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Posts tagged: Lawrence Wasden

Wasden: ‘Fight for heart and soul of the Republican Party’

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says this year’s primary election in Idaho has brought “a bigger fight,” saying, “I think it’s a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” “There are people like me who read the Constitution and believe we should do what the Constitution says; there are other folks who kind of think that they should follow a certain set of philosophical viewpoints,” Wasden told The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board on Friday.

“The rational Republicans want to sit down and read the Constitution and do what it says,” Wasden declared. Wasden is Idaho’s longest-serving state attorney general; he’s seeking a fourth term, and faces a challenge in the primary from Boise attorney C.T. “Chris” Troupis, the lawyer who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its successful lawsuit against the state to close the GOP primary to anyone other than registered Republicans; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Wasden: Idahoans eligible for payments from computer chip settlement

Idahoans who bought computers or other electronic devices containing DRAM chips from 1998 to 2002 may be eligible for payments from a legal settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The case involved price fixing by manufacturers of the chips; Idaho and other states have reached a $310 million settlement with the chip-makers.

“I am pleased the manufacturers worked with the states to reach an agreement that appropriately addresses our concerns and resolves this matter on behalf of Idaho consumers,” Wasden said. “Idaho’s governments, businesses and consumers spent significant amounts of money on products that contain DRAM. When those costs are inflated by unlawful anti-competitive practices, as we have alleged in this case, we have a duty to help consumers recover their money.” Click below for Wasden’s full announcement.

Taxpayers have spent $18M on private attorneys in 3 years, due to understaffing of AG’s office

Idaho taxpayers have paid private attorneys more than $18 million in the past three years to do the state's legal work, in large part because the Idaho Attorney General's office doesn't have the staff to handle the caseload, the AP reports. The Associated Press obtained the payment information through a public-records request to the Idaho State Controller's office. It shows that Idaho government agencies have paid private law firms more than $18 million since fiscal year 2011, including about $3 million for attorneys who serve as administrative hearing officers. The private law firms charge the state anywhere from $125 to more than $400 an hour, compared to the $54 per hour it costs to have one of the state's staff attorneys do the job. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has either asked lawmakers for permission to add staffers to his department or warned them that the state's legal staff is dangerously underfunded every year since 2005; click below for the full report from AP reporters John Miller and Rebecca Boone.

Note: The figures in this story have been corrected from an earlier version.

Settlement will bring Idaho borrowers mortgage principal reductions, cash payments

Idaho borrowers will get mortgage principal reductions or, for some, cash payments under a legal settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Ocwen Financial Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, and its subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing, agreed to the $2.1 billion settlement with Idaho, 48 other states, the District of Columbia, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for violations including premature and unauthorized foreclosures, use of false and deceptive documents, “robo-signing” and more.

“The improper practices found in the Ocwen case were similar to those we saw in our other mortgage servicer enforcement cases,” Wasden said.  “The Ocwen settlement is a continuation of our civil law enforcement effort to hold servicers accountable and ensure that they comply with applicable law in their treatment of borrowers.” Click below for his full announcement.

Attorney General warns of donation scam targeting Idaho non-profits

Idaho non-profits are being targeted in an overpayment scam, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden warns. Typically, the scammer makes a very large donation to the non-profit online, like $5,000, then contacts the organization to say the large donation was a mistake - intended, for example, to have been $500 - and asks for a refund of the difference. Non-profits taken in by the scam end up without either the “refund” or the original donation. “My office has warned individual Idahoans for a number of years to be wary of offers to overpay for advertised goods or services,” Wasden said. “More recently, we have received reports of a variation on that theme targeting non-profits that receive donations online.” Wasden today issued a “consumer alert” warning Idaho non-profits about the scam; click below for his full announcement.

Drug settlement brings Idaho $1.3M

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Big pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is paying $1.3 million to Idaho as part of a multi-billion-dollar national settlement over allegations it illegally promoted an antipsychotics drug. The Idaho attorney general's office announced the deal with the company's Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit on Monday. It resolves allegations that Janssen unlawfully induced doctors and pharmacists to promote and prescribe Risperdal, a drug approved by the federal government for adults with mental illnesses starting in 1993. In total, Johnson & Johnson is paying over $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil allegations the company promoted powerful psychiatric drugs for unapproved uses in children, seniors and disabled patients. The agreement is the third-largest U.S. settlement with a drug maker and the latest in several actions against drug companies allegedly putting profits ahead of patients.

Idahoans targeted for bogus club memberships get refunds under settlement

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says a Connecticut company has agreed to pay more than 7,000 Idahoans restitution as part of a settlement over bogus club memberships. The settlement announced Thursday comes in a case brought by Idaho and 46 other states against Affinion and its subsidiary companies. The refunds are part of a $32 million settlement with the company, which was accused of tricking consumers into signing up and paying for discount clubs and memberships. Wasden estimates there are 7,600 members of such clubs in Idaho. Wasden estimates that Idahoans affiliated with the clubs and memberships will be eligible to receive an estimated $500,000. Affinion and its subsidiaries operated multiple discount clubs and membership programs, with names such as Buyer Assurance, Complete Savings, HealthSaver and PrivacyGuard. The clubs offered services like credit monitoring, roadside assistance and discounted travel. Consumers eligible for a refund will be notified by Affinion, Trilegiant and Webloyalty. Those who believe they are eligible but receive no notice from those companies can file a complaint with the Attorney General.

Wasden says he’ll seek re-election as attorney general in 2014

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says he’ll seek a fourth term in 2014; he told Idaho State Journal reporter Jimmy Hancock, “Every day is an interesting ride, and we are going to keep going. I intend to run for re-election.”

Wasden has been Idaho’s attorney general since first being elected to the post in 2002; he won re-election in 2006 and 2010. Though he’s been rumored as a future candidate for higher office, Wasden said he’s still enjoying his job and wants to keep doing it. “Every day is a challenge, every day is different,” he said. See the State Journal’s report here.

Idaho recovers $28M, wins reforms in litigation over Medicaid drug pricing

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today that the state has recovered more than $28 million, as a result of six years of litigation regarding overcharging by major drug manufacturers who sold prescription drugs to Idaho’s Medicaid program. Idaho has settled with 33 drug companies – three of those without litigation – and also won price disclosure concessions Wasden says will prevent such improperly inflated price reporting in future years. “In negotiating these settlements, we tried to look forward as well as backward,” Wasden said. “We recovered a significant amount of money to compensate the state for past practices. But equally as important, the state will receive pricing data from these companies going forward. That element of the settlements will help protect the taxpayers from future pricing abuses.” That data would otherwise have been confidential.

Until July 1, 2011, prescription drug prices paid by Idaho’s Medicaid program relied on companies’ reports of the “average wholesale price,” or AWP, as a basis for determining the acquisition cost to pharmacies. Wasden said, “One of them indicated that ‘AWP’ stands for ‘ain’t what’s paid.’”

While other states also have sued drug manufacturers over the issue, Wasden took a different approach, first calling all of them in for a meeting. As a result, three settlements were reached without the state even having to sue. The litigation led to reforms in how drug pricing for Medicaid is calculated, which state Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong said are now “saving over $10 million a year for the citizens of Idaho,” saying Idaho has now “completely changed the way drugs are priced and paid for” through its Medicaid program.

Because the federal government pays 70 percent of the costs of Medicaid in Idaho, which provides health coverage for the state’s poorest and disabled residents, the feds will get $13.56 million of the recovery, in the form of credits against future federal Medicaid payments to Idaho. The state’s share of the settlements, $7.2 million, was deposited in the state’s general fund for appropriation by the Legislature. The rest of the money went to cover the costs of the investigations and litigation; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Wasden filed the first lawsuits in 2007; the first settlements were reached in 2005, 2006 and 2008, and the last one, with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for $750,000, was reached last month.

Political fireworks fly at Land Board over school endowment distribution

Political fireworks flew at the state Land Board this morning, as, for the second time in five years, state schools Superintendent Tom Luna sought to increase the endowment distribution to public schools beyond the recommendation of the Endowment Fund Investment Board. The board is recommending fiscal year 2015 distribution increases to seven of the eight endowments, but not to the largest – public schools – instead holding schools at the $31 million distribution level it’s been held at for several years. The reason: Since the 2010 board decision to give schools a one-time additional $22 million distribution, the reserve fund for the schools hasn’t met the goal of five years worth of payments; it’s now just over three years, and dropped to two years after the 2010 extra payment.

But Luna said the recommendation means departing from the board’s policy of distributing 5 percent of the three-year rolling average of the endowment to the schools each year, and would drop schools next year to about a 4 percent distribution.  Aside from the $22 million one-time boost, schools have been held at the $31 million level for five years now, Luna said, even as the number of public school students has grown by 15,000.

“We’ve never had to reduce the balance of the reserve in order to meet distributions,” Luna argued. “And we just went through the worst recession that I think we’ve seen. And now we see a recovery. So I would argue that we should distribute the 5 percent of the rolling three-year average, per our policy. We still increase the amount in reserve in the years going forward. … It would mean an increase in the distribution of about $5.6 million.”

Luna said school districts are suffering now. “I guess what concerns me is that while we’re building our reserve, school districts are depleting theirs, and … many of them have no reserves left at all. They literally go from state distribution to state distribution.”

Luna made a motion to grant the increase, but it died for lack of a second. Gov. Butch Otter said he just heard Luna’s proposal last night. “I’d like to see us delay it at least until the September board meeting,” he said. Luna responded, “I did sent you a letter Friday – I know you were putting out fires.” (You can read Luna's letter here, obtained under the Idaho Public Records Law.)

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said, “A number of years ago we addressed this issue, and really, it was part of a political ambush that was unleashed on the Land Board. And at that time my view was that we needed to send this matter to the Endowment Fund Investment Board for their analysis and report back to us.” Wasden said for the Land Board to exercise its fiduciary duty to the endowment, as required by the state Constitution, it’s incumbent on the board to get the investment board’s input before making such a decision.

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa recalled “the way we agonized over the $22 million,” and noted that the 2010 extra payment was actually his motion – Luna had wanted more than twice that amount. “I reiterated that was a one-time deviation from the recommendation of the endowment fund,” Ysursa said. “That term ‘one-time’ continues to stick in my mind. But I think the superintendent has raised some good points.” He noted that the 2010 decision was a tense 3-2 vote.

Luna responded, “If I understand the motion, maybe not all the rhetoric that went with it, it’s that we will approve the distributions for all but public schools, and public schools we will set a distribution at our September meeting.” Wasden responded, “That is correct.”

Luna said he’s proposing sticking to the state policy, regarding a 5 percent distribution of the rolling three-year average, not violating it. But Ysursa noted that there’s also a policy targeting 5 years worth of distributions as the reserve level. “We’ve got two competing policies, is what’s going on,” he said.

The board then voted unanimously for Wasden’s motion, putting off the decision on the public school distribution to its September meeting.

Idaho shares in national settlement over inferior generic drugs made in India

Idaho will recover nearly $420,000 from an Indian generic drug manufacturer who admitted selling drugs of inferior strength, purity or quality in the United States, including through Idaho's Medicaid program. It's part of a $350 million national settlement between the federal government, the states and the company, which also pleaded guilty to seven felony counts and will pay $150 million in criminal fines and forfeitures. “Taxpayers expect their tax dollars to be used to pay for a legitimate service,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.  “This settlement reflects our resolve to address losses to the Idaho Medicaid program caused by individuals and companies.” Click below for Wasden's full announcement; Idaho's share includes just under $210,000 to reimburse its Medicaid program, and just over $218,000 for the state's general fund.

Wasden: Idaho’s laws haven’t changed

Here’s what Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden had to say this morning on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage: “There really isn’t a direct impact on Idaho law. It’s still in effect. … so there really isn’t a lot of change there.”

He noted that his office is still analyzing the decisions. “We’re trying to react to what we’ve been able to review and read very rapidly,” Wasden said. But overall, he said, “My job is to defend the Constitution and the statutes of the state, and those haven’t changed.”

Settlement over pricing will bring restitution to Idaho e-book purchasers

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced two more settlements with e-book publishers, entitling Idahoans who purchased e-books to $485,000 in restitution. It's part of a 33-state settlement, and still awaits federal court approval; it involves allegations that Penguin and MacMillan conspired with other book publishers and Apple Inc. to manipulate prices for e-books. “These settlements have a dual effect of gaining restitution for Idaho consumers forced to pay higher prices for e-books and restoring competition in the e-book market by promoting competition,” Wasden said. Similar settlements were reached earlier with three other e-book publishers; click below for Wasden's full announcement.

Idahoans displaced by foreclosure have ‘til June 30 to apply for aid

Time is running out for Idahoans displaced by foreclosure to apply for assistance, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho Executive Director Christina Zamora said today. Wasden said Idaho's legal settlement last year with the five largest mortgage servicers covered a grant to CAPAI to assist Idahoans with expenses like moving costs, first and last month's rent, security deposits and more to move from a foreclosed home into safe and affordable housing. “I encourage eligible Idahoans to contact CAPAI immediately to take advantage of this limited opportunity,” Wasden said.

Said Zamora, “We still have nearly $94,000 available to assist Idahoans who are in transition due to foreclosure, but that funding expires on June 30.” Click below for more information.

Learning about open meetings, records

There was an excellent turnout last night in Payette, where more than 35 folks filled the historic Portia Club to learn about Idaho's open meetings and public records laws at the latest IDOG seminar - that's Idahoans for Openness in Government. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was the featured speaker, along with Assistant Chief Deputy Brian Kane and myself as president of IDOG. Those attending ranged from local government officials to interested citizens to news reporters and editors. They participated in interactive skits to learn how to comply - and how not to comply - with the laws, received handouts including the Attorney General's manuals on both laws, and had the opportunity to have all their questions answered after detailed presentations from Kane on how the laws work.

Among the questions from the audience: Is this meeting tonight legal under the Open Meeting Law? The answer: Yes, and it's not a meeting under the law's definitions - which define a meeting as the “convening of a governing body of a public agency to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter.”

More than 60 people attended a similar session in Boise last week; the next one is scheduled for Nampa on Jan. 9th, at 7 p.m. at Nampa City Hall; there's more info here and here.

Glaxo to pay Idaho $1.33M in drug settlement

Pharmaceutical manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline LLC will pay Idaho $1.33 million as part of a 38-state settlement over its promotion of its diabetes drug, Avandia. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and 38 other state attorneys general contended that the firm claimed the drug had cardiovascular benefits, when it actually may increase cardiovascular risks. The firm admitted no wrongdoing, but it agreed to change its marketing practices for the drug and to pay $90 million to the states to resolve the lawsuit. Click below for Wasden's full announcement. The money will go to Idaho's consumer protection account, where it's subject to legislative appropriation.

Thousands of Idahoans who lost homes to foreclosure eligible for payments under settlement

More than 12,000 Idahoans who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2011 are eligible for payments under a national settlement over loan servicing errors that may have led to foreclosures, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today. The eligible Idahoans will be receiving application packets in the mail to apply for the payments, which will start at $840.

“This payment is not intended to compensate Idahoans for the loss of their homes,” Wasden said. “Rather, it is a step toward accountability for unfair business practices that harmed Idaho homeowners. I remain committed to improving the mortgage servicing industry for the benefit of Idaho’s current and future homeowners.” Wasden joined in the $25 billion nationwide settlement with five national banks in February: Ally/GMAC, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. They're the largest servicers of mortgage loans in the nation. Click below for Wasden's full announcement, including information for affected borrowers.

Idaho gets $2.9M in drug settlement

Idaho will receive $2,847,890 as its share of a multistate drug settlement, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today; the $181 million settlement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is over improper marketing of four anti-psychotic drugs. The company allegedly pushed the drugs for unapproved off-label uses; as part of the settlement with 37 states, Janssen admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to change how it markets the drugs and refrain from false, misleading or deceptive promotions. Idaho's share of the settlement will go to the Attorney General's consumer protection account; click below for Wasden's full announcement.

Idaho recovers $1.7 million in drug settlement

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Idaho has reached a $1.7 million settlement with a pharmaceutical company over allegations of excessive wholesale prices paid by the state's Medicaid program. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the deal Monday with Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Watson Pharma, Inc. Watson is among the top four generic drug companies in the world. Wasden sued the company in 2007 seeking to recover taxpayer money used to pay high prices charged to Idaho Medicaid for prescription drugs. Before filing the lawsuit, Wasden said an investigation by his office found drug companies like Watson were posting false and inflated prices for their drugs on the wholesale market. The state will use about $1.05 million to reimburse overpayments made by Medicaid; $50,000 will cover the state's investigative and legal costs; and $423,725 will go to the the state's general fund. So far, Idaho has recovered $22 million in similar lawsuits with drug makers.

Idaho to get $1.6M from Glaxo settlement

A national legal settlement with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will bring Idaho more than $1.6 million, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today, including $732,750 to reimburse Idaho's Medicaid program, and $877,679 to go into Idaho's general fund. The firm will pay another $3.7 million to the federal government to reimburse its increased costs for Idaho Medicaid due to the fraud. Overall, the company agreed to pay $3 billion, including a $1 billion criminal fine. Click below for the full announcement from Wasden's office.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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