For the first time since 2002, Colorado elected a Democrat, Phil Weiser, to serve as attorney general. The prevailing wisdom is that this development portends more aggressive regulation and enforcement and, in the current political climate, increased actions against the federal government.
Certainly, that will be the case with Weiser — he has already talked about expanding efforts to hold industry participants accountable for the opioid epidemic, increasing penalties for companies perpetrating financial scams and generally looking to file more actions against companies put- ting consumers at risk, intentionally or recklessly. He’s also joined a number of lawsuits opposing the federal government’s actions related to the environment and health care.
We should expect him to also join in consumer protection-related lawsuits against the federal government brought by other Democratic attorneys general, including a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education for not enforcing an Obama-era rule designed to provide information regarding rates of post-graduation employment of for profit college and vocational program students.
Moreover, state attorneys general frequently provide comments letters on proposed federal laws and rules, and we should expect to see Weiser sign or co-sponsor comments reflecting opposition to less consumer-friendly initiatives, such as proposed laws that would preempt state consumer protection law applicability to federal student loan services. Businesses should be looking to these letters and comments as indicators of Weiser’s priorities and his willingness to push the enforcement envelope.
Finally, given his strong antitrust and technology focus throughout his career, we should look for Weiser to be a leader in multi-state actions related to these areas, particularly in antitrust actions addressing the dominance of certain technology platforms, and multi-state investigations of data privacy concerns.
This is not to say that businesses should just be preparing for closer scrutiny of their practices. Weiser has also repeatedly referenced community partnerships as a way to accomplish his objectives, and he supports in- novation and entrepreneurialism, including citing to those principles as a reason to hold bad actors accountable so businesses are free to grow and in- novate on a level playing eld.
His founding of Silicon Flatirons at the University of Colorado Boulder, which brings together students, academics and industry participants to drive innovation in technology law and policy, illustrates his dedication to both public-private partnership and innovation. This means that businesses should not only be taking a fresh eye to their legal compliance but also should be thinking about
ways they can participate in Weiser’s agenda. Below are a few areas Weiser will likely be addressing with a combination of enforcement and community involvement.
Weiser emphasized his dedication to addressing the opioid crisis on the campaign trail and continues to list this as a top priority for his administration. He will aggressively prosecute the lawsuit his predecessor, Cynthia Coffman, led against Purdue Pharma (manufacturer of Oxycontin) and indicated at the Colorado Department of Law’s Joint Budget Committee hearing that he wants to expand this lawsuit to include other opioid manufacturers, distributors and possibly others in pharmaceutical sales and distribution, similar to lawsuits several Colorado cities and counties led last month. But Weiser has also mentioned looking at improving and expanding treatment.