Attorney General Beau Biden

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Biden: Financial Institutions Must Follow Financial Laws Protecting Military Personnel

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DE Attorney General and Iraq war veteran demands information from leading lenders about compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and plans to avoid future violations

 

Wilmington – In light of recent settlements between the federal government and large banks over violations of a law designed to offer financial protections to military personnel, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has sent letters to nearly 30 leading lending institutions asking for information about their compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  

 

The letters, which were sent last week and went to credit card banks, mortgage servicers and student loan servicers, demand information about what those lenders are doing to determine whether they have violated the SCRA in the past and what steps they are taking to ensure they are in compliance with the law moving forward.

 

The SCRA caps interest rates on most loans, including mortgages and credit cards, at 6% and postpones civil proceedings, such as foreclosures and other debt collection lawsuits during a deployment.  The idea behind the SCRA dates back to the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation protecting Union troops from civil legal actions while they were in the military.

 

“Our military servicemembers who risk their lives and fight to defend us overseas should not have to worry about additional financial pressures at home.  Their sole focus should be on the mission and returning home safely,” Biden said.  “I personally witnessed the sacrifices that our military makes every day for our country.  The need for full compliance with the SCRA has never been more essential. A soldier in Afghanistan should be lining up for the satellite phone to call a loved one back home, not to call a debt collector who is not following the law.”

 

In July, Capital One agreed with the United States Department of Justice to pay $12 million to remedy SCRA violations. And late last month, J.P. Morgan Chase also reached a settlement with the federal government that calls for the bank to financially compensate servicemembers for past violations and requires the bank to set up internal procedures to increase its compliance with the SCRA. Biden wants other lending institutions to take similar steps by reviewing past conduct, correcting mistakes and ensuring they are following the law going forward.

 

“These settlements serve as a reminder that we must remain vigilant in ensuring that our servicemembers receive the benefit of the SCRA’s protections,” said Biden, whose office led the effort in 2012 to ensure the National Mortgage Settlement included provisions strengthening the SCRA and giving more protections to members of the military.  

 

Specifically, the letters Biden’s office sent seek the following information:

·         Documentation of any internal review conducted to determine whether there has been compliance with the SCRA, including documents reflecting the findings of such review

·         All written policies, procedures and practices in place used to verify compliance with the SCRA

·         The total number of customer files reviewed for SCRA compliance, both in Delaware and nationwide

·         Documentation concerning any SCRA violations identified during reviews

·         All written policies, procedures and practices in place concerning the provision of remediation to account owners to address any judgments obtained in error or other actions taken in violation of the SCRA

·         Documentation of steps taken to prevent future SCRA violations

·         All materials used to train employees regarding compliance with the SCRA

 

To further strengthen protections for troops and their families, Biden also sent letters this week to the chairmen of the U.S. House and Senate’s veterans affairs committees, urging the lawmakers to change federal to allow state attorneys general to prosecute violations of the SCRA.  Granting state Attorneys General this authority, Biden said, would build on provisions in the federal Dodd-Frank banking reform law that provide for both federal and state-level enforcement of federal laws in other consumer protection matters.

 

“Our troops have been engaged in overseas combat for more than a decade, making strict compliance with the SCRA all the more essential,” Biden wrote in his letter to Congress. “In these times a single violation of the SCRA is one too many.  Those men and women should not be distracted from their mission by having to deal with unnecessary (and illegal) financial conflict at home. … As the chief consumer protectors in our respective states, and the ‘boots on the ground,’ state attorneys general are often the first to hear about abuses in the arena of consumer debt, including abuses of servicemembers.”

 

            Attorney General Biden’s letters to Congress and to financial institutions are attached.  The financial institutions letter was sent to: ACS Education Services, AES/PHEAA, Ally Financial, American Express, Bank of America, Barclay’s, Citibank, Citibank the Student Loan Corporation, Discover, Fifth Third Bank, Ford Motor Credit, GE Capital Retail Bank, HSBC, Nelnet, PNC Bank, Regions Bank, Sallie Mae, Toyota Financial, U.S. Bancorp, USAA, Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo Dealer Services.

 Letters attached below

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SCRA Letter to Chair of Senate Committee of Veteran’s Affairs

SCRA Letter to Banks


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David Salasky pleads guilty to the murder of New Castle County Police Lieutenant Joseph Szczerba

Police Lieutenant Joseph Szczerba

Wilmington – Attorney General Beau Biden announced that David Salasky pled guilty today to the September 2011 death of New Castle County Police officer Joseph Szczerba.

“This guilty plea in New Castle County Superior Court brings us closer to concluding a tragic and painful chapter for Delaware law enforcement and for our entire community,” Biden said.  “David Salasky’s plea of guilty but mentally ill recognizes that he is criminally responsible for the murder of Lieutenant Joseph Szczerba, and that Salasky is chronically and seriously mentally ill.  This resolution – the finality of a conviction and the certainty of a life sentence – is in the best interest of justice and it allows the Szczerba family, the New Castle County Police, and us all to move forward with healing and continuing to honor the memory of Joseph Szczerba every day.”

On September 16, 2011, after responding to a report of a theft from a motor vehicle and disorderly person in New Castle, Lt. Szczerba observed and approached David Salasky, a subject who matched the suspect description.  A foot pursuit ensued and resulted in a struggle, during which Sgt. Szczerba suffered fatal stab wounds.  Salasky continued to actively resist by fighting other officers, two of whom sustained injuries.

Salasky was indicted by the New Castle County Grand Jury on multiple counts of murder, burglary, weapons, and assault charges in December 2011.  Jury selection for the trial against Salasky had begun today in New Castle County Superior Court before Salasky pled guilty before Superior Court Judge William C. Carpenter, Jr. this afternoon.  Specifically, Salasky pled Guilty but Mentally Ill to 15 felony charges, including 2 counts of Murder 1st Degree for the death of Sgt. Szczerba, along with 4 counts of Possession of Deadly Weapon During Commission of Felony, 2 counts of Possession of a Deadly Weapon by Person Prohibited, 1 count of Resisting Arrest, 1 count of Attempted Robbery 1st Degree, 1 count of Assault 2nd Degree, and 4 counts of Burglary 3rd Degree.  As a condition of the guilty plea prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty at sentencing.  Delaware law requires that the Judge now make an independent determination that Salasky was mentally ill at the time of the crime before he imposes sentence.  A pre-sentence investigation was ordered by the Court and a sentencing date has not been set at this time.  Salasky faces a mandatory sentence of 2 life prison terms without the possibility of parole, plus up to 153 additional years in prison.

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Beau Biden: Children should know Internet is forever

FireShot Screen Capture #046 - 'Protecting your online identity becomes increasingly important I Video Library I The News Journal' - www_delawareonline_com_videonetwork_2663266764001_Protecting-your-online-identity-becomes-in

By Beau Biden -

Parents teach their kids many lessons about safety while they’re growing up. We tell them to never talk to strangers, to buckle up each time they get in a car, and to look both ways before crossing the street.

Another one I urge caregivers to add to their list is protecting their children’s privacy and reputations online. What children post on social media, and send in texts and email can create situations where they can fall prey to predators. Additionally, what is put online stays with them forever with potentially devastating repercussions including being the subject of bullying in school and out, not getting into top choices for college, or not being able to land dream jobs.

Over the past seven years, I have spoken to more than 30,000 Delaware schoolchildren about staying safe online. When I started these school visits, I focused mainly on online predators and teaching kids not to talk to strangers in chat rooms or over video game networks. The Child Predator Task Force that my office created in 2007 marked its 150th conviction recently with a case of an adult male using the Internet to lure who he thought was a young teenage girl to a park. Fortunately, the teenage girl was really an undercover Task Force detective.

Predators troll social media sites to look for information on profile pages they can use to groom potential victims. Information such as which school they attend, what sports they play, which organizations they belong to, where families go on vacation, or detailed profile data on sites like Facebook should remain private to keep it out of predators’ hands. Additionally, kids should only accept “friend” requests from other kids they actually know, to limit their potential exposure.

Predators are still a significant threat on which my office will remain focused. However, over the past few years, I have become increasingly concerned about the damage kids can do to their reputations online because that damage can have life-changing consequences.

Many kids do not know that there is no such thing as privacy online. You might think you are telling something to a few close friends, but once you touch the screen by hitting send or post, your words or pictures will be out there forever. It used to be that what a child said about themselves or others could be forgotten after a few days, but with social media, those comments will be online forever and for everyone to see.

Something a kid thinks is funny now will still be online years from now by their future children or potential employers. Children do not realize that when they go to apply for their first job or to a college or university that employer or admissions counselor can easily Google their names and find their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts. What is found in those accounts could be the difference between them landing the job or the cherished spot in the freshman class.

As adults, we too, must watch what we post online since kids model what they see from their parents, caregivers and mentors. Unfortunately, too many adults also have a false sense of privacy when they send out information on their computer at home or from their smartphone while they are out with their friends. People say things about themselves online that they would never shout out over a microphone in a public place or want printed in the paper. It’s important for us to realize there’s no distinction between posting something on a social media account and shouting out that information on a street corner.

Children will eventually learn the Internet is forever and it is important to protect their privacy on social media sites, and I want that lesson to come from parents and caregivers, not the hard way through contact with a predator, loss of a job or the destruction of a reputation. I hope you’ll join me in not only educating our children about these risks, but in seeking to make smarter and safer choices about what we put online.

Here is the video:


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Biden announces free consumer shredding events this September

Wilmington – Attorney General Beau Biden announced today that his Consumer Protection Unit is sponsoring consumer shredding events statewide this month to help consumers guard against identity theft by disposing of documents containing sensitive identifying information.  At each event, free on-site document shredding will be offered and Consumer Protection staff will provide information and answer questions about consumer frauds and scams.

FireShot Screen Capture #041 - 'idtheft_pdf' - attorneygeneral_delaware_gov_media_pdf_idtheft

Consumers may bring up to three file-sized boxes of documents, which may contain paper file folders, staples, and paperclips; emptied boxes will be returned immediately to consumers.

“Protect yourself from identify theft by bringing documents that contain personal information to us for free on-site shredding,” Biden said.  “Safely disposing of sensitive documents, monitoring your financial accounts for unauthorized activity, and limiting information you post online are simple yet important steps all Delawareans can take to help guard themselves against identify theft and fraud”

Nationally, identify theft is the most common fraud reported to federal consumer agencies.  In 2012, a record 369,000 reports of identity theft were made to the Federal Trade Commission, an increase of 30% from the year before.  Shredding bank statements, bills, and other documents that contain consumers’ information is an effective measure Delawareans can employ to help prevent ID theft.

Shredding events will take place at the following dates and locations:

Saturday,  September 21

9 am to 1 pm

Lowe’s/BJ’s parking lot

Peninsula Crossing Shopping Center, Route 113, Millsboro

Saturday, September 28

9 am to 1 pm

DelDOT Administration Building parking lot

800 Bay Road, just south of the Route 13-113 split, Dover

Saturday, October 5

9 am to 1 pm

William Penn High School parking lot

713 East Basin Road (Route 141), New Castle

Learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft by contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-220-5424 or visiting www.attorneygeneral.delaware.gov.

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Biden Announces Antitrust Ruling Against Apple

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Wilmington — Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden today announced that a United States District Court Judge sided with the State of Delaware, the United States and 32 other jurisdictions in finding Apple Inc. liable for violating the antitrust laws by conspiring with major U.S. publishers to fix the prices of electronic books.

The judge’s opinion and order comes after a three-week bench trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that ended June 20. The Court found the government plaintiffs demonstrated that five major publishers “conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy.”

“The publishers and Apple manipulated the marketplace by artificially increasing prices,” Attorney General Biden said. “As confirmed by the Court today, that is against the law and it is wrong.”

The Court’s order and opinion only addressed the issue of Apple’s liability under federal and state antitrust law. Issues involving damages and other remedies will be the subject of future proceedings as determined by the Court.

The publishers, Hachette Book Group Inc.; Harper Collins Publishers L.L.C.; Simon & Schuster Inc.; Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a/ Macmillan; and Penguin Group (USA), Inc., had settled lawsuits filed by states and others against them prior to trial, which will result in consumers nationwide receiving more than $166 million in compensation provided the Court approves all of the settlements.

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