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Cheat Sheet: How to work productively with state attorneys general

Building a positive relationship with AGs can mitigate the risk of enforcement actions or investigations


State attorneys general have been involved in some blockbuster settlements over the past decades, including a 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies and, more recently, deals related to the mortgage crisis, off-label drug marketing and more. Recent regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Protection and Reform Act and the Consumer product Safety Act have given state AGs even more enforcement power.

What are the benefits of building a relationship with state attorneys general?

Because AGs have broad discretion when launching investigations or actions against companies, they may be willing to work with companies to come up with collaborative solutions to misconduct. In the tobacco settlement, for instance, companies agreed to change their marketing practices, give money to non-smoking campaigns and more.

How much do state AGs collaborate with each other?

Quite a bit. Through the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), state AGs can easily share information on investigations or best practices with their counterparts in other states.  This collaboration can spell difficulty for companies if an AG action in one state prompts other states to join in on the inquiry, but, on the plus side, companies may face one consolidated action rather than multiple lawsuits.

Are AGs willing to meet face-to-face with in-house counsel?

By and large, experts say, AGs are more accessible than federal government officials, since they have local offices. In-house counsel can also get face-time with their state attorneys general at meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General.

What if an AG isn’t aligned with a company’s political stance?

It’s worth paying attention to an AG’s political party, as it could be an indication of their outlook on various issues affecting business. But AGs can have vastly differing priorities and enforcement styles, even if they hold roughly the same political beliefs.

Alanna Byrne

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Associate Editor

Melissa Maleske

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