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State Enforcement Actions

Each state enforces its laws and defends its interests, and states often work with the federal government in investigating and prosecuting corporate frauds.  Whistleblowers with knowledge of fraud or wrongful conduct that involves state or local funds or programs may be able to bring a claim under a state or local False Claims Act, and may be eligible to receive a monetary reward and protection against retaliation.

Below are summaries of recent settlements, successful prosecutions, and enforcement actions by states. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give rise to a claim under a State or Local False Claims Act or other whistleblower reward provision, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

January 7, 2015

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that Florida, along with California, Colorado, Kentucky, and Ohio and the federal government, entered a $22 million national settlement with DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc., one of the leading providers of dialysis services in the US. The settlement resolves allegations originating in a whistleblower lawsuit that DaVita paid illegal kickbacks to induce the referral of patients to its dialysis clinics, causing false claims to be submitted to the Medicaid program. DaVita will pay Florida $5.6 million in restitution and other recoveries. FL

January 7, 2015

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, along with eight other attorneys general, announced a settlement with Nevada-based online retailer Zappos.com, Inc. to resolve allegations that Zappos placed consumers’ personal data at risk by allegedly failing to protect financial information during a data breach that occurred in 2012. Zappos has agreed to pay $106,000 to the states and must take certain actions intended to better protect consumers’ information. FL

January 6, 2015

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Massachusetts retail electricity supplier Just Energy Group Inc. agreed to pay $4 million to settle allegations of deceptive marketing and sales that promised savings but charged significantly higher rates, entered consumers into agreements without their consent, and charged costly termination fees. MA

December 30, 2014

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Verizon New England Inc. paid more than $1.3 million to resolve allegations it overcharged the Commonwealth for telecommunications services under a statewide procurement contract. The settlement also requires Verizon to make additional payment offers to Commonwealth towns and cities and other related entities impacted by the alleged overbilling. The settlement resulted from a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the state’s False Claims Act. MA

December 23, 2014

Environmental services company National Water Main Cleaning Co. agreed to pay more than $650,000 to resolve claims it violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by submitting false bills and records on multiple public contracts for sewer, storage tank and catch basin cleaning, maintenance and repair, and illegally discharged sewage and wastewater. The complaint also alleges the company violated the Massachusetts Clean Waters Act by discharging sewage and wastewater into the waters of the Commonwealth without a valid permit. MA

December 22, 2014

Aspen Dental Management, Inc. and Aspen Dental Associates of New England, P.C. agreed to pay at least $990,000 to settle allegations of deceptive advertising and marketing practices, and failing to give refunds to consumers for services not provided. There are more than two dozen Aspen Dental locations in Massachusetts. MA

December 19, 2014

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that the California Department of Justice, along with the Attorneys General of the other 49 States and the District of Columbia, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission, reached settlements with T-Mobile USA, Inc. to resolve allegations that T-Mobile placed charges for third-party services on consumers’ mobile telephone bills that were not authorized by the consumer, a practice known as “mobile cramming.” The settlement terms require that T-Mobile pay at least $90M. Consumers who have been “crammed” often complain about charges, typically $9.99 per month, for “premium” text message subscription services (also known as “PSMS” subscriptions) such as horoscopes, trivia, and sports scores, that the consumers have never heard of or requested. T-Mobile is the second mobile telephone provider to enter into a nationwide settlement to resolve allegations regarding cramming. AT&T agreed to pay $105M to settle similar charges in October. CA

December 18, 2014

Nine hotel operators in Massachusetts agreed to cease a potentially anticompetitive practice through which a hotel receives competitive room rates and occupancy information that can be used to raise or stabilize its own prices. Three of the operators agreed to pay a total of $45,000 in civil penalties. The hotels involved in the investigation included Morgans Hotel Group Management LLC, Pyramid Advisors, LP / Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, LLC, HHLP Bulfinch Associates, LLC / Marriott International, Inc. / Omni Hotels Management Corporation / Pacific Boston Holdings Corp. / Seaport Hotel Limited Partnership / Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. MA

December 18, 2014

Freedom Furniture, Inc., Freedom Acceptance Corporation, Military Credit Services, LLC will pay more than $2.5M for violations of state and federal laws on credit and debt collection. Freedom Furniture is a national retailer that sells furniture, electronics, jewelry and other products online and at 14 retail locations near military bases, including one in North Carolina near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville. FAC services credit and collects debts on behalf of Freedom Furniture, and MCS extends credit for purchases made by military consumers at independent retailers. VA

December 12, 2014

For-profit school Salter College will pay students $3.75M to resolve allegations of misrepresenting job placement numbers and using deceptive enrollment tactics. This is the largest settlement to date as part of Massachusetts’ ongoing investigation of the for-profit school industry. MA
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