Just before I walk (or log) out of meetings, I often tell my colleagues “I love my job.”
Why? First, my consumer protection teammates are incredibly dedicated and committed to working together. Second, the problems that we tackle tangibly impact the lives of the people of Colorado. And third, we deal with interesting, often cutting-edge legal issues and problems.
I grew up in Colorado. My roots are here. In the 1880s, my great-great-grandfather came to Colorado to work in the mining towns. While I spent some time away from the state, it’s great to be back and to be working with such an incredible team of public servants dedicated to improving the lives of our state’s residents through innovation and a collaborative spirit.
I practiced in a large international firm for over 20 years based in Denver and worked on class actions involving consumer protection and antitrust issues. I was fortunate to serve as the chair of litigation for the firm and then took a break from practicing law. I moved to Washington, DC, to serve in the Obama administration for an agency that fostered economic development in poor countries. I then went back to the same law firm, except that I stayed in DC and focused even more on consumer issues in the financial sector.
My first significant contact with the Colorado Department of Law pitted me in litigation against the state when Ken Salazar (later Senator, Interior Secretary, and now Ambassador to Mexico) was the attorney general and Christine Arguello (now a U.S. District Court judge) was the chief deputy. Through the Colorado Lawyers Committee, I was lead counsel in a case challenging funding for schools, particularly in rural areas of the state, that were literally falling down. The assistant attorneys general were professional and capable adversaries who valiantly defended their clients. After three days of trial, reported on the front pages of the local newspapers, Christine Arguello then guided a negotiated settlement with us where the legislature approved significant supplemental funding. It was a win for school children in Colorado.
Having been a litigator for my entire career with a yearning for public interest litigation, having spent time in government, and with my practice more and more focusing on compliance counseling, taking the leap to work at the Colorado Department of Law was a good fit and logical step in my career.
We are fortunate to have visionary leaders in Attorney General Phil Weiser and our Chief Deputy Natalie Hanlon Leh, who inspire our team and empower us to do great work. I am particularly proud of the accomplishments of our team over the last few years with examples including working with a number of state businesses to assure fair treatment of consumers in response to Covid-19 cancellations; protecting consumers from claims of fake Covid-19 cures and fake testing; initiating cases and providing counseling to protect student loan borrowers; advocating for lower consumer electrical rates and more environmentally sound policies before the Public Utilities Commission; obtaining significant payouts to abate the opioid crisis from companies such as McKinsey and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen; recovering money for consumers and changing statewide business practices related to fake and deceptive fees; recovering substantial sums and supporting a homeless project as part of a bid-rigging settlement; and stopping rent-a-bank high-interest loan schemes.
We focus on more than litigation. We do a lot of consumer education and outreach. We conducted a year-long study to help identify problems related to the high cost of insulin. We worked with our Department of Law (DOL) legislative team and members of the state legislature to pass important legislation including only one of three state data privacy laws–along with California and Virginia–and that we now will be implementing through education, rulemaking, and enforcement. The legislature also passed ground-breaking laws to protect consumers against deceptive auto-renew contracts and to establish an Office of Consumer Financial Empowerment.
In the DOL’s Consumer Protection Section, we also have a significant number of non-lawyer professional staff including our investigators, paralegals, and administrative team. We have a group of financial sector investigators and examiners who supervise non-bank lenders, debt collectors, mortgage servicers and student loan servicers. They conduct examinations and take corrective action administratively, which allows us to have a much more efficient impact for Coloradans than we could through traditional litigation. These folks work very closely with our enforcement lawyers who provide advice and go to court as required. This multi-disciplinary approach and collaboration with other units within our Consumer Protection Section facilitates more creative and efficient work for the people of Colorado.
I am often amazed by and grateful for the incredibly intelligent, hardworking, public service-oriented team that we have at the Colorado Department of Law. Our work involves great challenges and offers significant personal satisfaction from a dedication to our mission and the opportunity to represent the people of the state of Colorado. That commitment, combined with our collaboration and opportunities for innovation, allows us to continue to produce cutting-edge legal work consistent with our department’s vision: “To serve the people of Colorado, advancing the rule of law, protecting our democracy, and promoting justice for all.” I love my job.
Other articles in this edition include:
- The Relentless Battle to Eliminate Robocalls
- Attorney General Consumer Protection News: September 2021
- Federal Consumer Protection News: September 2021