improve privacy practices and data-security practices," Ms. Brill said in an interview, "and continue the work that I'm doing at the FTC, but doing it on the ground, with companies."
 
MONEY LAUNDERING
 
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced a Pima County Grand Jury charged Courtney Rochelle Ward with Money Laundering, Fraud, and Forgery for allegedly participating in a national money laundering scheme. The AG's Border Crimes and Special Investigation Section began an investigation after Ward began depositing and withdrawing more than $140,000 into Wells Fargo bank accounts. Ward is suspected of smurfing, an activity that involves making numerous cash deposits of less than $10,000 at multiple bank branches to avoid reporting requirement triggers. Between August 2014 and July 2015, Ward allegedly deposited $147,740 in cash into Wells Fargo Bank accounts from various east coast states such as New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Ward then withdrew $144,355 at various Tucson Wells Fargo branches, usually within one day of each deposit. Ward allegedly distributed the cash to unknown individuals.
 
MARIJUANA
 
At a forum at the Brown University Medical Center, CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter Kilmartin of Rhode Island hosted members of law enforcement and public policymakers for input and discussion of issues of making recreational marijuana use legal. "This is a multi-faceted issue," said General Kilmartin. "There are many unintended consequences and if you don't take all of those into consideration at the forefront, you create more problems down the line." Policymakers from Colorado and Washington spoke on the panel, along with Todd Mitchem of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Production, who represents marijuana producers in the industry, and Massachusetts State Senator Jason M. Lewis, who chairs a special senate committee on marijuana in the Bay State.
 
Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein convened a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control to investigate whether the Justice Department has been derelict in its enforcement duties on marijuana. In the words of Senator Grassley, "The Department of Justice decided to all but abandon the enforcement of federal law relating to the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana." CWAG Associate Attorney General Doug Peterson of Nebraska testified at the hearing. "The diversion of marijuana into my state has been fierce," General Peterson said. "We know that our young people in Nebraska are getting the drugs," he added in response to a question from Grassley. "I can tell you story after story of... high school students gathering up their money and sending a buyer into Colorado and bringing [marijuana] edibles back or bringing the product back."
 
TOBACCO
 
CVS made big headlines when it announced it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its 8,000 drugstores, foregoing $2 billion in annual sales. The move won praise from many corners. It also gave CVS, which operates the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), Caremark, a boost as it repositioned itself to the public. The company recently announced it would provide funding over five years to leading anti-tobacco and youth-oriented programs with a view to further reducing tobacco use among young people, under the name "Be the First," a reference to the goal of making today's youth the first tobacco-free generation.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia announced that he has filed a lawsuit against a company for offering unlawful immigrant-consultant services to Spanish-speaking communities in the District. The complaint was filed against Unlimited Technologies and Services Corporation, doing business as UTS, and its owner, Mardoqueo M. Sanchez. "Immigration fraud can sometimes go unreported because victims are afraid to come forward due to their undocumented status," said General Racine. "The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is here to protect all District residents and bring to justice those who would defraud consumers, including the immigrant community." Under federal law, persons cannot provide legal assistance with immigration matters (including assisting consumers with obtaining, preparing or filing immigration forms) unless they are licensed attorneys or accredited individuals under federal law.
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia announced a $4.9 million settlement with Rite Aid to resolve a dispute that involved cost savings derived from the sale of generic prescription drugs. The settlement requires Rite Aid to pay $4.9 million and implement a compliance program in accordance with the state's Pharmacy Act. The act requires pharmacies to pass retail savings from the sale of generic prescription drugs onto consumers. "Companies choosing to operate in West Virginia must respect its laws," General Morrisey said. "We will always enforce our laws and protect consumers." The lawsuit alleged Rite Aid failed to accurately calculate and pass along retail savings from its sale of generic prescription drugs. It further alleges each instance constituted a violation of the state's Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced a preliminary approval of settlements resolving allegations that LG, Hitachi, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Samsung, companies all based in Japan or Korea, fixed prices on critical components of televisions and computer monitors from 1995 to 2007.  Those critical components, known as Cathode Ray Tubes or CRTs, were used to display images on computer monitors and televisions screens before they were replaced by flat screens. The court has approved the settlement pending valid objections submitted within 60 days.  The companies' price fixing scheme caused damage to California consumers and government entities that overpaid for their televisions and computers. The announced settlement has led to legally enforceable judgments against these foreign companies. "LG, Hitachi, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Samsung deliberately targeted the U.S. market to raise prices for televisions and computers worldwide," said General Harris. "These settlements bring justice and relief to California consumers and end the malicious practice of price-fixing by these companies."
 
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
 
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the agency to remove language from a proposed rule that creates regulations for competitive racing vehicles not driven on public streets. In the past, these vehicles were never regulated by the Clean Air Act. However, the EPA's new regulations would now apply to activities such as National Hot Rod Association racing, drag racing, autocross and Le Mans Series racing, and would outlaw many of the products made, sold and installed by manufacturers, retailers and technicians in Nevada. The letter details concerns over the EPA's proposed requirement that certified motor vehicles, engines and emission control devices remain in their factory-certified configuration. The rule would now apply to vehicles used exclusively for competition and non-road purposes. The letter shows how Congress never intended to regulate competitive racing vehicles when passing the Clean Air Act in 1970.
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