Rutledge’s Statement on U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Approval of Judge Barrett for U.S. Supreme CourtThu, Oct 22, 2020
Says, ‘Judge Barrett is, without a doubt, the best nominee President Donald J. Trump could have selected for the U.S. Supreme Court’
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee approval of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Judge Barrett is, without a doubt, the best nominee President Donald J. Trump could have selected for the U.S. Supreme Court and I applaud the Senate leadership for their thorough review of her exceptional resume,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While displaying her scholarly understanding of the Constitution, Judge Barrett, exhibited poise and unparalleled control and I look forward to the final step in her confirmation to be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”
Rutledge Announces Settlements with Preferred Family Health Totaling $6.5 MillionThu, Oct 22, 2020
Says, ‘I will do everything in my power to hold any Medicaid provider accountable’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that multimillion dollar federal and state civil settlements have been reached with Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH). Both settlements were based on an investigation conducted by the Attorney General Office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) into false claims submitted to the Arkansas Medicaid Program by former PFH employees. PFH has agreed to pay $4,555,632.10 to resolve a federal false claims case and $1,944,367.90 in a separate state settlement under the State False Claims Act. In addition to the larger settlement, five former employees of PFH have been charged in state court with Medicaid fraud and an additional employee settled false claims or actions.
“The false claims addressed in these settlements were the result of a culture of corruption at the highest levels of PFH in Arkansas, and as Attorney General, I will do everything in my power to hold any Medicaid provider accountable when Medicaid Program rules or the law is violated,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This settlement shows we will aggressively pursue any company that deceives Arkansans or takes advantage of the Medicaid program which provides medically-necessary treatment for many Arkansans.”
Through most of 2016, the MFCU investigated fraud in the Rehabilitative Services for Persons with Mental Illness (RSPMI) program. In September 2016, an informant and employee of PFH made a complaint to the MFCU claiming PFH had been billing Medicaid for counseling services not rendered or over-billed. These allegations involved inappropriate billing by individual therapists.
In December 2017, the informant contacted the MFCU with additional information that indicated PFH may have been inappropriately billing an entire class of recipients known as Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMBs). Using data analytics, the MFCU was immediately able to confirm that claims for services improperly provided to this population were being submitted to Medicaid for payment rather than Medicare. While it was clear that the submitted claims were improper, it was not clear who within PFH was submitting the claims, whether they understood what they were doing was illegal, or how the claims were able to get through the edits in place in the Medicaid payment system that should have rejected the claims.
In early January 2018, the MFCU served PFH with a “Request for Information” seeking to determine how this had occurred. Later that same month the state's informant filed a federal sealed qui tam action against PFH under the federal false claims act. A qui tam action is a federal lawsuit brought by a private citizen to stop or prevent fraud and abuse of federal dollars.
PFH, a large mental health care organization, offered a range of services which included mental and behavioral health, substance use, employment, developmental disabilities, child welfare, and medical. Until October 2018, there were approximately 50 clinics throughout Arkansas. PFH no longer operates in the State of Arkansas.
The MFCU was assisted in its investigation by the Office of the Arkansas Medicaid Inspector General and the HHS-OIG-Office of Investigations.
Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or email@example.com.
Rutledge Announces $500,000 Judgment Against Owner of Fraudulent Timeshare Exit CompanyWed, Oct 21, 2020
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 LawsTue, Oct 20, 2020
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. PCMATue, Oct 6, 2020
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 DutyMon, Oct 5, 2020
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.”