Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led a 25-state coalition in a lawsuit over a Department of Labor rule which would affect the retirement accounts of millions of people. The rule would allow 401(k) managers to direct their clients’ money to ESG (Environmental Social Governance) investments and runs contrary to the laws outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
“The Biden Administration is promoting its climate change agenda by putting everyday people’s retirement money at risk,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Americans are already suffering from the current economic downturn. Permitting asset managers to direct hard-working Americans’ money to ESG investments puts trillions of dollars of retirement savings at risk in exchange for someone else’s political agenda. We are acting with urgency on this case because this illegal rule is set to take effect next week. It must be stopped.”
The new rule, “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights,” will take effect on January 30, 2023. Two-thirds of the U.S. population’s retirement savings accounts would be affected, totaling $12 trillion in assets. Strict laws placed in ERISA are intended to protect retirement savings from unnecessary risk.
From the complaint: “[T]he 2022 Investment Duties Rule makes changes that authorize fiduciaries to consider and promote “nonpecuniary benefits” when making investment decisions. Contrary to Congress’s clear intent, these changes make it easier for fiduciaries to act with mixed motives. They also make it harder for beneficiaries to police such conduct.”
The 25 states joining Utah Attorney General Reyes in this lawsuit are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Today, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Taberon Honie on Utah’s death row for the brutal killing of his girlfriend’s mother, Claudia Benn, in 1998.
Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak made arguments to the Court, centering on whether Honie’s sentence was correctly performed, which the 10th Circuit ruled it was, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a 20-state coalition that is suing the Biden Administration over a new Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) program that unlawfully creates a de facto pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of aliens.
The DHS program would effectively establish a new visa system that would allow for up to 360,000 aliens from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to be “paroled” into the United States every year. But Congress has authorized parole only for foreign aliens who meet very specific standards that have not been met in this instance. Yet, contrary to existing law, the program creates a pathway for program participants to apply from their home country and gain lawful status to enter and stay in the U.S. for up to two years, or even longer.
The Biden Administration also instituted this program without engaging in the usual notice and comment rulemaking process required by law. This constitutes yet another episode in which the Administration has abused its executive authority in furtherance of its disastrous immigration policy.
Statement from the Office of the Attorney General:
“Utah is not suing the Administration because we are anti-immigrant. We want as many people of good will from other nations to come legally and enjoy the liberties and opportunities my own father was blessed to have when he came to this country. But only Congress has the legal power to change the requirements of the DHS parole statutes.
DHS parole statutes have been in place and working for decades through both Democrat and Republican Administrations. The new Biden approach severely relaxes those qualification requirements, ignoring the law and creating further security vulnerabilities.
President Biden claims it is necessary to bypass the law to alleviate the humanitarian challenges at our southern border. We can think of many other actions that are legally sound and would truly assist those suffering at the border and being victimized by cartels and traffickers.
Utah is not immune from the impact of increased illegal immigration. The Biden Administration’s open-borders agenda has caused many problems, including a humanitarian crisis, along with rising crime and violence in many cities. This change in policy does nothing to address these issues. Instead, it unlawfully creates a visa program in violation of federal law.”
Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Governor Spencer J. Cox co-hosted a news conference announcing their intent to legally take action against social media companies and hold them accountable to protect youth.
The Attorney General and Governor addressed the documented negative effects social media has on children’s mental health and well-being. The correlation between social media use and anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, self-harm and destructive behavior has been studied in recent years. Social media companies have historically taken some steps to address these concerns, but the Governor said more drastic measures are needed.
“Today, we are announcing we will be suing social media companies to protect our kids,” Governor Cox said.
Attorney General Reyes, Governor Cox and legislators are committed to working with social media companies and hope proposed litigation will drive them to action.
AG Reyes released the following statement:
“Beyond the physical threats to youth that we fight every day in our office, like exploitation, grooming, and human trafficking on the internet, there are other serious dangers that affect the overall wellness of our young people. Adult content accessible to teens and pre-teens is just one example of these pitfalls.
“While there are positive aspects of social media, gaming, and online activities, there is substantial evidence that social media and internet usage can also be extremely harmful to a young person’s mental and behavioral health and development.
“Depression, eating disorders, suicide ideation, cutting, addictions, mass violence, cyberbullying, and other dangers among young people may be initiated or amplified by negative influences and traumatic experiences online through social media.
“This is something my team and I recognized early on, and my office has worked tirelessly with and against certain tech companies to enforce the protection of our children.
“In recent years my office has initiated legal action for concerns regarding privacy and business practices against a number of large tech companies. These are serious market and privacy issues. But even more important is the safety and well-being of our kids.
“More and more, my concerns have focused on the content available on platforms that may exploit children or be available to adolescents that are inappropriate for their age. Recent disclosures by Twitter’s new owners about the amount of CSAM formerly on the platform are indicative of this problem.
“Very often, parents don’t have adequate knowledge of or control over their child’s content on these platforms. While we hope to work cooperatively with tech companies to address these concerns, we feel litigation is likely a necessary step to increase the urgency and seriousness of implementing child safeguards.”
Specifics of any legal action are not being released at this time. A Request for Proposal (RFP) document will be submitted this week to prepare for hiring outside counsel to assist with any litigation that could soon occur.
Today, the Utah Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit Salt Lake City Corporation filed against the State of Utah regarding its participation in planning for the inland port. Salt Lake City moved to dismiss the lawsuit, which the State and Supreme Court agreed to.
Last week, Utah Attorney General led the first “Global Anti-Human Trafficking Summit,” hosted by The Attorney General Alliance. Top regulators and law enforcement officers representing states and territories across the United States of America met for three days to learn and collaborate on all aspects of the national human trafficking problem.
“State Attorney General Offices have long taken the lead in this space but cannot effectively fight without local, federal, and international partners in government and the private sector sharing resources and collaborating,” said Karen White, executive director of the Attorney General Alliance.
As part of the 2023 Summit, the NGO Leadership “Sword & Shield” Award was presented to Hawaii-based nonprofit organization Hoʻōla Nā Pua and received by HNP Founder and CEO Jessica Muñoz. The award was presented by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Heather Fischer, Senior Advisor, Thomson Reuters Special Services & Former White House Human Trafficking.
The “Global Anti-Human Trafficking Summit” convened with experts worldwide in combating modern-day slavery. Leaders across multiple industries participated in panels at this historic summit to address one of the world’s most pressing and serious human rights violations. Survivors met with policymakers, law enforcement officers, regulators, prosecutors, judges, and technology experts who shared their experiences and perspectives on the matter.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Hoʻōla Nā Pua Founder, and CEO Jessica Munoz, Heather Fischer, Senior Advisor, Thompson Reuters Special Services & Former White House Human Trafficking
Photo Credit: Courtesy of AGA
“I want to highlight the incredible work that Jessica Muñoz and her HNP team are achieving in Hawaii through their organization Hoʻōla Nā Pua (New Life for our Children.) As a nurse practitioner, Jessica saw the unjust world in the eyes of children and adolescents every day. Still, instead of ignoring their silent cries for help, she stepped up – giving hundreds of hours every month raising awareness and working on ways to create social change,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Your courage to build Pearl Haven and offer trauma-informed therapeutic services is visionary and a gold star in aftercare services. Thank you to Hoʻōla Nā Pua and Jessica’s team for creating a safe place for victims in Hawaii.”
“Receiving The AGA “Sword & Shield” Leadership Award from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes holds profound significance in light of his childhood origins in Hawaii and now his national leadership in anti-trafficking law enforcement,” said Jessica Muñoz. “It is a testament to the continued need and effectiveness for multi-level government and agency coordination; Hoʻōla Nā Pua is honored to stand in advocacy, prevention and informed response with The AGA and AG Reyes in our determination and passion for change to end trafficking and exploitation.”
Summit Agenda PDF Attached
Official Press Release Announcement Attached
About Ho’ōla Nā Pua:
Ho’ōla Nā Pua (New Life for Our Children) was founded as a 501(c)3 to shine light onto the dark criminal enterprise of sex trafficking, placing the health of Hawaii’s youth at the center of our mission and our vision for our community. We are committed to the prevention of child sex trafficking and providing care for children who have been exploited. Ho’ōla Nā Pua (HNP) is dedicated to creating a safe community where children can embrace their bright futures. Today, not only does HNP offer integrated programming that reaches thousands of youth, community members, and stakeholders across the state of Hawaii annually, but it is also considered a national partner and a rising standard in the global effort to stop sex trafficking permanently. Stay connected and learn more about the issues and our solutions: www.hoolanapua.org | Instagram: @hoolanapua
About Pearl Haven, A Program of Ho‘ōla Nā Pua
The Bromley Family Pearl Haven Campus (Pearl Haven), a program of Ho‘ōla Nā Pua, is a premier Special Treatment Facility (STF) that opened in the Spring of 2021. Pearl Haven’s 32-bed residential treatment program is designed to provide a continuum of care and trauma-informed therapeutic services for youth ages 11-17 determined to have Severe Emotional and Behavioral Disturbances (SEBD), with an emphasis on youth who have experienced sexual trauma or are at high risk of sexual exploitation and/or trafficking. Visit https://hoolanapua.org/pearl-haven/ for more information. For admission and referral process information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 900-8740.
IN DANGER, NEED HELP, OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES?
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888.373.7888 or text HELP to 233733
State of Hawaii Child Protective Service: (CWS) Hotline 808.832.5300 (24/7) or 1.888.380.3088 (Neighbor Islands) (24/7)
Department of Human Services/Child Welfare Services: 808.832.1999 and 888.398.1188.
24-hour Crisis Support Hawaii Statewide Services: 808.721.9614
Sex Abuse Treatment Center 808.524.7273
Confidential Crisis Assistance, Referrals, Tip Reporting, and General Information: 888.373.7888
Ho‘ōla Nā Pua For Referrals and Youth Support: 808.445.3131
Emergency Assistance: 911
The Attorney General Alliance (AGA) began as the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG), a 501c3 nonprofit organization and a bipartisan group of 15 western states and three territories. Built on a foundation of fostering collaboration between western AG offices, CWAG has long maintained a focus on issues in the fields of Native American, natural resources, public lands, minerals, and energy law. As our relationships grew and our organization matured, new partnerships were formed from all over the country, and transnational legal issues emerged around the world. Our interests and expertise necessarily ventured beyond the boundaries of the West.
*Hoʻōla Nā Pua supplied this news release on January 13, 2023.
Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of 17 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief in the Western District of Texas in the case of Carter v McDonough.
In September 2022, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reversed long-standing agency practice and adopted an interim final rule that purports to authorize taxpayer-funded abortions and abortion counseling for veterans and their beneficiaries. The plaintiff, Stephanie Carter, is a VA nurse who opposes the VA’s new rule. The brief was filed in support of Nurse Carter.
In the brief, the Attorneys General write, “Rather than respect the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s decision. The Biden Administration has sought to wrest control over abortion back from the people.”
The brief explains that the rule is deeply flawed because the VA does not have the legal authority it claimed to use to support this rule.
“[The VA’s rule] reflects disregard for the democratic process, intrusion on areas of traditional state authority, and defiance of the Supreme Court’s recognition that the hard questions in this area have been ‘return[ed]’ to ‘legislative bodies,’” wrote the Attorneys General. “[T]he VA justifies the rule not because of the absence of state laws on the subject of abortion but because of the Department’s disapproval of them on policy grounds.”
In November, a coalition of 15 Attorneys General sent a letter warning the VA that it lacked the authority to impose this new rule and putting the agency on notice that states would be monitoring and ready to act if the VA defied the law. A copy of the letter is availablehere.
In addition to Attorney General Reyes, the brief was joined by Attorneys General from the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is leading a 21-state coalition that is challenging the ESG practices of two proxy advisory companies, International Shareholder Services, Inc. (“ISS”) and Glass, Lewis & Co. The attorneys general specifically take issue with how ESG considerations affect ISS and Glass Lewis’s proxy voting recommendations that conflict with the financial interests of their clients.
“Because these firms have a duopoly in the proxy advisory market, they exercise enormous influence in advancing the ESG movement,” said Attorney General Reyes. “A proxy advisor must prioritize the economic value of their clients’ investments. Unfortunately, it appears these two companies are prioritizing political activism over the best interests of Utah and its citizens.”
Both ISS and Glass Lewis support the priorities established by an international group of financial institutions committed to aligning their lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. By letting net-zero inform their proxy advice, ISS and Glass Lewis are abandoning their fiduciary duties to their clients, including Utah, and adopting the radical environmental agenda that experts predict are not possible.
Additionally, ISS and Glass Lewis have also pledged to recommend votes against certain directors on boards that they view as having insufficient racial, ethnic, or sex-based diversity under arbitrary quotas they established.
The letter states, “your actions may threaten the economic value of our States’ and citizens’ investments and pensions—interests that may not be subordinated to your social and environmental beliefs, or those of your other clients.”
Attorney General Reyes and his colleagues seek information and assurances from ISS and Glass Lewis that they will uphold their legal obligations in performing proxy advisory services.
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia also joined the Utah-led letter.
Friday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of 22 state attorneys general in sending a letter to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Robert Califf, condemning the FDA’s recent decision to abandon its longstanding restrictions on the remote prescription and administration of abortion-inducing drugs.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to abandon commonsense restrictions on remotely prescribing and administering abortion-inducing drugs is both illegal and dangerous,” the attorney generals wrote in the letter. “In direct contravention of longstanding FDA practice and congressional mandate, the FDA’s rollback of important safety restrictions ignores women’s health and specific federal statutes. We urge you to reverse your decision.”
“The authority to regulate abortion lies with the people and their elected representatives,” the attorneys general continues. “In our states, we prioritize the health and safety of women and children, and our laws reflect this. And in many states, elective abortion is illegal. . . . Our States will not yield to the Administration’s radical pro-abortion policies.”
The letter details the severe risks associated with abortion-inducing drugs, which state and federal laws and policies—including, until now, those of the FDA itself—have long recognized by imposing restrictions on their prescription and administration. But, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, “the FDA announced a wholesale change to [its policy aimed at mitigating the dangers of such drugs].” The FDA’s new policy is denounced by the attorneys general in no uncertain terms for “prioritizing . . . pro-abortion policy over women’s health,” which recklessly “endanger[s] the lives of women” in addition to “enthusiastically endanger[ing] the lives of unborn children.”
“Though the FDA has abdicated its responsibility to protect women’s health, we have not,” the attorneys general conclude their letter. “To be crystal clear, you have not negated any of our laws that forbid the remote prescription, administration, and use of abortion-inducing drugs. The health and safety of our citizens—women and children included—is of paramount concern. Nothing in the FDA’s recent changes affects how we will protect our people.”
Attorney General Reyes was joined in sending the letter by the attorneys general of Alabama (which led the letter), Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The full letter sent by the attorneys general can be viewed online here.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following statement:
“We join today with those across our nation and friends throughout the world who celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, a giant among men and one of the most powerful voices in American history.
“As a person of diverse Asian, Hispanic and Native Hawaiian heritage, I feel Dr. King’s aspiration for a more fair and equal society has been realized in some important ways and, yet, is not close to being achieved in too many others.
“Our nation is an extraordinary example of what comes from faith, hard work, strength, compassion, and courage. And even when we are divided as Americans on certain issues, Dr. King’s teachings remind us that we are all part of one human family, each with an equal right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.
“I hope the peace that Dr. King preached will be felt by everyone in Utah as we honor him today.“