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Laws And Litigation

OLYMPIA — State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that he will defend the constitutionality of Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws — and the enforcement of those laws — against a challenge filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

On Jan. 3 in Thurston County Superior Court, the GMA answered the attorney general’s campaign disclosure lawsuit against the GMA with a counterclaim. The organization also filed a separate civil rights complaint against Ferguson. The organization claims Ferguson is unconstitutionally enforcing Washington’s laws and challenges the constitutionality of requiring the GMA to register a political committee before requesting and receiving contributions to oppose Initiative 522.

“After breaking our state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, the GMA now seeks to have them declared unconstitutional,” Ferguson said. “I look forward to defending transparency in Washington elections.” read more »

Company offers free credit monitoring to all shoppers

Target has announced that in addition to the payment card data breach that affected approximately 40 million shoppers, 70 million shoppers had other information taken such as names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. The data breach occurred during the period of November to December.

The company vowed that “guests will bear absolutely zero liability for charges they didn’t make.” Target also announced one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to all customers who have ever shopped its U.S. stores and provided other tips.

Credit monitoring services help consumers keep tabs on their credit reports. The services track consumers’ credit reports and immediately send an alert if any changes or suspicious activities occur. The services typically cost $10 to $15 per month. read more »


OLYMPIA — State schools Superintendent Randy Dorn today released a draft of a bill that would move Washington state toward the full funding of basic education in the event that the Legislature fails to do so by Jan. 1, 2018.

Among other things, the bill calls for a 1 percent increase in sales tax, an increase in state property tax to $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value and a decrease in local levy authority — the so-called “levy swap.”

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) estimates the bill will increase education funding by $7.5 billion in the 2019-21 biennium.

“This bill is a blunt but necessary instrument,” Dorn said. “A general increase in the sales tax is not the best solution to this problem. But something has to be done, and passage of this bill will, I hope, spur the Legislature into action.” read more »


Federal regulators are taking a closer look at those restrictive contract provisions that force consumers to arbitrate disputes, barring them from suing a company individually or joining a class-action lawsuit.

And it doesn’t look as if officials are buying into the business world’s claim that such provisions are in consumers’ best interest.

“If you were to look in your wallet right now, the chances are high that one or more of your credit cards, debit cards or prepaid cards would be subject to a pre-dispute arbitration clause,” Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said recently in Dallas.

“The terms are not subject to negotiation,” he pointed out. “Like the other terms of most consumer-financial products, they are essentially ‘take it or leave it’ propositions.” read more »


WASHINGTON — Wells Fargo said this week that it agreed to pay $591 million to Fannie Mae to settle disputes over soured mortgages that the bank sold to the seized housing-finance giant during the subprime housing boom.

The agreement covers loans originated by Wells Fargo before 2009 that Fannie Mae was trying to force the bank to buy back.

Wells Fargo will pay $541 million in cash to Fannie Mae, with the rest covered by credits from earlier repurchases.

Fannie Mae and its sibling firm, Freddie Mac, were seized by the federal government in 2008 as they teetered near bankruptcy because of bad loans they had purchased from banks. read more »


The banks have fired their first salvo in what could soon turn into a war of litigation over the Volcker Rule.

As expected, the American Bankers Association, an industry trade group, filed a motion in federal court in Washington on Dec. 24 seeking to quickly suspend one part of the two-week-old Volcker Rule. The trade group claims 275 small banks will suffer an imminent $600 million hit to capital and make them less likely to lend to consumers and businesses.

Although the current dispute centers on an obscure and complex investment product, the association’s lawsuit could become an early test of how much the industry can successfully push back against the Volcker Rule. read more »


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered American Express to pay more than $75 million to settle claims it charged improper fees and misled its credit card customers over so-called add-on products like identity fraud protection.

American Express will have to refund $59.5 million to more than 335,000 consumers over what the bureau called “illegal credit card practices.” It will also have to pay a $9.6 million penalty to the bureau, according to a statement issued last week.

The settlement is the latest enforcement action aimed at cracking down on credit card companies, which have come under tougher scrutiny as federal regulators have sought tighter restrictions on hidden fees and penalties. read more »


TUMWATER — A 41-year-old Bremerton man faces 25 felony charges alleging he faked on-the-job injuries to fool hospitals and clinics into prescribing him narcotics.

Robert B. Boyer Jr. is accused of visiting more than three dozen emergency rooms and urgent-care clinics throughout Western Washington to get prescriptions for Vicodin, Percocet and other painkillers, according to charges filed recently by the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

Pretending to be an ironworker, Boyer showed up with visible cuts and other injuries that he claimed to have suffered in construction accidents from November 2012 through February 2013, charging papers said. Each time, medical staff treated Boyer and prescribed him painkillers. read more »


After a decade of legal battles, the three major credit card companies are backing away from longstanding policies that prevented merchants from charging customers extra for paying with plastic.

Developments in two cases in the last week have the potential to change pricing practices everywhere from big-box retailers to corner coffee shops — but whether they actually do remains to be seen.

On Dec. 19, a group of small and midsize businesses reached a settlement agreement with America Express in a class-action lawsuit. Under the agreement, which a judge must approve, Amex will allow surcharges to its cardholders as long as the same amount is levied on other credit and charge-card users. It agreed to drop a measure that required debit card surcharges at the same level, according to a lawyer representing the company.

The deal comes less than a week after a judge approved a settlement that included a similar change of rules in a huge class-action lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, billed as the largest private antitrust settlement in American history. read more »

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