CWAG Roundup

April 29, 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 and draft agenda is attached.
 
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
 
Navient Corp., the nation's largest student loan company, violated state laws that ban unfair or abusive practices by paying call center workers based on how quickly they could get struggling borrowers off the phone, a group of more than two dozen state attorneys general alleged. The states' findings are the result of a two-year investigation launched at the end of 2013 that analyzed thousands of Navient documents, more than 4,000 consumer complaints, and an unspecified number of recordings of calls between borrowers and Navient call center workers. The coalition of 29 state attorneys general, led by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, shared their findings with Navient on April 13 and proposed terms for a legal settlement, officials said. The company has not yet formally responded.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced that her office has filed six felony charges against Andrew Jordan in Los Angeles County Superior Court for allegedly committing human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, assault, and a racially motivated hate crime. "Human trafficking dehumanizes victims and will not be tolerated in California," said General Harris. "We must continue to support victims of human trafficking and help them seek justice.  I thank our California Department of Justice attorneys and Special Agents, as well as the Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and the Long Beach City Prosecutor's Office for their commitment to fighting human trafficking." Attorney General Harris has made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of the crime of human trafficking. 
 
The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission held its quarterly meeting at the Department of Attorney General. The Commission, chaired by CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette and comprised of victims' advocates, law enforcement officials, medical professionals and representatives from state and local government is focused on improving the lives of victims and works to prevent human trafficking in Michigan. General Schuette recently voiced support for legislation introduced in the House based on legislative recommendations from the Commission. "The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission continues to bring awareness and find solutions to end the tragedy of human trafficking," said General Schuette. "Together we are dedicated to fighting this issue and finding ways to help the victims of this horrific crime reclaim their lives."
 
PROTECTING THE PUBLIC
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas has partnered with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility as part of Alcohol Responsibility Month to release an underage drinking prevention public service announcement. The PSA features General Rutledge and Lauren Holiday, member of the 2015 U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team, discussing the importance of talking with children and teens about the dangers of underage drinking, and the benefits of living a healthy, active lifestyle. "Underage drinking is not only dangerous and harmful to one's health, but it is also illegal," said General Rutledge. "Parents have the greatest impact on a child's life and the decisions he or she makes. I encourage all parents to have conversations with their child about the risks of underage drinking. It may save a life."
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan announced that two Michigan environmental regulators and a Flint water-plant supervisor were charged in the first criminal case stemming from federal and state probes into lead contamination of the city's drinking water. Charges were filed against Stephen Busch, who was a district supervisor in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance during the water crisis, Michael Prysby, a former district engineer with the DEQ, as well as Michael Glasgow, a supervisor at Flint's water-treatment plant. Messrs. Busch and Prysby were each charged with three felony counts, including for allegedly misleading federal environmental officials and tampering with evidence related to lead testing of Flint's water. Mr. Prysby faces an additional felony count for authorizing the operation of the Flint water-treatment plant when he allegedly knew it couldn't provide safe drinking water. The men face two misdemeanor counts.
 
CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon joined the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) to launch the CFPB's Managing Someone Else's Money Oregon-specific guides for financial caregivers. The guides will help caregivers, particularly those who handle the finances of older Oregonians, carry out their duties and responsibilities in managing someone else's money. The CFPB selected Oregon as one of six states to create a set of state-specific guides. "Managing money or property for a loved one can be overwhelming," said General Rosenblum. "When I became the agent under a power of attorney for my 90-year old mother, I was surprised that I received no information for a role that gave me so much power! It is important to educate Oregonians on how to effectively manage someone else's money, spot financial exploitation and avoid scams. These guides do exactly that, and I couldn't be more pleased that the CFPB selected Oregon."
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia applauded Pennsylvania's expansion of its prescription drug monitoring program and strongly encourages state leaders to take the necessary steps to join a national database. Legislation increased the types of prescription drugs tracked by the monitoring program and expanded access to its database, including to doctors and pharmacists. "No state is safe from the devastating effects of substance abuse," General Morrisey said. "It's so important for stakeholders to collaborate and come up with strategies to proactively combat this prevalent issue." Attorney General Morrisey, in an April 12 letter, congratulated members of Pennsylvania's Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions board and urged them to expedite full integration into the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy PMP InterConnect.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia announced an $8 million settlement with Wells Fargo to resolve a dispute that involved certain marketing practices of its predecessor, Acordia. The settlement requires Wells Fargo to pay $8 million to the Office of Attorney General on the state's behalf. "I take very seriously my office's obligation to protect citizens from questionable marketing practices," General Morrisey said. "This settlement is yet another example demonstrating that commitment." The lawsuit alleged marketing practices used by Acordia artificially increased profits of various insurance companies to the detriment of consumers by favoring certain insurance carriers over others. It further alleged these practices amounted to violations of the state's Antitrust Act and its Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
 
MARIJUANA
 
Normally, when a company based in one state wants to sell products in another state, it starts calling truckers. For Strainz, a Las Vegas marijuana company, it was more complicated. By early 2015, Strainz's owners knew they wanted to expand to Colorado and Washington, the states with the most normalized marijuana markets. Despite state laws that allow the sale of marijuana, it remains a federal criminal offense to ship it across state lines. And as Nevada residents, the ­husband-and-wife co-founders weren't eligible to apply for business licenses in either state. The Hempel family's strategy for Strainz is one that marijuana companies are pursuing to build a national presence. Strainz, which recently announced that it has raised $8 million in funding, formed partnerships with the parent company of Zoots, a Seattle edibles maker, and Bronnor, a Colorado manufacturer. Since a USDOJ memo issued guidance on federal enforcement, pot companies that follow state laws have largely been able to operate unbothered by the Justice Department. Marijuana companies that sell products in more than one state may represent only a small fraction of the U.S. pot industry, but they are among the most ambitious players in the industry.
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