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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah Leads Major Challenge to ESG Movement

November 30, 2022

Earlier this week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led a coalition of 13 attorneys general by filing a motion to intervene, asking FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to hold a hearing about Vanguard’s request for blanket authorization to buy significant amounts of shares of publicly listed utility companies.  Attorney General Reyes is asking FERC for a hearing to examine Vanguard’s promises to FERC not to control utilities or impact electricity prices because those promises contradict Vanguard’s ESG (Environmental Social Governance) commitments to use its $8.5 trillion financial influence to pressure utility companies to eliminate fossil fuels.

“Vanguard is speaking out of both sides of its mouth—telling FERC it is just a passive investor in utilities but at the same time committing to use its trillions to pressure companies away from fossil fuels,” said Attorney General Reyes. “FERC should ensure that Vanguard’s activism will not lead to electricity price hikes and grid instability.”

FERC regularly reviews such applications, which it can either approve or deny. States say the hearing is necessary to determine whether electricity consumers and other ratepayers would be at risk of higher rates and reduced reliability of electricity supply if the purchases are approved.

In 2019, Vanguard persuaded the Commission that its transactions would not affect rates, competition, and regulation.   That included “day-to-day management or operations of any traded utility nor invest for the purpose of managing, controlling or entering into business transactions with portfolio companies.”

Recently, however, Vanguard has made public statements indicating it would “accelerate the transition toward global net zero emissions,” by shifting electricity production completely away from natural gas and coal, which is now 67% of the global source. It has also worked on influencing ESG corporate policies with other major financial institutions such as BlackRock.

The letter states: “By making net zero commitments, Vanguard necessarily abandoned its status as a passive investor in public utilities and adopted a motive consistent with managing the utility.  These commitments, on their face, further suggest that Vanguard has already undertaken and is currently undertaking corresponding activities that may constitute attempts to manage utilities—the precise actions Vanguard represented in its 2019 application and its pending application that it would not take.”

In addition to Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas also joined the motion. 

Court Filing


Utah Attorney General Leads 17 State Coalition Pushing Back Against Student-Loan Cancellation

November 23, 2022

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is leading a coalition of 17 states in asking the Supreme Court to reject President Biden’s request to lift an appellate court’s stay of his student-loan forgiveness program.

Several months ago, the Biden Administration announced a program that would cancel $400 billion in outstanding federal student loans. The Secretary of Education attempted to issue the loan forgiveness under the HEROES Act, a post-9/11 statute enacted to modify or waive student loan requirements for individuals in military service.

The States argued that the HEROES Act does not authorize the Secretary of Education to issue mass cancellation of student loans. The Secretary’s attempt to exercise power of such vast economic and political significance requires clear Congressional authorization.

“Congress has repeatedly considered and rejected student-loan cancellation. The Executive Branch cannot sidestep the legislative process just to gain political points. As long as the President continues to push the constitutionally established limits on his power, I will fight to hold him accountable in the courts.”

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes

Read the Biden v Nebraska brief here.

Read the Amicus supporting plaintiffs in Brown v Dept. of Education here.


GoogleLogo

Google Tracking

November 17, 2022

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined Department of Commerce director Margaret Busse in announcing a settlement with Google and 40 states for $391.5 million. It is the conclusion of a lawsuit filed  in 2018 over Google’s improper use of tracking technology. Utah’s share of the settlement is $6 million, to be used for consumer education purposes.

The lawsuit alleged Google used its tracking technology to record consumers’ movements. The lawsuit said Google misled consumers into thinking the location tracking was turned off, and then sold location information to advertisers.

Margaret Busse, the Division of Consumer Protection Executive Director said,

“Data privacy is important and personal. As more and more interactions happen online, we should be able to trust companies will do what they say they’re going to with our information. In this case, Google misrepresented how it tracked and used consumers’ location information. This is a serious issue and we’re glad our Division of Consumer Protection joined many other states in holding Google accountable for this misleading practice. Utah will receive $6M of the overall settlement, which will go to its consumer education efforts.”


Utah Joins Multistate Effort Urging DEA to Extend Telehealth Capabilities for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

November 17, 2022

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is joining 44 attorneys general to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine, an opioid use disorder treatment. Buprenorphine is one of three medications that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients suffering from addiction. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA allowed doctors to use telehealth services to prescribe the medication, but the rule allowing buprenorphine to be prescribed virtually is set to expire once the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

The United States is in the grips of an opioid crisis, with more than 100,000 Americans dying due to overdose last year alone. State attorneys general are on the front lines fighting the crisis to protect Americans from deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Interdiction efforts alone will not end the crisis; therefore, attorneys general are urging for this treatment to remain easily available for those in need.

As a condition of the COVID-19 public health emergency, in March 2020 the DEA allowed audio-visual telemedicine services to prescribe all Schedule II-V controlled substances, including buprenorphine. Without the proposed permanent extension, the current expiration of the public health emergency could cut off an estimated 2.5 million U.S. adults who utilize the opioid use disorder treatment.

In a letter to head DEA and SAMHSA officials, the attorneys general highlight how the existing flexibilities are critical to linking individuals with opioid use disorder to care. The attorneys general state: “The number of patients receiving buprenorphine as treatment…increased significantly when telehealth flexibilities were allowed…it also improved retention in care and reduced the odds of overdose for individuals prescribed buprenorphine via telehealth for opioid use disorder treatment.”

The current allowance for telehealth services also expands access of buprenorphine to patients who may have previously struggled to receive the medication. The attorneys general state: “An estimated 28 million Americans live more than 10 miles and about 3 million live over 30 miles from a buprenorphine provider. Today, the delivery of care for buprenorphine treatment has shifted significantly to telehealth, making it more accessible than ever for individuals to access the treatment they need.”

The attorneys general of the following states and territories signed on to the letter led by Florida and North Carolina: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.


AG Reyes Joins Coalition to Defend Authority of States Over Their National Guard Units

November 16, 2022

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an 11-state coalition to protect the Constitution’s checks and balances that guarantee both security and liberty. The states filed a merits-stage amicus brief at the Supreme Court of the United States supporting the Ohio National Guard in its challenge to a Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) order enforcing collective bargaining for its Guard technicians.

In The Ohio Adjutant General’s Department v Federal Labor Relations Authority, the Ohio National Guard claimed that it was not bound by an expired collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3970, AFL-CIO, which had represented National Guard technicians. The FLRA asserted jurisdiction over the dispute, concluding that the National Guard is an executive agency and that dual status technicians employed by the Guard are federal civilian employees. On appeal of the FLRA order, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the FLRA’s determinations that the Guard and its technicians were bound by federal labor relations law.

Detailing the historical trend eroding state control over state National Guard units in favor of greater federal authority, even for no legitimate military purpose, the Attorneys General write in their brief, “The decision below… permits the national government to exert day-to-day control over a state Guard. It mandates how an Adjutant General works with labor unions, bargains, and promotes. It allows this intrusion into state functions on matters unconnected to national defense or the battlefield.”

The Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia also joined General Fitch in filing this amicus brief. A copy of the brief can be found HERE.


Attorney General’s Youth Advisory Propose Digital Safety Education

November 15, 2022

This week, students from the Utah Attorney General’s Youth Advisory Committee asked a Legislative committee to support the idea of strengthening online safety measures and to require a “digital wellness” test.  High school seniors would need to pass the test to graduate. The students wanted to ensure that every Utah student had the opportunity to learn more about positive online behavior and that is why they felt it was imperative to create a state mandated curriculum and test.

The idea came about by a subgroup of the Youth Advisory working on legislative ideas. Currently 53 students participate in discussions and topics that affect youth on a bi-weekly basis. Students dial in or attend in person from as far away as Willard in Northern Utah, to St. George in Southern Utah. They represent 24 schools statewide.

Skyline High School students Anh Khoa Le and Joyce Wang represented the digital safety subcommittee and suggested legislators expand the curriculum to include sensitive topics such as inappropriate online advances and predation. Students have seen and experienced the potential dangers of using the internet, including low self-esteem, cyber bullying, sextortion and sexual predators. There is a strong need to implement a more robust curriculum to prepare students.

Senator Derrin Owens, Chairman of the Commission thanked the students for their presentation and acknowledged the risks young people face as they go online.


Attorney General Reyes Announces $3.1 Billion Settlement with Walmart over Opioid Epidemic Allegations

November 15, 2022

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes today announced that he has reached a settlement with Walmart to resolve allegations that the company contributed to the opioid addiction crisis by failing to appropriately oversee the dispensing of opioids at its stores. The settlement will provide more than $3 billion nationally and will require significant improvements in how Walmart’s pharmacies handle opioids. State attorneys general on the executive committee, attorneys representing local governments, and Walmart have agreed to this settlement, and it is now being sent to other states for review and approval.  Utah’s share would be approximately $31 million.  Utah counties have not fully signed on at this time. 

The national settlement will include: 

  • $3.1 billion to be divided by states that sign on, local governments, and tribes, which must be used to provide treatment and recovery services to people struggling with opioid use disorder. 
  • Broad, court-ordered requirements, including robust oversight to prevent fraudulent prescriptions and flag suspicious prescriptions. 

The parties are optimistic that the settlement will gain support of the required 43 states by the end of 2022, allowing local governments to join the deal during the first quarter of 2023. Further details about how the money will be distributed will be forthcoming. Last month, states confirmed that promising negotiations were also underway with Walgreens and CVS. The parties continue their efforts to achieve those agreements.  


Veterans Day 2022

Nov 11, 2022

The Utah Attorney General’s Office expresses sincere gratitude to the men and women who have served and defended our nation in uniform, including our own employees in the AGO. 

Thank you to all those who have sacrificed and served abroad or in America. Thank you to family members who have spent time and precious moments away from deployed loved ones. We give our deepest thanks to each gold star family who has given the greatest sacrifice for our nation. Your loved ones are never forgotten.  

Our office is dedicated to finding ways to serve our Veteran community, recognizing that they are statistically one of the most vulnerable in our society. For many who have served, this service has led to physical and mental health challenges.  

We encourage all former or currently serving U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps to use our Utah@EASE referral program for pro bono legal services that are available if a Veteran can’t afford or find an attorney. Visit https://www.veterans.utah.gov for more information. We also offer the SafeUT National Guard app as a mental health resource. 

Our office encourages all Utahns to pay proper respect to everyone who has honorably served America and to recognize the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make every day.


Attorney General Announces Settlement With Experian-Owned Company Over Customer Who Stole Sensitive Personal Information

November 7, 2022

Attorney General Sean Reyes today announced a multistate settlement with Experian Data Corp (“EDC”) for failing to warn affected consumers after it learned that an identity thief was posing as a private investigator and retrieving sensitive personal information from Court Ventures Inc., a database that EDC had purchased.

In 2012, the U.S. Secret Service notified EDC of the existence of the identity thief, who had begun accessing information from the Court Ventures, Inc. database before EDC purchased the company and continued to do so after the purchase. EDC failed to notify affected consumers of the identity thief’s actions.

Since that time, the individual has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for wire fraud, identity fraud, access device fraud, and computer fraud and abuse, among other charges. 

EDC has agreed to injunctive relief and a payment of $1 million to resolve this multistate investigation. 

Under this resolution, joined by a group of 40 states, EDC has agreed to a series of provisions designed to strengthen its security and reporting practices, including:

  • Strengthening its vetting and oversight of third parties that it allows to access personal information;
  • Investigating and reporting data security incidents to the Attorneys General;
  • Maintaining a “Red Flags” program to detect and respond to potential identity theft; and
  • Implementing certain personal information safeguards and controls, including encryption or its equivalent for personal information on their network and in transit.

Utah, which assisted with the investigation, will receive $20,000 from the EDC settlement.

Joining Attorney General Reyes in today’s settlement are the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.


Utah Attorney General Files Enforcement Actions Against Two Alleged Illegal Robocallers

November 4, 2022

Attorney General Reyes announced this week that the national Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force is enforcing investigations into two voice service providers over alleged involvement in illegal robocalls.

The targets of the investigation are Michael Lansky LLC — doing business as Avid Telecom — and One Eye LLC. The national task force is enforcing civil investigative demands (CIDs) against each entity. Fifty-one attorneys general participate in the national task force, which Indiana co-leads with North Carolina and Ohio.

The enforcement action against Avid Telecom details several instances in which the task force believes Avid Telecom knowingly accepted and routed illegal robocalls. Further, the task force believes Avid Telecom’s CEO, Michael Lansky, helped another telecom provider hide its suspect traffic.

The enforcement action against One Eye details how an individual named Prince Anand closed another voice service provider, PZ Telecommunication LLC, and became the apparent CEO of One Eye. This transition occurred after the Federal Communications Commission sent PZ Telecom a cease-and-desist letter.

One Eye has stopped responding to the task force, and the State of Utah has moved to enforce the CID. The task force, through evidence detailed in the enforcement actions, believes it has a reasonable basis for investigating Avid Telecom and One Eye. 

According to the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center, more than 33 million scam robocalls are made to Americans daily. These scam calls include fraudsters posing as the Social Security Administration, Amazon and employers offering work opportunities.

Fraudsters stole an estimated $29.8 billion through scam calls in 2021. The task force is focused on shutting down the gateways that profit off this illegal scam traffic. 

Attorney General Reyes offers the following tips to avoid scams and unwanted calls:

  • Be wary of callers who specifically ask you to pay by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency.
  • Look out for prerecorded calls from imposters posing as government agencies. Typically, the Social Security Administration does not make phone calls to individuals.
  • If you suspect fraudulent activity, immediately hang up and do not provide any personal information.