The Year in Review: A Message from Attorney General Tong
I wish all a safe and healthy holiday and a happy new year.
This past fiscal year, the Office of the Attorney General returned $557 million back to the state, constituents, and businesses — 17 times our operating cost. We helped lead the second largest multi-state cash settlement in history to fight the opioid epidemic, brokered agreements to lower sky-high utility bills, led the fight against the social media giants who have put our kids’ mental and physical safety at risk, and recovered millions in public healthcare dollars lost to fraud and abuse. Our Consumer Assistance Unit secured over $2 million in direct restitution to Connecticut families who called for help with travel disruptions, cancelled reservations, and unscrupulous businesses. Our attorneys worked around the clock to advise the Governor on the state’s pandemic response, and saved taxpayers immeasurable sums defending the state against legal challenges large and small. Nothing is more important than the lifesaving work of our child protection team defending our state’s most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.
I could not be prouder of the 309 attorneys, paralegals, and support staff who gave their all this year to make Connecticut a stronger, safer, and more prosperous state for everyone. But I am ever mindful of the more than 9,000 lives —family, friends, and colleagues — lost to COVID-19, and the frontline doctors, nurses, and medical staff spending their holidays in hospitals to keep struggling patients alive. The intense grief, anxiety, and pressure bearing down on families and businesses has not subsided, and our work to push back against those forces is more vital than ever.
There is too much to fit here, but I wanted to share with you just a few highlights of our work over this past year.
Seismic Victories Against the Addiction Industry
A federal judge has vacated the deeply flawed bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma that granted unprecedented lifetime legal immunity to the Sackler family. Connecticut led this seismic victory for justice and accountability that will re-open the Purdue bankruptcy and force the Sackler family to confront the devastation they caused. We will not let the Sacklers manipulate the bankruptcy code to preserve their yachts, mansions, art, and jewelry while our families suffer and grieve. When I speak to the parents who have lost their children and the people who will spend the rest of their lifetimes in recovery fighting addiction, they tell me to continue fighting for justice. That is why I testified before Congress to change our nation’s bankruptcy laws, and why we will not give up our fight in court.
While the Purdue fight continues, Connecticut will see millions of dollars in opioid funding through two major settlements we helped lead this year:
Distributors: Pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson enabled the flood of deadly addictive painkillers into our communities. They will pay $26 billion, including approximately $300 million to Connecticut over the next 18 years to fund treatment, prevention, and recovery programs. This is the second largest multi-state cash settlement in history, second only to the historic tobacco settlement.
McKinsey & Company: The consulting giant will pay $573 million, including $7.5 million to Connecticut, over the next five years for their role in advising Purdue Pharma in turbocharging the opioid epidemic.
Protecting Connecticut Youth from Social Media and Big Tech Pressures
As a father of three, I’ve seen firsthand how harmful social media is for our kids, and how difficult it is for parents to manage these risks. We are putting tremendous pressure on social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to protect our children and families, and to stop the spread of dangerous disinformation. We have filed antitrust lawsuits to end Facebook and Google’s illegal monopolies and are part of a nationwide investigation into Facebook — now Meta — for providing and promoting Instagram to children and young adults despite knowing that such use is associated with physical and mental health harms.
I have had repeated discussions with TikTok leadership regarding the dangerous and disruptive viral challenges encouraging youth to engage in school vandalism, self-harm, and reckless risks. While TikTok leaders have assured me that they have robust systems in place to police their content, I have made clear that whatever they have been doing is not enough. I have urged TikTok to send leaders to Connecticut to hear firsthand from parents, educators, and students and expect that discussion will take place early next year.
Holding Down Costs for Connecticut Families
Connecticut families pay far too much for our prescription drugs, health insurance, energy, internet, and the everyday groceries and goods we need to survive. We are doing everything we can to hold down those costs.
This year, we brokered two agreements with Eversource and United Illuminating that will stabilize electric distribution rates through 2023 — saving Connecticut families millions of dollars.
Eversource: Eversource’s abysmal response to Tropical Storm Isaias put our communities at risk. We fought for maximum penalties, and as a result Eversource must return $103.4 million back to Connecticut families, including two credits ratepayers will see immediately on their December and January bills. An additional $10 million will be deployed to help families facing service disconnection.
United Illuminating: The agreement we negotiated with United Illuminating fully avoided what would have been a big increase in bills last spring. Instead, we reached a deal where UI will contribute $5 million of their own funds and return $41.55 million in federal tax savings to decrease and stabilize electric distribution rates into 2023.
Retail crime: We have seen a surge nationwide in large-scale organized retail crime — high volume and coordinated thefts feeding a resale market enabled by lax enforcement policies on online marketplaces like Facebook and Amazon. These crimes have put retail workers at risk and increased prices for everyone. I joined Governor Lamont and law enforcement in forming the Connecticut Organized Retail Crime Taskforce to convene online marketplaces, retailers, and law enforcement to combat this growing threat to consumers, workers, and businesses.
Prescription drug prices: We pay too much for our prescription drugs, and part of the reason is a broken and dysfunctional marketplace. We continue to lead a coalition of 55 states and territories in a series of antitrust cases against the world’s largest generic drug manufacturers who have fixed prices and illegally restrained competition for hundreds of drugs.
Health insurance costs: When insurers sought to dramatically increase rates for both individuals and small groups, we fought back before the Connecticut Insurance Department. As a result, those increases were cut dramatically. I’m not convinced any increase was warranted, and we expect to be even more involved in this important work in the future.
Stopping Intrusive and Obnoxious Robocalls
Robocalls are more than just obnoxious and intrusive — they are a real public safety threat that leads to stolen identities, and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses nationwide. We have updated our website to allow consumers to directly submit audio recordings of these calls.
Working with other states and the telecom industry over the past two years, we blocked over 52 billion spam calls and initiated hundreds of domestic and international investigations nationwide to identify, stop, and bring these scammers to justice. We announced one such action this past year against Associated Community Services. This massive telefunding operation bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion deceptive fundraising calls and deceptively took in over $110 million falsely claiming to support veterans, children, firefighters, and other causes. The scammers have been permanently prohibited from any future fundraising work. We hit them with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, resulting in the forced sales of their vacation homes and boats purchased with the proceeds of their illegal acts.
Bipartisan Legislative Victories
The Office of the Attorney General had an active and successful session in the state legislature.
Civil Rights: With bipartisan support, we successfully spearheaded legislation to formally recognize the Attorney General’s role in combating hate and defending civil rights. We are ready to take on this important work and to proactively seek justice for those whose rights and liberties are under attack.
Data Privacy: Data breaches, including those involving ransom demands, are now a ubiquitous modern threat to businesses and consumers. This past year, our data privacy team reviewed approximately 1,500 data breach notifications alone. We passed legislation this year to modernize and broaden the definition of “personal information” to bring added protection to medical information, online account information, passport numbers, military identification, and health insurance account numbers.
Price Gouging: Since the start of the pandemic, we received over 750 COVID-related price gouging complaints, but limitations on the state’s price gouging statutes curtailed our ability to crack down on the some of the worst actors. Our legislation to strengthen state price gouging statutes received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, but was not addressed in the Senate before session ended. We will continue this fight in the new year.
Defending our Climate and Environment
For four years, this office has been on the front lines of an all-out attack on our nation’s bedrock environmental protection regulations. From protecting endangered species to reducing dangerous emissions, we successfully fought back against a radical and partisan agenda. January brought a new federal administration and new hope for our climate and environment. After years of litigation, we reached an agreement with the Biden administration that commits the EPA to long-overdue steps to protect Connecticut’s air quality from cross-state pollution. We are supporting the EPA and pushing the agency to take stronger action now against “forever chemical” PFAS contamination, vehicle emissions standards, and more.
Our case against ExxonMobil remains strong and we are currently working to move the case back to state court where it belongs. ExxonMobil engaged in an ongoing, systematic campaign of lies and deception to hide from the public what they knew for decades — that burning fossil fuels undeniably contributes to climate change. We are seeking to hold ExxonMobil accountable for these unfair and deceptive practices, to force civil penalties, disgorgement of profits, and full disclosure of their climate research. They must stop their lies.
Firewall for Choice, Safety, and Democracy
In the face of coordinated, partisan legal attacks nationwide, our office has worked closely with attorneys general across the country to form the firewall defending reproductive choice, commonsense gun safety, and the legitimacy of our democratic processes.
This past year, ten states have enacted draconian bans on pre-viability abortions in a coordinated assault upon the reproductive freedom of women and patients. We are in multiple fights in courts across the nation, including the Supreme Court. We will continue to do whatever it takes to protect a person’s right to choose no matter where they live or who they are.
Courts have repeatedly recognized the rights of states to enact commonsense gun laws to protect public safety. But that has not stopped radical fronts for the gun industry from pursuing challenges to basic measures like age restrictions, concealed carry licenses, and ghost gun regulations. We are working with states across the country to defend reasonable and necessary laws to keep our communities safe.
Not yet one year ago, we witnessed terrorists and traitors, enabled by the former President and his allies in Congress, breach the walls of the U.S. Capitol. The attacks on our democracy and the legitimacy of our elections have not subsided, and disinformation about our elections spreads rampant and unchecked on social media. We are fighting in the Supreme Court and federal courts across the country to beat back unconstitutional and politically-motivated voter suppression laws to protect the rights of all to cast their ballots in free and fair elections.
Protecting Seniors from Fraud and Abuse
This year, we joined the Coalition for Elder Justice in Connecticut and our partner state agencies in launching the Elder Justice Hotline. Whether it is age-based discrimination in the workplace, or scams, fraud, elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, our hotline can help. Our Consumer Assistance Unit staffs the hotline and refers matters to agencies across state government. The hotline can be reached at 1-860-808-5555. Individuals may also access information about the hotline, resources, and an online complaint portal here: https://portal.ct.gov/ag/elderhotline
This year, and every year, I am enormously proud to lead the best team of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff of any law firm, of any state. We may be among the smallest offices nationwide, but we punch above our weight, and we fight hard because we know that the work we do makes a difference for families across Connecticut.
From helping with canceled travel refunds to taking on unscrupulous home improvement contractors, we are here to help. Whether you have been a victim of a scam, are having trouble with a medical bill or insurance, can't figure out your student loan repayment options, or have an issue with your landlord please reach out to our office at 860-808-5420 or by email at email@example.com.