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. 

 

 

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  1. 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

  2. ILR Applauds WV Legislature for Passing AG Sunshine Legislation

    February 11, 2016 | News and Blog

    "We commend the West Virginia legislature for acting to reform the practice of awarding contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs' lawyers," "said ILR President Lisa A. Rickard in a statement applauding the West Virginia House and Senate for passing attorney general sunshine legislation.... Read More

  3. U.S. Chamber Applauds West Virginia Legislature for Passing Attorney General Sunshine Bill, Urges Governor to Sign

    February 09, 2016 | Press Release

    ... Read More

  4. In the News Today - February 2, 2016

    February 02, 2016 | News and Blog

    McGraw's Entry into WV Supreme Court Race a 'Bombshell': WV MetroNews reporter Hoppy Kercheval today calls former Attorney General Darrel McGraw's entry into the state Supreme Court race "the biggest bombshell of the last minute election filings." Noting McGraw would be 92 years old by the end of his term, Kercheval says the filing "is a curious, unexpected move, but then again, the McGraws have always marched to their own beat." (WV MetroNews)... Read More

  5. In the News Today - January 21, 2016

    January 21, 2016 | News and Blog

    New Mexico AG Latest to File Suit Against Volkswagen: Volkswagen already faces more than 500 lawsuits from individuals and car dealers, as well as suits brought by the U.S. Justice Department and attorneys general in Texas and West Virginia, over the alleged emissions scandal. That, however, didn't stop New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas from also filing suit against the automaker yesterday. (Wall Street Journal)... Read More

  6. In the News Today - January 7, 2016

    January 07, 2016 | News and Blog

    ACE Seeks Contempt Proceedings Against Litigation Financier: Irish developer Garrett Kelleher invested "$2.85 million in 2006 in the efforts of Liberian group Abi Jaoudi and Azar Trading (AJA) to enforce a $66.5 million judgment against US insurer Cigna Worldwide, in return for a share of the lawsuit's proceeds. The litigation ultimately failed, but ACE Group, which took over Cigna, will ask a U.S. court "to find Mr Kelleher along with two others, Martin Kenney and Samuel Lohman, in contempt of court for their role in the AJA case." (Irish Times)... Read More

  7. The ILR Research Review - Winter 2015

    December 22, 2015 | Research

    This edition of the ILR Research Review offers valuable insights from the latest of ILR's research on state legal climates, data privacy, multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceedings, and trial lawyer marketing.... Read More

  8. Outgoing Louisiana AG's 'Buddy System' Highlighted

    December 02, 2015 | News and Blog

    The Louisiana Watchdog highlights outgoing Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's questionable use of outside private contingency counsel to sue companies on behalf of the state. Specifically, the report highlights Caldwell's use of private law firms in the Gulf oil spill litigation.... Read More

  9. Outgoing Louisiana AG Violating State Law with Outside Counsel Contracts?

    November 25, 2015 | News and Blog

    Loyola Law School professor Dan Ciolino says outgoing Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's practice of forcing "defendant" companies to pay legal fees to private lawyers working for the state" is "a blatant violation of state ethics laws."... Read More

  10. USA Today Editorial Raises 'First Amendment Concerns' About New York AG's Exxon Probe

    November 24, 2015 | News and Blog

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's probe into Exxon Mobil's past statements and research about climate change "raise serious First Amendment concerns," writes the USA Today editorial board.... Read More