NewsEvents

Rutledge Urges Senate to Pass Law to Fight Shell Companies

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today led a bipartisan letter signed by 42 attorneys generals urging the U.S. Senate to pass S. 2563, the Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act. The letter was sent to Sen. Mike Crapo, Chairman, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member, of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. The ILLICIT CASH Act updates the federal framework for fighting money laundering and terrorism financing, which has not been comprehensively reassessed since its inception in the 1970s. It creates new tools for information sharing between financial institutions and law enforcement. Along with that, the Act requires a covered entity to report its “beneficial owners,” the actual people who benefit from or control the entity.

“By passing the ILLICIT CASH Act, Congress would increase transparency in the American financial system,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This increased transparency would make it tougher for criminals to use shell companies to launder money from crimes like drug trafficking, terrorism and tax evasion and give law enforcement the resources they so desperately need.”

The letter led by Attorney General Rutledge recognizes that many states do not have the ability to track information on the actual people who control or benefit from corporations and other entities doing business there. Without that information, states cannot know if an entity is a shell for concealing the illicit proceeds of criminals like drug traffickers, terrorist financiers, tax evaders and corrupt government officials.

Under the ILLICIT CASH Act, certain business entities will have to disclose a “beneficial owner” to the federal government. A beneficial owner is a “natural person” who controls an entity, owns at least 25% of it, or receives economic benefits from it. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Department of Treasury (FinCEN) will then keep all the disclosed beneficial ownership information in a federal registry. The Act requires FinCEN to release beneficial ownership information to law enforcement agencies, including at the local and state levels.

Rutledge led the letter with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, which was signed by attorneys general in: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, N. Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Rutledge’s Statement on SCOTUS Splintered Decision Ruling Against Louisiana’s Reasonable Admitting Privileges Statute

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s splintered decision narrowly ruling against Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (Act 620) which would require any physician who performs abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Reflecting the weakness of the abortion practitioners’ position, there was no majority opinion. Chief Justice John Roberts who provided the deciding vote explained that he had only voted to strike down Louisiana’s requirement because he believed this case was identical to an earlier case.

“Abortion is a serious medical procedure that can often have complications and, if not adequately addressed, can leave women with long-term health issues including death,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Despite today's technical decision against Louisiana’s law, the Supreme Court reaffirms common sense laws that ensure protection of women’s health and welfare.”

The Court’s decisions comes after Rutledge led a 20-state coalition of attorneys general in support of Louisiana’s case to protect the safety and welfare of women by requiring admitting privileges to all clinics located in Louisiana. The brief argued the Supreme Court should not allow abortion practitioners to challenge health and safety laws, like those in Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana and other states on behalf of women.

In March, the case, June Medical Services, LLC. v. Russo was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rutledge Allocates Over $2 Million to Department of Public Safety for Crime Victims

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today the allocation of $2.1 million from the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund to the Department of Public Safety for the Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Program. The funds for the program will be used by the Crime Victims Reparation Board to compensate victims and family members of victims of violent crimes as well as ensuring forensic tests can be completed.

“Life is precious and it is tragic that a program like this is necessary,” said General Rutledge. “Arkansas families need to know they will be taken care of even after a violent crime has happened to a loved one.”

“I am deeply grateful to our Attorney General for her compassion to make sure that our child and youth victims of crime get the necessary expert medical forensic exams and lab work to aid not only their legal cases, but to assure them of their well-being and wholeness to start the healing of their hearts and souls,” said Arkansas’s First Lady Susan Hutchinson.

“As a law enforcement officer, I’ve seen first-hand, the hopelessness left in the eyes of people who were victims of a criminal act and even though justice was meted out, the victims are left to rebuild their lives. All too often, these victims are our precious children,” said Secretary Jami Cook. “The Children’s Advocacy Centers provide an invaluable service in the pursuit of justice for our young victims. The compassionate allotment from Attorney General Rutledge will ensure the Crime Victims Reparations Board can help restore some small degree of hope to those who did nothing wrong.”

The Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Program was transferred in the Governor’s reorganization to the Department of Public Safety and was previously administered by the Office of Attorney General until 2019. The program provides financial compensation to victims and family members who have suffered personal injury or death as the result of violent crime.

For more information contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8983 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

Rutledge Sues Jim Bakker for Peddling Colloidal Silver Products to Cure COVID-19

Arkansas Consumers have purchased over $60,000 on silver products for false COVID-19 cures

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced a lawsuit against Morningside Church Productions, Inc., which conducts business as The Jim Bakker Show, as well as Jim Bakker and Sherrill Sellman, for falsely telling Arkansas consumers that colloidal silver products would cure, eliminate, kill or deactivate COVID-19. The lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“Jim Bakker has exploited Arkansas consumers by leveraging COVID-19 fears to sell over $60,000 worth of their products that do nothing to fight the virus,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Let me be clear, this case is not about freedom of religion. This is a consumer fraud case and I urge any Arkansans who have experience with these false advertisements claiming silver to be a COVID-19 cure to immediately call my office.”

Approximately 385 Arkansans made purchases from Bakker’s company totaling approximately $60,524 for colloidal silver products between January 1 and March 9, 2020.

In February 2020, The Jim Bakker Show hosted Sherrill Sellman who falsely claimed the colloidal silver products hawked by Jim Bakker were “proven by the government to have the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV… .” Both Bakker and Sellman have separately received warning letters from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for selling unapproved drugs to cure or prevent COVID-19. The FDA had previously stated that silver products are not scientifically recognized to be safe and effective.

Rutledge is seeking restitution for affected consumers, injunctive relief, and civil penalties. Violations of the ADTPA may be assessed with a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

Rutledge is urging all consumers who have purchased products from Bakker or Sellman to contact the office immediately at (800) 482- 8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

Rutledge Files Complaint in Ongoing Antitrust Price-Fixing Investigation into Generic Drug Industry

Names 26 Corporate Defendants, 10 Individual Defendants in Conspiracy to Fix Prices and Allocate Markets for at least 80 Generic Topical Dermatological Drugs

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge joined a coalition of 51 states and jurisdictions in filing the third lawsuit stemming from the ongoing antitrust investigation into a widespread conspiracy by generic drug manufacturers to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition and unreasonably restrain trade for generic drugs sold across the United States. This new Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, focuses on 80 topical generic drugs that account for billions of dollars of sales in the United States. The Complaint targets Taro Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Perrigo, New York, Inc., and Sandoz Inc., along with 23 other corporate Defendants and 10 individual Defendants.

“Generic drug companies have been manipulating drug prices that directly harm Arkansans’ pocketbooks,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Drug prices have skyrocketed in recent years due to fraudulent agreements between generic drug companies and their competitors and this litigation will hold these companies accountable for their illegal collaboration to reap massive profits.”

The topical drugs at the center of the Complaint include creams, gels, lotions, ointments, shampoos, and solutions used to treat a variety of skin conditions, pain, and allergies.

Between 2007 and 2014, three generic drug manufacturers, Taro, Perrigo, and Fougera (now Sandoz) sold nearly two-thirds of all generic topical products dispensed in the United States. The multistate investigation has uncovered comprehensive, direct evidence of unlawful agreements to minimize competition and raise prices on dozens of topical products. Based on evidence gathered from a massive document database of over 20 million documents, phone records, and the cooperation of several witnesses, the Complaint alleges longstanding agreements among manufacturers to ensure a “fair share” of the market for each competitor, and to prevent “price erosion” due to competition.

The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties, and actions by the court to restore competition to the generic drug market.

The Complaint is the third to be filed in an ongoing, expanding investigation that the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General has referred to as possibly the largest domestic corporate cartel case in the history of the United States. The first Complaint, still pending in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was filed in 2016 and now includes 18 corporate Defendants, two individual Defendants, and 15 generic drugs. The second Complaint, also pending in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was filed in 2019 against Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 of the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers. The Complaint names 16 individual senior executive Defendants. The States are currently preparing for trial on that Complaint.

Rutledge joined attorneys generals in the lawsuit, led by Connecticut, from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Territory of Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin in filing the complaint.

Rutledge Files Federal Lawsuit Against Texas Companies Behind Billions of Illegal Robocalls

Telephone records indicate they made tens of millions of calls to Arkansans

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and six other state attorneys general filed suit today against a group of Texas businesses accused of blasting billions of illegal robocalls nationwide over the past two years. Telephone records indicate tens of millions of these calls have been made to Arkansans alone. The federal lawsuit alleges that Rising Eagle Capital Group LLC and JSquared Telecom LLC are behind a tidal wave of robocalls offering fake extended car warranties and health care services. John Spiller II, owner of the businesses, and his business partner, Jakob Mears, are also named as defendants.

“Companies like Rising Eagle and JSquared aren’t just a nuisance, they can ruin someone’s entire life by illegally obtaining their personal information,’ says Rutledge. “With this lawsuit, I intend to stop these defendants from continuing to plague consumers with incessant and illegal robocalls and ensure they will pay the highest penalties allowed by law for all the harm they have inflicted on Arkansans.”

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas jointly allege that Rising Eagle and JSquared violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and each state also alleges violations of its respective consumer protection laws. The TCPA violations include telephone solicitations to consumers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, illegally using a pre-recorded message to residential and cellular telephones without the prior express consent of the consumer, failing to provide the required identity of the entity responsible for the call, and for displaying a misleading or inaccurate name or number on consumers’ caller ID. For the TCPA violations, the states seek a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from further violating the TCPA, a $1,500 penalty for each TCPA violation committed willfully and knowingly and a $500 penalty for each violation found not to be willful or knowing.

The Arkansas state law violations alleged in the complaint consist of displaying fictitious or misleading name or number on an Arkansas residence’s caller ID in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA) and the Regulation of Telephonic Sellers (RTS) and additional RTS violations for failing to register as a telephonic seller with the Secretary of State, failing to provide the required disclosures to consumers for telephone solicitations, and failing to discontinue calls when consumers indicated they were not interested in the goods or services being offered. The state seeks a permanent injunction from further violations of the ADPTA and RTS, up to $10,000 civil penalty for each ADTPA violation, up to $10,000 civil penalty for each RTS violation, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Texas located in Houston, TX.

In addition to the states’ case, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today announced its own legal action against Rising Eagle, JSquared, Spiller and Mears.

“Spoofed robocalls are a major problem for consumers across the country,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “I’m grateful to have partners like these state attorneys general as we fight on behalf of American consumers. We are making it clear that scamming consumers and—as we saw in this case—tricking them into buying products under false pretenses cannot and will not go unchecked. That is why the FCC and state officials are standing together and taking strong action to protect the American public from the scourge of spoofed robocalls.”

Rutledge has led the national effort demanding a stronger oversight from the FCC by collaborating with the private sector to aggressively block illegal robocalls before they reach consumers. In August 2019, 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.

In Arkansas, Rutledge continues to lead the fight against robocalls by working with stakeholders to implement Acts 677 and 1074 of 2019 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.

July
15
Wednesday

Military Consumer Protection Month Webcasts

July 15 and July 29
10 a.m.

As July is Military Protection Month, these webcasts will review the many ways veterans can utilize the Consumer Protection Division and how to avoid common scams and identity theft. Continuing education credit will not be available.


Register for July 15

Register for July 29
 10:00 AMVIEW 
August
6
Thursday

FOIA webcast

Arkansas Freedom of Information Act
10 a.m. to noon

The webcast, which is free and open to the public, will include FOIA Made Simple presentations by attorneys in the Attorney General’s office detailing responsibilities and rights covered under the act that relate to public meetings and documents.

Two hours of CLE and CLEST credit are pending.

REGISTER

 10:00 AMVIEW 
October
6
Tuesday

Law Enforcement Summit

2018 Officers of the YearAttorney General Rutledge will offer free training sessions for law enforcement and recognize outstanding law enforcement officers from every county at the Benton Event Center.

Please check back for training and CLEST credit offerings.

The Summit is FREE, but seating is limited. For more information, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

Nominate an Officer of the Year

 8:00 AMVIEW 
November
10
Tuesday

Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will host the ninth annual Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

This is a free educational training opportunity for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Members of the general public may also attend and will have the opportunity to hear from experts regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment.

In addition to the Attorney General’s Office, the Summit is being sponsored by the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy, Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, Arkansas State Board of Nursing, Arkansas State Police, Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, Office of the State Drug Director, Rotary Clubs of Arkansas, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Arkansas State Medical Board, University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock MidSouth School of Social Work.

For questions, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

 8:00 AMVIEW 
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