Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Oct 04 2018

Dear Friends,

September was a productive month for my office and Washingtonians across the state. We were busy protecting consumers, workers and members of the military and holding the Trump Administration accountable.

Thanks to our work, Uber drivers affected by the November 2016 data breach will receive restitution, the U.S. Department of Energy will advance technology to destroy or capture hazardous tank vapors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, eight additional fast-food chains will end no-poach provisions and Samsung will pay $29 million for its role in a price-fixing scheme that cost Washingtonians.

We also received our 14th legal victory against the Trump Administration when a federal judge ruled the U.S. Department of Education improperly delayed implementing Obama-era rules that protect student loan borrowers from predatory and deceptive practices by higher education institutions.

We will continue to seek justice and stand up for the people of Washington state.

In this issue:

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

Sincerely,

 

Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General

 

 


Attorney General Ferguson talking to workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Safeguarding Hanford workers 

In 2015, I filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy after 20 years of workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation getting sick from hazardous vapor exposures. Despite multiple studies and reports, the federal government took little action. Some 1,500 different volatile chemical gases — many of which are highly toxic and known carcinogens — have been found in underground tanks storing nuclear waste at Hanford. Exposure to these chemicals causes numerous harmful health impacts, including lung disease, central nervous system suppression, nerve damage and several types of cancer.

On Sept. 19, I announced that Energy will conduct testing and, if successful, begin implementing a new system to treat or capture hazardous tank vapors at Hanford within the next three years, under the terms of an agreement submitted to a federal court. Energy will also pay Washington state and Hanford Challenge $925,000.

This agreement places my lawsuit on hold while the testing takes place, but I can resume my case if Energy fails to follow through with the terms of our agreement.

This is a major victory for the brave men and women working to clean up Hanford. This is a historic outcome, but let’s be honest — it should not have required a lawsuit to get the federal government to do the right thing.

 

Tri-City Herald 
This lawsuit would protect Hanford workers from deadly vapors. Now there’s a settlement

KING-5 News 
A road to recovery: Hanford settlement a 'historic victory' for workers

SeattlePI
Department of Energy will destroy worker-harming vapors at Hanford nuclear site

The Seattle Times
Agreement reached in lawsuit over safety of workers at Hanford nuclear site  

 

 


Attorney General's worker protection initiative logo

Securing an end to no-poach provisions at eight more restaurant chains

This month, I announced that eight additional corporate, fast-food chains will end no-poach practices nationwide, joining 15 others. No-poach provisions prohibit employees from moving among restaurants of the same corporate chain. My office started investigating fast-food chains in January, as part of an initiative to eliminate no-poach clauses across the country.

A&W, Burger King, Denny’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Popeyes, Tim Hortons and Wingstop will all remove no-poach language from current and future contracts. The 23 total fast-food chains that have agreed to eliminate no-poach practices account for more than 67,000 locations nationwide and employ millions of workers.

I am continuing to investigate corporate chains that utilize no-poach agreements in other industries, including hotels, car repair services, gyms, cleaning services, convenience stores and child care.

My goal is to eliminate no-poach clauses to benefit workers. No-poach provisions create a rigged system where businesses no longer have to compete for workers, putting downward pressure on wages. That’s wrong — and illegal.

 

KIRO-7 News
Washington AG names potential anti-trust violators in ‘no poach’ investigation

KGMI News Talk Radio 
AG Ferguson ends no-poach practices at more restaurant chains


Hands holding money

Holding Samsung accountable for its role in a price-fixing scheme

In 2012, former Attorney General Rob McKenna filed a lawsuit alleging Samsung and other major manufacturers engaged in a price-fixing scheme to drive up the cost of cathode ray tubes (CRTs). This technology was once ubiquitous in television screens and computer monitors before LCD screens dominated the market. From 1995 to 2007, the price-fixing conspiracy caused millions of Washington consumers to be overcharged for their CRT televisions and computer monitors.

This month, I announced Samsung will be paying $29 million as part of this price-fixing lawsuit. The seven companies involved in the conspiracy are paying our state a total of $39.65 million.

My office will be distributing the bulk of the money through a claims process for Washington consumers and state agencies that purchased CRTs during the 12-year conspiracy period. Consumers affected by the scheme may fill out a claims form.

When powerful interests illegally conspire behind closed doors to drive up the cost of their products, consumers lose out. We are returning the money back where it belongs: the pockets of Washingtonians.

 

SeattlePI
Samsung settles price fixing case, will pay Washington $29 million

KIRO-7 News 
Samsung to pay $29 million for price-fixing scheme affecting millions of Washingtonians


 

car keys
Compensating Uber drivers affected by the data breach

In November 2016, an individual contacted Uber claiming he had accessed Uber’s user information. Uber investigated and confirmed that person and one other individual had in fact accessed the company’s files, obtaining the names and driver’s license numbers of more than 7 million drivers for the company around the world — nearly 13,000 of those drivers were in Washington state.

Despite Washington’s data breach notification law, which requires businesses to notify consumers and the state within 45 days of a breach of “personal information,” Uber failed to notify my office until Nov. 21, 2017 — more than 370 days after it learned of the breach. The company also admitted to paying the hackers to hide the breach and destroy the stolen data. My office sued Uber that month.

On Sept. 26, I announced I will be returning more than $2.2 million to Uber drivers in Washington affected by this data breach. The judgment requires Uber to pay approximately $5.79 million for violating Washington state’s data breach notification law and for failing to adequately safeguard the personal data of Uber drivers. This is part of a joint resolution by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Most Washingtonians who drove for Uber in 2013 and 2014 will each receive $170.

In addition to returning money to consumers, recoveries from consumer protection cases also support our costs and fees, and the work of the Consumer Protection Division as a whole. The division currently receives no general fund support from the Legislature.

Uber kept a massive data breach secret for more than a year, and jeopardized the personal information of thousands of drivers. Uber’s conduct was inexcusable and unlawful.

 

The Seattle Times
Washington state Uber drivers to get payout in data-breach settlement

GeekWire 
Uber to pay Washington state drivers $2.2M in multistate $148 settlement over 2016 data breach

KOMO News
Uber to play $2.2 million to its Wash. State drivers over data breach 


Attorney General's Military and veterans initiative logo

Standing up for service members

I filed a lawsuit against a Tacoma-based towing company for illegally auctioning off a military service member’s vehicle while he was deployed at sea. I assert that Burns Towing Inc. violated the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act, a law that provides special protections to active duty service members. This law requires companies to obtain a court order before seizing or selling property belonging to a service member.

The lawsuit is part of my Military and Veterans Initiative, an ongoing effort to stand up for Washington’s military service members and veterans. As part of that initiative, I worked with the Governor and the Legislature to strengthen the Service Members’ Civil Relief Act. Now I’m putting that legislation into action.

Service members shouldn’t have to worry about their property being illegally sold while they’re deployed. I will enforce our laws to make sure service members have the protections they have earned.

 

KING-5 News 
Tacoma towing company sued for selling sailor’s car

The News Tribune
Tacoma towing company sells sailor’s car illegally while he was on aircraft carrier, state says

KIRO-7 News
AG Ferguson files lawsuit against tow company for selling service member’s car while deployed


 

Student at laptop with book

Protecting student loan borrowers

In July of 2017, my office joined 18 other states in a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Education from delaying Obama-era rules that protect student loan borrowers from predatory and deceptive practices by higher education institutions.

This month, in our 14th legal victory against the Trump Administration, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled the Department of Education improperly delayed the implementation of the “borrower defense to repayment” rules.

These protections prevent predatory for-profit colleges from taking advantage of student loan borrowers. Thousands of Washingtonians are shouldering crippling debt as a result of these predatory practices, and these rules offer real relief from their financial struggles. The Trump Administration can’t arbitrarily block rules simply because it doesn’t like them.

 

Newstalk KBKW  
Judge Rules Trump Administration Unlawfully Blocked Student Borrower Protections

SeattlePI
A big court win for Ferguson, AGs, against Sec. DeVos


Pile of money

Suing collection agencies that violated the law

I filed a lawsuit against several Wenatchee-based collection agencies and their owner for buying millions of dollars of old debt and suing to collect on the debt without being licensed as collection agencies with the state.

The companies, all owned by Brian Fair, bought the debt for pennies on the dollar and collected on it for up to nine years before obtaining licenses. Their collection efforts include garnishing wages, seizing bank account funds and threatening to foreclose on homes.

My office asserts the companies solicited and arranged to buy portfolios of old debts of Washington consumers without a license, in violation of the state Collection Agency Act and Consumer Protection Act. The companies then sued to collect the full face amount of the debts, despite not being licensed as collection agencies as required by law.

These debt buyers went after consumers’ homes, wages and bank accounts without legal authorization. Washington law requires debt buyers to be licensed for a reason: to protect consumers.

 

KIRO-7 News 
Collecting Debts Without A License

Sky Valley Chronicle
WA State Att. General files lawsuit against Wenatchee based companies for playing debt collector without a license


Attorney General Ferguson and other officials reading book to children

Working across Washington

Getting out into local communities and talking to people across our state is one of the best parts of my job. This month, I spent time in the Tri-Cities, Maple Valley and Vancouver. I had the pleasure of visiting with some engaging first graders at Hawthorne Elementary School in Kennewick. I also had the opportunity to speak to Washingtonians at Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, as well as at the Labor Roundtable of Southwest Washington Labor Award Banquet. As always, traveling around the state reminds me how honored I am to serve as your Attorney General.

 

KEPR-TV
AG Ferguson visits Tri-Cities; talks ban on weapon-making plans


 

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