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Wasden announces ‘cramming’ settlement with Sprint, Verizon; Idaho customers eligible for refunds

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced settlements with Sprint and Verizon Wireless over allegations of imposing unauthorized charges on Idaho customers’ mobile phone bills, a practice known as “cramming.” It’s part of a larger $158 million settlement between the two companies, 49 states, the District of Columbia and two federal agencies. “The settlement is a victory for consumers who are now eligible to receive refunds and for holding Sprint and Verizon accountable for their past actions,” Wasden said in a statement.

In October, Idaho joined other states and the feds in a similar, $105 million settlement with AT&T; another $90 million settlement was reached in December with T-Mobile.

In the Sprint and Verizon case, customers were typically charged $9.99 per month for “premium” text message services, from horoscopes to sports scores. Under the settlement, about 50,000 Idaho Sprint customers and 125,000 Idaho Verizon customers are eligible for refunds for charges they didn’t authorize; the companies also agreed to stop the practice; give full refunds for any unauthorized third-party charges; and move third-party charges to a separate section of bills to better identify them, along with information on how to block them. There’s more info here on how to apply for refunds under the settlement.

 

Idaho joins settlement with Sirius XM Radio over misleading advertising, billing

Idaho has joined a $3.8 million multi-state settlement with Sirius XM Radio Inc. over misleading advertising and billing practices, through which Idaho consumers who had problems with the service can get reimbursed. "I am pleased we have reached an amicable settlement with Sirius,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.  “Idaho consumers were having too many problems with Sirius." Click below for Wasden's full announcement; Idaho's consumer protection division has received 10 complaints about Serius since 2009.

Many Idahoans likely to qualify for payments under DRAM settlement, deadline approaching…

Many Idahoans who bought products containing DRAM, or dynamic random access memory chips, between 1998 and 2002 are due a refund thanks to a price-fixing settlement, according to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, but the Aug. 1 deadline for filing claims is past approaching. DRAM typically is either sold separately or pre-installed in electronic devices such as computers, servers, graphics cards, video game consoles, MP3 players, printers, PDAs, DVD players, and digital video recorders. The minimum refund for people who submit qualifying claims is $10; click below for more information.

National settlement will bring relief to 220 Idahoans who lost homes to foreclosure

Idaho has joined 48 states and the federal government in a settlement with SunTrust Mortgage over home loan and foreclosure abuses; under the settlement, the company will make direct payments to 220 Idaho borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2013. Click below for the full announcement from Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Firm that was luring vets to certain for-profit colleges must give up website, turn it over to V.A.

Idaho is among 20 states that are part of a consumer protection settlement forcing the shutdown of a California-based website that targeted military veterans to attend for-profit colleges. The states charged that the company's websites, including GIBill.com, were deceptive and misleading, giving the appearance that they were operated or endorsed by the U.S. government or military. They directed users only to the website owner's clients, which were presented as "eligible GI Bill schools."

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said, “This settlement ends the deceptive practices this company used to mislead the people who risk their lives to protect our freedom. Our veterans and active duty military personnel have earned their educational benefits and should not be subjected to trickery when deciding where best to use those benefits.”

As part of the settlement, the company, QuinStreet Inc. of Foster City, Calif., will pay $2.5 million, including $100,000 to reimburse Idaho for its costs to participate in the case, and the firm will relinquish the domain "GIBill.com" to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which will use it to educate service members about benefits available to them. Click below for a full announcement from Wasden's office.

Idaho wins $2.6M drug pricing settlement

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced a settlement with prescription drug maker GlaxoSmithKline for $2.6 million, settling charges of drug overpricing to Idaho's Medicaid program. Since 2005, this is the 14th such case Wasden has resolved, resulting in total recoveries of more than $20 million. Click below for Wasden's full announcement. Three more cases, naming eight other drug manufacturers, still are pending.

AP: Billion-dollar fed-tribal settlement includes three Idaho tribes…

The federal government has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a series of lawsuits brought by American Indian tribes over mismanagement of tribal money and trust lands, resolving claims brought by 41 tribes from across the country to reclaim money lost in mismanaged accounts and from royalties for oil, gas, grazing and timber rights on tribal lands. The AP reports that negotiations continue on dozens of other cases. The settlement, announced today by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of the Interior, includes nearly $34 million for Idaho's Nez Perce Tribe. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Shannon Dininny in Yakima. According to a Justice Department news release, the 41 tribes covered by the settlement also included the Coeur d'Alene and Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Idaho, and the Spokane Tribe in eastern Washington.

Coeur d'Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan spoke at the White House announcement today, and called the settlement long overdue; the Coeur d'Alenes will receive $18 million. “Today is a great day because it is a new day – a day when tribes across this nation can close the door on many wrongs of the past and open the door to a future of mutual respect and cooperation,” Allan said. He said the North Idaho tribe receives the money in exchange for dismissing its lawsuit against the United States to reclaim millions that were lost due to the federal government’s mismanagement of the tribe’s trust accounts and trust resources like timber, grazing and crop proceeds.

 

Vestal: Addiction Excuse Used Before

Get a job with a badge and a gun. While catching drug dealers, start smoking pot and snorting coke. Just to fit in. Find yourself going a little further than your undercover duties require. Snort some more cocaine, then smoke it. Then smoke it. Then smoke it. Take paid leave to go to treatment, turn in your badge and gun – and sue the city of Spokane for $2 million, for getting you hooked on crack cocaine. If you thought the Brad Thoma case was something new under the sun, think again. A quarter-century ago, Spokane was rocked by a case with unmistakable similarities: an addicted cop, a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and a City Hall that doesn’t want to settle … except it also doesn’t want to lose a lot of money in court. We don’t know the end of the Thoma case, yet. The City Council is showing some backbone, Thoma is suing, and the case will doubtlessly drag on for a good long while/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (Spokane police photo of Brad Thoma)

Question: Was the city of Spokane right in rejecting a proposed settlement with fired/disgraced former cop Brad Thoma?

Debt collection firm agrees to repay Idahoans after abuses

Idahoans who were targeted in misleading and deceptive debt-collection practices by a national debt collection firm, NCO Financial Systems Inc., are eligible for a share in a $50,000 restitution pool, under a multistate settlement announced today by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The firm also agreed to change its collection practices. “This settlement is important because it benefits prior, present and future consumers,” Wasden said. “It provides for a restitution fund to assist damaged consumers, while also protecting current and future consumers from potential debt collection abuses.” Click below for his full announcement; Idahoans affected have three years to apply for the funds.

Drug settlement brings Idaho $625K

Two prescription drug manufacturers, Mylan Laboratories Inc. and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, have agreed to pay Idaho $625,000 in a legal settlement over allegations of overcharging the state's Medicaid program, without admitting wrongdoing. “This settlement addresses the harm incurred by Idaho’s taxpayers and the State,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “It should stop the reporting of false and misleading drug prices and provide the state significant financial relief. This settlement is good for Idaho because it successfully resolves this dispute without the need for further, costly litigation.” Click below for the Attorney General's full announcement.

Drug maker to pay Idaho $2.5 million

Prescription drug manufacturer AstraZeneca has agreed to pay Idaho $2.5 million in a legal settlement related to overpricing drugs for the state's Medicaid program, in violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. More than $620,000 of the payment will go to the state's general fund; $50,000 to the consumer protection account to cover investigative and legal costs; and $1.5 million to the state’s Cooperative Welfare Fund as a credit against the federal government’s next payment to Idaho Medicaid, of which the feds pay about 70 percent of the costs.

“This settlement provides relief to Idaho taxpayers and brings the matter to a conclusion without the need for continued litigation,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.  “I appreciate that the companies were willing to work with my office to reach an appropriate resolution.” Wasden has resolved 10 such cases with drug manufacturers since 2005 and recovered more than $13 million; cases against 18 other drug manufacturers still are pending. Click below for Wasden's full announcement.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Laura Woodin said, "AstraZeneca has competed responsibly with respect to pricing and marketing of our medicines, and we firmly believe that we have acted at all times in accordance with the law.  Although we deny liability, after years of costly litigation, we believe that this agreement was the appropriate way to resolve this matter quickly and allow the company to focus on our core mission to deliver meaningful medicines to patients."

Idaho to share in JP Morgan Chase settlement over bid-rigging on bonds

Idaho is one of 23 states that will share in a multimillion-dollar national settlement with JP Morgan Chase & Co. over bid-rigging deals on public bond offerings. The Associated Press reports that J.P. Morgan Securities LLC made at least 93 secret deals with companies that handled the bidding processes in 31 states,  allowing the bank to peek at competitors' offers in trying to secure investment business from state and local governments to invest bond proceeds before the bond-funded projects were fully paid for; the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission announced the deal today, under which the company will pay a total of $211 million, including $92 million to the 23 states and the District of Columbia.

Few Idaho entities were involved, according to the Idaho Attorney General's office; they'll be reimbursed for any losses; injunctive relief also will prevent such actions in the future. The other states are Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Click below for a full report from AP business writer Daniel Wagner in Washington, D.C.

Idaho gets $600K in pharmaceutical settlement

Idaho will get more than $600,000 in a legal settlement with two pharmaceutical manufacturers, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today, over unfair and deceptive practices in manufacturing and distributing four drugs the companies manufactured in Puerto Rico, including Paxil CR, a popular antidepressant drug, and Kytril, a drug used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The companies, GlaxoSmithKline and SB Pharmco Puerto Rico, no longer are using the Puerto Rico manufacturing plant, and all tainted batches of the drugs were recalled; click below for the full announcement from Wasden.

Idaho gets $47K in drug settlement

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A global pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay Idaho $47,000 to settle a fraud lawsuit over a prescription drug for treating multiple sclerosis. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced the settlement Wednesday. Idaho's case is part of bigger lawsuit involved several states and the federal government against EMD Serono, Inc. The company makes Rebif, a prescription drug used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. State and federal attorneys alleged the company made inappropriate payments to hundreds of doctors for prescribing Rebif between 2002 and 2009. Of Idaho's share, more than $18,000 will go to the state Medicaid program as restitution, while the additional $28,000 will go into the state's general fund. Altogether, the company agreed to pay more than $44.3 million to the federal government and other states.

Washington gets $11.7 million

OLYMPIA - Most days, the revenue news out of the state capital is grim. But Tuesday state officials had a bit of good news: the state is getting $11.7 million in a settlement over the way some accounts in the state pension funds were handled.

State Treasurer James McIntyre and Attorney General Rob McKenna said the state reached a settlement with State Street Bank over a contract dispute for transactions between 1997 and 2007 involving foreign exchanges.

The money goes into the state’s Comingled Trust Fund, which holds pension money for a wide range of public employees, including teachers, cops, firefighters and judges.

The fund has about $53 billion in it, so $11.7 million is a small percent. Still, anything with eight figures can’t be considered chump change.

Idaho gets $1.9 million in drug settlement

Idaho will get $1.9 million in a legal settlement with four prescription drug manufacturers, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today. “This settlement reimburses unfair costs to Idaho taxpayers,” Wasden said, through Medicaid reimbursements. Click below to read his full announcement.

Idaho to get millions in drug settlement

Idaho has reached a $13 million settlement with drug manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co., the state’s biggest financial recovery under the Idaho Consumer Protection Act aside from the 1998 tobacco settlement. The state sued the pharmaceutical manufacturer over its marketing of Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic drug, saying the drug company “engaged in deceptive marketing” and “failed to warn health care providers of serious side effects, resulting in significant costs to Idaho Medicaid.” Part of the money will go to reimburse the federal government, which pays part of the cost of Idaho’s Medicaid program, while about $6.9 million will go to the state’s general fund. “Off-label promotion of pharmaceutical drugs is a deceptive practice and creates unnecessary risks to consumers,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.  “In this instance, the company’s practices also resulted in additional costs to Idaho Medicaid, at the expense of Idaho taxpayers.  Fortunately we were able to reach this settlement and recover those taxpayer dollars.” Click below to read Wasden’s full announcement.

Attorney General: “Airborne” tablets don’t prevent colds…

Washington and Idaho are part of a $7 million, 32-state settlement with the makers of Airborne, a popular effervescent tablet invented by a California second-grade teacher tired of picking up colds in the classroom. The lawsuit said that the tablet’s touted cold-fighting properties “weren’t substantiated by reliable and competent scientific evidence.” The company has settled two other lawsuits totalling $30 million over similar claims. “Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold,” assistant attorney general Bob Lipson said in a statement announcing the settlement this week. “Not chicken soup. Not orange juice. Not fizzy tablets.” The ingredient list posted on Airborne’s website suggests that the pills are essentially a multivitamin combined with a proprietary herbal blend invented by that former teacher, Victoria Knight McDowell. The pills contain vitamins A, C and E, along with zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium and amino acids. The herbal blend includes things like ginger, echinacea and forsythia. The lawsuit also alleged that the company failed to warn consumers about potential health risks to pregnant women and some other users from an earlier form of the pills, which contained 5,000 units of vitamin A. That’s been reduced to 2,000 units. Airborne Health Inc. says that the settlement will have no effect on the product, since the cold-remedy labeling had already been changed. The company says the key ingredients in Airborne “have been shown to help support the immune system.” “Airborne continues to be the number-one-selling product of its kind in America,” the company said, “and we appreciate the loyalty of our customers.”