NewsEvents

Rutledge Announces $500,000 Judgment Against Owner of Fraudulent Timeshare Exit Company

Says, ‘judgment sends a message to dishonest timeshare exit companies'

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a judgment against Bart Bowe, co-owner of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Real Travel, LLC. Real Travel and its owners, Bowe and Brian Scroggs, charged consumers exorbitant fees but did not deliver on their guarantees to help consumers transfer or cancel their timeshare property interests. Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Real Travel, Bowe and Scroggs under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act for their deceptive acts and illegal misrepresentations to consumers. The judgment requires that Bowe pay $50,000 in restitution and $450,000 in suspended civil penalties.

“Good, hardworking people were promised a service they did not get. Instead, they were left with unwanted timeshares and additional debt.” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This judgment sends a message to other dishonest timeshare exit companies that seek to take thousands of dollars from unsuspecting timeshare owners.”

The lawsuit, filed in July 2019, alleged that Real Travel sold timeshare exit services to consumers nationwide. In exchange for a fee ranging from approximately $5,000 to $18,000, Real Travel convinced consumers through deception, high-pressure sales tactics, and a so-called “100% Guarantee” that it would liquidate, cancel, or transfer their unwanted timeshares. However, Real Travel failed to honor their agreements with consumers, leaving consumers burdened with the ownership of their unwanted timeshares, all the associated costs and fees and the additional unnecessary costs of Real Travel’s illusory services. During the investigation, the Attorney General’s Office discovered 83 consumers impacted by Real Travel’s illegal acts.

Under the consent judgment in this case, Bowe will no longer be able to conduct any business related to timeshares or timeshare exit businesses in Arkansas. The State is still pursuing a judgment against Real Travel and Scroggs in Benton County Circuit Court.

Consumers can file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

Rutledge Sues Monopolist Google for Violating Antitrust Laws

Arkansas joins DOJ and ten other states in filing complaint against Google to restore competition in search and search advertising markets

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced filing a civil antitrust lawsuit jointly with the U.S. Department of Justice and ten state attorneys general in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent Google from unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets.

“Most Americans think it is free to ‘Google’ something, but it comes at a cost and that cost is the freedom to choose the best products from the best companies,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Attorney General, I am charged with the responsibility of protecting the citizens of our state and while I want businesses to thrive, I will do everything in my power to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair practices.”

As alleged in the complaint, Google, being one of the wealthiest and most powerful companies on the planet with a market value of $1 trillion, entered into a series of exclusionary agreements to lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet. By requiring that Google be set as the default or exclusive search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide, Google solidified its lead as the primary search engine in the United States, accounting for almost 90 percent of all search queries. In particular, the complaint alleges that Google has unlawfully maintained monopolies in search and search advertising by:

  • Entering into exclusivity agreements that forbid preinstallation of any competing search service.
  • Entering into tying and other arrangements that force preinstallation of its search applications in prime locations on mobile devices and make them undeletable, regardless of consumer preference.
  • Entering into long-term agreements with Apple that require Google to be the default – and de facto exclusive – general search engine on Apple’s popular Safari browser and other Apple search tools.
  • Generally using monopoly profits to buy preferential treatment for its search engine on devices, web browsers, and other search access points, creating a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization.

These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete and discipline Google’s behavior.

By restricting competition in search, Google’s conduct has harmed consumers by reducing the quality of search (including on dimensions such as privacy, data protection and use of consumer data), lessening choice in search, and impeding innovation. By suppressing competition in advertising, Google has the power to charge advertisers more than it could in a competitive market and to reduce the quality of the services it provides them. Through filing the lawsuit, Arkansas seeks to stop Google’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition for American consumers, advertisers and all companies now reliant on the internet economy.

In addition to Rutledge and the Department of Justice, the other participating state Attorneys General offices represent Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments for Rutledge v. PCMA

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA). In this case, Rutledge seeks to protect family pharmacies in Arkansas and to ensure Arkansans’ access to affordable healthcare by defending the State’s power to regulate the abusive payment practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

“Arkansans deserve affordable healthcare. By requiring these drug middlemen to be held accountable to pay pharmacies a fair price, we are protecting Arkansans from skyrocketing prescription drug prices and preserving their access to frontline healthcare providers like family pharmacies,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Our case was one of two landmark healthcare cases before the Supreme Court this term, and it’s time states like Arkansas had the power to protect themselves.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General Rutledge is supported by the U.S. Solicitor General and a bipartisan coalition led by California that includes 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

In 2015, PCMA filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of Act 900, which regulates PBMs, who act as prescription drug middlemen, reimbursing pharmacists for prescription drugs dispensed to insurance beneficiaries. Before Act 900, PBMs often reimbursed pharmacies at less than the pharmacies’ cost to acquire a drug. This practice and other factors caused more than 16% of rural pharmacies to close in recent years. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled in 2017 that Act 900 was preempted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and, in 2018, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

The case is Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, No.18-540.

Rutledge’s Statement on Pine Bluff Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following the announcement Pine Bluff Police Officer Kevin Collins was killed in the line of duty Monday afternoon.

“My deepest condolences go out to the family of Pine Bluff Police Officer Kevin Collins who was killed in the line of duty today,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Officer Collins paid the ultimate sacrifice while protecting his community and patrolling the streets of Pine Bluff. He will be remembered as a true public servant who put on the badge every day making a commitment to protect and serve the people of Pine Bluff. Officer Collins was highly respected among his brothers and sister in blue and was honored as Pine Bluff Police Department’s Officer of the Year in 2018. I want his family and fellow law enforcement officers to know my thoughts and prayers are with them during this incredibly difficult time. The entire State of Arkansas is forever indebted to Officer Collins for his unwavering service. I also pray for the other officers involved in this tragic incident.”

Rutledge’s PBM U.S. Supreme Court Case to be Livestreamed on C-SPAN

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s U.S. Supreme Court case, Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, will be livestreamed on C-SPAN on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. central time to ensure the court is open to the general public. Due to COVID-19, the case will be argued by telephone. Nicholas Bronni, Solicitor General of the Attorney General’s Office will be arguing from Little Rock for the Attorney General.

“With arguments to be aired live on C-SPAN, all Americans will have the opportunity to hear how we are protecting local pharmacists who play the vital role as frontline healthcare providers in rural Arkansas and across the country every day,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Despite the delays, our critical fight to protect Arkansans’ access to affordable prescription drugs will finally have its day before the Supreme Court.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General Rutledge is supported by the U.S. Solicitor General and a bipartisan coalition led by California that includes 44 other states and the District of Columbia.

In 2015, PCMA filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of Act 900, which regulates pharmacy benefit managers, who act as prescription-drug middlemen, reimbursing pharmacists for prescription drugs dispensed to insurance beneficiaries. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled in 2017 that Act 900 was preempted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in 2018.

Rutledge Announces Arkansas Joins Multistate Data Breach Settlement

Company to change its business practices to better protect consumer information

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that Arkansas has joined a $39.5 million multistate settlement with Anthem stemming from the massive 2014 data breach in which cyber attackers were able to gain access to the personal information of 190,174 Arkansas residents. In total, 78.8 million Americans were affected by the breach. Arkansas will receive $205,524.91 from the settlement.

“Anthem is being held accountable for allowing hackers to take advantage and scam Arkansas families,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans need to trust their information is private and in good hands online. Settlements like this ensure companies take the necessary steps to protect sensitive data.”

In February 2015, Anthem disclosed that cyber attackers had infiltrated its systems beginning in February 2014, using malware installed through a phishing email. The attackers were ultimately able to gain access to Anthem’s data warehouse, where they harvested names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, healthcare identification numbers, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and employment information.

In addition to the payment, Anthem has also agreed to a series of data security and good governance provisions designed to strengthen its information security practices going forward. Those include:

A prohibition against misrepresentations regarding the extent to which Anthem protects the privacy and security of personal information;

  • Implementation of a comprehensive information security program and including regular security reporting to the Board of Directors and prompt notice of significant security events to the CEO.
  • Specific security requirements with respect to segmentation, logging and monitoring, anti-virus maintenance, access controls and two factor authentication, encryption, risk assessments, penetration testing, and employee training, among other requirements.
  • Third-party security assessments and audits for three years, as well as a requirement that Anthem make its risk assessments available to a third-party assessor during that term.

In the immediate wake of the breach, Anthem offered an initial two years of credit monitoring to all affected U.S. individuals.

In addition to this settlement, Anthem previously entered into a class action settlement that established a $115 million settlement fund to pay for additional credit monitoring, cash payments of up to $50, and reimbursement for out-of-pocket losses for affected consumers. The deadlines for consumers to submit claims under that settlement have since passed.

In addition to Arkansas, the settlement is led by Connecticut and signed on by the Attorneys General of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New York, and joined by the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

October
28
Wednesday

E-cigarettes and Vaping Webcast

This presentation for those who educate or serve youth ages 12-18 will provide information on how to educate youth on health risks of e-cigarettes, how to avoid vaping devices and stories of those negatively impacted by e-cigarettes. One hour of law enforcement continuing education (CLEST) has been approved.

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 10:00 AMVIEW 
November
19
Thursday

FOIA webcast

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act
10 a.m. to noon

The webcast, which is free and open to the public, will include FOIA Made Simple presentations by attorneys in the Attorney General’s office detailing responsibilities and rights covered under the act that relate to public meetings and documents.

Check back for CLE and CLEST credit.

Order copies of the 2020 handbook.

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 10:00 AMVIEW 
December
1
Tuesday

Missing Persons Family Sessions

Tuesday, December 1 ─ 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
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Saturday, December 5 ─ 10 a.m. to noon
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Attorney General Rutledge in partnership with the Morgan Nick Foundation encourages families of Arkansas missing persons to sign up for one or both of the two family sharing sessions offered via Zoom.

In addition to State Representative Rebecca Petty who will serve as keynote speaker, these sessions will offer opportunities for families to share their stories; discuss self-care; and speak with representatives from the Arkansas State Police, Crime Information Center and Crime Lab, as well as the FBI.

For more information, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

Order copies of the Missing Adult Resource Guide online.

 6:30 PMVIEW 
December
8
Tuesday

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit

The enhanced Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit offered virtually will include plenary and breakout sessions, as well as an attendee lounge to network. Breakout tracks will include a new family track in addition to clinical, criminal justice, counseling/recovery and education/prevention.

This is a free training for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Members of the general public may also participate to hear from experts regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment.

In addition to the Attorney General’s Office, the Summit is sponsored by the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy, Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, Arkansas State Board of Nursing, Arkansas State Police, Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, Office of the State Drug Director, Rotary Clubs of Arkansas, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Arkansas State Medical Board, University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock MidSouth School of Social Work.

An agenda will be released closer to the event. Register today as space is limited. For questions, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

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