Rutledge Facilitates 10,000 Face Masks to Arkansas Ambulance AssociationWed, May 20, 2020
Says, ‘Thank you, Lowe’s, for working with my office to make sure Arkansans have essential resources’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is proud to announce home improvement retailer Lowe’s will deliver 10,000 N95 face masks to nursing homes and grocery store employees throughout Arkansas. Lowe’s will deliver 8,000 face masks to the Arkansas Health Care Association and 2,000 to the Arkansas Grocers & Retail Merchants Association who will distribute the masks throughout the State.
“Many Arkansans continue to work in high-risk environments to protect our most vulnerable loved ones and ensure our State’s daily needs are met, but they are also putting their own health and safety on the line,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Thank you, Lowe’s, for working with my office to make sure Arkansans have essential resources to protect themselves.”
Since the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration on March 11, Rutledge has allocated $1 million to the State to acquire personal protective equipment for medical personnel, $3 million to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Quick Action Loan Program for small businesses and facilitated the donation of thousands of N95 facemasks to law enforcement and first responders. Rutledge has worked with Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Facebook to combat price gouging and the Attorney General’s Office has received almost 19,800 phone calls on price gouging and related scams.
Arkansans needing to report price gouging or scams should visit the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge Announces Over $550 Million Settlement with Nation’s Largest Subprime Auto Financing CompanyTue, May 19, 2020
Affected Arkansans to Receive $30 Million in Direct Payments and Debt Relief
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a settlement with Santander Consumer USA Inc. (Santander) that includes approximately $550 million in relief for consumers with more relief in additional deficiency waivers expected. The settlement resolves an investigation conducted by a coalition of 34 attorneys general into allegations that Santander violated consumer protection laws by knowingly placing subprime consumers into high-risk auto loans who had a great probability of default. This settlement, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, provides close to $30 million in direct payments and debt relief for over 13,000 Arkansas consumers harmed by Santander’s illegal conduct.
“Santander’s predatory actions targeted Arkansans for high risk auto loans, and now it will pay handsomely for its deceptive practices,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The standards set by this settlement should serve as a warning to other bad actors who take advantage of financially vulnerable Arkansans: we will do the fighting for consumers and there will be severe consequences for illegal actions.”
A coalition of states began investigating Santander in March 2015. Following the investigation, the states determined that Santander, the largest subprime auto financing company in the country, used credit-scoring models designed to target consumers who were likely to default and subsequently failed to acknowledge dealer-falsified income amounts on consumer loan applications. Under the settlement, Santander will pay $65 million to the states for consumer restitution and will waive up to $433 million for consumers who still owe on their loans.
For Arkansas, there are 10,837 Arkansas consumers who are eligible to submit a claim to receive a direct restitution payment of $224.84 each, which totals $2,436,611.87 if all who are eligible submit claims. Additionally, there are 1,288 loans to Arkansas consumers in default that qualify under this settlement owned by Santander for which Santander will immediately waive the deficiency balance, totaling $15,966.00 in debt forgiveness. There are another 1,336 defaulted loans to Arkansas consumers for which Santander will attempt to buy back and then waive the deficiency balance, which could potentially forgive an additional $10,814,000 in debt relief. Overall, approximately 13,461 affected Arkansas consumers will receive or be eligible to receive restitution in the form of direct payments or debt forgiveness potentially totaling $29,216,611.90. Additionally, Santander will pay $30,000 to the state.
Among the modifications to its business practices required under the settlement, Santander will cease extending loans to consumers with negative available incomes and will monitor loan applications for false income reporting. Santander will also cease from requiring its dealers to sell vehicle service contracts and other products and will maintain policies and procedures for deferments, forbearances, modifications and other collection matters.
Joining Rutledge in the settlement led by Illinois Attorney General are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Rutledge urges anyone affected by Santander or has a consumer complaint to visit the Attorney General’s Office website at ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge Files Lawsuit Against Little Rock Roofing CompanyTue, May 12, 2020
Says, ‘Five Arkansas consumers lost a total of almost $90,000 to Greenhagen for roofing and other home improvement work’
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today that she has filed a lawsuit against Chance and Samone Greenhagen and their company Greenhagen Exteriors, LLC for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). Greenhagen required large deposits and upfront payments for roofing and other home improvement projects that they did not have the intent or ability to perform as agreed.
“Five Arkansas consumers lost a total of almost $90,000 to Greenhagen for roofing and other home improvement work for which they failed to complete or provide refunds,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I strongly advise Arkansans to contact my office any time a contractor fails to complete a project as agreed without providing a refund for all unearned payments.”
Consumers have also filed complaints with the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board, which revoked Greenhagen’s contractor’s licenses and issued a cease and desist order.
Rutledge is now seeking restitution for harmed consumers, civil penalties, an injunction and other costs and fees incurred by the State of Arkansas in resolving this matter.
If you are a consumer who has been impacted by the actions of Greenhagen or any other contractor, Rutledge encourages you to contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982.
Rutledge’s Defense of Elective Surgery Directive Protects Public During COVID-19 PandemicThu, May 7, 2020
Says, ‘no exemptions for surgical abortions during this pandemic’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following the U.S. District Court Judge Brian Miller’s denial of abortion provider Little Rock Family Planning’s latest request for a temporary restraining order. The Arkansas Department of Health issued a directive on April 27, 2020, permitting elective surgeries, including surgical abortions, upon satisfaction of COVID-19 related precautions. The directive requires that all patients test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to any elective procedure.
“Today’s decision ensures that there are no exemptions for surgical abortions during this pandemic,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansas’s reasonable directive sets standards to protect the health and safety of patients, healthcare professionals, and the public during the COVID-19 emergency.”
The April 27 directive superseded ADH’s previous April 3, 2020 elective-surgery moratorium. Little Rock Family Planning had previously obtained a temporary restraining order from U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker against that April 3 moratorium. Attorney General Rutledge immediately appealed Judge Baker’s order, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed Judge Baker’s temporary restraining order and allowed the April 3 moratorium to go into effect.
Rutledge Calls to Expand Anti-Robocall ResponseThu, May 7, 2020
Bipartisan Coalition of Attorneys General Send USTelecom Letter Outlining Plan to Strengthen Illegal Robocall Enforcement
Rutledge announced the effort to expand illegal robocall response by calling on USTelecom – the leading organization representing telecommunications providers – and its Industry Traceback Group (ITG) to continue its collaboration with a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general by bolstering technological capabilities to improve enforcement against illegal robocallers. The coalition’s letter urged the association to further develop robocall traceback and other tools suited for law enforcement needs.
“This partnership between the public sector and private industry is critical to stopping these illegal scam calls,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I’m proud to have led the effort to develop Arkansas’s relationship with telecom providers. We now need to build on our accomplishments and develop resources to stop these incessant calls and to hold those accountable who are stealing from Arkansans.”
The letter asks USTelecom to advance the ITG’s abilities in identifying robocall campaigns, trends and business ecosystems; conducting automated traceback investigations and coordinating with relevant law enforcement agencies.
A key part would be for USTelecom to develop and roll out an online platform to collect live data from carriers and robocall-blocking apps. When USTelecom or a law enforcement agency detects an illegal robocall campaign, the law enforcement agency would then be able to submit a subpoena to USTelecom in a streamlined online portal. The process would allow for rapid review by USTelecom and provide law enforcement agencies the ability to expedite subpoena procedures and access the platform to quickly retrieve relevant data. The platform would bolster law enforcement investigations and could potentially lead to attorneys general offices issuing temporary restraining orders that could stop a live robocall campaign in its tracks. The coalition believes these measures would strengthen the partnership between the USTelecom-backed ITG and attorneys general, a relationship that led to the creation of the Anti-Robocall Principles.
Rutledge has paved the way for telephone carriers to aggressively block illegal robocalls before they reach consumers through ongoing collaborations with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), telecom industry representatives and a coalition of state attorneys general. Rutledge urged the passage of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which enables the industry to develop call-authentication protocols to combat caller-ID spoofing and implement other sweeping anti-robocall measures, and demanded the FCC take expedient action in the Truth in Caller ID Act rulemaking process against illegal spoofing. Rutledge was also instrumental in developing the Anti-Robocall Principles for telecoms to reduce the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls reaching the American people, which were adopted by 51 attorneys general and 12 major telecom providers in August 2019.
In Arkansas, Rutledge continues to lead the fight against robocalls by working with state legislators to pass and implement laws requiring telecommunication providers to submit annual reports to the Arkansas Public Service Commission to certify that all available and applicable technology is being employed to identify and block illegal robocalls and spoofing.
ICYMI: Rutledge Op-Ed: Be their VoiceThu, Apr 30, 2020
In case you missed it...
Be their voice
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
By: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
April 30, 2020
April is normally a time when I look forward to the gloomy clouds of winter being replaced with the brilliant sunshine and bright flowers of spring, but this April looks very different from the past. While we are usually united in our battles against allergies and pollen, this year we are all battling something new, disruptive and deadly.
Families are fighting to protect their most vulnerable loved ones, health-care providers are fighting for basic needs to take care of themselves and their patients, small businesses are fighting to stay afloat, recently laid-off workers are fighting to find income, and as always, our first responders are fearlessly fighting on the front lines against this new and invisible foe.
Every day it is on the front of our minds and the top of the news. My husband and I have our 21-month-old daughter and his 88-year-old mom at home, so like many of you, we aren't taking any unnecessary chances.
So why am I telling you something you already know? Because I want to challenge you to think about what you don't know or don't want to know. April is child abuse awareness month, but again, this April is very different.
So I ask you: Who is fighting for the children? The kids who may be sheltered at home but are not sheltered from abuse. Think about the children whose only daily comfort has been in a classroom or on a big yellow bus with a responsible adult. The principals, teachers, counselors and bus drivers are usually the first to notice when something is off with one of their kids, and they report it immediately. My heart breaks and my blood boils when I think about those precious children who don't get to interact with their guardian angels every day.
I wish every child grew up in a loving home as I did, and that every parent would love their child as much as I love mine, but that simply is not the case. My heart is heavy for those victims. The recipe for abuse is currently ripe with toxic ingredients: unemployment, financial and emotional stress, close confinement, and the rambunctious boredom of innocent kids that can unintentionally spark the fury of evil.
Child abuse is way too prevalent in the Natural State. In Arkansas, there are more than 9,000 cases of physical or sexual abuse against a child every year, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that only one out of 10 child abuse cases are even reported. And with so many dangerous adults being secluded at home with children all day and night who are cut off from their protectors, how many more victims will we have?
Arkansans, you are the neighbor, the relative, or the family friend that could be the saving grace to an abused child. Keep an open eye and attentive ear for something that might seem off or doesn't "seem quite right," and if you see something, say something! The Special Agents at the Attorney General's Office, local law enforcement and the Arkansas State Police are working and ready to respond.
Our responsibility is greater than ever during this unusual time to be the voice for the voiceless. If you suspect child abuse, report it to the Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 482-5964 and save a child's life.