Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.
In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging that week.
Illinois AG Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen (VW) alleging that VW violated Illinois state environmental laws by tampering with emissions controls in its diesel vehicles. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties. Madigan was among 43 state AGs that previously reached a separate settlement with VW earlier this year for “violations of state consumer protection laws for marketing, selling and leasing diesel vehicles equipped with illegal and undisclosed software that concealed the true levels of nitrogen oxide emissions by those vehicles.” That settlement required VW to make payments to “affected consumers” and “buy back or modify certain VW and Audi 2.0-liter diesel vehicles,” and prohibited VW from “engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices in connection with its dealings with consumers and regulators.” (Madigan Press Release)
A Washington court has ordered the Grocery Manufacturers Association to pay an $18 million fine for violating campaign-finance laws in a lawsuit brought by Washington AG Bob Ferguson. The court found in part that the trade association had failed to disclose donor contributions made to oppose a voter initiative mandating labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). (AllGov.com Article)
Pennsylvania AG Bruce Beemer has filed suit against a nursing home chain alleging that it “violated [Pennsylvania’s] Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law by making several misrepresentations on its websites and in marketing materials regarding facility staffing and the basic care provided to the residents of its facilities,” according to a press release. Such misrepresentations included that the nursing home chain “strive[s] for a very high staff-to-patient ratio,” although, according to the press release and lawsuit, the nursing home chain “limited the number of certified nursing assistants on duty at its facilities, leaving the facilities incapable of delivering the basic care that [it] promised to provide.”
Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), both members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “protect consumers from insecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices” in a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on November 3. In particular, Pallone and Schakowsky asked the FTC to “call on IoT device manufacturers to implement security measures” and to “alert consumers to the security risks posed by continuing to use default passwords on IoT devices.” (Letter) Companies in the IoT marketplace should be watchful for any guidance issued by the FTC as that might inform not only future FTC but also state AG regulatory or enforcement actions in the IoT space.
New York AG Eric Schneiderman has released a report highlighting the “substantial benefits for homeowners and communities” resulting from the state’s “$30+ million” investment in NY state land banks, according to a press release. Land banks acquire blighted houses or other property, renovate or demolish it as appropriate, and then sell the property. The report indicates that the NY state land banks’ revitalization efforts “are saving an estimated $19 million in property value for surrounding homes” in part because houses “within 150 feet of a vacant property lose over $7,000 in property value.” AG Schneiderman also announced in the report that the AG’s office had secured $20 million in additional funding for land banks in NY.
State AGs from about seven states including California have joined a federal antitrust review of the proposed merger between DuPont and Dow Chemical Co., according to a Reuters report. Reuters also reported that “a separate group of state attorneys general are expected to join a probe” of Bayer AG’s proposed acquisition of Monsanto.