Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

May 18 2016
Ferguson File Header

Bob Dear Friends,

All Washingtonians were winners last month because of the work of the Attorney General’s Office.

A host of legal and legislative victories will improve public health and safety, protect the environment and pay back students cheated by shady student loan debt adjusters.

In this issue:

Thank you for following the work of the Attorney General’s Office.

Sincerely,

Bob-Signature

Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General


New law to regulate vapor industry tops legislative victories

Thanks to a powerful joint effort among a coalition of state leaders committed to protecting children from harmful e-cigarettes and vapor products, a new Washington law will bring some law and order to our state’s “Wild West” vapor industry.
 
Governor Jay Inslee and I requested legislation aimed at reducing youth access to vapor products.
 
Currently, there is virtually no regulation of nicotine products like e-cigarettes and vapor products that are harmful to children.
 
Senate Bill 6328 changes that.  For example, the new law requires vapor products to have warning labels that alert potential users to the health effects of vaping.  It will require child-resistant packaging and restrict open display cases.  Manufacturers will have to disclose the nicotine content of each product and internet sellers will have to verify the age of prospective buyers.

The new law is an important step in protecting our kids from a largely unregulated industry.  
 
There have been few safety regulations on e-cigarettes and vapor products, and the federal Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate ingredients or safety claims made by manufacturers.
 
In 2015, at least 61 e-cigarette poisonings were reported to the Washington State Poison Control Center, with 84 percent concerning 1- to 3-year-olds.  By establishing enforcement and labeling requirements, we increase public safety and empower consumers to make informed decisions.
 
Earlier this year, I urged President Barak Obama to sign into law groundbreaking legislation to require child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes or for “vaping.”

 

Maple Valley Reporter
Attorney General regulations for e-cigarettes, vapor products passes in the Senate

News Tribune
New vaping rules put state ahead of pack


Holding GMA accountable, however long it takes!

In March, the Attorney General’s Office scored an unprecedented victory for Washington when we prevailed in a landmark campaign finance lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).  Now, with the penalty phase of the trial still ahead, we are continuing our work to hold the GMA accountable in the largest political funding concealment case in state history.  
 
My office has been fighting since 2013 to hold the GMA accountable for hiding the identities of its members who donated $11 million to oppose Initiative 522. The initiative sought to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
 
GMA’s members include corporations such as Pepsi, Nestle and Coke.  These corporations wanted to oppose I-522, but did not want Washingtonians to know about that opposition. Washington law, however, requires the public disclosure of campaign contributions, including the names of donors and the amounts of their contributions.  So GMA evaded our law by creating a new “Defense of Brands” account.  GMA members donated millions to that account.  GMA then wrote the checks to No on 522.  Those funds were paid by the GMA members, but their names did not appear on the disclosure documents, even though they were the true donors of the money.
 
Internal documents released as a result of our lawsuit show how GMA set up the fund in order to shield its members’ contributions from you.
 
For example, minutes from the GMA Board meetings show a discussion on the creation of the “Defense of Brands Strategic Account”.
 
“By doing so, state GMO related spending will be identified as having come from GMA, which will provide anonymity and eliminate state filing requirements for contributing members.”
 
One executive noted the fund would “shield individual companies from public disclosure and possible criticism.”
 
In March, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that GMA’s actions broke the law.  The penalty phase of the trial is set for August 15.
 
Seattle PI
State seeks millions in damages from Grocery Manufacturers


Case finally closed: Judge orders DOE to meet its Hanford cleanup deadlines

In a significant victory for the people of Washington, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the federal government to meet its deadlines in the cleanup of toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear site.
 
The judge’s ruling resolves our lawsuit against the Department of Energy over ongoing delays and excuses that have stalled clean-up efforts, highlighting the federal government’s “total lack of transparency” and accountability in meeting its responsibilities to clean up toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
 
The resolution of this case comes at a critical time. The recent discoveries of radioactive waste storage tanks leaking at Hanford concern me and highlight the importance of ensuring the clean-up of Hanford stays on track and on schedule.
It is my hope that the additional milestones, reporting requirements and accountability measures set forth in the ruling will put an end to the DOE’s pattern of delays and excuses, and keep the federal government on track to get their job done at Hanford.


Student loan debt adjusters now face $162,000 debt to repay victims

I will not tolerate the financial abuse of Washington students overburdened with debt.  A group of shady student loan debt adjusters are the ones in debt now, after overcharging borrowers and collecting unlawful fees.
 
The six loan adjustors will pay a total of $162,000 to refund nearly 350 Washington students for illegal charges and an additional $56,000 for the Attorney General’s costs and attorney’s fees.
 
The companies charged an up-front fee for their debt adjusting services of between four and 27 times the legal limit, sometimes collected monthly payments in excess of the legal limit, debited their customers’ bank accounts for payments on void contracts, and failed to make legally required disclosures in their contracts with Washington consumers.
 
All 346 Washington student victims will receive full refunds of the money they paid to the various companies.
 
Our news release about this case is loaded with information and resources for consumers seeking student loan debt assistance.

KPQ
Student Loan Crimes – WA AG to the Rescue!

Q13 Fox
Student loan adjustment firms will refund students $162,000 in Washington state

Seattle Medium
AG Sweep Halts Illegal Actions By Student Loan Adjustors


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