Attorney General Jim Hood announced the fourth settlement of the civil suits in the MDOC-Christopher Epps prison bribery scandal and deposited $32.1 million into the state’s general fund Tuesday, in the midst of the Legislature attempting to strip his Constitutional authority to go after corporate wrongdoers. General Hood is calling on Mississippians to contact their lawmakers and say, “Leave our AG alone!”
A portion of the check includes another settlement in the Epps case for $750,000 from CGL Facility Management, LLC, which is a company that provides facility management, project management, and corrective and preventative maintenance services to correctional facilities. The CGL settlement is the fourth of 11 civil actions to be settled in the Epps bribery scandal, and Tuesday’s deposit included $3.9 million from those cases.
The largest portion of the check delivered Tuesday is $25.3 million from a recently announced settlement with Watson Pharmaceutical, which sold overpriced drugs to the state’s Medicaid program, costing taxpayers $7 million.
The money sent to the general fund covers 21 cases (attached) settled by the attorney general with the majority of those cases involving violations under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). That act is what protects Mississippians from being taken advantage of by corporations who have lied to customers, inflated their prices, and allowed safety measures to go unenforced, among other things. A number of bills currently pending in the state Legislature would remove the power of the attorney general to take these wrongdoers to court, thus resulting in not only losing billions of dollars to the state but, more importantly, fewer protections for Mississippians.
“This isn’t kids’ games, and should not be dismissed as just partisan politics,” said General Hood. “This is a billion dollars of the people’s money. The legislators driving these bills are attempting to give taxpayer money to corporations. We don’t want to believe it, but you can see corporations writing our laws. This should shock the conscience of republicans and democrats alike. With a billion dollars on the line, no reasonable prosecutor would dismiss the possibility of bribes, kickbacks, and campaign contributions being offered.”
House Bills 1238 and 1177 and Senate Bill 2295 each attack the attorney general’s authority by attempting to weaken or remove the office’s prosecutorial authority, in various ways, by uprooting his ability to fight for Mississippians under the MCPA and without getting prior approval from other agencies. The following is a short description of what each bill would do and non-exhaustive examples of how previously settled or pending litigation would be affected if these laws were in place:
- HB 1238
o 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
o 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
o 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
Many state agencies do not generally have resources needed to investigate and prosecute and could use different theories, that’s why the AG is tasked with representing the state
“If people are going to take action about something happening at the capitol, now is the time,” said General Hood. “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.”
The number to the Capitol Switchboard is 601-359-3770, and constituents who wish to share the message on social media are asked to use #LeaveOurAGAlone
Attorney General Jim Hood Press Release