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

101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems: A User's Guide to Promoting Fair and Effective Civil Justice - FIFTH EDITION 2017

September 12, 2017 | A user's guide to state legal reforms, providing policymakers with a compendium of options available to foster a sound legal system and promote state economies. This resource also offers a compilation of recently-enacted legal reforms to show how legislators can move the proposals described in the guide from theory into practice.

The ILR Research Review - Spring 2017

May 08, 2017 | This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from ILR's recent research on the latest trends in litigation and the tactics and strategies entrepreneurial plaintiffs' firms are using to expand their business models and bring more lawsuits in local, state, federal, and international courts.

All Results for State Attorneys General

U.S. Chamber Proposes Code of Conduct for State AGs

October 23, 2007 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.-In response to what it sees as improper practices by some officials, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) issued a new set of ethical standards for state attorneys general today, and will urge its voluntary adoption.

"This proposed code of conduct balances the ability of the AGs to pursue wrongdoers while protecting the due process rights of the targets of the investigation and litigation," said ILR president Lisa Rickard in remarks at the Chamber's 8th Annual Legal Reform Summit. Read More »

Attorney General Hood's Latest Lawsuit About Compensating Lawyers, Not Homeowners

June 13, 2007 | Press Release

Washington, D.C.- U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard released the following statement in reaction to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's lawsuit against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. related to an agreement for a mass settlement of claims over Hurricane Katrina damage.

"This latest lawsuit by the Mississippi attorney general has little to do with compensating Mississippi homeowners for their Katrina losses, and more to do with plaintiffs' lawyers getting their cut of the compensation money.

Read More »

Chamber: Reign in Activist State Attorneys General

May 25, 2005 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.- At a conference on the proper role of state attorneys general, the United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today released research showing the serious threat posed by activist state attorneys general and called for legislative reforms that will restore the public's faith in government. The conference also featured remarks by three current state attorneys general, Steve Carter (R-IN), Thurbert Baker (D-GA) and Tom Corbett (R-PA). Read More »

Chamber Report Highlights State AG Conflicts of Interest Plaintiffs? Attorneys are a Source of Campaign Funds

October 13, 2004 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The United States Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform today released a report showing that some state attorneys general have created a conflict of interest by accepting campaign contributions from plaintiffs' attorneys who were then rewarded with state contracts as outside counsel. Read More »

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