AG Hood urges lawmakers to leave his office alone

While announcing that $32 million would be deposited into the state’s general fund, Attorney General Jim Hood called on legislators to end their attempt to limit the power of the AG’s office through legislation being pushed during the 2018 session.

The $32 million is from a collection of lawsuits that Mississippi has been a part of, and they have retrieved the majority of these funds from businesses caught in violation of the “Consumer Protection Act.” Hood believes that bills introduced in the House and Senate show corporate influence over the state’s governing body.

“The corporations are writing these laws,” Hood says.

The majority of the money being sent to the general fund is from a recent settlement with Watson Inc., a pharmaceutical company, which was a case filed under the CPT. One of the bills Hood is contesting would halt his power to file such a suit and he feels that millions of dollars in pending litigation would be lost.

Related: Pharmaceutical company owes $33 million for defrauding Mississippi

  • HB 1238
    • Allows entities regulated by state and federal agencies to claim they do not have to abide by the MCPA due to outside regulations
      • Litigation affected: opioid manufacturers, which are being investigated for allegedly misrepresenting drug benefits; pharmaceutical companies who overprice drugs (Watson); Volkswagen, for selling vehicles that circumvent federal and state emission standards; Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, which was an investigation into credit reporting agencies regarding misrepresentation of credit monitoring services, credit reports, and credit scores that lead to a settlement
    • SB 2295
      • Requires approval by the Public Service Commission for the AG to bring suit against utility companies
        • Litigation affected: pending Entergy case, where the utility company faces a $1.1 billion lawsuit for overcharging its customers by not purchasing the cheapest power to sell to consumers
      • HB 1177
        • Allows state agencies and private citizens to file suit and collect damages owed to the state
          • Litigation affected: Watson Pharmaceutical; if bill becomes law, Division of Medicaid—not the AG—would investigate and file suit

All three bills have passed their originating body and await debate on the other side.

Author of HB 1238, Mark Baker stated that cases filed by Hood’s office have affected economic development in Mississippi.

 “AG’s throughout the country have taken what was supposed to relate to a day-to-day purpose and taken them as an alternate means to extort money out of businesses,” Baker said. “One person is affecting public policy in MS to the point that it affects economic development.”

Related: Bill could limit Attorney General’s authority

Hood responded to Baker’s comments by stating that lawmakers should find solutions to some of the state’s other issues.

“That’s just these corporate owned legislators, who are doing the corporate bidding just trying to make up something,” Hood said. “What’s hurting Mississippi businesses is the lack of patching up our roads and our education system; those are the two fundamental building blocks of business. I mean, If they want to do something about that, that’s what they ought to be tending to rather than trying to tend to the business of the courts and the office of the Attorney General.”

Hood warns of “devastating” consequences if these bills make their way into law, and he urges Mississippians to get involved.

“If people are going to take action about something happening at the capitol, now is the time,” Hood said. “These bills directly impact every Mississippian, and if they are signed into law, it would be devastating to everyone, including the people who are pushing this legislation. I was elected, just as other attorneys general before and after me, to protect you. I’m urging everyone to call their legislator to tell them to leave the AG’s office alone so that we can do our job protecting Mississippians as we have done long before I took office, and long after I leave.”

A portion of $32 million came from the fourth settlement in the Chris Epps/MDOC bribery scandal. Hood says that seven cases remain to be settled and could be affected if these bills advance.

Related: AG settles suit in Epps corruption case

The full press conference can be viewed below: