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Decision to Stay the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Rutledge Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision to Stay the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Tue, Feb 9, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement after the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Clean Power Plan.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has given the people of Arkansas good news tonight,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By granting a stay of the Clean Power Plan, the Court has prevented an unlawful, out-of-touch plan drafted by bureaucrats in Washington from moving forward until the legal challenges are properly resolved. This helps ensure that Arkansas and other states are not forced to comply with a rule that will likely be found unlawful and will skyrocket energy rates. The law could not be clearer that the EPA does not have the legal authority to implement this regulation, and I am confident that as this case moves forward the Courts will recognize this fact and prevent its full implementation.”

Rutledge was part of a bipartisan coalition of 29 states and state agencies that requested the stay.

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Fights Proposed Labor Rule Targeting Small Businesses

Rutledge Fights Proposed Labor Rule that Targets Small Businesses

Tue, Feb 9, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has sent a letter with 12 other states to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget voicing opposition to the Obama Administration’s proposed Persuader Advice Exemption Rule, which could force small businesses to disclose communications with outside counsel in labor relations matters.

The attorneys general believe the new rule would undermine long-standing protections for confidential attorney-client communications and would place undue burdens on small businesses, which would be singled out under the rule.

“Small businesses are already being hit with countless federal mandates and regulations that stifle job growth,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If Arkansas small businesses are going to compete, then Washington needs to get out of the way. Arkansans want a government that works, not one that overregulates, which is why I am urging the administration to withdraw this proposed rule.”

“The new rule would cause particular harm to small businesses in our states. The reporting requirement applies specifically to outside consultants. Because many large corporations employ in-house counsels, they will have access to legal advice on labor matters, free of the disclosure concerns raised by the new rule. Small businesses, by their very nature, are less likely to employ in-house counsel. The burden of this new rule will fall chiefly on them, with heavy penalties if they fail to comply,” the attorneys general wrote.

The attorneys general point out that for more than 50 years, the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act has preserved the confidentiality of attorney-client communications by exempting attorney advice relating to labor relations issues from disclosure.

The letter, led by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, was signed by Rutledge and attorneys general from Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

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Medicaid Fraud Convictions

Rutledge Announces Medicaid Fraud Convictions

Mon, Feb 8, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the convictions of a Pulaski County man and a Dallas County, Texas, man for Medicaid fraud. The two men pleaded guilty in unrelated cases in the Pulaski County District Court. Each will serve one year probation and pay restitution and fines totaling over $3,000. Additionally, the Medicaid fraud convictions will be reported to federal authorities and may result in the defendants being excluded from participation as providers in the Medicaid and Medicare program for a period of up to 10 years.

“These convictions demonstrate the commitment of the Attorney General’s office to combat fraud in the Medicaid system,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Medicaid fraud special investigators work to detect individuals and organizations that are scamming the system or failing to provide all appropriate care to patients and clients dependent on the Arkansas Medicaid program. Those attempting to defraud Arkansans will be held accountable.”

Myron Thrash, 36, of Mabelvale pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud, a Class A misdemeanor. Thrash billed the Arkansas Medicaid Program for services that were not rendered. He paid $846 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund and was fined $600.

Deandre Taybore, 32, of Desoto, Texas, pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud, a Class A misdemeanor. Taybore billed the Arkansas Medicaid Program for services he did not provide. He paid $1,242 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program Trust Fund and was fined $600.

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 oag@arkansasag.gov.

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$470 Million Joint State-Federal Settlement with HSBC

Rutledge Reaches $470 Million Joint State-Federal Settlement with HSBC

Fri, Feb 5, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge along with 49 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reached a $470 million joint state-federal settlement today with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC to address mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses.

“Arkansans who were taken advantage of by the foreclosure abuses and loan modifications of HSBC are eligible for direct payments under this settlement,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “HSBC is being held accountable for the way it treated its borrowers, and the agreement requires HSBC to reform its ways and protect borrowers in future transactions.”

The agreement’s mortgage servicing terms largely mirrors the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement reached in February 2012 between the federal government, 49 state attorneys general, including Arkansas and the five largest national mortgage servicers. That agreement provided consumers nationwide with more than $50 billion in direct relief, created new servicing standards, and implemented independent oversight.

A subsequent state-federal agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. worth nearly $1 billion was announced in June 2014.

The HSBC agreement requires the company to provide certain Arkansas borrowers with loan modifications or other relief. The modifications, which HSBC will choose through an extensive list of options, include principal reductions and refinancing for underwater mortgages. HSBC decides how many loans and which loans to modify, but must meet certain minimum targets. Because HSBC receives only partial settlement credit for many types of loan modifications, the settlement will provide relief to borrowers that will exceed the overall minimum amount.

Approximately 700 eligible Arkansas borrowers whose loans were serviced by HSBC and who lost their home to foreclosure from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2012 and encountered servicing abuse will be eligible for a payment from the national $59.3 million fund for payments to borrowers. The borrower payment amount will depend on how many borrowers file claims.

Eligible borrowers will be contacted about how to qualify for payments.

The settlement requires HSBC to substantially change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court.

The terms will prevent past foreclosure abuses, such as robo-signing, improper documentation and lost paperwork.

The settlement’s consumer protections and standards include:

  • Making foreclosure a last resort by first requiring HSBC to evaluate homeowners for other loss mitigation options.
  • Restricting foreclosure while the homeowner is being considered for a loan modification.
  • Procedures and timelines for reviewing loan modification applications.
  • Giving homeowners the right to appeal denials.
  • Requiring a single point of contact for borrowers seeking information about their loans and maintaining adequate staff to handle calls.

The agreement resolves potential violations of civil law based on HSBC’s deficient mortgage loan origination and servicing activities. The agreement does not prevent state or federal authorities from pursuing criminal enforcement actions related to this or other conduct by HSBC or from punishing wrongful securitization conduct that is the focus of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Additionally, the agreement does not prevent any action by individual borrowers who wish to bring their own lawsuits.

The agreement will be filed as a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

For loans serviced by HSBC Bank USA, N.A., inquiries should be addressed to 1-866-435-7085 or the consumer’s case manager. For loans serviced by HSBC Mortgage Services, Household Finance or Beneficial, inquiries should be addressed to 1-800-333-7023 or the consumer’s single point of contact.

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Spring Law Clerks to the Attorney General’s Office

Rutledge Welcomes Spring Law Clerks to the Attorney General’s Office

Fri, Feb 5, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge welcomed a new class of law clerks to the Attorney General’s office. These law students work in various departments assisting with legal research and drafting memos and legal documents.

“This group of future attorneys is gaining valuable experience from some of Arkansas’s top lawyers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “They are getting exposure to the public service sector, and are a valuable asset to the Attorney General’s office.”

Anna Baker, a third year student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) William H. Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 2001, with a degree in German, and in 2008 she graduated from the University of Virginia with a doctorate in German literature. Baker is from Los Altos, California, and graduated high school from Gunn High School in 1997.

Amelia Fuller, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. She graduated from Arkansas State University, with a degree in English. Fuller is from Hot Springs and graduated from Lake Hamilton High School in 2010.

Tramisha Harris, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. She graduated from Louisiana State University Shreveport in 2010, with a degree in political science, and in 2012 she graduated from Louisiana State University at Monroe with a master’s degree in communications. Harris is from Bossier City, Louisiana, and graduated from Airline High School in 2006.

Austin Harrison, a third year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. He is also a graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2013, with a degree in public policy leadership. Harrison is from Louisville, Mississippi, and graduated from Winston Academy in 2009.

Kolton Jones, a third year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Civil Department. He graduated from Henderson State University in 2012, with a degree in business administration. Jones is from Sulphur Springs, Texas, and graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 2009.

Stephanie Mantell, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Criminal Department. She graduated from UALR in 2013, with double majors in history and English. Mantell is from Waterloo, New York, went to Minutemen Regional Vocational High School, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and received her GED in 2004.

Garrett Morgan, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Criminal Department. He graduated from UALR in 2014, with double majors in criminal justice and philosophy. Morgan is from El Dorado and graduated from Parkers Chapel High School in 2005.

Reece Owens, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. He graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2011, with a degree in economics. Owens is from Cabot and graduated from Cabot High School in 2006.

Jeremy Wann, a second year student at the UALR Bowen School of Law, is clerking in the Civil Department. He graduated from Webster University in 2014 with a Master of Business Administration and from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in 2009 with a degree in marketing. Wann is from Fort Smith and graduated from Roland High School in Roland, Oklahoma, in 2005.

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Objects to the EPA’s Cap-And-Trade Rule

Rutledge Joins Bipartisan Effort, Objects to the EPA’s Cap-And-Trade Rule

Wed, Feb 3, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined officials from 18 other states in challenging a proposal that will effectively force a cap-and-trade program upon Arkansas if it does not comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called Clean Power Plan.

“If Arkansas does not fully comply with the EPA’s unlawful new carbon rule then the agency will force the State to comply with a far-reaching federal plan,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans know best how to protect our clean air, but the EPA has indicated it is willing to ignore State authority in order to push a political agenda that failed to pass Congress when the President’s own party had large majorities in both chambers.”

Participating states contend the EPA’s federal plan, as set forth in relation to the Power Plan, upends state authority, increases electricity prices and violates numerous aspects of federal law.

Rutledge objected to the federal plan last month with a public comment letter to the EPA and stressed the State’s opposition to the underlying Power Plan, while questioning the EPA’s authority.

The letter also argues that the EPA lacks authority to impose a carbon credit trading program on states, arguing that such a proposal runs contrary to the Clean Air Act, violates state sovereignty and raises serious constitutional issues.

Congress rejected President Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal in 2009.

Rutledge is part of a bipartisan coalition that has filed suit against the EPA’s Power Plan. The lawsuit argues the Power Plan exceeded EPA’s authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation.

Rutledge has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately halt the ongoing damage caused by the Power Plan after the D.C. Circuit denied a request.

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