I joined the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office in August of 2016, after ten years of private practice in Nashville. Earlier that year, on a dark and stormy night, my car had broken down on the edge of town. I walked to a roadside bar to wait for a tow truck, where I ended up shooting pool with a man that others called “Scratch.” As we played, we talked. I told him about my wife, Stacia, our two sons, James and Oliver, and our two dogs. I told him I worked at a law firm, where I loved the people but wished that I felt more that my cases mattered. Scratch nodded and smiled. Then he zipped his pool cue up and said his night shift at the chili factory started soon. But as he turned to leave, he handed me a card, and winked. The name on the card said “Jeff Hill.” I called his number the next day, and the rest is history.
All kidding aside, I figured out early on that consumer protection is the place to be. In the early 90s, my uncle was taken in by one of the pioneers of the Nigerian prince scam. During a college internship, I worked with a DA’s office in my hometown in Florida responding to reports of all sorts of unfair business practices. After law school, I spent a few years in DC doing antitrust work at DOJ. In 2005, I left for the greener and more affordable pastures of Tennessee, where live music is always in the air and the hiking is terrific. And though I may have taken a little poetic license in the first paragraph, it really was Jeff who opened the door for my return to public service in 2016.
At the Tennessee AG’s office, the Consumer Protection Division handles a wide range of issues. In addition to traditional UDAP matters, we also handle antitrust and the unauthorized practice of law. Our division also leads the office’s efforts to bring accountability to those in the marketplace who are responsible for Tennessee’s opioids epidemic. We have an incredible team that includes two team leaders, seventeen staff attorneys, four paralegals, an investigator, and an administrative assistant. Our division also includes a special eight-person unit that fields consumer complaints, administers a voluntary mediation program, and conducts consumer education and outreach. We’ve been lucky to have an Attorney General who is very supportive of our division’s work; General Slatery has, himself, served in leadership roles at NAAG on antitrust and consumer protection, and directed considerable attention to addressing opioids and consumer privacy issues.
During my first few years with the office, I focused primarily on antitrust, including the generic drug price fixing multistate and the Facebook and Google antitrust cases. In October 2021, General Slatery asked Jeff to coordinate multistate initiatives from an executive position in the Suite, and (maybe after misreading his notes) asked me to lead the division. I’m not stepping into Jeff’s shoes, because he’s still here wearing them. But I aim to follow in his footsteps as a practical and caring leader. Taking on this role has been a humbling experience, and there’s still so much that’s new. But with great support from NAAG, from Jeff and others in my front office, and from a dedicated team, we’re beginning to hit our stride.
I love the collaborative nature of our office and of our multistate work. And though the need for consumer protection (sadly) only grows, I’m excited as I see new opportunities to work together to benefit the people of our state. So, I count myself lucky that I met Scratch on that dark and stormy night. Between the people and the work, this is the best job I’ve ever had.
Other articles in this edition include:
- Vigilance and Collaboration: The Continued Battle to Eliminate Robocalls
- Attorney General Consumer Protection News: July 2022
- Federal Consumer Protection News: July 2022