|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today that the Division of Law obtained settlements and judgments totaling approximately $304 million last year through litigation on behalf of the State.
The dollar amount obtained by the Division represents a $104 million increase -- or approximately 52 percent -- over the amount obtained on behalf of the State in 2012, and a $165 million increase over the amount obtained in 2011. Litigation-related payouts by the State in 2013 totaled approximately $77.7 million.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman credited the Division of Law for its efforts in representing state government agencies, defending state statutes and obtaining substantially-increased dollars on behalf of the State.
Monies obtained by the Division in 2013 included settlements and judgments resulting from environmental litigation, debt recovery, and lawsuits alleging consumer, securities and other fraud, as well as other types of affirmative litigation.
”The attorneys in the Division of Law continue to do a great job of handling affirmative litigation, defending state laws and preserving New Jersey’s precious environmental and financial resources,” said the Acting Attorney General. “While our annual recovery and payout figures can be influenced by a number of variables, there is one constant in the equation -- the incredibly high caliber of legal work being done by the Division of Law, and the exceptional effort our DOL staff attorneys give each and every day.”
Noteworthy outcomes obtained by the Division of Law in 2013 included:
- Passaic River Litigation Settlements: Division of Law attorneys, working hand in hand with outside counsel, finalized two settlements in 2013 totaling $165.4 million related to clean-up of the long-contaminated Passaic River. Under one settlement, a total of $130 million will be paid to the State by several non-discharging defendants including: Spanish oil company Repsol, S.A.; Argentina-based energy conglomerate YPF, S.A., YPF Holdings, Inc. and YPF International; CLH Holdings, Inc.; Maxus Energy Corporation; Maxus International Energy Company and Tierra Solutions, Inc. In the second settlement, 261 third-party defendants -- including 70 municipalities and other public entities -- will collectively pay the State a total of $35.4 million. The State did not sue these third-party defendants. They were brought into the case by two of the settling defendants – Maxus and Tierra. The two Passaic River settlements finalized in 2013 permit the State to go forward with its remaining, substantial legal claims against principal defendant Occidental Chemical Corporation. The legal successor to Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company, Occidental is accused of intentionally discharging dioxin and other chemical waste into the Passaic River for decades.
- Merrill Lynch & Co. Settlement: Division of Law attorneys reached a settlement in 2013 with Merrill Lynch & Co. where the company paid $45 million to the New Jersey Division of Investments, which manages assets for the State’s pension funds. The settlement resolved allegations that Merrill Lynch breached a provision in a July 2008 contract under which the State exchanged its investment in Merrill Lynch preferred stock for Merrill Lynch common stock.
- Google “DoubleClick” Settlement: In November 2013, New Jersey joined 36 states and the District of Columbia in a $17 million settlement with Internet giant Google that resolved allegations Google unlawfully circumvented the default privacy settings in Safari Web browsers. New Jersey was a member of the Executive Committee that led the investigation of Google and negotiated the multi-state settlement. The State’s share of the Google settlement was approximately $655,000, which will be used to fund consumer protection initiatives.
- Cooper Health System: Under this joint settlement involving both the State and federal governments, Cooper Health System in Camden agreed to pay a total of $12.5 million to resolve allegations that it entered into improper consulting and compensation agreements with physicians as it sought to bolster its cardiology program.
In addition to paying the State $2.3 million and the federal government $10.2 million, Cooper agreed to a number of corporate reforms designed to enhance accountability, training and other aspects of its operations. The Cooper settlement resolved a joint state-federal investigation into financial relationships involving the Cooper Heart Institute in Camden, the Cooper Heart Institute Advisory Board and doctors who served on the Advisory Board.
- PHH Mortgage: Resolving an investigation launched by the State in 2011, the Division announced a $6.25 million settlement with PHH Mortgage Corporation in December 2013. The settlement resolved allegations that PHH had misled financially struggling homeowners who sought loan modifications or other help to avoid mortgage delinquency or foreclosure. The settlement included $3.61 million in restitution for approximately 2,000 borrowers nationwide whose loans were serviced by PHH. The remaining $2.64 million was paid to the State. PHH also agreed under the settlement to implement certain reforms and adopt nationwide mortgage servicing standards.
- Toyota Motor Company: As part of a multi-state investigation and settlement led by New Jersey, the State received $1.9 million from Toyota Motor Company to resolve allegations that the auto maker engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by concealing a known safety issue – namely a tendency of certain Toyota and Lexus models to accelerate unexpectedly. In addition to paying a total of $29 million to 29 states and one U.S. territory, Toyota agreed to make changes in both its corporate culture and chain of command to help avoid similar situations in the future. Poor communication between Toyota’s corporate nerve center in Japan and its operations in the United States was partially to blame for the company’s failure to report the safety problem in a timely fashion, according to the Division-led multi-state investigation.