Tag Archives: herbert slatery

AG joins lawsuit against makers of addiction treatment drug

News release from Attorney General’s office
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, along with the Division of Consumer Affairs, today announced the filing of an antitrust and consumer protection lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. Slatery and attorneys general from 35 other states filed the lawsuit over allegations that the companies engaged in an anti-competitive scheme to block generic competitors and cause consumers to pay artificially high prices.
Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is alleged to have conspired with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone, a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings, from a tablet version to a dissolvable film version in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives from entering the market while maintaining monopoly profits. Continue reading

AG joins lawsuit against insurance company merger

News release from Tennessee Attorney General’s Office
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced that Tennessee has joined the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys general from 11 states and the District of Columbia in litigation to block the merger between health insurance companies Anthem and Cigna, alleging that the transaction would increase concentration and harm competition in Tennessee and across the country.

The Justice Department and state attorneys general filed the merger challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint alleges that the merger, valued at $54 billion, would harm seniors, working families and individuals, employers, and doctors and other healthcare providers by limiting price competition, reducing benefits, decreasing incentives to provide innovative wellness programs, and lowering the quality of care.

“In what instance would Tennesseans want 4 instead of 5 competitors from which to choose insurance products or negotiate services? That is the question raised by the merger, whether one is a national employer comparing benefits and premiums, a health care provider like a hospital or physician practice, or an individual selecting a policy on an exchange. There are too many unanswered questions and too much at stake in reducing competition for Tennessee to support this merger,” Attorney General Slatery said.

Eleven states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia – along with the District of Columbia joined the department’s challenge of Anthem’s $54 billion acquisition of Cigna.

The suit against Anthem and Cigna alleges that their merger would substantially reduce competition for millions of consumers who receive commercial health insurance coverage from national employers throughout the United States. The complaint also alleges that the elimination of Cigna threatens competition among commercial insurers for the purchase of healthcare services from hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers.

Anthem, Inc. is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is the nation’s second-largest health insurer. It operates in every state and the District of Columbia, and provides health insurance to 39 million people. In 2015, Anthem reported over $79 billion in revenues.

Cigna Corp. is headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut. It is the nation’s fourth-largest health insurer. It operates in every state and the District of Columbia, and provides health insurance to 15 million people. In 2015, Cigna reported $38 billion in revenues.

AG: Durham lawsuit contrary to public interest

Responding Monday to a lawsuit brought by state Rep. Jeremy Durham, Attorney General Herbert Slatery argues that blocking release of a report on an investigation into allegations that the lawmaker engaged in sexual harassment would be contrary to the public interest, reports The Tennessean.

“It cannot be in the public interest to prevent that investigation,” Slatery writes.

Representatives for Durham and Slatery are set to discuss their motions during a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court.

The filing reveals some details about the Slatery investigation — including the fact that the attorney general couldn’t get details from Durham’s personal phone and that Durham “refused” to be interviewed. Durham and his attorney, Bill Harbison, would only agree to let a third party, hired by his attorney, use search terms provided by the attorney general to look through Durham’s phone records.

The attorney general determined those stipulations would reveal “privileged and confidential information” that could compromise the investigation and the identity of witnesses, and refused to agree to Durham’s terms. Since April, Durham failed to consider any alternative review, “thus, the office was never able to obtain any data from his personal cell phone,” Slatery writes.

The attorney general also notes investigators told Durham from the onset of the investigation that they wanted to interview him. Slatery says Durham refused that request. Durham also refused to provide names for any witnesses the attorney general could interview, although Slatery asked for any suggested people to interview who Durham thought would be pertinent.

…In the lawsuit, Durham alleges the investigation is illegal, arguing Slatery and House Speaker Beth Harwell don’t have the authority to investigate him because only the legislature can police itself, and that he’s been denied “due process” because the attorney general hasn’t outlined the specific allegations against him. He also argues that the investigation should have come to a close at the end of the legislative session, or that there’s no rush to release the investigative report because the next legislative session isn’t set to start until January.

…All of Durham’s arguments asking for an injunction, legal or otherwise, are wrong, Slatery writes in a 30-page filing, including another 90 pages of supporting documents.

But Slatery does agree with an assertion in Durham’s filing that the case is about abuse of power.

“And in a sense, it is: it is a case in which (Durham) wants only to prevent the House from investigating allegations about his use and abuse of his position of power as a member of the House,” Slatery writes, referencing one of Durham’s arguments in the initial filing.

Durham sues Harwell, Slatery to block release of investigative report

Embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham is suing House Speaker Beth Harwell and Attorney General Herbert Slatery over an investigation into the lawmaker that appears nearly complete, reports The Tennessean.

As part of the lawsuit, filed Friday in Davidson County Chancery Court, Durham wants the court to intervene and prevent the release of the attorney general’s investigative report. The court will discuss his motion during a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

“The attorney general informed us of a deadline, basically the special committee was going to convene on Wednesday. That prompted us to respond because there’s really no reason for the committee to meet, other than it’s politically motivated this close to the election,” said Durham’s attorney, Bill Harbison, of Sherrard Roe Voigt & Harbison.

On Friday the special ad hoc committee created to investigate Durham announced it would be meeting Wednesday. It is believed the attorney general report is expected to be released at the meeting. If the injunction is granted it could prevent or delay the release.

“It’s unfortunate that Representative Durham is choosing to delay the ad hoc committee’s work, which should be brought to a conclusion, and the results of the investigation made public,” Harwell said in a statement

Harlow Sumerford, a spokesman for Slatery, said they are reviewing the filing and will respond appropriately. The order granting the Tuesday afternoon hearing says Slatery and Harwell may file a response by 4:30 p.m. Monday.

The filing states the release of the report next week — which, before the lawsuit, could have come as soon as Wednesday — and the upcoming Aug. 4 primary election are not a coincidence. Continue reading

Slatery won’t sue feds over refugees in TN despite legislative mandate

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery won’t sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program.

A General Assembly resolution passed earlier this year had demanded legal action. Gov. Bill Haslam allowed it to take effect without his signature in May.

“I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do,” Haslam wrote to lawmakers at the time.

In a Tuesday letter to the clerks of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Slatery outlined what he sees as lawmakers’ two concerns about refugee resettlement. One is that federal officials are not properly consulting with state and local officials, as required by law. The other is that the federal government is confiscating state resources by coercing Tennessee to accept refugees.

Slatery notes in the letter that the consulting issue already has been dismissed in federal court. He says the coerced spending issue is an untested legal theory that is unlikely to succeed. Continue reading

Durham investigated for alleged campaign finance violations

At the request of the state Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance board decided Wednesday to look into whether state Rep. Jeremy Durham misappropriated money meant from his campaign finance account, reports WPLN.

The claim is that Durham diverted $2,000 from his campaign account last year and used it to pay the bills for his struggling title company, Battleground Title and Escrow. Durham is also accused of trying to cover up the transaction by reporting the money had been paid to an aide named Benton Smith for political work.

But Smith says in an affidavit that’s not true. He quit working for Durham and took his concerns to Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

The attorney general also obtained a screenshot of text messages between Durham and Smith that seemed to confirm the transaction took place. After looking at the evidence, the attorney general handed it over this week to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, which has jurisdiction over campaign finance violations.

Registry members voted unanimously to open an investigation immediately. The Registry plans to subpoena records going back to 2013 to see if there are other such transactions.

Chairman Tom Lawless says the claim campaign money was used for private business is serious.

“That’s something that shouldn’t be happening,” he says. “But there may be a perfectly good explanation. We only have an affidavit of one person. Representative Durham, again, as I said, he’s presumed innocent.”

For his part, Durham calls the story “complete garbage” and says no campaign money ever went into his title company.

AG won’t appeal court decision striking down TN anti-gang law

The Tennessee attorney general will let stand a ruling striking down the state’s gang enhancement law as unconstitutional, a move that could invalidate multiple criminal convictions. One factor cited is the Legislature’s move to change the questioned law during the past legislative session.

From Jamie Satterfield at the News Sentinel:

Harlow Sumerford, spokesman for Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, said Wednesday the office will not seek a Tennessee Supreme Court review of a decision in April by a lower appellate court declaring the law constitutionally unsound.

Slatery’s decision comes after the state Legislature quickly passed a new version of the law, which boosts penalties for crimes committed by alleged gang members, in the wake of the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling.

“One of the many factors in that decision included the General Assembly amending this statute this past session,” Sumerford said.

The new law applies only to future prosecutions, so every case in Tennessee in which the old statute — first passed in 2012 — was successfully used is now considered flawed. Knox County has been a hotbed for such prosecutions.

Although exact figures were not available Wednesday, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen’s office estimated at least 60 convictions under the old law are in jeopardy. In addition, all pending gang enhancement charges must be dismissed, Deputy District Attorney General Kyle Hixson said.

Hixson said prosecutors will not take the lead in determining which cases now need to be reheard and how.

“It will be up to the convicted parties to determine if they wish to challenge their sentence,” he said.

Using a Knox County case as a backdrop, the appellate court ruled the gang enhancement law was so broad it allowed gang members to suffer extra punishment for crimes that had nothing to do with any gang or gang activity and for the misdeeds of other gang members in which they weren’t even involved.

Tennessee largely stood alone in the nation for punishing criminals simply for being in a gang. Membership in a gang — even a criminal one — is not by itself illegal.

The Legislature revised the law to specifically require proof the underlying crime was committed “at the direction of, in association with or for the benefit of” either the gang or a fellow gang member.

But the Legislature did not address other constitutional issues with the old law raised by the appellate court, said Knoxville attorney Stephen Ross Johnson, who has served as president of the Tennessee and the national associations of criminal defense attorneys.

“How do we determine you are a gang member?” Johnson asked, noting the appellate court faulted that section of the law as well.

AG opines he has authority to investigate Rep. Durham

In a legal opinion issued Tuesday, Attorney General Herbert Slatery says he had authority to investigate Rep. Jeremy Durham because a special House committee requested the probe.

The full opinion is HERE. Excerpt from a Tennessean story on the matter:

The statement came in response to a series of questions posed by Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, who recently called the Durham probe a “witch hunt” and part of a “hit list” by House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville

Among his questions to Slatery, Womick asked “what constitutional, statutory or other authority” exists to allow the attorney general to perform an investigation.

That authority was given to Slatery in February after a special committee approved a resolution that designated the attorney general to “conduct a full, fair and thorough investigation of the allegations of disorderly and inappropriate behavior and misconduct by Representative Durham.”

That point, along with several others, was affirmed by Slatery’s opinion.

…The final question Womick asked was who would investigate the attorney general in the event that it was determined that Slatery had engaged in unethical or inappropriate conduct.

“The committee has full discretion to revoke the authority vested in the office of the attorney general at any time. Thus, if it believed that the attorney general has acted outside the scope of that authority, the committee may revoke the authority,” Slatery said.

Sunday column: On the need for an Office of Legislative Litigation

In hindsight, given the recent emergence of restrooms as a major issue for Republican legislators, perhaps many members of the Supermajority see as a mistake the rejection of Rep. David Hawk’s proposal for annual September sessions of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Hawk, R-Greeneville, proposed in HB1501 to automatically have legislators return for a couple of days each September, explaining, “in this fast paced world in which we live, there are lots of issues that come up outside the constraints of our regular session that really need to be addressed legislatively.”

After winning initial approval in one House committee, the bill got the cold shoulder late in session – about the same time legislators were also deciding against proposals to hold a special veto override session in May, just in case Gov. Bill Haslam should decide to reject some measure favored by the Supermajority.

The decision against a veto override session proved sound. Apparently as Haslam had tacitly suggested, he was ready to go along with anything else passed, despite his previously-voiced public misgivings on some bills. He did and a veto override session proved unnecessary.

On the other hand, developments otherwise have arguably almost proved Hawk correct about the need for post-session return of legislators to address emerging issues. In this fast-paced world, President Obama’s administration has moved in a post-session “directive” to have transgender persons admitted to restrooms based on their chosen gender, not on the gender appearing on their birth certificate.
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