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SCOTUS to Hear Case Against Delaware

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Arkansas’s Case Against Delaware

Tue, Oct 4, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today was informed that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an original action case against the State of Delaware that she and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed in June.

The bipartisan coalition is seeking to reclaim approximately $200 million that rightfully belongs to the sister states of Delaware under the federal Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Checks Act. The ultimate dollar figure that Delaware owes other states may be much higher.

“Delaware is unlawfully holding monies that belong to other states and taxpayers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Today’s news that the nation’s highest court will hear this case brings us one step closer to properly reclaiming this money.”

The dispute between the plaintiff states and Delaware is about which state is entitled to abandoned and unclaimed “official checks” sold by MoneyGram, a money transfer services company that operates in all 50 states and internationally. The coalition is asking the Supreme Court to declare that the plaintiff states, and not Delaware, are entitled to the hundreds of millions of dollars improperly turned over to Delaware and to all future similar abandoned and unclaimed property. The coalition is also asking the Court to order the appropriate repayment to plaintiff states by Delaware.

On Feb. 10, 2015, an independent auditor completed an examination of abandoned “official checks” from MoneyGram in a select group of states and concluded that nearly $200 million was owed to those states. The State of Arkansas is owed over $850,000 in unclaimed “official checks.”

Led by Arkansas and Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia joined the original filing in June. Last month, the states of California, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia and Washington joined the filing.

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Relief for Victimized Military and Veterans

Rutledge Obtains over $650,000 in Relief for Victimized Military Members and Veterans

Fri, Sep 30, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has reached a settlement with retailer USA Discounters, also doing business as USA Living and Fletcher’s Jewelers, along with 49 other attorneys general to resolve claims of deceptive practices used by the company against consumers.

USA Discounters typically marketed to members of the military and veterans, advertising that military, veterans and government employees would never be denied credit for goods purchased from the retailer and sold products, including furniture, appliances, televisions, computers, smartphones, jewelry and other consumer goods.

“No Arkansan deserves to be lied to when they are considering purchasing everyday consumer goods, especially our military members and veterans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These abusive practices by USA Discounters harmed our service members right here in Arkansas, and I am grateful this settlement grants much needed relief to those individuals.”

The attorneys general alleged that USA Discounters engaged in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices. These allegations include that, in collecting on consumer debts, the company engaged in abusive tactics, constantly contacted service members’ chains-of-command and caused some service members to lose security clearances and face demotions. The states also alleged that USA Discounters only filed its lawsuits in a few Virginia jurisdictions, no matter the service member’s location, deployment status or residence. In addition, the states believed that USA Discounters sold overpriced household goods at high interest rates, often using the military allotment system to guarantee payment. These unlawful business practices were secured through misrepresentations and omissions in advertising, during the loan’s origination, and during the collection process.

USA Discounters closed its stores in the summer of 2015 before later declaring bankruptcy.

USA Discounters agreed to provide relief to certain former and current customers in Arkansas. The total estimated value to consumers nationally is approximately $95.9 million, with $658,358 going to 261 Arkansans, primarily benefiting active and veteran service members.

USA Discounters also agreed to:

  • Apply a $100 credit to all accounts whose contracts were dated after June 1, 2012, which were not discharged in bankruptcy, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports ($6,700 for Arkansans);
  • Write off all judgments not obtained in the correct state and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports ($650,463 for Arkansans);
  • Credit all judgments that were obtained in the correct state against members of the military with a credit equal to 50 percent of the original judgment amount ($1,194 for Arkansans);
  • And pay a penalty of $40 million to the states, which will be subordinated to all secured, administrative, priority and unsecured claims that are allowed in the bankruptcy case.
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Washington Court to Protect Religious Conscience

Rutledge Urges Washington Supreme Court to Protect Religious Conscience

Thu, Sep 29, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is leading a 13-state coalition in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, urging the court to protect the religious conscience rights of its citizens. The attorneys general believe this case has national implications and that similar cases may arise in their states.

“This country has a rich history of protecting the rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Unfortunately, these rights have recently come under a sustained and coordinated assault even though they are the very reason many came to this country in the first place. Along with my colleagues, I am urging the Washington Supreme Court to recognize that the actions of the defendant are not discriminatory or unlawful but rather reflect sincerely held religious beliefs that should be accommodated in our pluralistic and tolerant society.”

The case involves an owner of a flower shop (Ms. Barronelle Stutzman) who declined to create a floral arrangement for and oversee its placement at a same-sex wedding based on her religious beliefs. She is being sued by the State of Washington under its discrimination law and unfair business practices act.

Stutzman has served this particular client for years, considered him a friend and remains willing to serve him in the future, but she simply believes based on her religious beliefs that she cannot participate in and create a flower arrangement for the same-sex marriage.

The attorneys general conclude in their brief that “Our history encourages a public square with many voices, all trying to persuade others of their views. But Respondents want all the voices either to agree on one view or to be silent. Because that runs counter to America’s history of free speech and religious exemptions — which are embedded in Washington’s Constitution — Amici respectfully urge this Court to rule in Appellants’ favor.”

Arkansas is joined in filing by attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia and the governors of Kansas and Kentucky.

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Oral Arguments Challenging EPA’s Power Plan

Rutledge Statement Following Oral Arguments Challenging EPA’s Power Plan

Tue, Sep 27, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement today after the conclusion of oral arguments in West Virginia v. EPA, the court challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

"The so-called Clean Power Plan will skyrocket electric rates for Arkansans," said Attorney General Rutledge. "With the slow economic growth, no Arkansas family or business owner, especially those on fixed incomes, can afford these higher costs. This plan is illegal and thankfully the U.S. Supreme Court has put in place an unprecedented stay, preventing its implementation. I am pleased the D.C. Circuit has finally heard oral arguments in this case, and I am hopeful the court will recognize that the EPA overstepped and the plan should not be allowed to go forward."

Arkansas is part of a bipartisan coalition of 29 states and state agencies that are challenging the Clean Power Plan in the D.C. Circuit. In February, following a request from the coalition, the U.S. Supreme Court placed an injunction on the plan until its full legality can be determined.

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Mobile Office Locations for October

Rutledge Announces Mobile Office Locations for October

Tue, Sep 27, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for October.

Rutledge created the mobile office initiative in 2015 to make the office accessible to everyone, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. Last year, office hours were held in all 75 counties, marking the first time that the Attorney General’s office has held office hours in each county across the State. Since January, 53 mobile offices have been held in an effort to help even more Arkansans.

The Attorney General Mobile Offices assist constituents with consumer related issues in filing consumer complaints against scam artists. Staff will also be available to answer questions about the office and the other services it offers to constituents. Attorney General Rutledge believes there is no issue too small for her staff to have a face-to-face conversation.

Attorney General Rutledge recently expanded the services offered at mobile offices to include Prescription Drug Take Back boxes. Rutledge is partnering with local law enforcement agencies across the State who will handle a secure box and properly dispose of the prescriptions collected. Rutledge encourages Arkansans to bring their old, unused or expired prescription medications to an upcoming mobile office.

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:

Cleveland County

Thursday, Oct. 6

10-11:30 a.m.

Rison Senior Citizens Center

50 I.E. Moore Drive

Rison, AR 71665

Carroll County

Monday, Oct. 10

10:30 a.m.-noon

Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center

202 W. Madison St.

Berryville, AR 72616

Madison County

Tuesday, Oct. 11

10:30 a.m.-noon

Madison County Senior Activity and Wellness Center

903 N. College St.

Huntsville, AR 72740

Van Buren County

Tuesday, Oct. 18

10-11:30 a.m.

Clinton Senior Center

311 Yellowjacket Lane

Clinton, AR 72031

St. Francis County

Thursday, Oct. 20

10-11:30 a.m.

St. Bernards Medical Center Forrest City Senior Life Center

2550 S. Washington

Forrest City, AR 72335

Cross County

Tuesday, Oct. 25

10:30 a.m.-noon

St. Bernards Medical Center Meyer Senior Life Center

715 E. Canal St.

Wynne, AR 72396

Dallas County

Thursday, Oct. 27

10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Fordyce Senior Citizen Center

608 Moro St.

Fordyce, AR 71742

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Antitrust Lawsuit Against Pharmaceutical Companies

Rutledge Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Pharmaceutical Companies for Conspiring to Keep Monopoly Profits

Fri, Sep 23, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and 35 other attorneys general today filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addition, over allegations that the company engaged in practices to block generic competitors from joining the market and caused purchasers to pay artificially high prices.

Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is accused of conspiring with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone from a tablet version to a film in order to delay generic alternatives and maintain monopoly profits. The companies are accused of violating Arkansas and federal antitrust laws, according to Rutledge.

“With a growing prescription drug abuse epidemic across this country, it is appalling that companies would take actions to prevent cheaper, generic treatments from entering the marketplace,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Antitrust laws seek to ensure fair and equal competition and when those laws are violated, it is my duty to hold companies accountable.”

Suboxone is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings. No generic alternative of the film is currently available.

According to the lawsuit, when Reckitt introduced Suboxone in 2002, it had exclusivity protection that lasted for seven years. Before that period ended, however, Reckitt worked with MonoSol to create a new version of Suboxone – a dissolvable film, similar in size to a breath strip. Over time, Reckitt allegedly converted the market away from the tablet to the film through marketing, price adjustments and other methods. After the majority of Suboxone prescriptions were written for the film, Reckitt removed the tablet from the U.S. market.

The attorneys general allege that this conduct, known as product hopping, was illegal. Product hopping is when a company makes modest changes to its product to extend patent protections so other companies cannot enter the market and offer cheaper generic alternatives. According to the suit, the Suboxone film provided no real benefit over the tablet, and Reckitt continued to sell the tablets in other countries even after removing them from the U.S. market. Reckitt also allegedly expressed unfounded safety concerns about the tablet version and intentionally delayed FDA approval of generic versions.

As a result, the attorneys general allege that consumers have paid artificially high monopoly prices since late 2009, when generic alternatives of Suboxone might otherwise have become available. During that time, annual sales of Suboxone topped $1 billion.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, accuses the companies of violating the federal Sherman Act and state laws. Counts include conspiracy to monopolize and illegal restraint of trade. In the suit, the attorneys general ask the court to stop the companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct, to restore competition and to order appropriate relief for consumers and the states, plus costs and fees.

Rutledge is joined in today’s filing by attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

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