Read the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report: Pipeline Task Force Report.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Dan Wyant and Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the release of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report. The report calls for an immediate ban on transporting tar sands and heavy crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac pipelines, mandates full insurance coverage liability, requires an assessment of options to the Straits pipelines, requires Enbridge to disclose coverage pipeline safety reports and creates a public advisory board on pipeline safety. Read more here: Pipeline Task Force.
- Schuette Statement on Passing of Former Senator Harry Gast
- July 30, 2015
MIDLAND - Attorney General Schuette today issued the following statement on the passing of former Senator Harry Gast,
"Cynthia and I are saddened to hear of the death of Sen. Harry Gast. He was a tremendous friend and colleague as well as a true fighter and leader for Southwest Michigan. We extend our deepest sympathies to Jean and family and friends during this difficult time. "
- Schuette Charges Former Summit Pointe CEO for Spending $510,000 in Public Funds on Psychic Fortuneteller
- July 22, 2015
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Health Care Fraud (HCF) Division has charged Ervin Brinker, 68, of Delton, with two counts of Medicaid Fraud Conspiracy and one count of Embezzlement by a Public Officer, all ten-year felonies. Brinker was the CEO of Summit Pointe in Battle Creek until his termination by the Board of Directors on February 17, 2015. The Calhoun County Mental Health Authority, which does business as “Summit Pointe”, is a Community Mental Health Authority (CMHA) established by the Board of Commissioners of Calhoun County. The State contracts with Summit Pointe to provide mental health and behavioral health services to Medicaid consumers. Summit Pointe’s provider network includes Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, and Van Buren counties.
“Ensuring integrity in our health care system is critical to the safety of all Michigan citizens,” said Schuette. “Anyone attempting to skirt the law at the expense of patients and taxpayers will be identified and brought to justice. I would like to thank Summit Pointe for bringing this case to our attention and providing assistance and full cooperation to ensure this never happens again.”
Last December after an internal investigation, Summit Pointe disclosed their initial findings to Schuette’s HCF Division for an investigation. Summit Pointe records showed a total of $510,000 was dispersed by two separate contracts to pay a “health care consultant” in Key West, Florida between the dates of May 2011 and November 2012 for alleged consulting services.
As CEO, Brinker had the authority to contractually bind Summit Pointe without Board approval and he allegedly signed the fraudulent contracts without the consultation of other employees. Additionally, Brinker did not notify the Board of Directors of the alleged contracts.
The HCF investigation revealed that Brinker allegedly sent the $510,000 to a Key West psychic palm reader and her husband under the guise of health care consulting.
On July 21, 2015 in the City of East Lansing's 54B District Court, Schuette filed the following charges against Ervin Brinker, 68, of Delton:
- Two counts of Medicaid Fraud Conspiracy, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and/or a $5,000 fine; and,
- One count of Embezzlement by a Public Officer, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and/or a $5,000 fine.A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
On July 22, 2015, Brinker was arraigned before Judge Richard Ball in East Lansing’s 54B District Court and was released on a $25,000 personal recognizance bond. Brinker is next due in court on August 12, 2015 in Ingham Circuit Court.
- Schuette Statement on Jones Brothers Sentencing in Shannon Siders Case
- July 21, 2015
LANSING –Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today made the following statement in response to 27th Circuit Judge Anthony Monton’s sentencing of the two brothers convicted in the Shannon Siders murder case. Matthew Jones, 45, of Grant, and his brother, Paul Jones, 43, of Newaygo, were sentenced after being convicted of the 26-year-old cold case murder of Shannon Siders, 18, of Newaygo. The case was jointly prosecuted by Schuette’s Criminal Division and Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead.
“This conviction and sentencing is proof that no case is too cold for a successful prosecution of someone who robbed a young woman of her life,” said Schuette. "Justice was delayed for Shannon Siders and her family, but Matthew Jones will never have the chance to harm another young woman and Paul Jones will spend the next 30 to 75 years behind bars.”
Matthew Jones was convicted of First Degree Murder and was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole. Paul Jones was convicted of Second Degree Murder and was sentenced to incarceration for 30 to 75 years.
- Schuette, Wyant Call for Ban on Heavy Crude In The Mackinac Straits Pipelines And Independent Studies Of Current Risks And Future Options
- July 14, 2015
LANSING –Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Dan Wyant and Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the release of the Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report. The report calls for an immediate ban on transporting tar sands and heavy crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac pipelines, mandates full insurance coverage liability, requires an assessment of options to the Straits pipelines, requires Enbridge to disclose coverage pipeline safety reports and creates a public advisory board on pipeline safety.
“These recommendations are tough but fair and are clear about responsibilities every Michigan citizen has as a steward of the Great Lakes,” said Schuette. “Certainly, the Straits Pipelines would not be built today, so how many more tomorrows Line 5 should operate is limited in duration.”
“The Great Lakes are Michigan’s most precious resource and our top stewardship charge,” said Wyant. “While we recognize the importance of transporting energy to power Michigan communities, it cannot be at the expense of our environment. I am proud of this Task Force’s recommendations, which hold pipeline operators more accountable and provide additional protection for our environment.”
The report comes as the result of extensive information gathering, discussion and analysis by the multi-agency Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force. The task force produced thirteen recommendations, seeking to reduce short-term risks, give the State necessary information to evaluate the risks to the Straits from the current pipelines, and evaluate alternatives to the existing pipelines.
The Statewide Recommendations will require the action of the Governor, relevant state agencies, and the Michigan Legislature.
The Task Force made these key recommendations:
For the 5B Pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac:
- An immediate ban on transport of heavy crude oil and tar sands through the Straits Pipelines.
- Mandatory full insurance coverage on the Straits Pipeline to protect our waters.
- Examining options to the Straits Pipeline.
- Requiring disclosure of Enbridge safety inspections.
- Create a public advisory committee on pipeline safety.
For petroleum and gas pipelines across Michigan:
- Coordinate mapping of existing pipelines among state agencies.
- Ensure that state agencies collaborate on emergency planning and spill response.
- Ensure coordinated emergency response training exercises and drills
- Ensure regular state consultation with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on hazardous liquid (including petroleum) pipelines.
- Consider legislation requiring state review and approval of oil spill response plans, improved spill reporting, and more robust civil fines.
- Evaluate whether to establish a Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Program in Michigan.
- Consider legislation or rulemaking to improve siting process for new petroleum pipelines.
- Create a permanent Petroleum Pipeline Information website.
Pipeline Task Force Background
The Michigan Petroleum Pipeline Task Force was created by Wyant and Schuette in 2014 in response to safety concerns about various pipelines across Michigan.
In addition to the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Quality, the task force includes the Michigan Public Service Commission, Department of Natural Resources, DEQ's Office of the Great Lakes, Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.
In July 2014, Wyant and Schuette sent a formal notice to Enbridge addressing the requirement to install additional anchors for two oil pipelines laid in the Mackinac Straits more than sixty years ago.
View a PDF version of the report: www.michigan.gov/pipelinetaskforce
- Schuette Announces $136 Million State-Federal Settlement with Chase to Address Unlawful Credit Card Debt Collection
- July 8, 2015
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that Chase Bank USA N.A. and Chase Bankcard Services Inc. will reform its unlawful credit card debt collection practices through a $136 million joint state-federal settlement with Michigan and attorneys general in 47 states plus the District of Columbia, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
“Michigan families should never have to face unlawful credit card debt collection when they are already trying to make ends meet,” Schuette said. “I am pleased that as a result of this settlement, we are better able to protect consumers from unlawful credit card debt collection practices going forward. We will continue to aggressively pursue anyone seeking to skirt the rules at the expense of Michigan families and their hard-earned dollars.”
Allegations resolved by this settlement of Chase’s unlawful credit card debt collection include instances where the listed debt was the wrong amount, was tied to the wrong person, was discharged, time barred or very old—what’s often called ‘zombie debt.’ The joint state-federal agreement, through an assurance of voluntary discontinuance with the states and a separate order with the CFPB, follows an investigation into Chase’s past debt collection practices.
Agreement Requires Debt Collection Reforms
The agreement requires Chase to significantly reform its credit card debt collection practices in areas of declarations, collections litigation, debt sales and debt buying. Debt buying involves the sale of debt by creditors or other debt owners, often for pennies on the dollar, to buyers who then attempt to collect the debt at full value or sell it to other buyers.
Among other reforms, the agreement requires new safeguards to help ensure debt information is accurate and inaccurate data is corrected, provides additional information to consumers who owe debts, and bars Chase’s debt buyers from reselling consumer debts to other purchasers.
Investigation Uncovered Unlawful Debt Collection Practices
According to the joint state-federal probe, Chase:
- Subjected consumers to collections activity for accounts that were not theirs, in amounts that were incorrect or uncollectable.
- Subjected consumers to inaccurate credit reporting and unlawful judgments that may affect consumers’ ability to obtain credit, employment, housing and insurance in the future.
- Sold certain accounts to debt buyers that were inaccurate, settled, discharged in bankruptcy, not owed by the consumer, or otherwise uncollectable.
- Filed lawsuits and obtained judgments against consumers using false and deceptive affidavits and other documents that were prepared without following required procedures, a practice commonly referred to as ‘robo-signing.’ These practices misled consumers and courts and caused consumers to pay false or incorrect debt and incur legal expenses and court fees to defend against invalid or excessive claims.
- Made calculation errors when filing debt collection lawsuits that sometimes resulted in judgments against consumers for incorrect amounts.
Chase Suspended Credit Card Debt Sales and Collections Litigation
Chase suspended its consumer credit card debt sales in 2013 and collections litigation in 2011. In 2012 Chase maintained approximately 64.5 million open accounts with $124 billion in outstanding credit card debt. From 2009-2013, Chase recovered approximately $4.5 billion of debt from defaulted accounts through collection lawsuits, selling defaulted accounts to third-party debt buyers, or both.
Chase to Cease Collecting on an Estimated 12,953 Michigan Consumers, 528,000 Nationwide
Chase has agreed to cease all collection efforts on more than 528,000 consumers, including an estimated 12,953 in Michigan. Chase sued the affected consumers for credit card debts and obtained judgments between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. Chase will notify affected borrowers of the change and will request all three major credit reporting agencies to not report the judgments.
The agreement also ensures that Chase will fulfill $50 million in consumer restitution through a separate 2013 consent order reached with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Chase estimates that so far it has provided $600,000 in restitution to an estimated 570 consumers in Michigan.
If Chases’ consumer restitution through the OCC action falls short of $50 million by July 1, 2016, Chase must pay the remaining balance to state attorneys general and the CFPB.
Payment to States and CFPB
Chase will pay more than $95 million to the 47 participating states and the District of Columbia, an additional $11 million to the executive committee states that conducted the investigation and settlement negotiations, and $30 million to the CFPB. Michigan’s share is $3,159,564.
Consumers with Debt Collection Questions or Complaints
Debt collectors are bound by state and federal laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from consumers. Consumers may also have the option of pursuing claims in state or federal court.
How to File a Complaint:
- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette: Online at michigan.gov/ag or by phone at 517-373-1140, Toll free: 877-765-8388
Consumer Information Regarding Debt Collection Issues:
- “Debt Collection and Debt Collection Scams” Consumer Alert from Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection Team