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Public Statements

Issue Position: Consumer Protection

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

Helping Maryland Families Through the Mortgage Crisis

When the mortgage crisis hit Maryland, Attorney General Gansler got Maryland homeowners the foreclosure relief they needed, took on the predatory lenders, and brought the stakeholders together to ensure this wouldn't happen again.

* Required Countrywide Financial Corporation to pay more than $2.1 million to Maryland borrowers as part of a foreclosure relief program and offer loan modifications and relocation assistance to eligible borrowers in the wake of predatory lending scandal.
* Ordered five local companies to shut down illegal home loan modification schemes targeting Maryland residents facing foreclosure.
* Shut down Metropolitan Dream Homes, an investment scam involving the promised payment of homeowners' mortgages in five years following a payment to the company for investment, while misrepresenting risk and use of proceeds, ultimately bilking millions of dollars from homeowners without providing any mortgage relief.
* Brought together all stakeholders in the housing crisis from homeowners to mortgage brokers to develop recommended legislative and regulatory safeguards to prevent future lending crises.

Protecting the Consumer from False Claims, Deceptive Marketing and Unsafe Products

Attorney General Gansler understands that prosecuting businesses that cheat and deceive consumers not only protects consumers, it protects legitimate businesses that play by the rules -- businesses we need to bring jobs to the state and build our economy. As a direct result of inquiries, investigations, and/or complaints brought by Attorney General Gansler:

* All four major wireless carriers and cell phone insurance provider Asurion agreed to disclose terms of the insurance agreement at the point of sale, including a hidden deductible, potentially saving Marylanders $60 million dollars and, once implemented across the country, Americans $2.4 billion dollars.
* All the major car rental companies in Maryland agreed to reduce refueling fees by as much as 40% or to offer a one-time refueling charge for customers renting cars in Maryland.
* BJ's Wholesale Club agreed to end the deceptive practice of issuing "Buy One Get One Free" coupons then demanding customers pay the difference between the limit on the coupon and the actual cost of the goods purchased.
* BlueHippo and owner Rensin agreed to pay restitution to consumers to resolve allegations the company targeted consumers with poor credit history claiming to make electronic products affordable via financing arrangements, but actually selling these items for two or more times their retail price, and then placing undisclosed conditions on delivery of the items that prevented many consumers from ever receiving items.
* Dish agreed to disclose all the terms of its contracts to consumers before requiring long-term programming agreements; to stop telemarketing calls to consumers in violation of do-not-call rules; to disclose the availability of rebates, credits and free offers; to disclose that the equipment the consumer was purchasing or leasing had been previously used and/or refurbished; and to stop making comparisons to competitors' price offers when the goods or services being compared were materially different. Additionally, Dish Network agreed to offer restitution to eligible consumers.
* Mattel agreed to recall certain toys to resolve allegations of lead paint violations.
* Moneygram agreed to display prominent warnings to consumers of the dangers of fraud-induced wire transfers in English and Spanish on the front page of MoneyGram's Send Form, and pay $1.1 million for a national consumer education program on how to avoid fraud-induced transfers.
* Airborne agreed not to make claims that its product can prevent or diminish cold or influence the placement of its products in the "cough/cold" aisle of retailers unless the claims can be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
* Samsung agreed to refrain from conduct that could substantially lessen competition and pay restitution to consumers to resolve allegations it engaged in price fixing of computer chips that resulted in increased cost for computers and other electronic devices.
* Google agreed to implement measures to curb the prevalence of certain false or misleading advertisements highlighted as sponsored links on Google's search result pages.
* America Online agreed to limit sales practices that made it difficult for customers to cancel service, offer additional methods for canceling service, and refund monies to consumers who had cancelled service but continued to receive improper charges.

Fighting Healthcare Fraud: Demanding Safe and Affordable Prescriptions

Fighting against the rising costs of healthcare, Attorney General Gansler took on pharmaceutical companies that have tried to make a quick buck by cheating the State and consumers -- saving Maryland taxpayers millions of dollars and requiring pharmaceutical companies adequately disclose drug side effects to consumers.

* He has taken on drug companies that failed to provide the benefit of the "best price" to Maryland's Medicaid Program and its recipients, robbed them of less expensive generic alternatives, and lied about drug side effects all to make a quick buck:
o Merck agreed to pay over $4.6 million to the Maryland Medicaid Program to resolve allegations the company failed to pay rebates due the program.
o Warner Chilcott and a chief competitor Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., agreed to pay $5.5 million and $5.9 million respectively to resolve allegations they unlawfully conspired to deny consumers the opportunity to purchase a less expensive, generic version of a drug.
o Merck agreed to get FDA approval of all its direct to consumer television ads to resolve allegations it engaged in deceptive advertising that misrepresented Vioxx's cardiovascular risks.
* He has taken on drug companies that illegally marketed drugs for off-label uses, boosting sales at the expense of consumer safety:
o As part the largest recovery in a health care fraud investigation in United States history, Pfizer agrees to pay Maryland nearly $5 million dollars in civil damages and criminal penalties to settle allegations the company engaged in a pattern of illegal marketing activity to promote multiple drugs for unapproved uses. Pfizer also enters into a Corporate Integrity Agreement, subjecting future marketing and sales practices to close monitoring.
o Purdue Pharma agrees to market and promote OxyContin only in a manner consistent with FDA-approved uses and to maintain a program designed to identify potential abuse of OxyContin, or diversion for illegal drug use, and pay a a penalty to settle allegations that the company engaged in extensive off-label marketing of OxyContin and failed to adequately disclose abuse and diversion risks associated with the drug.
o Bayer Corporation agrees to submit direct to consumer television advertisements for Yaz to the FDA for review and comment prior to broadcast, to clearly and conspicuously disclose the approved uses of Yaz. and to conduct a $20 million corrective advertising program to remedy misinformation from earlier misleading advertisements.
o Eli Lilly and Company agrees to pay over $6,500,000 to the Maryland Medicaid Program to resolve allegations it engaged in an illegal off-label marketing campaign promoting the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa.
o Cephalon agrees to pay nearly $2 million to the Maryland Medicaid program to settle allegations of improper off-label marketing of three pharmaceutical drugs.
o Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company agrees to pay more than $2 million to the Maryland Medicaid Program to resolve allegations of illegal drug marketing and pricing of prescription medications.
* A watchdog for the consumer, Attorney General Gansler has even taken on companies hired to negotiate better pricing from drug companies and retail pharmacies on behalf of the state when greed got in the way of doing their job.
o Caremark agreed to pay $38.5 million to the states and up to $2.5 million to patients to settle allegations Caremark encouraged doctors to switch patients to different brand name prescription drugs, misrepresenting the savings, and failing to inform their clients that money earned from the drug switching process would be retained by Caremark and not passed directly to the client plan. Twenty-two million of the amount paid went to benefit low-income, disabled or elderly consumers of prescription medications, to promote lower drug costs for state residents, to educate consumers concerning the cost differences among medications, or for similar purposes.
o Express Scripts agreed to pay over $9 million to settle allegations it overstated the cost benefits of switching to certain preferred medicines and did not make adequate disclosures concerning its receipt of rebates accrued from the drug switching process.

Fighting Fraud Against the State and Maryland Taxpayers

Discovered Maryland State Retirement and Pension System entitled to $72,956,188 from Milliman, Inc., an actuarial firm, as the result of a breach of the professional standards of care that continued undetected for 22 years, resulting in a breach of its contracts with the System.

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