Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit
State of Wyoming Cases
The Attorney General's Office conducts investigations and takes enforcement actions against businesses that appear to be violating the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act. The Attorney General also participates in multi-state actions, and occasionally joins other state attorneys general in submitting amicus curiae briefs on important matters that impact consumers. Listed below are some matters resolved by the Wyoming Attorney General.
Brandon Johnson; Full Contact Concrete, LLC (2022-18)
Brandon Johnson who owns and operates a concrete company in Casper, Wyoming which offers commercial and residential concrete contracting services. After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Brandon Johnson and Full Contact Concrete collected money from consumers, started and then failed to complete projects for numerous consumers in Natrona County. The Attorney General entered into a settlement in which Brandon Johnson paid full restitution to customers.
JUUL Labs, Inc.
The Attorney General joined 34 other states entered into a settlement with JUUL Labs, Inc. following a two-year bipartisan investigation into the e-cigarette manufacture’s marketing and sales practices. JUUL Labs was found to have engaged in advertising campaigns targeting youth, despite the fact it is illegal for minors to use or purchase e-cigarettes. The investigation further revealed that JUUL’s original packaging was misleading in that it did not clearly disclose that it contained nicotine and implied that it contained a lower concentration of nicotine than it actually did.
The terms of the consent judgement will require JUUL to pay $438.5 million to the states with Wyoming receiving between $5.8 million and $6.3 million. In addition to the financial terms, the settlement would force JUUL to comply with a series of strict injunctive terms severely limiting their marketing and sales practices.
Galaxy Line, LLC (2022-17)
Based upon several complaints, the Attorney General investigated Galaxy Line, LLC which is a Wyoming corporation whose website domain is hosted in Kyiv, Ukraine. The company produced a fitness app which requires a monthly subscription. Several consumers complained that the app did not work or did not meet their expectations. Further, consumers complained they could not cancel their subscription and were continually charged a monthly fee. Galaxy Line was unresponsive to consumers who reached out for customer service and cancellation. The Attorney General entered in to an assurance of voluntary compliance with Galaxy Line who agreed to refund clients fees paid to further to cease all deceptive trade practices and to never again violate the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act.
The Wyoming Attorney General sent a demand letter to an individual who she alleged was misrepresenting the character of services he provided. As alleged in the demand letter, this individual represented that he could provide legal services to consumers even though he was not an attorney. The parties entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, resolving the matter by banning any such representations while the individual is not a Wyoming-licensed attorney, among other relief.
Publishers Partnership Services, LLC; Customer Publication Services, LLC; Endeavor Daily, LLC;
Dennis Simpson, Inc; John Ackermann; Lori Bowman; and Dennis Simpson (Docket No. 194-208)
The Wyoming Attorney General filed a civil law enforcement action to halt a ring of companies and individuals from sending direct mail solicitations that mimic invoices for payment or subscription renewal notices from actual magazine publishers and misrepresent the savings associated with the subscriptions. As alleged in the complaint, the mailings started in Colorado under the name of Atlantic Publishers Group, LLC. But facing an investigation by the Colorado Attorney General, Defendants started sending mailings under the name of Publishers Partnership Services, a Wyoming limited liability company with Cheyenne post office boxes. Because Defendants operated out of both Colorado and Wyoming, the Wyoming and Colorado Attorneys General worked together to file lawsuits in their respective states and achieve joint settlements. Those settlements ban defendants from operating magazine subscription businesses in Wyoming and Colorado and require defendants to pay over $1 million.
Christoph Geisler (Docket No. 35399)
The Attorney General filed a civil law enforcement action alleging that Christoph Geisler turned 180 N95 respirators worth $595.62 into $4,704 by selling them on eBay over an eleven day period at excessive prices—including markups exceeding 900%. In the Attorney General’s view, this pricing of critical goods during a period of market disruption and emergency constituted an unfair act in violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Without admitting liability, Geisler entered into a consent judgment requiring him to pay $7,000 in civil penalties and prohibiting him from selling personal protective equipment on any online sales platform for seven years. Additionally, the consent judgment requires Geisler to donate the 80 remaining N95 respirators in his possession to a healthcare facility in Wyoming that treats actual or suspected cases of COVID-19.
Associated Community Services (Docket No. 21-10174)
The Wyoming Attorney General, along with the Federal Trade Commission and 46 agencies from 38 states and the District of Columbia, joined together in stopping a massive tele-funding operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion unsolicited and deceptive charitable fundraising calls. This coalition alleged that numerous individual and corporate entity defendants solicited donations for sham charity organizations via telephone and direct-mail. Unfortunately, the coalition alleges that, while virtually all of these communications purported to solicit donations for sympathetic causes, the charities purporting to represent these causes frequently spent little if any money on their advertised charitable purposes, lining their own pockets, as well as those of the defendants, instead. In lieu of engaging in further litigation, the Attorney General has entered into several settlement agreements with the defendants. Under these settlements, all existing corporate entities agreed to permanently dissolve their existence. In addition, all defendants agreed to bans on fundraising and telemarketing for goods and services, as well as certain bans on charitable fundraising. Finally, they also agreed to bans on illegal robo-calls, abusive calling practices, and misrepresentations regarding the solicitation and use of charitable donations, among other relief.
McKinsey & Company, Inc. (Docket No. 194-330)
Attorney General Hill joined a coalition of attorneys general from 47 jurisdiction in a $573 million settlement with one of the world's largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Company. The multistate settlement resolves allegations that the company contributed to the opioid crisis by promoting unlawful marketing schemes and providing consulting services to opioid manufacturers, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, for over a decade. Wyoming's share of the settlement—$1 million—will be used exclusively to abate problems caused by opioids in Wyoming. In addition to providing funds to address the crisis, the agreement calls for McKinsey to prepare tens of thousands of its internal documents detailing its work for Purdue Pharma and other opioid companies for public disclosure online. Further, McKinsey agreed to adopt a strict document retention plan, continue its investigation into allegations that two of its partners tried to destroy documents in response to investigations of Purdue Pharma, implement a strict ethics code that all partners must agree to each year, and stop advising companies on potentially dangerous Schedule II and III narcotics.
Free-Mart,LLC; FreeMartAds, Inc.; ShopFreeMart, LLC (WY); ShopFreeMart, LLC (NC); John Austin,
Thomas Green; Keith Wiese; William Helms; and Mickie Helms (Docket No. 189-688)
The Attorney General resolved a consumer protection and pyramid distributor law enforcement action against four entities—Free-Mart, LLC, FreeMartAds, Inc., ShopFreeMart, LLC (WY), ShopFreeMart, LLC (NC)—and five individuals—John Austin, Thomas Green, Mickie Helms, William Helms, and Keith Wiese. The Attorney General alleged that the defendants made untrue and unlawful health and wealth claims. In lieu of engaging in further litigation, the Attorney General entered into a Settlement Agreement and Consent Judgment with the defendants. As part of these settlements, the Attorney General achieved the following: (1) Free-Mart, LLC agreed to pay the State of Wyoming civil penalties of $500,000.00, (2) all defendants agreed to a prohibition on conducting business in Wyoming, (3) all Wyoming entity defendants agreed to permanently dissolve their existence under Wyoming law, (4) all Wyoming entity defendants agreed to provide the opportunity for full refunds to all Wyoming consumers of their products, and (5) the individual defendants agreed to collectively pay $50,000.00 to the State of Wyoming.
Nationstar (Docket Number 1:20-cv-3550)
The Wyoming Attorney General joined 50 other state attorneys general and other federal state and agencies in reaching a settlement with Nationstar Mortgage, the country’s fourth-largest mortgage service. The settlement resolves allegations that Nationstar violated consumer protection laws during its servicing of mortgage loans. Under the settlement, Nationstar must follow a comprehensive set of rules or standards when servicing certain mortgage loans. Nationstar must also provide monetary relief to certain borrowers, including to at least 31 Wyoming borrowers. A settlement administrator will send claim forms to eligible borrowers in 2021. Consumers call call 1-866-404-0137 for more information about the settlement.
The Attorney General entered into a settlement providing $65,890 in student loan forgiveness to certain Wyoming borrowers who attended ITT Tech. The settlement is with PEAKS Trust, a private loan program run by the for-profit college and affiliated with Deutsche Bank entities. PEAKS was formed after the 2008 financial crisis when private sources of lending available to for-profit colleges dried up. To address the lack of lending, ITT developed a plan with PEAKS to offer students temporary credit to cover the gap in tuition between federal student aid and the full cost of the education. According to the settlement, ITT and PEAKS knew or should have known that the students would not be able to repay the temporary credits when they became due nine months later. Many students complained that they thought the temporary credit was like a federal loan and would not be due until six months after they graduated. When the temporary credit became due, ITT pressured and coerced students into accepting loans from PEAKS, which for many students carried high interest rates, far above rates for federal loans.
Under the settlement, involving attorneys general from 48 jurisdictions, PEAKS must forgo collection of the outstanding loans and cease doing business. PEAKS will send notices to borrowers about the cancelled debt and ensure that automatic payments are cancelled. Students will need to do nothing to receive the debt relief. Eligible students will receive notices explaining their rights under the settlement. Students may direct questions to PEAKS at email@example.com or 866-747-0273, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at (855) 411-2372.
The Attorney General entered into a settlement with American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. over allegations that Honda concealed safety issues related to defects in the frontal airbag systems installed in certain Honda and Acura vehicles sold in the United States. The systems were designed and manufactured by Takata Corporation, a long-time Honda supplier, and were first installed in Honda vehicles in the 2001 model year. As part of the 48-jurisdiction settlement, Honda must pay the State of Wyoming $100,000 and change its business practices to improve safety and avoid misrepresentations regarding the safety of Honda’s vehicles.
Royal Imports LLC (Case No. 2020-09)
Royal Imports LLC is a Wyoming company that sold particulate respirators at elevated prices on the Amazon online marketplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General alleged that the company’s exorbitant pricing of critical goods during a period of market disruption and emergency constituted an unfair act in violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Royal Imports LLC agreed to resolve the Attorney General’s concerns by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. That Assurance prohibits the company from selling any consumer products associated with protection from the COVID-19 pandemic on any online sales platform; imposes civil penalties; and requires the company to refund all profits made from the sales.
Erik Souknary d/b/a News Home Life & Health (Case No. 2020-01)
The Attorney General investigated Erik Souknary, who did business on Facebook as News Home Life & Health. Based on that investigation, the Attorney General found that the News Home Life & Health Facebook page published an advertisement picturing Governor and First Lady Gordon without their authorization. While the advertisement did not result in any known sales, it fostered the false impression that the First Family and, by extension, the State of Wyoming approved News Home Life & Health and its merchandise in violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Souknary agreed to resolve the investigation by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance prohibiting him from engaging in online sales in Wyoming and requiring him to pay a civil penalty of $3,000. The Assurance resolved the matter without a judicial determination or admission of liability.
Santander Consumer USA Inc., (Docket No. 193-232)
The Attorney General obtained a settlement agreement with Santander Consumer USA Inc. (Santander) that requires company to modify its business practices and provide Wyomingites with over $1.2 million in relief. The settlement stems from the Attorney General’s investigation into Santander’s subprime auto lending practices. Based on that investigation, the Attorney General alleges that Santander violated consumer protection laws by exposing subprime consumers to unnecessarily high levels of risk and knowingly placing borrowers into auto loans when Santander knew that the borrowers had a high likelihood of default. The Attorney General further alleges that Santander turned a blind eye to dealer abuse and engaged in deceptive servicing practices by actively misleading consumers about their rights and the risks of partial payments and loan extensions.
As part of the settlement, Santander will pay $160,312 in restitution payments to certain Wyomingites who defaulted on their loans between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019. Santander has also agreed to waive the deficiency balances for certain defaulted consumers, with approximately $1,068,000 million in immediate forgiveness of loans still owned by Santander, and additional deficiency waivers of loans that Santander no longer owns but is required to attempt to buy back. A claims administrator will notify those Wyomingites who are eligible for restitution and Santander will notify those consumers who are eligible for loan forgiveness. To learn more about available relief, consumers should visit http://www.santandermultistateagsettlement.com/.
Zero Origin, LLC (Case No. 2019-12)
The Attorney General investigated Zero Origin, a Wyoming limited liability company that operated several e-commerce websites. Those websites sold a wide array of products, including commemorative coins, jewelry, minerals, rocks, oils, gemstones, and health goods. The Attorney General alleged that to help sell these products, Zero Origin misrepresented (1) the use, benefits, and attributes of its merchandise; (2) the price of its merchandise, including any discounts; and (3) the availability of its merchandise. In lieu of continuing its investigation and bringing an enforcement action, the Attorney General accepted an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Zero Origin. As part of the Assurance, Zero Origin agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties and refrain from engaging in online retail sales in Wyoming. The Assurance resolved the matter without a judicial determination or admission of liability.
Healthy Home 365, LLC (Case No.2019-04)
Healthy Home 365, LLC is an entity that advertises home efficiency products online. The Attorney General investigated Healthy Home 365 based upon concerns with claims the entity made about (1) the origin, sponsorship, approval, accessories, or uses of its products and (2) the purported health and energy savings benefits of its products. In lieu of continuing its investigation or instituting legal proceedings, the Attorney General entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with Healthy Home 365. This agreement resolved the matter without any judicial determination of the merits of the case. As part of this agreement, Healthy Home 365 agreed, solely for the purpose of avoiding the expense and uncertainty of litigation, to pay $45,000 to the State, transfer its registration to another state, and refrain from advertising its products in Wyoming.
SK Resources, Inc. (Docket No. 188-766)
The Attorney General filed an enforcement action alleging that SK Resources, Inc. engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices by selling debt relief services to consumers with federal student loan debt. The Attorney General alleged that although SK Resources promised these borrowers immediate loan forgiveness, it merely assisted consumers with placing their loans into temporary non-payment status and requesting income-based repayment plan. While providing these services to consumers, SK Resources failed to disclose critical information about how deferment/forbearance and income-based repayment plans would ultimately increase interest owed by consumer, impact federal income tax assessed against consumers, and extend consumers’ repayment period. SK Resources also failed to disclose that consumers could obtain the same services for free through their federal loan servicer and/or through forms available for free through the Department of Education. Finally, SK Resources failed to disclose that forgiveness would only be possible for most consumers after at least 20 years of repayment. The parties resolved the matter through a Consent Judgment requiring, among other things, that Defendants pay $100,000 in civil penalties and refrain from advertising or selling any debt relief services in Wyoming.
Grandpa's Shop LLC and Luke Christensen (Docket No. 192-449)
Luke Christensen owned and operated Grandpa's Shop, LLC (also known as GS Construction and GS Paints), a home renovation company in Cheyenne that offered construction, repair, and contracting services. After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Luke Christensen and Grandpa's Shop completed work without requisite licensing and permitting, misrepresented warranty terms, failed to complete projects in a substantial workmanlike manner, and failed to respond to legitimate consumer complaints. The Attorney General further alleged that the homes of certain consumers were left damaged, rather than renovated, by the Defendants. Without admitting liability, the Defendants agreed to resolve the allegations through a Consent Judgment entered by the Laramie County District Court. That Consent Judgment requires Defendants to refund seven consumer households a total of $83,495; refund any additional consumers whom the Attorney General deems eligible under the Judgment; and refrain from further contracting work, unless supervised as a direct employee of someone with a contracting license. Consumers who believe they may be entitled to a refund should submit the Consumer Refund Claim form (available here), along with any relevant documentation, to the Attorney General according to the instructions on the form.
Equifax Inc. (Docket No. 191-855)
A coalition of 50 Attorneys General, including the Wyoming Attorney General, secured a settlement with Equifax concerning the 2017 data breach affecting over 147 million Americans. Information breached in this incident included social security numbers, names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. The coalition of states alleges that the data breach occurred because Equifax failed to implement an adequate security program.
In summary, the key terms of the multistate Attorney General settlement are as follows:
Equifax will offer affected consumers free credit monitoring services for 10 years;
Equifax will provide free Identity Theft Restoration services to all affected consumers;
Equifax will strengthen its data security practices to help protect against another breach;
Equifax will pay $175 million to the states, $1 million of which will go to Wyoming; and
Equifax will pay $300 million into a settlement fund for the benefit of affected consumers, with the possibility of paying up to an additional $125 million into the settlement fund, for a total of $425 million;
Affected consumers are eligible to request the following types of reimbursement from the settlement fund:
Reimbursement for time spent trying to avoid or recover from identity theft (up to 20 total hours at $25 per hour);
Reimbursement for money spent trying to avoid or recover from identity theft (such as costs for freezing your credit report, professional fees paid to address identity theft, postage, etc.);
Up to $125 to reimburse for credit monitoring services purchased if you choose not to accept the offered 10 free years of credit monitoring service offered as a part of the settlement.
The settlement administrator maintains a website (www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com) and a toll-free number (1-833-759-2982) that consumers can visit and call for more information about the settlement, including the process for determining eligibility and submitting claims.
Soundworks, LLC and William Dohse (Docket No. 38574)
William Dohse owned and operated Soundworks, LLC, a company in Gillette that offered audio-visual equipment and installation services. After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Mr. Dohse and Soundworks, LLC (together, “Defendants”) solicited and accepted payment for audio-visual equipment and services that they never actually provided. Instead of providing refunds for the unfulfilled merchandise, Defendants either falsely promised to provide the merchandise at a later date or ignored consumers’ requests for refunds and order fulfillment. The Attorney General further alleged that while Defendants failed to fulfill orders for merchandise or provide timely refunds, they used company funds to purchase food, beverage, lodging, entertainment, and clothing. Without admitting liability, the Defendants agreed to resolve the allegations through a Consent Judgment entered by the Campbell County District Court. That Consent Judgment requires Defendants to refund six consumers a total of $5,141.51; wind down affairs and dissolve the limited liability company; and refrain from engaging in similar conduct in the future. The Consent Judgment imposes suspended civil penalties of $30,000 that become due if Defendants fail to adhere to the terms of the settlement or if the Attorney General finds that Defendants materially misrepresented their financial condition to the Attorney General.
Gorman Asphalt, J. Gorman, J. Gorman Paving, Gorman Paving, and Gorman Asphalt paving,
and their owners John Gorman Sr., John Gorman Jr., and Bartley Gorman aka Buddy Gorman (Docket No. 187-353)
J. Gorman offered sealcoating and asphalt paving services door-to-door in Laramie county between 2013 and 2016 under a number of company names. J. Gorman and its owners, John Gorman Sr., John Gorman Jr., and Bartley Gorman, lured Wyomingites into paying thousands of dollars for paved driveways, which quickly deteriorated into loose gravel that caused damage, rather than benefit, to homeowners' properties. Although the Gormans told consumers that they were local to Wyoming and that they would therefore be able to quickly respond to any requests for repair on their "guaranteed" work, the Gormans in fact left town immediately after their projects - leaving consumers with fake addresses and nonworking (or unanswered) phone numbers.
A Default Judgment was issued against the Defendants on April 25, 2019, ordering the Defendants to pay consumer refunds of over $36,000, and civil penalties of $870,000. Additionally, the Judgment prohibits the Defendants from engaging in home improvement or asphalt paving transactions in the State.
The State of Wyoming entered into a settlement with Bosch, a multinational engineering company that supplies the global automotive industry. Among the products Bosch supplies to its auto manufacturing customers are the electronic control units (“ECUs”) that house the complex software that controls nearly all aspects of an engine’s performance, including emissions systems. A multistate investigation concluded that Bosch facilitated the implementation of the defeat device software in more than 600,000 Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler vehicles over a period that spanned more than a decade. Under the terms of the settlement, Bosch will pay Wyoming $170,280. The agreement also includes injunctive terms and requires Bosch to maintain robust processes to monitor compliance and to refuse to accommodate requests for software development and programming that could result in the installation of defeat device software.
The Attorney General entered into a settlement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., its U.S. subsidiary FCA US, LLC, its Italian affiliate V.M. Motori S.p.A. and V.M. North America, Inc. (collectively, “Fiat Chrysler”). The settlement addresses allegations that Fiat Chrysler installed unlawful defeat device software and undisclosed Auxiliary Emissions Control Devices in 576 Model Year 2014-16 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 diesel vehicles that the automaker sold or leased in Wyoming. The Attorney General’s office alleges that Fiat Chrysler cheated on emissions tests by calibrating the vehicles’ software to conceal that the vehicles emitted higher than permitted levels of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) in real-world driving conditions, and misled consumers by falsely claiming the “Eco-Diesel”-branded Jeep SUVs and Ram 1500 trucks were environmentally friendly and compliant with the law in all 50 states.
The settlement requires Fiat Chrysler to pay the State of Wyoming $360,000. It further prohibits Fiat Chrysler from engaging in future unfair or deceptive acts and practices and requires Fiat Chrysler to carry out its obligations under a related settlement agreement in the Multidistrict Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. That settlement requires Fiat Chrysler to: eliminate the defeat device features from the relevant software through a software “flash fix”; provide eligible owners and lessees extended warranties; and, together with co-defendant Bosch, pay eligible owners who take their vehicle to an authorized dealer for the software repair an average restitution of approximately $2,908 and lessees and former owners who do so restitution of $990.
EZ-Coco, Inc. (Case No. 2018-14)
EZ-Coco, Inc. is a Wyoming Corporation that sells coconut openers and accessories online. The Attorney General received reports that some consumers never received the products that they had purchased online. The company agreed to resolve the matter by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance prohibiting it from misrepresenting its ability to deliver merchandise or fulfill orders. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance further requires EZ-Coco, Inc. to give consumers who have complained an opportunity to receive either a full refund or the product. The company must also fulfill the unfulfilled orders of all consumers who have not yet complained.
For-profit education company Career Education Corp. (“CEC”) agreed to reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting more than $556.5 million in debts owed by 195,136 students nationally, in a settlement with the Wyoming Attorney and 49 other attorneys general. CEC has also agreed to pay $5 million to the states. The attorneys general alleged that CEC engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, including making misleading statements or failing to disclose information to prospective students on total costs, transferability of credits, program offerings, job placement rates, and other topics. As a result, some students could not obtain professional licensure and incurred debts that they could not repay nor discharge. CEC denied the allegations of the attorneys general but agreed to resolve the claims through the multistate settlement.
183 Wyomingites who either attended a CEC institution that closed before Jan. 1, 2019, or whose final day of attendance at AIU or CTU occurred on or before Dec. 31, 2013 will receive $323,157 in institutional loan forgiveness. Former students with debt relief eligibility questions can call CEC at (844) 783-8629.
Randy Oaks, Billy Smith, Steve Reynolds, George Bethea, and Frank Buckhanan d/b/a Moxy Ranch Services (Docket No. 189-51)
Moxy Ranch Services offered sealcoating and asphalt paving services door-to-door in Laramie County during the summer of 2017. The Attorney General filed an enforcement action alleging that Moxy Ranch Services used misrepresentations to lure elderly Wyomingites into paying significant sums for substandard sealcoating and asphalt paving services. The matter was resolved through consent and default judgments prohibiting defendants from offering or performing asphalt paving services in Wyoming. The judgments further require the Defendants to provide $26,300 in consumer refunds and pay $305,000 to the State.
Wyoming joined all other states and the District of Columbia in a $575 million settlement with Wells Fargo Bank N.A. The settlement resolves claims that Wells Fargo Bank N.A. violated state consumer protection law by (1) opening millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolling customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, (2) improperly referring customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, (3) improperly charging auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, (4) failing to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and (5) incorrectly charging customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. Wyoming received $1,603,894.35 from the settlement.
As a part of the settlement, Wells Fargo will create a consumer redress review program through which consumers who have not been made whole through other restitution programs already in place can seek review of their inquiry or complaint by a bank escalation team for possible relief. Wells Fargo's consumer redress review website may be accessed here.
Consumers with questions or concerns may call the following Wells Fargo escalation phone numbers:
Unauthorized Accounts/Improper Retail Sales Practices: 844-931-2273
Improper Renters and Life Insurance Referrals: 855-853-9638
Force-Placed Collateral Protection Auto Insurance: 888-228-9735
Guaranteed Asset/Auto Protection Refunds: 844-860-6962
Mortgage Interest Rate Lock Extension Fees: 866-385-5008
Encore Capital Group Inc., Midland Credit Management, Inc., and Midland Funding, LLC
The Attorney General joined a 42 state settlement with Encore Capital Group Inc., and its subsidiaries Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Midland Funding, LLC, one of the nation’s largest debt buyers. The settlement resolves claims that Midland signed and filed affidavits in state courts in large volumes without verifying the information printed in them, a practice commonly called robo-signing.
The settlement requires Midland to reform its affidavit signing and litigation practices. Midland must carefully verify the information in affidavits and present accurate documents in court proceedings. When Midland files a lawsuit, it must have account documents about the debt before they file the case, including the amount of the debt, proof of an agreement, and an explanation about why any additional fees are justified. Moreover, if a consumer disputes a debt that Midland is collecting, the settlement requires Midland to review original account documents before it continues its collection efforts. Midland must provide these substantiating documents to the consumer for no charge. The settlement also requires Midland maintain proper oversight and training over its employees and the law firms that it uses. The agreement further prohibits Midland from reselling debt for two years.
Pinnacle Powerful Solutions LLC, Linda Pearson, and Ron Yung (Docket No. 190-299)
Pinnacle Powerful Solutions, LLC is an out-of-state limited liability company that sells products purporting to reduce homeowners’ energy usage. Defendants lured consumers in through mass mailing campaigns promising free steak and savings of up to 40% on utility bills. The Attorney General filed an enforcement action against the company and its principals, Linda Pearson and Ron Yung, alleging that the defendants profited from misrepresenting the effectiveness of their merchandise, misrepresenting affiliations with NASA and with local steakhouses, and targeting the elderly.
Pinnacle Powerful Solutions, LLC, Linda Pearson, and Ron Yung agreed to resolve the matter through a Consent Judgment, which prevents them from selling home efficiency merchandise in Wyoming for 5 years. The Judgment also orders full refunds to every Wyoming consumer, totaling approximately $85,000. Finally, the Judgment imposes suspended civil penalties of $60,000, which become due if the Defendants violate the terms of the Consent Judgment.
Uber Technologies, Inc. (Docket No. 190-490)
The Wyoming Attorney General, along with the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, reached a settlement with California-based ride-sharing company Uber Technologies, Inc. (Uber) to address the company’s one-year delay in reporting a breach to its affected drivers.
Uber learned in November 2016 that hackers had gained access to some personal information that Uber maintains about its drivers, including drivers’ license information pertaining to approximately 600,000 drivers nationwide and a small number of drivers in Wyoming. Uber tracked down the hackers and obtained assurances that the hackers deleted the information. However, even though some of that information, namely drivers’ license numbers for Uber drivers, triggered Wyoming law requiring the company to notify affected Wyoming residents, Uber failed to report the breach in a timely manner, waiting until November 2017 to report the breach.
The settlement requires the company to comply with Wyoming data breach and consumer protection law regarding protecting Wyomingites’ personal information and notifying them in the event of a data breach concerning their personal information. The settlement further requires Uber to strengthen its corporate governance and data security practices to help prevent a similar occurrence in the future. As part of the multistate settlement, Uber has also agreed to pay $148 million to the states. Wyoming will receive a little over $570 thousand of that payment.
Online Wealth Academy, LLC (Docket No. 187-933)
Online Wealth Academy, LLC was a Wyoming Limited Liability Company with a Cheyenne mailing address that sold “work at home opportunities.” Consumers reported that Online Wealth Academy, its owner Shon Earl, and its sales representative Lindsay Jensen (aka Lindsay Earl) promised substantial monthly income working from home if consumers purchased Online Wealth Academy’s merchandise. Consumers paid thousands of dollars to Online Wealth Academy, hoping the amount would be an investment in their future. In reality, Online Wealth Academy provided only a web-based training program about how to make online sales, through which no consumers made any money.
After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Online Wealth Academy, Shon Earl, and Lindsay Earl violated the Consumer Protection Act by: 1) representing that consumers had given positive testimonials, when such testimonials were fabricated; 2) representing that consumers qualified for grants or scholarships, when no such grants or scholarships existed; 3) representing that consumers could cancel their contracts within three days of purchase, but refusing to issue refunds to those that attempted to cancel; 4) representing that the merchandise was accompanied by a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee,” but refusing to issue refunds to unsatisfied consumers; 5) representing that consumers were considered for an employment opportunity, when in fact Online Wealth Academy sought only to sell merchandise; and 6) engaging in unfair, high pressure sales tactics.
Online Wealth Academy, Shon Earl, and Lindsay Earl agreed to resolve the matter through a Consent Judgment that: 1) bans the defendants from engaging in “work at home” sales in Wyoming; 2) orders refunds of $168,000 to consumers; and 3) imposes civil penalties of $345,000 that become due if the defendants violate the terms of the Consent Judgment.
HuddleHQ and eComHQ Inc. are Wyoming corporations with Sheridan mailing addresses. The corporations sold retro game consoles online as Huddlebag. Consumers reported that Huddlebag advertised an authentic Nintendo game console but supplied a knock off of poor quality. Other consumers complained that Huddlebag accepted payment but delivered no product at all.
After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Huddlebag violated the Consumer Protection Act by (1) representing that it had "24,000 + Happy Customers," when it had less than 24,000 consumers and produced more BBB complaints than any other Wyoming entity over the past five years; (2) representing that it sold an authentic and licensed Nintendo game console, when it sold a knock off; (3) advertising flash sales and significant discounts, when it consistently sold the game consoles for the same price; (4) soliciting and accepting payment from consumers for merchandise that it never delivered; (5) representing that shipping would take up to 12 days, when it often took much longer or never occurred at all; and (6) representing that merchandise had shipped and was on its way, when such was not the case.
Huddlebag agreed to resolve the matter through a Consent Judgment dissolving the two Wyoming corporations, banning their sole owner and officer from engaging in online retail sales in Wyoming, making more than 22 thousand consumers who purchased over 23 thousand game consoles eligible to receive refunds totaling more than $1 million, and imposing over $1 million in suspended civil penalties that become due if Huddlebag violates the terms of the Consent Judgment.
In October 2019, the Laramie County District Court lifted the suspension of civil penalties, finding that Huddlebag failed to comply with the Consent Judgment.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc (Docket No. 189-50)
The Attorney General, along with the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, reached a settlement with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“BIPI”) regarding alleged off-label marketing and deceptive and misleading representations made in the promotion of four prescription drugs. Specifically, the States allege that BIPI: (1) misrepresented that its antiplatelet drug, Aggrenox®, was effective for many conditions “below the neck”, such as heart attacks and congestive heart failure, and that it was superior to Plavix® without evidence to substantiate that claim; (2) misrepresented that Micardis® protected patients from early morning strokes and heart attacks and treated metabolic syndrome; (3) misrepresented that Combivent® could be used as a first-line treatment for bronchospasms associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and (4) falsely stated that Atrovent® and Combivent® could be used at doses that exceeded the maximum dosage recommendation in the product labeling and that they were essential for treatment of COPD. The settlement requires BIPI to ensure that its marketing and promotional practices do not unlawfully promote these prescription drug products. Wyoming received $130,125.43 from the settlement.
General Motors Company (Docket No. 188-728)
The Attorney General joined a settlement between the attorneys general of 49 states and the District of Columbia and General Motors Company (“GM”) over allegations that GM concealed safety issues related to ignition-switch-related defects in GM vehicles. The settlement concludes a multistate investigation into the auto manufacturer’s alleged failure to timely disclose known safety defects associated with unintended key-rotation-related and ignition-switch-related issues in several models and model years of GM vehicles. Under the settlement, GM must refrain from engaging in false or misleading advertising related to the safety of its motor vehicles. The settlement further requires GM to make payments to the states. Wyoming received around $1 million from the settlement.
Paul Fox and Marlan Fox, individually and doing business as Asphalt Construction,
B.T.C. Black Top Contractors, General Paving, General Paving L.L.C., and General Painting L.L.C. (Docket No. cv-2017-11)
Paul Fox and Marlan Fox offered paving services door-to-door in Wheatland, Wyoming, during the summer of 2016. The Attorney General filed an enforcement action alleging that the Foxes violated the Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting the price, quality, and warranty of their services. Furthermore, according to the Attorney General’s Complaint, the Foxes prevented an elderly consumer household from inspecting and discovering the substandard paving services before paying an exorbitant sum of money. The Foxes also failed to provide the statutorily mandated disclosures regarding a consumer’s right to cancel home solicitation sales. The Platte County District Court entered a Judgment prohibiting the Foxes from offering or performing paving services in Wyoming. The Judgment also requires the Foxes to provide $28,400 in consumer refunds. Lastly, the Judgment imposes the maximum civil penalty of $15,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act, a total of $225,000.
John Carroll a/k/a John Michael Carroll, Thomas Carroll a/k/a Tommy Carroll and Tom Carroll,
individually and doing business as Carrolls Construction (Docket No. 186-911)
John and Thomas Carroll offered asphalt paving services throughout Wyoming. The Attorney General filed an enforcement action alleging that the Carrolls misrepresented their affiliation and the quality and price of their services. More specifically, the Attorney General alleged that the Carrolls falsely represented that they worked on nearby roads and had extra road-quality asphalt they could install at a substantial discount because the leftover material would spoil if not applied soon. Consumers reported that despite these promises, the Carrolls performed substandard work at above-market-rates. The Attorney General further alleged that the Carrolls provided unfair and deceptive price estimates, employed high-pressure sales tactics, refused to honor promised warranties, and failed to provide consumers with statutorily mandated disclosures regarding the right to cancel home solicitation sales. The Carrolls agreed to resolve the matter through a Consent Judgment prohibiting them from offering or performing paving services in Wyoming. The Consent Judgment further requires the Carrolls to provide 16 consumer households with complete refunds totaling $167,854. If the Carrolls ever perform paving services in Wyoming again or fail to provide consumers with timely refunds, the Consent Judgment imposes a civil penalty of $200,000.00.
Gary Lee Slender, Gary Niklaus Slender, Sammy Whillie Slender, a/k/a Sam Slender and John Wayne Slender,
d/b/a Asphalt Services, Slender Home Maintenance, and Gary Slender Asphalt Services (Docket No. 2017-90-DC)
The Slenders offered paving and roofing services in Lincoln County, Wyoming. The Attorney General alleged that the Slenders violated the Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting the quality of their services; performing services without first obtaining permission from the property owner and then demanding payment; failing to provide consumers with the statutorily mandated disclosures regarding their right to cancel home solicitation sales; and falsely representing to consumers that they were licensed and bonded to perform contract work in the state and relevant counties. The Slenders agreed to resolve the Attorney General’s investigation through a Consent Judgment requiring them to provide consumers with $8,768.00 in restitution and prohibiting them from offering or performing paving or roofing services in Wyoming. If the Slenders ever perform such services in Wyoming or fail to provide consumers with timely payments, the Consent Judgment imposes a civil penalty of $35,000.00.
Vivint, Inc. and Smart Home Pros, Inc., f/k/a Arm Security, Inc. (Case No. 2012-10)
The Attorney General reached a settlement with Vivint, Inc. and Smart Home Pros, Inc., formerly known as Arm Security, Inc. (together, “Vivint"). The settlement concludes a multi-year investigation of Vivint’s door-to-door sales of home security and automation systems. After that investigation, the Attorney General alleged that Vivint misrepresented the discounted price of its equipment and installation, failed to provide timely refunds after consumers cancelled within the three-day cancellation period provided by the Consumer Protection Act, and engaged in unlawful door-to-door sales tactics. These alleged sales tactics include making misleading statements, knocking on doors with “no solicitation” signs, visiting homes outside of hourly restrictions set by Wyoming municipalities, refusing to leave homes after homeowners indicated they were not interested, and entering homes and garages without permission. Under the terms of the settlement, Vivint and its salespeople must refrain from engaging in the above-mentioned practices. Vivint must also pay $100,000 to the State of Wyoming. The settlement does not constitute an admission of liability by Vivint or a judicial finding of violation.
Arm Security Inc. Salespeople (Case No. 2015-11)
The settlement with Vivint follows earlier settlements with 18 individual Vivint salespeople over alleged violations committed during the 2015 summer sales season. The conduct of Vivint’s salespeople resulted in the City of Cheyenne denying Vivint’s request to renew its Residential Door-to-Door Solicitors Business License in June 2015. The salespeople agreed to pay penalties and comply with the Consumer Protection Act.
Will Harrison Jr. (Docket No. CV-2017-28)
Will Harrison Jr. offered asphalt paving services in Goshen County, Wyoming. The Attorney General’s Office alleged that Harrison took unfair advantage of an elderly consumer by performing work on the consumer’s property without permission and then demanding that the consumer pay $8,000.00 for the work. Harrison agreed to resolve the matter through a Consent Judgment. Under the Consent Judgment, Harrison must provide the elderly consumer a full refund and may never offer of perform asphalt paving services in Wyoming. The Consent Judgment further imposes a suspended civil penalty of $35,000.00 that will become due if Harrison ever performs paving services in Wyoming or if he fails to provide timely refunds.
Rocky Spry d/b/a Spry Asphalt Construction and Spry Blacktop Service (Docket No.187-535)
Rocky Spry offered asphalt paving services in northwest Wyoming under the names of Spry Asphalt Construction and Spry Blacktop Service. The Attorney General’s Office alleged that Spry misrepresented the quality of his services and used contracts that failed to include the statutorily mandated disclosures regarding a consumer’s right to cancel home solicitation sales. Spry agreed to resolve the allegations through a Consent Judgment requiring him to provide consumers with full refunds and prohibiting him from offering or performing asphalt paving services in Wyoming. If Spry ever performs paving services in Wyoming or fails to provide timely refunds, the Consent Judgment imposes a civil penalty of $35,000.00.
Western Union’s money transfer system is a popular tool of scam artists who seek to fraudulently induce money transfers. Common examples of fraudulently induced money transfers include the grandparent scam (scam artists pretends to be a grandchild in immediate need of a money transfer), lottery scam (scam artist falsely informs consumer he or she has won the lottery and must wire a transactional fee), and romance scam (scam artists expresses fake romantic interest and then requests a money transfer for an emergency). A multi-state investigation raised serious concerns about the adequacy of Western Union’s anti-fraud measures. The settlement requires Western Union to develop and implement a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been victims of fraud used Western Union to wire money to scam artists. Under the settlement, Western Union must also pay $5 million to the States. Additionally, the settlement references a concurrent federal settlement which requires Western Union to pay $586 million to fund consumer restitution to be distributed through a claims-based process. To learn more about the refund process, consumers should visit http://www.westernunionremission.com/ or call 1-844-319-2124.