One of the most important and gratifying parts of serving as Attorney General is the ability to protect Marylanders in tangible ways. I’d like to update you on some actions the Office of the Attorney General has taken recently to put an end to deceptive and harmful business practices.
Holding contractors accountable: This week, I announced that Noridian Healthcare Solutions has agreed to pay $45 million to compensate Maryland and the federal government for its poor performance that led to the botched rollout of the state health benefit exchange. This company never delivered what it promised, and as a result, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted, and thousands of Marylanders suffered delays and frustration when they tried to get the health care coverage they deserve. This settlement is a fair deal for taxpayers, with most of the money paid to Noridian being reclaimed, and shows that the performance was unacceptable and those responsible will be held accountable.
Stopping bogus cancer charities: Our office was part of a multi-state crackdown against four sham charities which fraudulently raised tens of millions in the name of assisting cancer patients, but which spent the money on executive salaries, cruises, concert tickets and fundraising expenses. The Cancer Fund of America, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and the Breast Cancer Society were run by members of the same family and close associates. Two of them have been shut down, and we expect to close the other two soon.
Ending unlawful debt collection: We worked closely with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to put an end to harmful collection practices by one of the nation’s largest banks, Chase Bank. The problem: Chase did not have the right safeguards in place when it sold its accounts to third-party companies who tried to collect. Names of Chase customers were wrong. Amounts were wrong, too. The accounts were too old. But the third-party companies kept trying to collect, and legal documents were robo-signed. We got Chase to back off and halt collections on 8,000 Marylanders, and the bank will pay $136 million as part of a nationwide settlement. They are also guaranteeing better safeguards on data so the problems don’t resurface.
Keeping food prices low: When Sysco Foods announced a plan to purchase US Foods, creating a company that would control 80 percent of the commercial food market in the Baltimore-Washington area, we were concerned about the impact on consumers. My office joined with the Federal Trade Commission in objecting to a near-monopoly that was about to be created. I was encouraged when a federal judge recently agreed that the purchase needed a full analysis. Days later, Sysco wisely abandoned the transaction, which means that prices will remain competitive for Marylanders when they dine out, and for hospitals, schools and other institutions that rely on these businesses to serve their clients.
These are just some examples of ways we’ve been working to protect Marylanders. I hope to have more good news to share with you soon.
My office will always be on your side.