Eric Schneiderman

Attorneys General Launch Multi-State Opioid Crisis Investigation

Attorneys general from 41 states across the country are working together on a comprehensive investigation into the opioid crisis. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the coalition during a Tuesday press conference in New York City.

“We know that the system is broken but there’s never been as comprehensive an effort as the one we are launching now by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to get to the bottom of it,” Schneiderman said.

He said investigators have demanded information and documents from manufacturers and distributors to see if there were any illegal marketing or selling practices.

“Our subpoenas and letters seek to uncover whether or not there was deception involved, if manufacturers misled doctors and patients about the efficacy and addictive power of these drugs.”

So far the coalition has served subpoenas to four pharmaceutical companies; Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industry and Allergan Inc. It has also demanded information from three other corporations that manage roughly 90 percent of the nation’s opioid distribution.

“There’s no doubt that there simply are too many prescriptions for too many opioids in America right now,” Schneiderman said.

The attorney general said the main goal of the investigation is to initiate change and some companies have already indicated willingness to cooperate.

“We hope that this will lead to some reforms by the industry itself. There may be cases to be brought if there’s any fraud or deception.”

Schneiderman said opioid distribution alone is a $500 billion business annually.

Schneiderman Makes Post-Equifax Scandal Data Inquiries

Elected officials are rushing to respond to the Equifax data hacking scandal in which the personal details of up to 143 million Americans was exposed – potentially one of the biggest data breaches in U.S. history.

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state Department of Financial Services, one of the nation’s toughest banking regulators, would extend its reach to include overseeing credit-reporting firms.

AG Eric Schneiderman has already opened an investigation into the Equifax breach – an effort in which he is not alone, as Congress is also looking into the incident.

Today, the AG went a step further, announcing his office has sent has sent formal inquiries regarding data security to Experian and TransUnion, the two other major credit reporting agencies.

Specifically, Schneiderman has asked the companies to detail the security measures that were in place before they learned of the Equifax breach, as well as steps they have taken since learning of the latest hacking mess to ensure that they haven’t already suffered similar intrusions and won’t experience breaches moving forward.

The AG also wants to know how the companies plan to assist consumers in protecting their personal information going forward.

“The Equifax breach has left millions of New Yorkers vulnerable to identity theft and major financial issues,” Schneiderman said in a press release.

“Credit reporting agencies have a fundamental responsibility to protect the personal information they’re entrusted with. As we continue our investigation into the Equifax breach, it’s vital to ensure that consumer data at the other major credit reporting agencies is safe.”

Schneiderman reminded New Yorkers to take action to protect themselves post-Equifax breach by checking their credit reports for activity that could indicate identity theft at annualcreditreport.com, monitoring accounts closely for unauthorized charges, and considering placing a credit freeze on their files.

At least one member of the state Legislature is also looking to get in on the Equifax response. State Sen. David Carlucci, chair of his chamber’s Consumer Protection Committee, announced he plans to hold a public hearing on cyber security later this month, and has invited the head of Equifax to attend.

Schneiderman Sues Trump Over Fuel Efficiency Penalties

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, D-NY, has filed another lawsuit against the Trump administration. This time the fight’s over fuel efficiency standards.

This summer the administration delayed a federal rule set to take effect in July, that increased the penalty for automakers who built vehicles that did not meet minimum fuel efficiency standards.

“Fuel efficiency standards are common sense, protecting Americans’ pocketbooks and reducing the emissions that undermine public health and drive climate change,” Schneiderman said. “Yet again and again, the Trump administration sides against New Yorkers and our environment. State Attorneys General have made clear: we won’t hesitate to act when those we serve are put at risk.”

Attorney generals from California, Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania are also participating in the suit. Under the rule the penalty would be raised from $5.50 to $14.00 for every tenth of a mile per gallon.

Schneiderman said without sufficient penalties, automakers lack incentive to produce fuel efficient vehicles. He said the indefinite delay buy the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is illegal because the agency acted without notice or public comment and violates the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.

Schneiderman Defends Actions Against Trump

From the Morning Memo:

A pattern has emerged when it comes to the relationship between the Trump administration and the state Attorney General’s office. From healthcare to immigration to methane emissions, AG Eric Schneiderman has consistently voiced his opposition to the president by filing or simply threatening litigation.

Schneiderman, in Buffalo yesterday, said the lawsuits aren’t about him, but rather an effort to protect sound public policy from what appears to him to be a reckless administration hell bent on destroying it.

“I don’t view this as at all political; I view this as my effort to protect the people of the state of New York,” he said.

The AG told reporters he’d be happy to explain his reasons for lawsuits on any number of issues. He also pointed out he’s not the only one opposing Trump in this manner.

Schneiderman said a number of prominent Republicans are speaking out, and so are other attorney generals across the nation.

For instance, he said, there are 16 states involved in his latest effort to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, from repeal.

“This is not anything that has to do with President’s personality,” Schneiderman, an outspoken liberal, insisted. “This has to do with public policies that would hurt New Yorkers. We bring our cases on the merits. There just happens to be a lot of merits with this particular administration but I’m not going to back down from defending New Yorkers.”

When asked about the cost of all the lawsuits, Schneiderman said it’s significantly less than the cost to New Yorkers if they lose their healthcare, for example, or if those protected under DACA are deported.

 

Judge Rules Email Evidence In Pigeon Case Obtained Illegally

The State Attorney General’s Office appears to have been dealt a major blow in its case against Western New York political operative Steve Pigeon. State Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio has ruled that email evidence in the case should be suppressed moving forward.

Pigeon is accused of nine felonies associated with allegedly bribing a state Supreme Court judge. The judge, John Michalek, has already pleaded guilty.

On May 27, 2015, federal and state investigators executed search warrants at Pigeon’s condo and the homes of two other men. As part of the raid, investigators asked Google to deliver Pigeon’s emails.

Judge Cerio agreed with the defense that although the search warrants were delivered to Google within the 10-day window allowed by the state, law enforcement was not able to examine the emails until at least 22 days after the warrants were executed.

“While the courts have found that undue delay in filing the return with the court is a ministerial act which will not effect the integrity of the warrant, the execution of the warrant within the prescribed time period is strictly construed,” Cerio wrote in his decision.

The judge said in order to avoid the situation, investigators could have gotten an extension. He said the court had no issue with the time prosecutors have taken in analyzing the records.

“It is the finding of this court that the People acted in good faith at all times with respect to the analysis of the defendant’s email records. However, the issue is not with respect to how long the process of analysis took place or whether the People acted in good faith but, rather, when the information was actually received from Google by state law enforcement with respect to the warrants at issue,” Cerio wrote.

The judge had previously ruled against Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria, on this decision but changed his ruling only after deciding to allow the defendant to re-argue the decision. It is unclear what the impact on the case which is set to go to trial in September.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision regarding this technical issue and will soon determine how to best move this important prosecution forward. We appreciate the court stating that our office has proceeded in good faith at all times on this matter,” AG spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said.

Cambria would only say he believes the judge made the right decision and he is now waiting for Schneiderman’s office to decide how to move forward.

Pigeon Emails by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Indictments Against State Senator Ortt Dismissed

An Albany County Judge has dismissed all indictments against state Senator Rob Ortt due to lack of evidence. Ortt was facing three felony charges of filing a false instrument.

The state Attorney General’s office accused the Republican of obtaining a “no-show job” for his wife in order to make up for a pay reduction he took to become the mayor of the City of North Tonawanda.

The judge’s decision references evidence that Niagara County Republican Committee funneled money through two companies, Synor and Regency Communications, that were later paid to Ortt’s wife Meghan. One exhibit submitted to the court shows the companies paid $21,500 to Meghan Ortt over a number of years which were reported on the couple’s joint income tax returns.

According to the court documents though, there was no proof that the defendant knew the money source was the NCRC. As a result, the judge wrote the evidence did not show that Ortt had knowledge campaign finance reports were false, nor that he had any intent to defraud the state.

“Today’s decision by Judge Lynch to dismiss these ridiculous political charges was welcome news,” Ortt said in a statement. “This quick and forthright dismissal exposed Eric Schneiderman for the power hungry, political opportunist that he is. It is my hope that this ruling today will force Mr. Schneiderman to think twice before concocting baseless charges to serve his own radical progressive political agenda again. My wife and I look forward to receiving a personal apology from Mr. Schneiderman.”

The decision does not clear former state Senator George Maziarz who was also implicated in the alleged scheme.

“We’re pleased that a trial date has been set for the corruption charges against Sen. Maziarz,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman.

“We disagree with the opinion regarding Sen. Ortt and are considering our options. Nothing in today’s opinion changes the fact that Meghan Ortt received money for a politically-connected no-show job. Only in Albany would a Senator argue that receiving money for a politically-connected no-show job isn’t a crime.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan celebrated the news in a statement as well.

“Rob Ortt is is a friend and colleague who has maintained his innocence from day one,” Flanagan said. “Now everyone will know what his Senate colleagues and I have known for a very long time — that he is a person of honor and integrity who did everything right.”

 

Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Senator Rob Ortt by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Schneiderman Signs On To Letter For Independent Counsel

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman signed on to a letter with fellow state AGs on Thursday calling for an independent special counsel to review and investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The letter was addressed to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo has been pointed to as a catalyst for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. President Donald Trump now says the firing was his decision alone and the Rosensetein memo did not influence it.

The attorneys general called the firing of Comey “a violation of the public trust.”

“As prosecutors committed to the rule of law, we urge you to consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation,” the letter states.

All together, 20 state attorneys general signed on to the letter.

Ag Multistate Letter to Deputy Ag Rosenstein by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Pigeon To Face Felony Election Law Charges

Three prominent Western New York political operatives are scheduled to face felony election law charges Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the case. Among them is former Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Steve Pigeon, who is already in the midst of criminal proceedings for allegedly bribing a state Supreme Court justice.

In June, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the investigation that led to the bribery case started because of election complaints that were turned over to his office. Schneiderman insisted the investigation was ongoing.

Meanwhile, the original complainants – Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, former legislator Tim Hogues and attorney Mark Sacha – have been vocal about their displeasure with the unresolved election issues. They believe there was evidence the WNY Progessive Caucus, a political action committee tied to Pigeon, illegally coordinated with candidates to circumvent campaign finance donation limits.

The source said, two other Pigeon associates connected to the PAC, Kristy Mazurek and David Pfaff, are also scheduled to appear in court. Mazurek had a failed run for state Assembly this past fall and has been cooperating with the prosecution for at least a year and a half.

Neither Pigeon’s attorney nor the Attorney General’s office have commented on the charges at this point.

Schneiderman Hails Trump University Settlement

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday hailed the finalization of a $25 million settlement by a judge in the lawsuit his office brought against President Donald Trump’s defunct for-profit university.

“Today’s final approval by a judge of our Trump University settlement will provide relief – and hopefully much-needed closure – to the victims of Donald Trump’s fraudulent university,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Trump University’s victims waited years for compensation, while President Trump refused to settle and fought us every step of the way – until his stunning reversal last fall.”

He added: “In particular, I am pleased that we were able to ensure that members of the class action settlement will receive an even higher settlement than originally anticipated.”

The suit launched by Schneiderman alleged Trump University used deceptive practices when advertising to students the promises of its courses and who would be teaching them, namely that Trump himself was selecting the instructors.

The suit drew Trump’s ire, who launched a series of Twitter posts knocking the state attorney general. But ultimately, soon after Trump was elected president in November, he moved to settlement the claims against the university.

Schneiderman: Corruption Is A ‘Cancer In State Government’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called public corruption a “cancer in state government” and defended on Friday at a press conference his prosecution of a state lawmaker and his predecessor.

Schneiderman’s office is prosecuting Sen. Robert Ortt, who is charged with three felony fraud counts stemming from his wife receiving a no-show job. The man who held his post before him, ex-Sen. George Maziarz, faces five counts of filing a false instrument as well.

Ortt angrily rebutted the charges on Thursday after his arraignment, calling the case a “political” witch hunt against him by Schneiderman.

Schneiderman, however, noted he has prosecuted Democrats in the past, including ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley and political operative Steve Pigeon.

“This is an investigation that has been ongoing that started with a referral from the Board of Elections,” he said. “The notion this is a political effort is completely at odds with the facts.”

Schneiderman also dismissed any questions over whether he would have to step up his office’s anti-corruption work with the departure of Preet Bharara as U.S. attorney. Schneiderman’s office worked with Bharara on several cases, including a sweeping bribery and bid-rigging cases that drew in charges for a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and upstate developers, as well as the ex-president of SUNY Nano.

“We’ve been proceeding with these cases all along. We’re going to do that and we will work with whoever is in place,” Schneiderman said. “Certainly, I had a good working relationship with Preet and wish him well, but the work of the office goes on. The work of investigating corruption goes on.”