State Attorneys General

For the past twenty years, state attorneys general have played an increasingly prominent role in enforcing laws and regulations affecting the business community.  While often appropriate, state AG enforcement can also lead to inconsistent, duplicative and politically motivated enforcement of key laws and regulations. In addition, many state AGs hire outside plaintiffs’ lawyers for these cases, raising questions about conflicts of interest and political favoritism. read more...

Modern state AG litigation began with the lawsuits filed against tobacco companies in the 1990s. These generated billions in state revenue, favorable publicity for state AGs and huge profits for certain plaintiffs’ firms hired by state AGs to conduct the litigation. 

The success of the tobacco litigation has led many AGs to target additional business sectors, particularly in the pharmaceutical and financial services areas. While some cases may be legally appropriate, other state AG actions appear more about enhancing a state AG’s political standing. In addition, businesses face the danger of inconsistent and duplicative enforcement by each of the fifty state AGs as well as numerous federal regulators. This is particularly true in the financial services context, where the Dodd-Frank law grants state AGs the power to enforce regulations issued by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Also problematic is the use of outside contingency fee counsel by many state AGs. This involves state AGs awarding secret, no-bid contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs’ lawyers to represent their states in litigation.  As plaintiffs’ lawyers are awarded large contingency fees from successful lawsuits, money may be funneled back into campaign contributions to the AGs.  These alliances raise significant concerns about conflict of interest, favoritism, the use of a public entity for personal gain, and fairness in prosecutions. 

Twenty-one states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin—have passed "sunshine" legislation to create an open process of hiring outside contingency fee counsel. These measures vary, but more recent laws require state attorneys general to disclose their contingency fee contracts, ensure that they maintain control of the litigation and impose reasonable limitations on fee awards to private attorneys. Other attorneys general have adopted office policies that implement many of these reforms. Companies are also fighting back against AGs hiring outside counsel in court. 

 

 

Research

Big Bucks and Local Lawyers: The Increasing Use of Contingency Fee Lawyers by Local Governments

October 26, 2016 | The increasing use of contingency fee counsel by local government entities is a disturbing trend that poses real risks to the fair and impartial administration of justice.

The ILR Research Review - Fall 2016

September 22, 2016 | This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from ILR's latest research on over-criminalization and the challenges of business compliance, over-enforcement, third-party litigation funding in the UK, and asbestos trust claims.

All Results for State Attorneys General

New State AG Landscape Post Election

November 14, 2016 | News and Blog

On Election Day, ten states voted for attorneys general. Five seats were retained by incumbents, and five seats now belong to newcomers to the post. Five seats went to Republicans and five went to Democrats. There will now be 25 Republican and 21 Democrats, a gain of one seat for the GOP writes Jesse Panuccio, an attorney for Foley & Lardner LLP, in Law360. Read More »

Big Bucks and Local Lawyers: The Increasing Use of Contingency Fee Lawyers by Local Governments

Author: Michael Maddigan, Hogan Lovells | October 26, 2016 | Research

The increasing use of contingency fee counsel by local government entities is a disturbing trend that poses real risks to the fair and impartial administration of justice. Read More »

Concerns Remain over LA Gov's Hiring of Contingency Fee Attorneys to Sue Oil & Gas Industry

October 03, 2016 | News and Blog

The Louisiana governor's office said it has made some slight changes to the contracts of contingency fee plaintiffs' lawyers it hired to sue oil and gas companies on behalf of the state, after state Attorney General Jeff Landry had voiced concerns over the contracts. The governor's legal counsel, however, thinks the AG will still oppose the contracts. Read More »

The ILR Research Review - Fall 2016

September 22, 2016 | Research

This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from ILR's latest research on over-criminalization and the challenges of business compliance, over-enforcement, third-party litigation funding in the UK, and asbestos trust claims. Read More »

In the News Today - June 15, 2016

June 15, 2016 | News and Blog

Legal publication Law360 reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General under which the company will no longer require editorial employees to sign non-compete clauses. Read More »

Enforcement Gone Amok: The Many Faces of Over-Enforcement in the United States

Author: John H. Beisner, Geoffrey M. Wyatt, and Jordan M. Schwartz, Skadden Arps | May 26, 2016 | Research

This paper documents compelling examples of over-enforcement abuses, and offers details of the wide-ranging and interrelated ways government enforcement actions impact American businesses. Read More »

WV Governor Signs AG Outside Counsel Bill into Law

March 09, 2016 | News and Blog

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill that will codify into law Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's outside counsel policy. Read More »

Trial Court Affirms Florida AG's Authority to Dismiss Meritless Whistleblower Case

March 09, 2016 | News and Blog

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi dismissed a whistleblower case that had plaintiffs' lawyers' fingerprints all over it, and now a court has affirmed her authority to do so. Read More »

In the News Today - February 24, 2016

February 24, 2016 | News and Blog

FL Court Rules State AG Has Authority to Dismiss False Claims Act Suit: A Florida appeals court has ruled that the state's attorney general "has the authority to unilaterally dismiss a whistleblower suit against Motorola Inc., a decision that plaintiffs attorneys fear could open the door to having their clients' suits tossed for political reasons." The ruling affirms a lower court ruling that dismissed a former Motorola employee's False Claims Act suit at the request of the state attorney general's office. (Law360) Read More »

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