Editors' Note: This is the fifth in our start-of-year series examining important trends in white collar law and investigations in the coming year. Our previous entry discussed False Claims Act trends in 2020. Up next: a look at the year ahead in cross-border compliance and sanctions. Look for additional posts throughout the month of January.
2019 marked the beginning of Maura Healey's second term as Massachusetts Attorney General. So far, this term has seen an increased focus on issues surrounding climate change and e-cigarettes, and a continued focus on healthcare fraud. We expect to see even more focus on these areas in 2020.
Expect More Climate Change-Related Enforcement
Healey's inaugural address listed climate change as one of the top priorities in her second term, stating in no uncertain terms that "we won't let the federal government and the fossil fuel industry undermine our progress and wreck our planet." 2019 didn't disappoint on the federal government front, as the AG's Office filed numerous environment-related federal lawsuits against the Trump administration and provided many comments on proposed rules by the EPA and other federal agencies that the Office viewed as curtailing climate change protections.
But while the year's enforcement efforts against the fossil fuel industry might have started with a whimper, they ended with a bang: in late October, the AG's Office filed suit against Exxon Mobil, alleging the oil giant misled both investors and consumers about "the catastrophic climate impacts of burning fossil fuels." In particular, the office alleged that Exxon deceived its investors by misrepresenting that it factored the costs of complying with carbon regulations into its financial planning. The AG also alleged that Exxon deceived consumers by both making misleading statements that its diesel and gasoline products reduce greenhouse gas emissions and by engaging in a marketing campaign that inaccurately presented itself as a leader in clean energy research.
Given Healey's vow to tackle the fossil fuel industry and its recent major action against Exxon Mobil, we expect to see more enforcement efforts targeting private entities in 2020.
E-Cigarette Enforcement is on the Rise
In July of 2018, the AG's Office announced it would investigate e-cigarette retailers for possible consumer...