Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Jul 10 2019

Ferguson File Header

Attorney General Bob FergusonDear Friends,

Washingtonians need an Attorney General fighting for them every day.

In the Washington Attorney General’s Office, we won the largest ever trial award in a state consumer protection case, relieved hundreds of Washington students of their student debt, defended the Constitution and Washington’s interests by defeating the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a discriminatory citizenship question to the 2020 Census, challenged President Trump’s efforts to roll-back Washington state’s clean water protections and allow discrimination in health care, and won a historic civil rights victory at the State Supreme Court.

And that was all last month. We get a lot done for the people of the state in a month!

In this issue:

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

Sincerely,

Bob-Signature

Bob Ferguson
Washington State Attorney General


Comcast agents adding the SPP to customer accounts

Securing largest ever trial award in state consumer protection case against Comcast

This month my office won its highest ever trial award in a state Consumer Protection case—nearly $9.1 million plus full consumer restitution—against multi-billion dollar telecommunications conglomerate Comcast.

The Judge found that Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act nearly half a million times.

Customer call recordings and internal documents show that not only were Comcast agents adding its Service Protection Plan (SPP) to accounts without customer consent, Comcast refused to accept responsibility for its egregious conduct that resulted in tens of thousands losing money every month for a product they did not want or request. Comcast sent an army of corporate lawyers into court to contest the Washington consumers who testified against them.

My legal team demonstrated that we’re capable of meeting the world’s largest corporations in court—and winning.

KING-5 News
Comcast fined $9 million for violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act

The Spokesman-Review
King County judge rules Comcast violated state consumer protection law, orders restitution for Washington customers

The Seattle Times
Comcast faces $9.1 million in penalties after it charged nearly 31,000 people for a plan without their knowledge


 

Aiding student loan borrowers in Washignton

Obtaining student loan relief for former ITT Tech students

Student loan lender, Student CU Connect LLC (CUSO), will provide over $5.1 million in debt relief to over 500 former Washington ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech) students. ITT Tech, the former for-profit college, abruptly shuttered all 149 campuses in September 2016, including campuses in Seattle, Everett and Spokane Valley.

The investigation conducted by my office found ITT Tech used CUSO from 2009 to 2011 as part of a scheme to ensure students could borrow enough to cover tuition, no matter their ability to repay their debt. When students struggled to pay back the debt within unrealistic time frames, they were further pressured to take out more loans, faced high interest rates of 13.75 to 16.25 percent, and even faced expulsion.

CUSO continued to issue loans despite ITT’s projections that borrowers would default at rates exceeding 60 percent.

ITT Tech and CUSO were only interested in increasing their bottom line at their students’ expense. They issued private loans they knew students could not afford in order to access their federal loan dollars.

CUSO is now providing relief for 100 percent of its student loans issued between 2009 and 2011. The median amount of debt relief Washington borrowers will receive is $6,096. Nationally, CUSO will discharge $168.2 million in loans.

I’ll fight for students cheated by their lenders or for-profit colleges.

This relief is part of a larger effort to aid student loan borrowers in Washington. For more resources, check out my Student Loan Survival Guide. You can also speak directly to a Student Loan Advocate who can help you understand or resolve problems with your student loan at loanadvocate@wsac.wa.gov

KING-5 News
Lender to disperse $5.1 million in debt relief after ‘deceiving’ ITT Tech students

KXLY
Over 500 former ITT Tech students in Washington to have loans forgiven

The Spokesman-Review
Loans forgiven for thousands of former ITT Tech students, including some in Spokane Valley


Body of water in Washington state

Challenging the reversal of Washington water quality standards

I’m proud to defend the health and safety of Washingtonians by fighting for clean water.

This month I filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision, under the Trump Administration, to revise Washington’s water quality standards. The standards set by the EPA in 2016 placed limits on nearly 200 pollutants dangerous to human health, such as arsenic, asbestos, mercury and lead.

These standards minimize the risk of cancer caused by consuming fish, shellfish and untreated water from state waterways. The pollutant limits are calculated with an equation that factors in, among other things, how much fish or untreated water a Washingtonian might consume from state waters.

These Washington-specific standards are in limbo because an industry special interest group petitioned the Trump Administration to reconsider. Now, more than two years later, the EPA announced their reversal.

Trump’s EPA cannot change important water quality protections at the whim of industry interests. It’s not only disruptive to Washington’s environmental efforts over the past two years, it is a clear violation of the Clean Water Act, which only allows the EPA to revise an existing standard if the standard is not stringent enough—which is not the case with Washington’s existing standards. We continue defeating the Trump Administration in court. We haven’t lost yet. I don’t plan on starting now.

KXLY
AG Ferguson sues Trump Administration over reversal of Wash. water quality protections   

The Seattle Times
EPA moves to ease water-quality standards in Washington state; Inslee and Ferguson say that’s illegal

Northwest Treaty Tribes
Tribes outraged by EPA move to rescind water quality standards


Courtroom

Victory in Census case: citizenship question remains blocked

An accurate 2020 Census is critical for Washington to receive its fair share of federal funding. A bipartisan group of Commerce Directors found that including a question about citizenship will result in an inaccurate count. That’s why we fought the citizenship question all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, acknowledged the overwhelming evidence that the Trump Administration lied about its rationale for including the citizenship question, and kept the injunction against the census citizenship question in place. The Court found “a significant mismatch between the decision the Secretary [Wilbur Ross] made and the rationale he provided.” This decision marks a significant victory against the Trump Administration and further strengthens the integrity of our judicial system.

In April of 2018, I joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Administration’s decision to add a question asking about citizenship to the 2020 Census. The following January, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman agreed with the states, finding that, when he made the decision to add the question, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — [resulting in] a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut [Administrative Procedure Act] violations.”

With its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Judge Furman, confirming that government agencies must provide the true basis and rationale for decisions that impact the public. The case has been sent back to U.S. District Court.

The Administration’s supposed justification for adding the citizenship question to the Census was a lie—a lie to the courts and to the American people. The Supreme Court confirmed one of the core principles of our democracy:  “agencies [must] offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public.”

With this decision, which upholds the rule of law, it’s unlikely that a citizenship question will ever be added to the 2020 Census.

iFIBER ONE
AG Ferguson responds to Supreme Court’s decision to bar citizenship question from appearing on 2020 census

NPR
How the fight over the census citizenship question could rage on


Flowers for same-sex wedding ceremony

Court upholds decision protecting same-sex couples from discrimination

This month, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Arlene’s Flowers decision, delivering a powerful victory for equality.

This is now one of the most important civil rights cases in the country. At stake is whether a business can hang a sign out front that says, “Gays not served here.”

The court upheld its previous 2017 decision that Arlene’s Flowers and its owner, Barronelle Stutzman, violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) by refusing to provide flowers for same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Washington state law protects same-sex couples from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, the same way it protects Washingtonians from discrimination based on their religion, disability or any other protected classes.

My office sent a letter to Stutzman back in March of 2013, asking her to comply with state law. Had she agreed to stop discriminating, my office would not have filed a lawsuit. She refused. Even after numerous victories at every level of this case, my office has only asked for $1 in attorney’s fees and a modest $1,000 penalty.

I personally argued this case before the Supreme Court because of its importance. But the Alliance Defending Freedom is seeking to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that a conservative majority will allow religious-based discrimination in the marketplace against Muslims, interracial couples, same-sex couples and other protected classes.

I will continue to uphold these laws and fight to protect Washingtonians from discrimination.

Watch my 2016 oral argument in front of the Washington State Supreme Court here.

Tri-City Herald
Arlene’s Flowers owner vows to fight on after justices say she discriminated against gay couple

Washington Blade
Wash. high court again rules against florist who refused to serve gays

610-KONA 
Richland florist, Attorney General respond to Supreme Court decision

NBC News
Another gay wedding case that could go to the Supreme Court. This one’s about flowers.


 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson attending WSP Graduation

Working across Washington

The Trump Administration is attacking Washingtonians’ rights. My office is forced to step in repeatedly to stop these unlawful actions from harming the residents of our state. I discussed the role that my office plays in upholding these rights at the American Constitution Society’s National Convention.

I sat down with The Spokesman-Review as part of their monthly community lecture series and spoke, among other topics, on my recent challenge to Trump’s “conscience rule” for health providers. I discussed my role in protecting every woman’s right to emergency and reproductive care. The lawsuit was filed last month in federal court in Spokane because rural communities are more likely will be disproportionately harmed by this rule.

I spoke to emerging attorneys of the University of Washington’s Leadership Institute Program about the ethical issues faced in public service.

I had the privilege of attending the Washington State Patrol’s Trooper Basic Training Graduation, where we honored the dedication to public safety as cadets became troopers. Their service as troopers comes with sacrifice, and I expressed my gratitude for the courage it takes to make this sacrifice on behalf of the people of Washington state.

In a humbling tribute to my office’s work on labor-related issues—such as my legislation protecting Hanford workers and stopping repeat wage theft violators—six local unions convened to grant me the “Golden Wrench” award at the Universal Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Convention. Delegates of the association represent over 8,400 pipe trades workers from every part of Washington state.

Finally, since my initial election in 2013, I vowed to visit every Rotary Club in our state. This month I met with Kirkland, Grand Coulee, Colfax, Longview, Burlington and Oak Harbor Rotary Clubs, discussing recent opioid epidemic and the role of my office in serving to Washington residents. Through June, I have visited 155 of the 180 clubs within our state.

KSVR-FM Skagit Talks
Skagit Valley Community Radio discussion with AG Bob Ferguson

Go Skagit
Attorney General meets with Rotary Club


 

 
 

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