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Sean D. Reyes
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AG’s Office Responds to BLM Rule

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) is deeply concerned about the recent Public Lands Rule issued by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), which could have a devastating effect on the health of Utah’s public lands. 

Assistant Attorney General Kathy Davis, section director of the Public Lands Section, cautioned, “Utah is America’s leader in proactive conservation, where state and local governments work cooperatively with local BLM employees to improve and restore landscapes while mitigating the risk of catastrophic wildfires. The Biden Administration’s new Rule seems specifically designed to hinder those efforts.”

The new Rule also drew criticism and concern from the highest levels of leadership at the Utah AGO: “The BLM’s efforts should be focused on working with Western States to help make our public lands more productive and resilient,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “It is disheartening to see the BLM adopt unnecessary layers of bureaucratic red tape that will make landscape improvements much more difficult to implement. The BLM is obliged by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”) to manage Utah’s public lands under the principles of “multiple-use,” a concept absent from the new rule. We will explore all options to challenge these short-sighted policies.”

The Utah AGO will continue defending Utah’s rights and ensuring Utahns can access and enjoy their public lands.

AG Reyes Writes FERC to Hold Asset Managers Accountable and Protect Utahns

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes co-led a letter with the State of Indiana to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to address its policy of providing blanket authorizations for investment companies under Section 203(a)(2) of the Federal Power Act (FPA). The letter from several attorneys general focuses on the legal and ethical responsibilities and duties of asset managers of investment companies that manage investment funds for their clients.

In their letter, the attorneys general note that FERC’s practice for granting company-specific blanket authorizations to asset managers under Section 203(a)(2) must have three critical requirements to achieve the FPA’s pro-competitive and consumer-protection focus. First, asset managers must limit ownership to 20% or less in the company. Second, asset managers must pledge to FERC to function as passive investors for the company. Finally, recipients of blanket authorizations must follow and keep their fiduciary duties to their investors. Adherence to these stipulations would practically eliminate companies’ involvement in ESG organizations and agendas.

“The State of Utah has led the fight to hold asset managers accountable to the rule of law and to their fiduciary duties,” said General Reyes. “We trust FERC will protect American interests from a radical environmental agenda seeking to fundamentally transform entire industries and institutions in dangerous and irresponsible ways. I am grateful for our coalition of AGs and other stakeholders working to safeguard everyday Americans from the excesses of the ESG movement.”

FERC’s statutory duty is to perform due diligence on these authorizations to ensure robust competition among electricity providers and a reliable and affordable electricity supply for consumers and businesses. If FERC does not take its statutory obligations seriously, then unsuspecting Americans would be harmed by anti-competitive actions of large investment companies promoting the ESG agenda. As the letter highlights, the lawful compliance of FERC and asset managers directly affects, not just economic security in each state across the union, but also the health, safety, and welfare of citizens.

Joining Utah and Indiana on this letter were the States of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.

Why State Agency Counsel Matters

Is the AG’s Office Utah’s law firm?

One of the Utah Attorney General’s constitutional functions is to act as counsel for every state agency. In essence, the office is the state’s law firm. State Agency Counsel comprises approximately 25 attorneys at the AGO.

Our office has attorneys who work exclusively for various state agencies as their attorneys and specialize in specific areas. Amanda Montague oversees this little-known office function every day.

This episode of Legally Speaking explains just how important the work performed by these attorneys is.

Listen to the episode here.

AG Reyes Opposes Federal VOCA Proposed Rule

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice over the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Compensation Grant Program (“Proposed Rule”). The letter from the State of Utah follows letters from the States of Alabama and Kansas in opposition to the federal government’s proposed regulations.

In his letter, General Reyes shares Alabama and Kansas’ concerns regarding the lack of statutory authority for the Proposed Rule. He also argues that some of the conditions in the Proposed Rule directly conflict with Utah law and that the DOJ’s Office for Victims of Crime lacks statutory authority to regulate disparate impact in the criminal justice system.

General Reyes writes, “The VOCA Grant Program is an example of a State-Federal partnership that benefits innocent victims of crime, not criminals. I ask that you not destroy it by using the program as a cudgel to push controversial political objectives. The Proposed Rule should be withdrawn in its entirety. Any technical amendments to accommodate statutory changes should be made in a separate rulemaking, limited to just those technical amendments.”

Earlier this year, General Reyes joined a letter to the U.S. House and Senate “urging Congress to provide bridge funding to the Crime Victims Fund.”

Read the letter here.

Attorney General Reyes Joins Florida-Led Multistate Legal Action Demanding EPA Rescind “Environmental Justice” Initiatives Harming States

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—Today, Attorney General Reyes joined a Florida-led coalition of 23 states in filing a legal action demanding that Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency modify its Title VI regulations. These regulations—known as “disparate impact” regulations—are what the EPA is using to advance much of its race-conscious “environmental justice” initiatives.

AG Reyes stated as follows:

The Supreme Court has, in the past, justifiably questioned the statutory authority for Title VI disparate impact regulations, explaining they rely on a “strange” reading of the law. However, this has not prevented the EPA from contorting that same “strange” reading into the enforcement of environmental regulations based on race. 

There are undoubtedly circumstances that may warrant disparate impact regulations. Congress made clear environmental protections aren’t one of them.

In a Petition for Rulemaking, Attorney General Moody and the coalition go on to state that the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that the EPA’s regulations are unlawful: “Although Sandoval did not directly address the validity of Title VI disparate impact regulations, the Court expressed significant skepticism on the validity of those regulations.” The Court explained that the regulations were “in considerable tension with the rule…that forbids only intentional discrimination.” Additionally, the attorneys general claim that “other scholars have even suggested that the EPA’s regulations violate the Equal Protection Clause.” Notably, in 2020, the Trump administration proposed a revision to the Department of Justice’s similar Title VI regulations to remove disparate impact provisions. The Biden administration withdrew the proposal shortly after taking office.

The attorneys general conclude by stating: “By imposing disparate impact liability where it is not called for by statute, the EPA’s regulations gravely depart from the original understanding of Title VI and compel States to unconstitutionally discriminate against their citizens by incorporating disparate-impact liability. EPA should grant this Petition and revise its Title VI regulations to be consistent with Title VI and the Equal Protection Clause.”

Attorney General Reyes joined Attorney General Moody on the petition along with the state attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the petition here.

AGO Stands Against Illegal Federal Guidance for Using Taxpayer Dollars in Election-Related Activities

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a letter to the U.S. Department of Education about concerning—and possibly illegal—guidance given to postsecondary education institutions regarding the entangling of Federal Work-Study funds with election-related activities. The states of West Virginia and Indiana led the letter.

According to the States, Dr. Nasser H. Paydar, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education, sent a Dear Colleague letter to postsecondary education institutions, telling them “that [Federal Work-Study] funds may be used for employment by a Federal, State, local, or Tribal public agency for civic engagement work that is not associated with a particular interest or group.” Dr. Paydar added that “[t]his work can include supporting broad-based get-out-the-vote activities, voter registration, providing voter assistance at a polling place or through a voter hotline, or serving as a poll worker.”

In their letter, the attorneys general argue that the guidance from the U.S. Department of Education “violates federal law, does not provide meaningful protections against abuse, [and] appears to be part of a broader effort to use public initiatives to enlist favored voters.”

The coalition encourages the federal agency to “reconsider [the] guidance” and to alert all contacted institutions that the Federal Work-Study funds “may [not] be used for supporting [the election-related activities] under any circumstances.” The attorneys general conclude their correspondence by writing, “If the Biden Administration really cares about ‘[r]espect[ing] free and fair elections’ and ‘[r]estor[ing] trust in our institutions,” this pullback would be a good place to start.”

Joining Utah, West Virginia, and Indiana were the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas.

Read the letter here.

Utah Attorney General’s Office Recognizes April as Child Abuse Awareness Month

As the Utah Attorney General’s Office has always been dedicated to protecting children, we’d like to raise awareness about child abuse this month and encourage all Utahns to support efforts to prevent it.

Unfortunately, child abuse is a pervasive issue that affects countless families worldwide. It involves any act or failure to act that results in harm, potential harm, or the risk of damage to a child. Whether it is physical, emotional, sexual, or neglectful, child abuse can have long-lasting effects on a child’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

As such, the Attorney General’s Office’s top priority is “to keep citizens, especially children, safe from violent crimes, domestic abuse, and predatory crimes. The AGO works hard through its task forces and with law enforcement partners to fight the illegal drug trade, human trafficking, government corruption, and many other types of serious criminal activity. The office investigates and prosecutes these crimes to make the state safe for Utah families while protecting victims and empowering them to reclaim their lives.”

These priorities are accomplished through various initiatives, including our Human Trafficking in Persons Task ForceICAC Task Force, and Utah Children’s Justice Center Program. Together, these efforts aim to educate the public and provide valuable resources for victims and their families through education campaigns, grassroots and non-governmental organizational efforts, victim recovery support, and advocacy.

As we focus on Child Abuse Awareness Month, we’re committed to helping ensure that all Utah children grow up in safe and nurturing environments while supporting those already affected and raising awareness about this serious issue. 

Visit the AGO website to learn more about our initiatives and resources for victims’ rights. Together, we can prevent child abuse and create a better future for all Utah children.

AG’s Office Mourns the Passing of Mayor Ted Wilson

The Utah Attorney General’s Office conveys its deepest condolences to the family of Mayor Ted Wilson upon his passing and sends our love and support to his daughter, Missy Wilson Larsen, a beloved leader in our AG Office.

Like the mountains he was so skilled at summiting, Mayor Wilson’s life and public service were towering monuments of strength that inspired and uplifted the people of Utah and many beyond our borders.

His civic legacy will be one of a bright, optimistic, compassionate, and inclusive leader who built bridges and forged friendships with people from all walks of life.

He had an endearing passion for the environment and education, and his contributions to those and so many other fields will long be remembered.

Ted quietly mentored and supported many of us in public and private service to our community regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. He was a gentleman with a great sense of humor, zest for life, outsized love for humanity, and a healthy dose of irreverence.

His greatest legacy—his children and grandchildren—are already continuing his example of servant leadership and, like he did, giving back to Utah and America in immeasurable ways.

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes

AG Reyes Continues to Oppose Radical ESG Agendas

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – In a letter signed by 16 additional states to Climate Action 100+ (CA100+) members, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes reiterated legal concerns over association with the organization as it shifts to Phase 2. The multi-state warning notifies the members to immediately evaluate the lawfulness of the radical CA100+ agenda to “take action” in using investor money to pressure companies “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain” in line with the Paris Agreement goals. The letter also points out that the world’s largest asset managers are leaving CA100+ because of legal risks previously identified by state attorneys general and that Phase 2 heightens legal concerns. 

“Over the last several years, legal concerns have risen exponentially as a result of the radical agenda and seemingly extortive practices of Climate Action 100+. Although environmental stewardship is critically important to our states and constituents, CA100’s extreme, unrealistic, and legally suspect ESG mandates will continue to be scrutinized and challenged by the State of Utah and at least 16 other states,” said General Reyes. “The fact that many of the world’s largest asset managers are leaving CA100 due to legal risks of membership is simply the beginning of what we will see as more of the organization’s liability and practices are exposed.”

In the letter, the States argue that leading asset managers have belatedly recognized the legal risk of CA100+ commitments. J.P. Morgan Asset Management, State Street Global Advisors, PIMCO, and Invesco all recently announced their withdrawal from CA100+. In addition, BlackRock announced that it will limit involvement with CA100+ to its international arm and will now pursue net-zero goals in engagements and proxy votes only for clients who have expressly asked it to do so.

The States also highlight the conflict between CA100+ membership and at least six different legal duties:

  1. The fiduciary duty of loyalty requires asset managers to act solely in their client’s financial interests.
  2. The fiduciary duty of care requires asset managers to provide advice that is in the best interest of their clients, based on the client’s objectives, and to provide advice and monitoring over the course of the relationship.
  3. Antitrust laws prohibit, among other things, contracts or combinations in restraint of trade.
  4. Various holding company laws may apply here.
  5. State laws prohibit deceptive acts or practices towards consumers, as well as making false statements or omitting facts concerning the offer or sale of securities.
  6. The SEC requires certain information to be filed pursuant to Schedule 13D.

Joining Utah on the letter were the States of Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming.

Read the letter here.

AGO Podcast: The Costs and Benefits of Amicus Briefs

In any given month, the Utah Attorney General’s Office can join dozens of amici, also known as ‘friend of the court’ briefs, or sign the AG’s name to a persuasive letter that argues for or against a hot topic.

Why does the office do this? The answer makes sense – legally speaking!

In this episode, Deputy Solicitor General Christopher Bates explains why our office joins these letters and briefs, the costs and benefits, and how the entire process works.

Listen to the podcast here.