State Attorneys General

  • Holland & Knight's State Attorneys General Practice provides CEOs, corporate legal officers and other clients with legal and regulatory advice when dealing with attorneys general and other state agencies across the United States.
  • We have bipartisan experience in state capitals and have filled our roster with lawyers who have held high-level positions in both major parties, providing us with insight no matter which side is in power.
  • Holland & Knight has been active in state investigations, litigation, enforcement actions and policy advocacy in numerous states at any given time during the past several years.
State Attorneys General banner

Overview

Holland & Knight's State Attorneys General Practice is led and staffed by lawyers with leadership experience and relationships at the highest levels of state governments. We know how state attorney general (AG) offices and related state agencies function because many of our attorneys played significant roles in running those departments. One of our group's co-leaders managed 500 attorneys in a state office of general counsel that served as counsel to 36 state agencies, boards and commissions. Another co-leader led a state AG division that advised state secretariats comprising more than 150 agencies, boards and authorities. Our ongoing relationships with AG offices across the U.S. often result in our practice mitigating problems for our clients in the early stages of investigations or enforcement actions.

This kind of experience extends throughout our practice and across offices. Our group includes numerous former assistant or deputy AGs, as well as others who served in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or in advisory roles to Congress and federal agencies.

A wealth of experience translates into an understanding of how state enforcement agencies reach decisions, how we can work with them to reach favorable resolutions for clients and how to advise on risk management strategies that achieve compliance while still allowing clients to accomplish their business goals.

Bipartisan Approach Ensures Enduring Relationships with State AGs

Our team understands that our clients need representation that is effective, regardless of which party is in power. We have filled our roster with attorneys who have credentials and ongoing relationships at the highest levels of both political parties in states, Congress and the White House. Our practice includes a former senior associate counsel to the President of the United States and Republican governors, as well as attorneys who served as national and state-level leaders in the Democratic Party. While political winds may shift periodically, we won't lose access to decision-makers when administrations change. The inclusive nature of our practice has garnered respect across party lines, and it strengthens our effectiveness and continuity in representing clients.

Investigations

Attorneys general have become increasingly aggressive in using their broad investigative powers, prompting billions of dollars in settlements and fines over the past decade. Enforcement actions often can be mitigated by early involvement in investigations. Our lawyers regularly represent clients in matters that are likely to attract media attention, and we consider our legal advice in the context of reputation preservation and crisis management. During the past several years, we have represented clients in attorney general investigations in a number of states, including California, Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Members of our team have experience, both as assistant AGs and as defense attorneys, in handling AG and other state agency investigations in most industries and types of matters. This includes allegations of bank fraud, board self-dealing, securities violations, procurement and contracting disputes, theft and embezzlement, cybercrime and data breaches, healthcare reimbursement compliance, environmental claims, qui tam claims, government contracts and procurement, campaign finance, election laws, environmental crimes and interagency litigation. We also have advised clients on Title IX sex discrimination and sexual assault claims at state universities, as well as compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other student privacy and conduct issues.

Policy and Regulation

State AGs often drive legislation and policy, and their opinions may be pivotal as legislators and governors consider changes that impact businesses. Team members have served as staff legislative advisers to AGs and to state legislators, governors, members of Congress and the president, and have firsthand experience in shaping the rules and regulations that impact our clients' industries. Our bipartisan relationships open doors, and our knowledge and experience enable us to make the best case for our clients' businesses.

Advocacy often requires a simultaneous push at state capitals and in Washington, D.C. Holland & Knight's State Attorneys General practice works closely with our nationally recognized Public Policy & Regulation Group, one of the largest and most respected government affairs groups in the nation's capital. The Public Policy group has helped shape – and in some cases, drafted – regulations and laws that are key to the viability of every major industry, touching areas related to healthcare, the environment, financial services and the recent pandemic-related stimulus programs.

Broad Industry and Matter Experience

Our attorneys, working in concert with colleagues in more than 200 Holland & Knight practices in 24 U.S. offices, bring skill and experience to every type of matter that comes through state AG offices. Examples include:

Consumer protection: AGs often join together in powerful and complex multistate consumer litigation. We have litigated and reached favorable settlements in numerous consumer matters brought both by individual state AGs and collective, multistate litigation. These actions sometimes are pursued jointly with federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and our practice includes attorneys who formerly held key positions at these and related agencies.

False Claims Act: Most states now have false claims acts modeled after the federal statute, usually with qui tam provisions that encourage whistleblower claims and often result in extensive discovery and potentially huge damages. Healthcare companies have been the primary target, and we have defended hospitals and other providers in these actions.

Data security incidents: We advise companies on data incident response, in giving notice of breaches and maintaining compliance with the patchwork of state and federal regulations that govern cybersecurity. This is an evolving area where we expect to see more activity, and our practice draws on the knowledge of a robust nationwide cybersecurity practice.

Healthcare: State AGs play a major oversight role in healthcare mergers, investigating fraud and complying with federal programs such as the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. We advise healthcare clients on building compliance programs and defend them vigorously against enforcement actions.

Amicus briefs: Trade groups and companies often can have an impact on appellate cases that affect their industries by submitting amicus briefs to the courts. Appellate attorneys who have argued at the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous state high courts to assert clients' interests are part of our practice.

Environment: Litigation and rulemaking are major concerns of many businesses that touch the environment. On the policy side, we carry clients' concerns to regulators, encouraging them to make rules that both protect the environment and preserve businesses, and we are vigorous advocates for those who face enforcement actions.

Antitrust: State attorneys general have broad discretion in bringing antitrust actions to block mergers or to address anticompetitive business practices. They often collaborate with the FTC or DOJ, or run parallel investigations. Our practice has direct experience in state and federal antitrust enforcement and investigations.

Representative Matters

  • Represented a U.S. cigarette importer in its entry into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement reached by the four largest U.S. tobacco companies and numerous state AGs; advised on the ongoing Master Settlement Agreement as well as FTC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulatory compliance.
  • Represented a pharmaceutical company in a False Claims Act investigation brought by a state AG.
  • Defended against a state AG investigation of environmental claims under the FTC's Green Guides; the client was allowed to continue sales with no changes to its existing product, and an agreement was reached on future product sales.
  • Defended a medical device company in an investigation by a state AG claiming deception under the state's consumer protection statute.
  • Achieved summary judgment on behalf of a publicly traded multinational client in a federal action brought by a state AG seeking in excess of $100 million in damages.
  • Represented a medical device company in a state AG investigation under a state consumer protection statute.
  • Represented corporations and trade associations in response to civil investigative demands and grand jury investigations by the DOJ and state AGs.
  • Litigated and obtained an order rejecting all claims raised by a state AG alleging market manipulation in violation of sections 206, 306 and 307 of the Federal Power Act.
  • Defended Apollo Theatre Foundation in an investigation brought by the New York AG.
  • Defended a medical device company in a state AG investigation and advised on public relations due to media coverage of the case.
  • Successful negotiation of a settlement in consumer protection litigation brought by the Pennsylvania AG involving deceptive marketing practices; investigations by the AGs of Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Missouri and New York were closed.
  • Successful negotiation of settlements in investigations by the California and Washington state AGs in matters concerning allegations of deceptive/unfair advertising and marketing practices.
  • Defense of a major pharmaceutical company in an investigation by the New York AG concerning rebates and other consumer protection matters.
  • Defense of an automobile dealership marketing company in a multistate investigation led by the AGs of Georgia and Idaho concerning allegations of deceptive/unfair advertising and marketing practices.
  • Defense of a debt collection agency in an investigation concerning unfair and deceptive business practices by the New York AG.
  • Defense of a debt collection agency in an investigation concerning unfair and deceptive business practices by the Pennsylvania AG.
  • Defense of a debt buyer in an investigation concerning unfair and deceptive business practices by the West Virginia AG.
  • Defense of a clothing retailer in separate investigations by AGs in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, South Dakota and Vermont concerning alleged deceptive/unfair advertising and marketing practices in connection with an advertising promotion.

News and Headlines