On April 2, 2009, in Baltimore, Maryland, the State Center sponsored a conference for members of the Consumer Protection Divisions of six Mid-Atlantic states: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. There were more than 40 attendees, including assistant attorneys general and investigators from each of the states, as well as representatives from the FTC, BBB, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the National State Attorney Generals Program of Columbia Law School. Welcoming remarks were delivered by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. The Mintz Group provided a training session on enhanced investigative techniques using various databases available on the Internet. Discussions were led by state AAGs, focusing on specific complaints or issues likely to be common to other states. The emphasis was on sharing insights and on facilitating interstate cooperation in the future as a way to leverage resources and improve efficiency. Presentations were also made by the FTC, the BB and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.New England Consumer Protection Conference
The State Center sponsored in Concord, NH, on July 1, 2008, a conference for members of the Consumer Protection Divisions of the six New England states. Thirty state attorneys, investigators and other professionals attended. Topics included different approaches to office organization, opportunities for enhanced regional cooperation, practical steps to deal with the impact of rising fuel prices, how to take better advantage of legal research materials and advanced investigative techniques. Faculty members included individuals from the Vermont Attorney General's Office, Columbia Law School's National State Attorneys General Program, the National Consumer Law Center and the Mintz Group.AG Summit on Subprime Foreclosure Crisis
High-ranking officials from state Attorneys General Offices across the country and representatives of the Conference of State Banking Supervisors are meeting in Chicago on July 17-18, 2007 to discuss the crisis affecting consumers nationwide as a result of the large increase in subprime foreclosures. This important conference is made possible, in part, by a State Center grant.AAI/State Center Symposium - Session III
On March 28, 2008 in Washington, DC, the AAI and the State Center for Antitrust and Consumer Protection jointly sponsored a third meeting of a group of state assistant attorneys general, private plaintiffs' antitrust lawyers, and academics to discuss issues of mutual concern involving private/state antitrust enforcement. A PDF of the notes which summarize the discussion at the meeting may be found here.NAGTRI/State Center Consumer Protection Fellows
The State Center, in conjunction with the National Attorney General Research and Training Institute (NAGTRI) of NAAG, is sponsoring fellowships that will allow AAGs to spend time in Washington, DC working on consumer protection-oriented research projects. Fellows will research cutting-edge issues of interest to state consumer protection divisions and publish their results in the form of a monograph or white paper. For more information on this program, please click here.AAI/State Center Symposium - Session II
The State Center and the American Antitrust Institute hosted a second session of their Symposium for State Enforcers and Private Class Counsel, which took place in St. Louis, MO on October 8,2007. A summary of the session may be found here (as pdf). A third session is tentatively planned for March 26, 2008 in Washington, DC.School Bus Merger
On September 26, 2007, eleven states, led by Massachusetts, announced a settlement agreement that resolved an antitrust investigation of the proposed merger of the nation's two largest school bus contractors - FirstGroup and Laidlaw International Group, Inc. The settlement includes significant divestitures and other relief intended to preserve competition in numerous geographic markets in which the merging companies competed. The investigation was supported by a State Center grant to retain the services of a member of its Panel of Economists to assist the investigating states in their analysis of the relevant economic data produced by the merging parties.Report on Petroleum Products Markets in the Northeast
Together with New York State, the State Center co-funded a Report on Petroleum Products in the Northeast. The report was prepared by the ERS Group for, and at the direction of, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. The State Center had no input in the content of the report.
The Executive Summary provides an overview. Section I gives industry background, highlighting products and terminology. Section II explains how products are distributed to the states from refineries in the U.S. and abroad. Section III discusses the system of terminals and describes their location, capacities, ownership, and market structure and shares. Section IV focuses on wholesale and retail gasoline markets within the states. Section V provides an understanding of home heating oil markets, historical pricing, and natural gas's potential as a substitute for heating oil. Section VI addresses the role of futures markets for crude oil, gasoline and heating oil. The appendices include a glossary, technical and ownership details concerning terminals, retail gasoline market shares at the county level, and data concerning retail heating oil prices by company and town. The report, which collects together for the first time in one resource important information about the workings of the markets in the Northeast for important consumer products like heating oil and gasoline, as pdf, may be found here.Joint Symposium with AAI for State Enforcers and Private Class Action Counsel
The State Center and the American Antitrust Institute hosted a symposium in Washington, DC on April 18, 2007, entitled Improving the Antitrust Enterprise. The purpose of the symposium was to explore ways to improve the working relationships among state antitrust enforcement officials and private class action counsel, who often work together on the same or related cases representing consumers and other victims of antitrust violations. Thirty senior lawyers experienced in this type of litigation were invited to attend and participate. A summary of the proceedings, as PDF, may be found here.Joint Training Program with National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School
The State Center and National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School hosted a leadership training program on March 1-3, 2007 at Columbia Law School in New York City. Seventeen new state Attorneys General were elected in November, 2007. Designed to support incoming Attorneys General, Chief Deputies, and Division Heads, the program's objectives were to build immediate enforcement capacity in antitrust and consumer protection and to create important relationships for the newly-elected Attorneys General and their key staff members.
Some of the best present and past leaders of the Attorney General community and selected academics shared perspectives on office management, communications, available resources, case selection, and multi-state strategies. The agenda was also designed to introduce the participants to a number of emerging critical substantive issues. Problem-solving exercises were be led by experienced members of the attorney general community to explore practical "on the ground" implications raised by these issues.
The small, invitation-only group of fifty participants included individuals from numerous states and the federal government, as well as non-governmental leaders from five major organizations that work closely with state attorneys general. Incumbent Attorneys General Tom Miller of Iowa, Rob McKenna of Washington, Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island, and Bill Sorrell of Vermont were joined by their counterparts Gary King of New Mexico and Linda Singer of the District of Columbia. Program materials are posted on Columbia Law School's website and is available here.
The State Center has provided a grant to help fund the program. The State Center's Executive Director and all four members of its Board of Directors are also participating in the program as faculty members.Grant Program
One of the principal ways the State Center fulfills its mission is through its Grant Program. The State Center has provided the funds to enable state Attorney General offices to retain expert assistance in a broad range of antitrust and consumer protection matters, including identity theft and fraud, petroleum pricing, predatory lending, and social networking sites on the Internet that expose children to inappropriate content.Advocacy
The State Center filed an amicus brief on September 1, 2006 in the Supreme Court case, Watters v. Wachovia Bank et al. The case involves preemption issues of broad potential significance to state Attorneys General. The brief, which urged reversal of the decision below, as did briefs filed by the Michigan on behalf of the petitioner and New York on behalf of a large number of amici states, was authored by Thomas W. Merrill, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. A copy of the brief, as PDF, may be found here.Educational Travel
The State Center has made several grants to support travel by an AAG to attend educational conferences focusing on antitrust or consumer protection issues. AAGs are encouraged to make use of the State Center's Travel Stipend Program.Board of Economists
The State Center is pleased to announce that three distinguished economists have agreed to serve on its Panel of Economists. They are John Connor of Purdue University, Doug Greer of San Jose State University and Mark McCabe of Georgia Tech. All three are Ph.D. economists with practical experience in industrial organization. The Panel is intended to provide State Attorneys General Offices with access to economic input and analysis at the early stages of an investigation. The application process is quick and easy, and several applications already have been approved. Consult the website for information on how to access our Panelists.
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