CWAG Roundup

May 12, 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 agenda are 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.
 
ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIP BINATIONAL EXCHANGE MEETING
 
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Alliance Partnership, CWAG Chair and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden cordially invite you to attend the 2016 CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorneys General Exchange.
 
The Binational State Attorneys General Exchange will be held from July 16 to July 17 at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, prior to the CWAG Annual Meeting which runs from July 17-20, 2016. 
 
CWAG has confirmed the attendance of Mexico's Federal Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez, and anticipates approximately 25 state Attorneys General from Mexico and the United States to be in attendance at the Binational Exchange, in addition to other federal and private partners.
 
There is no separate registration fee for the Binational State Attorneys General Exchange. Please confirm your participation by emailing CWAG Alliance Partnership Deputy Director, Lauren Niehaus at LNiehaus@cwagweb.org or by phone at 303-827-9039. The Binational Exchange is open to all attendees on a space available basis.
 
DRAFT AGENDA: CWAG State Attorneys General Binational Exchange
 
Saturday July 16, 2015
7:00pm - Welcome Reception and Dinner
 
Sunday July 17, 2016
9:00am - 3:00pm - Binational AG Exchange
6:15pm - CWAG Annual Meeting Opening Dinner (with Mexican AG Delegation)
 
WATER LAW
 
A federal district court this week found the United States acted in bad faith in a lawsuit over the Alaska's ownership of a navigable river. According to CWAG Attorney General Craig Richards, "this decision sends a strong message to the federal government that they need to come to the table and work with the State. Ignoring existing law and delaying decisions to the last moment simply increases tensions. It does nothing to work towards a resolution." U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice advanced frivolous legal arguments in litigation over the ownership of lands beneath the Mosquito Fork, a tributary of the Fortymile River. On that basis, Gleason granted the State's motion for attorney's fees. After years of preparation and shortly before the case was to go to trial, the federal government in July 2015 finally abandoned any legal claim to the Mosquito Fork. In asking the court for attorney's fees, the State's attorneys argued that the federal government had run up the State's costs in bad faith and made legal arguments that had already been rejected by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court as far back as 1931.
 
MARIJUANA
 
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota responded to the Urban Institute recommendation that South Dakota reduce possession and ingestion of a controlled substance to a misdemeanor. "As South Dakota's Attorney General, I have and will continue to strongly support crime prevention efforts and opportunities to avoid incarceration when it does not place the public at risk, which includes drug and DUI courts and our state's 24/7 Sobriety Program. However, any attempt to decriminalize or turn serious felony drug possession or ingestion into a low level misdemeanor would unnecessarily place the public's health and safety at risk. The public would be better served by strengthening our prevention, enforcement and treatment efforts including focusing on a strong anti-meth and heroin campaign," said General Jackley. South Dakota law enforcement continues to see an increase in drug activity in marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and other controlled substances in our state that are often tied to violent crime. Since becoming Attorney General in 2009, General Jackley has investigated 24 officer involved shootings and of those, 12 subjects tested positive for either marijuana and/ or a controlled substance.
 
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced a major victory in litigation involving the scope of physician immunity under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act or AMMA.
The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously ruled the AMMA does not immunize a physician against prosecution for falsely attesting that he or she reviewed a patient's medical records from the previous twelve months before providing a written certification authorizing medical marijuana use. "Arizona voters never intended for our medical marijuana laws to give criminal immunity to anyone who breaks the law in order to operate marijuana mills aimed at maximizing profits rather than providing good patient care," said General Brnovich. "Today, the Supreme Court sent a clear message; if doctors commit a crime while issuing medical marijuana certifications they will be held accountable."
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin of Rhode Island was profiled recently on issues ranging from the legalization of recreational marijuana and fantasy sports betting, to arson investigations and identity theft. "One of the beauties of being attorney general is [I'm] constantly in motion. No two days are alike, no two issues are alike," General Kilmartin said. General Kilmartin was asked, "In the past you've strongly opposed legalization of marijuana. Do you still feel the same, even with the millions of dollars in potential tax revenue it could generate?" He answered, "I think there is a role for [legalized marijuana for] people who have cancers or hospice issues or significant, legitimate pain." Read the full interview in the attached articles.
 
LAW ENFORCEMENT
 
Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney of Manhattan, visited Washington late last month to argue his case on a pressing issue: encryption. In a string of meetings with members of Congress, Mr. Vance told central lawmakers that encryption needed to be diminished during criminal investigations. During a 45-minute session with Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Vance said his office had 230 iPhones that might contain crucial information for cases but were useless because Apple refused to help the police break the encryption on the devices. "I wanted to express a sense of urgency around resolution of this issue," Mr. Vance said in an interview about his Washington visit. A day after Mr. Vance was on Capitol Hill, tech executives including Kent Walker, the general counsel of Google, and Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, also met with lawmakers - but with a very different message on encryption. Tech executives at the meetings said they were concerned about any laws that would force companies to weaken the security of their technology, according to news officials representing these companies.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Doug Peterson of Nebraska announced a settlement that requires unlicensed internet loan companies to pay restitution, forgive current debts, notify credit reporting agencies for credit history repair, and discontinue lending in Nebraska. In the State's action against CashCall, Inc., Delbert Services Corporation, WS Funding, LLC, and their owner J. Paul Reddam, and Western Sky Financial, LLC, and its owner Martin A. Webb, the State alleged that Western Sky Financial, LLC worked with CashCall, Inc. as an unlicensed lender, making usurious internet loans to over 2,400 Nebraskans with annual percentage rates ranging from 89 to 342% and charging unlawful origination and other fees. "Nebraskans need to be protected from unscrupulous lending practices," said General Peterson. "This settlement will provide relief for many of our hard-working citizens who were taken advantage of by a predatory online lender."
 
Credit card fraud has gone down in the six months since Visa and MasterCard made retailers and banks liable for fraudulent transactions if they haven't implemented chip credit cards, but chips alone aren't enough to secure Americans' transactions, White House and consumer group representatives said. "The chip alone is not enough for security," Camille Fischer of the White House Economic Council said during a panel on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Panelists from numerous consumer groups agreed the industry is headed in the right direction with the widening adoption of credit and debit card chips, which generate a unique, single-use numeric code to send alongside an account number to the issuer for verification during a transaction. But to achieve true credit card security in the U.S. market - home to half the world's credit card fraud despite only accounting for about a quarter of all transactions - banks need to implement a PIN number system with each card in place of a simple signature, according to Debra Berlyn, president of Consumer Policy Solutions, a consumer interest firm.
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan announced a Notice of Intended Action and Cease and Desist Order against professional fundraiser Corporations for Character, located in Murray, Utah for violating the Public Safety Solicitation Act. Violations included sending pledge forms to those who had not pledged and taking advantage of vulnerable call recipients. "Deceptive fundraising will not be tolerated," General Schuette said. "My office works daily to protect Michigan residents. You also can help by protecting yourself-research the charity before you give-and reporting suspected violations to my office. Trust your gut." Following a consumer complaint, the Attorney General required Corporations for Character-a licensed professional fundraiser under the Public Safety Solicitation Act-to produce call recordings and pledge forms to review for violations. The recordings revealed that Corporations for Character used sophisticated, pre-recorded messages controlled by a human operator that led call recipients to believe they were talking to a live person.
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that a judge ordered the owner of a design services company to pay $100,000 for his role in designing mail solicitations that misled and cheated elderly Iowans. District Court Judge Lawrence McLellan ordered the default judgment against Robert C. Schneider, doing business as Schneider Creative, of Englewood, New Jersey, following a consumer fraud lawsuit filed in March. The lawsuit alleged that Schneider's solicitations enabled scammers to cheat susceptible Iowans on fixed incomes who could not easily absorb the losses. "The mailings Schneider designed were slick and predatory, intended to trick vulnerable people into sending money," said General Miller. "Schneider was evidently the go-to person for a range of scammers - operators who were ready and willing to defraud the elderly, but who didn't necessarily have the skills to craft mailings that generated enough victims to be profitable."
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