Rutledge Announces Mobile Office Locations for Remainder of JulyTue, Jul 14, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for the remainder of July.
Attorney General Rutledge created the mobile office initiative to make the office accessible to everyone, particularly to those who live outside the capital city.
The mobile offices assist constituents with consumer related issues in filing consumer complaints against scam artists. Attorney General Rutledge believes there is no issue too small for her staff to have a face-to-face conversation.
For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s Office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter/com/AGRutledge.
The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:
Tuesday, July 21
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Hope City Hall, Lobby
206 W. Avenue A
Hope, AR 71802
Tuesday, July 21
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Nevada County Senior Center, Lobby
419 E. Main St.
Prescott, AR 71857
Thursday, July 23
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Cleburne County Senior Citizens Center, Community Room
320 Trailwood Drive
Heber Springs, AR 72543
Thursday, July 23
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Faulkner County Senior Citizens Center, Community Room
705 E. Siebenmorgen Road
Conway, AR 72032
Tuesday, July 28
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Star City-City Hall, Lobby
200 S. Jefferson St.
Star City, AR 71667
Tuesday, July 28
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Pine Bluff City Hall, Conference Room
200 E. 8th Ave.
Pine Bluff, AR 71601
Thursday, July 30
9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Rison City Hall, Lobby
405 Main St.
Rison, AR 71665
Thursday, July 30
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Sheridan Parks & Recreation Center, Lobby
1511 S. Rose St.
Sheridan, AR 72150
Rutledge Launches Metal Theft Prevention ProgramThu, Jul 9, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced at a press conference at the State Capitol a new initiative from the Attorney General’s Special Investigations Division to combat the problem of metal theft. Rutledge was joined at the Capitol by Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach and AT&T Arkansas Director of External Affairs Ronald Dedman.
“For far too long, too many scrapyards have not been following the law and thus, allowing criminals to get away with metal theft,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Attorney General, I am launching a coordinated statewide effort to train local law enforcement to target metal theft, and instructing agents of the Special Investigations Division at the Attorney General’s Office to begin controlled sales and inspections of scrapyards to ensure non-precious metal is properly registered. These crimes have gone on far too long, and are harming Arkansas businesses, farms, schools, homes and churches. Enough is enough, and today, we begin a process of bringing an end to these crimes.”
Metal Theft Prevention Program Background
- In 2009, Arkansas became the second State in the country to pass a State law to automate the investigations process for metal theft crimes, requiring all scrap metal recyclers to report transactions electronically.
- Arkansas Act 1354 of 2013 requires scrap metal recyclers to receive a license issued by their local sheriff.
- It also creates a compliance report that allows law enforcement to easily check to see if scrap metal recyclers are reporting all information required by State law.
- Those not reporting properly are subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 per violation.
- According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Arkansas was ranked #5 in insurance claims for metal theft with more than 600 claims from 2010-2012.
- After processing a query of the available National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data submitted by participating law enforcement agencies in Arkansas for 2014, 602 incidents returned with stolen metals (non-precious).
- As part of the NIBRS reporting structure, metals (non-precious) are defined as the following: base metals or alloys possessing luster, malleability, ductility, and conductivity of electricity and heat, as well as ferrous and non-ferrous metals such as iron, steel, tin, aluminum, copper, brass, copper wire, copper pipe, etc.
- Arkansas has existing laws, but because of limited resources, these laws are not being consistently enforced.
- To combat this growing, costly problem, Attorney General Rutledge is launching a coordinated statewide Metal Theft Prevention Program.
- Farmers are one of the largest targeted groups. Thieves are repeatedly taking wire off agricultural pivot irrigation systems and may net a few hundred bucks from this felonious sale. But it costs our farmers at least $10,000 to repair, in addition to delaying their crop schedule.
- Sworn officers in the Special Investigations Division at the Attorney General’s Office will conduct trainings with local law enforcement to use a free online service, LeadsOnline, to target metal theft.
- The weeklong trainings in late July will be held in Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Texarkana, Mountain Home, El Dorado, Monticello, Fayetteville, West Memphis and Little Rock.
- In August, these agents will begin controlled sales and inspections of scrapyards to ensure that non-precious metal is properly registered and scrapyards are in compliance with the law.
- If there is proof that a scrapyard not following the law, these agents have the authority to issue warnings or citations, which are up to $1,000 for each offense.
Arkansas Settles with Chase to Change Unlawful Credit Debt Collection PracticesWed, Jul 8, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a $136 million joint state-federal settlement with Chase Bank USA N.A. and Chase Bankcare Services Inc. in which both will reform unlawful credit card debt collection practices. Arkansas will receive $342,758.11 of the settlement.
The joint agreement, through an assurance of voluntary compliance with the States and a separate order with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), follows an investigation into Chase’s past debt collection practices.
“While Chase is entitled to collect lawfully on unpaid debts, it is not at liberty to use false information to pursue collection cases against Arkansas consumers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This agreement today holds Chase accountable for these unfair actions, provides restitution to harmed consumers in Arkansas and puts in place proper protections to ensure these practices never take place again. Debt collectors, including Chase, are prohibited from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices to collect from consumers.”
The agreement today requires Chase to significantly reform its credit card debt collection practices in areas of declarations, collections litigation, debt sales and debt buying. Debt buying involves the sale of debt by creditors or other debt owners, often for pennies on the dollar, to buyers who then attempt to collect the debt at full value or sell it to other buyers.
Among other reforms, the agreement requires new safeguards to help ensure debt information is accurate, including the correction of inaccurate data provisions of additional information to consumers who owe debts and a prohibition to Chase’s debt buyers from reselling consumer debts to other purchasers.
Previously, initial buyers of Chase’s consumer credit card debt could resell the debt, the subsequent buyer could flip the debt to another buyer, and the process could repeat itself many times. If initial information about the debt was incorrect or was transmitted with errors to a subsequent debt buyer, that could result in long-term harm to the consumer and leave the consumer with the difficult or even impossible burden of successfully challenging or correcting errors.
The investigation uncovered unlawful debt collection practices. According to the joint state-federal probe, Chase:
* Subjected consumers to collections activity for accounts that were not theirs, in amounts that were incorrect or uncollectable.
* Subjected consumers to inaccurate credit reporting and unlawful judgments that may affect consumers’ ability to obtain credit, employment, housing and insurance in the future.
* Sold certain accounts that were inaccurate, settled, discharged in bankruptcy, not owed by the consumer or otherwise uncollectable to debt buyers.
* Filed lawsuits and obtained judgments against consumers using false and deceptive affidavits and other documents that were prepared without following required procedures, a practice commonly referred to as “robo-signing.” These practices misled consumers and courts and caused consumers to pay false or incorrect debt and incur legal expenses and court fees to defend against invalid or excessive claims.
* Made calculation errors when filing debt collection lawsuits that sometimes resulted in judgments against consumers for incorrect amounts.
Chase suspended its consumer credit card debt sales in 2013 and collections litigation in 2011. In 2012, Chase maintained approximately 64.5 million open accounts with $124 billion in outstanding credit card debt. From 2009-2013, Chase recovered approximately $4.5 billion of debt from defaulted accounts through collection lawsuits, selling defaulted accounts to third-party debt buyers, or both.
Chase has agreed to cease all collection efforts on more than 528,000 consumers, including an estimated 1,200 in Arkansas. Chase sued the affected consumers for credit card debts and obtained judgments between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. Chase will notify affected borrowers of the change and will request all three major credit reporting agencies to not report the judgments.
The agreement also ensures that Chase will fulfill $50 million in consumer restitution through a separate 2013 consent order reached with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency<http://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2013/nr-occ-2013-139.html> (OCC). Chase estimates that so far it has provided $25,300 in restitution to 40 Arkansas consumers.
If Chases’ consumer restitution through the OCC action falls short of $50 million by July 1, 2016, Chase must pay the remaining balance to State attorneys general and the CFPB.
In addition to Arkansas, the following attorneys general are participating in the Chase settlement: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Rutledge Reaches Settlement with USA PublishingTue, Jul 7, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has reached a settlement with Conway-based USA Publishing and its owners, William and Kathleen Parker, to resolve allegations that the organization solicited funds from Arkansas donors on behalf of New Jersey-based National Police Defense Foundation. Arkansans were told these contributions would benefit the State’s emergency responders.
In the consent decree filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court today, the organization will pay $121,000 to the State to be distributed as reimbursement to Arkansas donors. USA Publishing will also pay another $50,000 in civil penalties to the State. The owners have agreed to cease all operations and will end all professional fundraising activities in Arkansas.
“It is troubling to think that an Arkansas-based company assisted an out-of-state charity with ripping off Arkansas donors, but that is exactly what USA Publishing did,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans were tricked into thinking that their donations were going to benefit local law enforcement and emergency responders. Con artists like this have no place in Arkansas, and the Attorney General’s Office will continue to protect consumers.”
In July 2013, the Attorney General’s Office sued National Police Defense Foundation and USA Publishing. The lawsuit alleged that National Police Defense Foundation contributed only $500 of the $231,004 it raised in the State to charitable purposes. The bulk of the money went to USA Publishing.
A settlement was reached with the National Police Defense Foundation in July 2014. The foundation agreed to pay $120,000 in restitution to consumers and to permanently stop all professional fundraising activities in Arkansas.
Rutledge Urges Congress to Preserve State Authority to Enforce Data Breach and Security LawsTue, Jul 7, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today co-sponsored a bipartisan, multistate letter to the U.S. Congress in an effort to ensure that any future federal data breach notification or data security law provides consumers with the best protection.
The letter, signed by 47 attorneys general, emphasizes the importance of maintaining States’ authority to enforce data breach and data security laws, as well as their ability to enact laws to address future data security risks.
Citing recent efforts in Congress to pass a national law on data breach notification and data security, Rutledge and other attorneys general caution against federal preemption of State data breach and security law and argue that any federal law must not diminish the important role States already have to protect consumers from data breaches and identity theft.
“Every day it seems like Americans are faced with another announcement that their data has been hacked,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These breaches are scary, and Congress must realize that attorneys general and the States are in a much better position to protect consumers from identity theft and data breaches. Along with 46 of my colleagues, I urge Congress to carefully consider the role of the States before it takes action on any data security laws.”
The letter urges Congress to preserve existing protections under State law to ensure that States can continue to enforce breach notification requirements under their own State laws, to enact new laws to respond to new data security threats, and to not hinder States that are helping their residents by preempting state data breach and security laws.
The letter points out a number of concerns with federal preemption of State data breach and security laws, including:
- Data breaches and identity theft continue to cause significant harm to consumers. Since 2005, nearly 5,000 data breaches have compromised more than 815 million records containing sensitive information about consumers.
- Data security vulnerabilities are too common. States frequently encounter circumstances where data breach incidents result from the failure by data collectors to reasonably protect the sensitive information entrusted to them, putting consumers at unnecessary risk. Many of these breaches could have been prevented if the data collector had taken reasonable steps to secure consumers’ data.
- States play an important role responding to data breaches and identity theft. The States have been at the frontlines in helping consumers deal with the repercussions of a data breach, providing important assistance to consumers who have been impacted and investigating the causes to determine if reasonable data securities were in place. Forty-seven states now have laws requiring data collectors to notify consumers when their personal information has been compromised, and a number of states have also passed laws requiring companies to adopt reasonable data security practices.
Today’s letter, co-sponsored by Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Nebraska, was also joined by the following states and territories: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
A copy of the letter is available here.
Rutledge Urges Congress to Protect Religious Organizations’ Tax-Exempt StatusThu, Jul 2, 2015
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to take steps to protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organizations.
“Last week’s majority opinion from the Supreme Court specifically notes that ‘[t]he First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,’” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Protecting the religious conscience of Arkansas citizens is critically important following the Court’s decision, and I urge the Arkansas Congressional Delegation to speak with their leadership and colleagues so that Congress may take action to stop the IRS from infringing on rights of religious organizations.”
The letter, sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), was prompted by statements before the U.S. Supreme Court by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. during oral arguments in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. When asked if religious-affiliated institutions could have their tax-exempt status revoked if they opposed same-sex marriage, Verrilli said “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”
Rutledge and attorneys general from 14 other States ask that Congress modify the Internal Revenue Code to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from revoking the tax-exempt status of nonprofit religious organizations that disagree with the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citizens have the right to exercise their religion freely without government pressure to change their minds or penalties for unpopular beliefs,” the letter states. “We take very seriously the religious liberty of our States’ citizens and believe that Congress should take action now to preclude the IRS from targeting religious groups in this way.”
The letter says stripping the tax-exempt status of religious organizations would be “an unprecedented assertion of governmental power over religious exercise.”
“To allow the IRS to proceed in this way would suggest that the IRS has the power to target disfavored beliefs in any religious organization, to effectively decide the truth or correctness of a religious belief, and to penalize as a matter of ‘policy’ a mainstream belief held by groups that long have received tax-exempt status,” the attorneys general wrote.
Rutledge signed the letter along with attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
A copy of the letter can be viewed here.