As a Consumer Protection Chief, I am reminded daily just how much of an impact, either positive or negative, business practices have on consumers’ day-to-day lives. Whether it is a data breach of personal information or a bad customer experience, citizens have dozens of experiences as consumers every week. As a private practice litigator, I occasionally encountered frustration when a prospective client presented me with a consumer case that seemed to have merit but did not make sense practically to pursue. Because of the Consumer Protection Division’s unique statutory ability to aggregate consumers and claims and investigate unlawful business practices, we fill a necessary and critical role in pursing bad actors and ensuring that legitimate businesses can run and operate with limited interference.
I was born in Evansville, Indiana and grew up in Southern Indiana near the Ohio River. I attended Indiana University where I studied business at the Kelley School of Business. At business school, I became fascinated with studying and understanding the differences between good businesses and bad ones. While I was academically interested in business, I had always planned on attending law school. I attended law school in Ohio and had the opportunity to serve as a clerk in the Appellate Division of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. That clerkship fortunately and ultimately led to an attorney position that allowed me to work as a Deputy Attorney General in both appellate and trial litigation.
After six and a half years as a government litigator, I returned to my fascination with business by starting a law firm that focused on civil rights litigation and criminal defense work. Over the course of seven years, that firm grew rapidly, doubling in size. That accelerated growth was achieved in part through the utilization of technology and customer-oriented business practices. That hands-on experience demonstrated to me that a positive and authentic relationship with the client or customer is the key to a successful business.
By their nature, Consumer Protection Divisions are responsible for striking the balance between instilling confidence in the community and ensuring that bad actors are held accountable for their actions or inaction. How that balance is struck is significantly impacted by the communication between states to gain a full understanding of how or if businesses are similarly impacting other states and consumers. I am continually impressed with how well states use scarce and limited resources to successfully navigate new, seemingly ever-changing consumer issues. While many states often do not have the resources available to companies, they nonetheless use litigation effectively to effectuate important change.
In just six months since Attorney General Rokita has taken office, he has put liberty in action and demonstrated that protecting Hoosier consumers is a top priority for the Office and for the Consumer Protection Division. In April, AG Rokita launched an investigation against Big Tech and joined thirty-six other states in antitrust lawsuit against Google in July. And there is more work to be done.
While states have been successful in litigation, it can be difficult for consumers to fully appreciate the cost and time that goes into a lawsuit, particularly large-scale multi-state and mass tort litigation. In light of that cost, I expect that education and outreach will also continue to be an important tool for Attorneys General and their Consumer Protection teams. The public’s understanding and knowledge about consumer-related issues directly impact the number and quality of the consumer complaints made to Consumer Protection Divisions. It logically follows that outreach programs that timely report current scams and speak to reasonable expectations benefit both the prosecution of legitimate complaints and the prevention of unreasonable ones. While this is the time of year that my children are quick to propose that summers are their time off from learning, I believe that every day is an opportunity to educate and protect consumers.
Other articles in this edition include: