Rutledge Reaches Settlement with Online Payday LenderFri, Jun 24, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has settled a consumer-protection lawsuit against Western Sky Financial, CashCall Inc., WS Funding, Martin A. Webb and J. Paul Reddam. The entities were accused of conspiring to offer illegal payday loans online to Arkansans while claiming to be affiliated with a Native American tribe.
Under the terms of the settlement, the Arkansas Attorney General’s office will collect $750,000 of which $500,000 will be made available to eligible consumers. The remaining $250,000 will be deposited to the Consumer Education and Enforcement Account. The entities may not offer, fund or collect upon any loan with an interest rate in excess of the maximum rate set out in Arkansas law. Additionally, the settlement voids all current, delinquent, defaulted, charged-off or outstanding lending transaction entered into with Arkansans.
“Arkansans who were in a time of need sought the online lending services of the defendants and were regrettably handed more debt,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While traditional storefront payday lending has been eliminated in Arkansas, the risk to Arkansans from online payday lenders is quite high. My office will continue to protect consumers against these illegal activities and will notify those who are eligible to receive restitution payments under this settlement.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in October 2013, alleged that the defendants offered online payday loans with interest rates as high as 342 percent, in violation of Arkansas law. Western Sky, based in South Dakota, identifies itself as a tribal entity protected by tribal sovereign immunity. However, Western Sky was not protected by tribal immunity because it was not owned or operated by a tribe. Consumers based in Arkansas, not on tribal lands, used the internet to apply for loans and sign loan documents. CashCall and its subsidiary, WS Funding, are based in California and owned by Reddam. Martin Webb, also known as Butch Webb, owns Western Sky.
According to the 2013 complaint, WS Funding had an agreement with Western Sky in which Western Sky nominally originates the illegal payday loans, then assigns the loans to WS Funding for them to collect. CashCall and its subsidiaries ran virtually every aspect of Western Sky’s operations.
Arkansans had been offered loans in amounts ranging from $850 to $10,000, with corresponding annual percentage rates of between 89 percent and 342 percent.
Rutledge Honored for Fighting Drunk Driving and Underage Drinking in ArkansasFri, Jun 24, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) today recognized Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge as one of the recipients of its 2016 Leadership Awards. Responsibility.org is a national nonprofit that leads the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking and is funded by America’s leading distillers.
Now in its 12th year, the Foundation’s Leadership Awards recognize attorneys general for their strong leadership to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. Rutledge, along with four additional state attorneys general, received the award during the National Association of Attorneys General Summer Meeting.
“I am honored to partner with Responsibility.org in its fight against underage drinking and drunk driving,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Like the organization, I believe in continuing conversations with children to ensure they make responsible decisions. This is why I partnered with Responsibility.org on a recent Public Service Announcement encouraging thousands of Arkansas parents and guardians to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. These dangers along with drunk driving are far too great to ignore. It is a privilege to receive the 2016 Leadership Award in recognition of these efforts.”
The public service announcement recorded by Attorney General Rutledge can be viewed here.
“Attorney General Rutledge has played an integral role in keeping drunk drivers off the road and spreading the word about the dangers of underage drinking,” said Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org. “For the last 25 years, we have led the charge against drunk driving and underage drinking, but we would not be nearly as successful without the support of attorneys general and the active role they play in their local communities. We are honored to work arm-in-arm with Attorney General Rutledge to keep Arkansas’s roads safe and Arkansas’s kids alcohol-free.”
Rutledge Statement on the Supreme Court’s Decision Regarding the President’s Immigration ActionThu, Jun 23, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision in the challenge to President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The tie among the justices leaves in place the Fifth Circuit ruling, which found the action by the President unconstitutional.
“Today’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court maintains the ruling of the Fifth Circuit, which said the President’s decision to go around Congress and implement changes to immigration law through executive action goes beyond the scope of presidential power,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This ruling helps restore the balance of power and maintains our system of checks and balances with this president and all future occupants of the White House. This is a strong signal from the Courts: no one person is above the law and no President can rewrite a law to fit a policy agenda.”
Arkansas joined the coalition in December 2014, at the request of then Attorney General-elect Rutledge, along with Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Rutledge Comments on Arkansas Supreme Court’s Decision on the Legality of ExecutionsThu, Jun 23, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today released a statement in response to the decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court on the legality of Arkansas’s method of execution and the state's associated confidentiality provisions.
“Today's decision from the Arkansas Supreme Court reversing the decision from Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen once again shows that Arkansas’s method of execution by lethal injection is lawful,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It also upholds important confidentiality provisions passed by the General Assembly to protect drug manufacturers and suppliers from intimidation and harassment. As to the state’s next steps, I will notify the Governor once the stays of executions have been lifted so that he may set execution dates. I know that victims’ families want to see justice carried out, and that is exactly what I will continue to work toward as Attorney General.”
Rutledge: $400 Million in Apple E-Book Settlement Payouts to BeginTue, Jun 21, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said today that eligible Arkansans who have purchased electronic books (e-books) will begin receiving their share of Apple Inc.’s $400 million settlement payout, the result of a multistate e-books price-fixing case.
Arkansas and 32 other states filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. for conspiring to artificially inflate e-book prices with five major publishers. The publishers – Penguin, Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster – settled the claims against them for a total nationwide payment of $166 million, which was mostly distributed to consumers in March 2014.
“Arkansans are entitled to an equitable and fair marketplace, but Apple violated that trust with this scheme,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “E-books have become popular in recent years, but when the costs are inflated to build the company’s profit, attorneys general have a duty to protect consumers. Actions like this will not be tolerated and companies like Apple will be held responsible for their corrupt actions.”
In July 2013, after Apple declined to settle with the states, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Apple had conspired to raise the retail prices of e-books in violation of state and federal competition laws.
Last June, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, and in March, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Apple’s request for review, prompting the company’s obligation to pay the maximum consumer compensation.
$3.915 million will be returned to eligible Arkansans. The amounts received by e-book purchasers will be based on the number of e-books purchased between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012. For each e-book that was a New York Times bestseller, consumers will receive $6.93. For all other e-books, the payment will be $1.57. Combined with the $166 million publisher settlements, consumer compensation from the e-books case totals $566 million, about twice the estimated actual damages to consumers.
Distribution of the consumer payments is expected to begin today. Arkansans who purchased e-books through Sony or Google will receive checks in the mail. Those who purchased e-books through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble or Kobo will automatically receive credits in their accounts (unless they previously requested to receive checks).
Consumers receiving account credits should expect to receive an email between June 21 and June 24, indicating that the credits are available in their accounts. Credits can be used to purchase any items sold by these retailers.
The settlement administrator has set up a website and toll-free phone number for consumers with questions about this distribution. Please visit ebooklawsuits.com or call (866) 686-9333 for more information. Arkansans can also contact the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
Rutledge Welcomes Summer Law Clerks to Attorney General’s OfficeMon, Jun 20, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge welcomed a new class of law clerks for Summer Session I to the Attorney General’s office. These law students work in various departments assisting with legal research, drafting memos and legal documents and accompanying lawyers at trial, client meetings and hearings.
“It is a great service-learning opportunity to have this group of law students in our office this summer,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “They are gaining valuable experience from some of the State’s top attorneys, as well as being exposed to the public service sector. Law clerks are a valuable asset to services provided at the Attorney General’s office.”
Alexander Chak, a second year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking in the Civil Department. He graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2013, with double majors in criminology, law and society, along with psychology and social behavior. Chak is from Queens, New York, and graduated from Northwood High School in Irvine in 2008.
Houston Garner, a third year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking in the Criminal Department. He graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in political science in 2014. Garner is from Bryant and graduated from Bryant High School in 2011.
Emily Helmick, a second year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. She graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2015, with a degree in healthcare management/marketing. Helmick is from Peja, Kosovo, and graduated from Prishtina High School in Prishtina, Kosovo in 2011.
Alex Nguyen, a third year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking in the Public Protection Department. He graduated from Brown University with a degree in biology and a doctorate in medical science. Nguyen is from Fort Smith and graduated from Subiaco Academy.
Ryan Smith, a second year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking in the State Agencies Department. He graduated from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, in 2013, with a degree in political science. Smith is from Keller, Texas, and graduated from Keller High School in 2009.
Phillip Treat, a second year student at the University of Arkansas School of Law, is clerking for the Solicitor General. He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2015, with a degree in criminal justice. Treat is from Greenbrier and graduated from Cabot High School in 2011.