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Sean D. Reyes
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AG Reyes Demands Federal Reserve, FDIC, OCC, and Treasury Halt Environmental Activism that Contributed to SVB Failure

March 21, 2023

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, FDIC Director Martin Gruenberg, and Acting Comptroller of Currency Michael Hsu, that connects the dots between the failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) policies mandated by President Biden. AG Reyes and 15 other state attorneys general are demanding the Biden administration halt the politicization of the banking industry through climate-related regulations and instead focus the regulatory agencies on true risk management.

“SVB’s failure is a warning sign that the administration’s environmental activism in its financial regulation not only ignores real financial risk but increases it,” Attorney General Reyes said. “The administration should refocus regulation on true risk and stop pressuring financial institutions to meet impossible net-zero targets.”  

The letter explains that this historic bank failure happened because President Biden’s “preferred regulatory posture increased SVB’s exposure to the actual risks that contributed to SVB’s failures.” SVB’s concentration in the politically favored cleantech industry and underinvestment in traditional energy infrastructure, as encouraged and incentivized by the Biden administration, exposed billions of investment dollars to unnecessary risk. Financial regulation that promotes environmental activism and ignores true financial risk puts our nation’s entire financial system in jeopardy.

The attorneys general conclude by expressing concern about the administration’s potential political motivation to bail out SVB. “[It] suggests that your actions were motivated only by a desire to save the cleantech industry on which the administration is relying to deliver the country its promised climate agenda. But even if that is not the case, your focus on climate change has created that perception, which weakens the financial system generally and undermines faith that financial regulators are solely focused on the economic health of our banking system as opposed to furthering favored political agendas.”

Read a copy of the letter here.

Utah leaders Speak Out Against Ozone Transfer Rule

March 15, 2023

Utah’s elected leaders – Governor Spencer Cox, Attorney General Sean Reyes, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, House Speaker Brad Wilson, U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, and Congressmen Chris Stewart, John Curtis, Burgess Owens, and Blake Moore – release the following statement:

“Utah’s measured, all-of-the-above energy policy has powered decades of prosperity by providing some of the country’s most reliable and affordable energy. This balanced and commonsense approach has powered our state, fueled our economy, and maintained a high quality of life for our people. We’ve also dramatically decreased emissions. However, the Biden Administration has turned to executive rulemaking to enact policies that will force early closures of Utah power plants, putting reliable, affordable, and dispatchable power significantly at risk – and only in a few years.

“The Ozone Transfer Rule released by the Environmental Protection Agency harms Utahns and threatens our ability to provide affordable and reliable baseload energy to our state. We cannot and will not stand by as the Administration encroaches on our state’s reasonable, responsible, and realistic approach to powering the state. 

“As Utah’s elected state leaders, we stand united in pushing back against the Administration’s egregious power grab that harms Utahns. We will each fight for a responsible energy policy that embraces efficiency and is based in reality because keeping the lights on is the only option.”

Organized Retail Crime Association Conference & Awards

March 14, 2023

Today, at the Utah Organized Retail Crime Association (UTORCA) annual conference, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes congratulated members of his law enforcement team for the Partners of the Year leadership awards they received in their anti-theft efforts. The AG’s office is the first in the nation to actively fight against Organized Retail Crime (ORC) in Utah.  ORC is a multibillion problem for retailers, who are constantly experience losses to groups and individuals who blatantly steal loads of merchandise from stores. 

Utah is the first in the nation to create its Crimes Against Statewide Economy (CASE) task force, which focuses on crimes like this.  The AG’s office has developed cooperative relationships with retailers like Home Depot, Lowes, Target, Walgreens, Burlington, Costco, Wal Mart to ultimately catch and punish those who harm the economy with this theft. 

“As leaders in combatting ORC, (Utah has) a responsibility to continue to lead other states and educate them about these crimes,” Attorney General Reyes said.  “While ORC is climbing in most states, Utah has plateaued, and we’ve started to make a dent.  I’ve had the privilege of working to reduce the ways these crimes have an effect on consumers and on the community at large.”

Dan Burton, the General Counsel for the AG’s Office, was recognized with an award at the UTORCA event for providing valuable leadership, working with the Legislature to secure on-going funding for Utah’s CASE unit, under Reyes’ direction.

“We wouldn’t have a CASE unit in Utah if it weren’t for General Reyes,” Brian Marvin or Home Depot said.  “We now have similar united in 14 other states, who are only starting to deal with ORC. So Utah is the only state benefitting from their work in investigating these costly crimes.”

Awards Won:

Justice Division’s Special Prosecutions – UTORCA Partner of the Year: Janise Macanas, Craig Peterson, Steven Wuthrich, Brian Namba

ORC Case of the Year- Janise Macanas, Sgt Jeff Plank, Home Depot Investigator Terry Pruse

UTORCA Leadership- Dan Burton

Law Enforcement Investigator of the Year- Carson Butler (West Jordan PD) AGO CASE Task Force Officer

Distinguished Service Award- Steve Jensen (Taylorsville PD) AGO CASE Task Force Officer

More information about CASE and ORC:

Utah Asks Court to Clarify NAAG’s Use of Public Money

March 7, 2023

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced the State of Utah has filed a lawsuit against the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), asking a judge to clarify whether NAAG’s custody of Utah’s public funds is subject to Utah law governing the investment of public funds.

NAAG provides an important forum for bipartisan collaboration with America’s state and territory attorneys general to support attorneys general in protecting the rule of law. NAAG holds over $100 million in funds on behalf of its member states. Utah asks the court to determine whether NAAG’s custody of those funds is subject to Utah’s State Money Management Act.

The lawsuit further requests the court to order an accounting to determine the portion of public funds that NAAG holds for Utah. The accounting would be conducted by a court-appointed special master.

Read the lawsuit here.

Attorney General Reyes Joins 46-State Coalition Asking Court to Order TikTok Comply with Multistate Investigation 

March 6, 2023

Amid the ongoing youth mental health crisis, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes in collaboration with the Utah Department of Consumer Protection, today joined 46 states in requesting a state court to order social media company TikTok, Inc. to preserve and produce company communications critical to a multistate investigation of TikTok’s potential unlawful and dangerous activities.

As part of the multistate investigation, state attorneys general seek to review internal TikTok communications to determine whether the company engaged in deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable conduct that harmed the mental health of TikTok users, particularly children, and teens.

Despite the request for these communications falling squarely within the investigative authority of the state attorneys general, today’s amicus brief asserts that TikTok repeatedly and knowingly failed to preserve relevant information and failed to provide internal communications in a useful format. For example, TikTok employees use an instant messaging service called Lark as their primary mechanism to communicate internally, but TikTok has flouted its duty to preserve communications and provide them in a usable format. They have instead continued to allow employees to send auto-deleting messages over the Lark platform after the start of the investigation and have provided messages to the states in a format that is difficult to use and navigate.

Because the use of social media platforms, like TikTok, has a significant role in the ongoing youth mental health crisis, it is critical that TikTok produce all relevant internal corporate communications to understand whether the company broke any laws.

There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research showing social media platforms, especially image- and video-based platforms like TikTok, are playing a substantial role in harming youth mental health. For example, in February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings demonstrating a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers, especially teenage girls. This includes a finding that nearly one-third of teen girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, a nearly 60% increase from a decade prior. Other peer-reviewed research shows that increased teen social media use is a significant driver of this crisis.

The attorneys general involved in the multistate investigation have a duty to protect the people of their states from illegal business practices, and TikTok’s failure to preserve and share relevant internal communications hampers the investigation. The filed brief, therefore, requests that the court compel TikTok to provide the information sought.

Others joining the amicus brief are the attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, as well as the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection.

Read the amicus brief here.

AG Reyes Explains ESG Lawsuit on Fox and Friends

March 3, 2023

This morning, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes appeared on the Fox Network’s “Fox and Friends” show to discuss efforts to protect retirement savings in the United States. The interview with host Brian Kilmeade focused on efforts to block a rule requiring Environmental Social Governance (ESG) criteria with trillions in retirement money.

Attorney General Reyes explained that Utah is leading a multi-state lawsuit at the same time both supporting and urging Congress to use Congressional Review Act powers to block the rule. President Biden is expected to veto the bill, which passed Congress this week, making the states’ lawsuit extremely important in this effort.

“If that happens, it will help us in our lawsuit,” Attorney General Reyes said in the interview. “They’re putting at risk about $12 trillion dollars in 401 K retirement plans, of 152 million Americans. There are only 165 million working Americans, so think about that for a second.”

Kilmeade added: “If you have a 401 K, you want maximum profit. This is your retirement. This is your future. And yet, they’re more focused on their agenda.”

“The ESG investments have underperformed,” AG Reyes continued. “Look at 2022. They’re under the benchmark, they’re underperforming. That means dollars are coming out of retirement in an already depressed economy. People are already hurting with the downturn, and this is adding salt to the wound.”

24 other states have joined the lawsuit, which was filed in Texas. The case has the potential to eventually be presented before the United States Supreme Court.

Read the 24-state lawsuit here and watch the full interview below.

NW Shoshone Hunting and Fishing Rights with KSL

March 1, 2023

This week, Special Counsel for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk spoke on KSL radio’s ‘Dave and Dujanovic Show’ about a Native American rights case that is currently before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The case centers on hunting and fishing rights of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone tribe in Idaho.

Utah has taken a position with the federal government in the NW Shoshone’s lawsuit against Idaho.

The case was originally filed in U.S. District court, but appealed to the 9th Circuit, where Assistant Solicitor General Lance Sorenson presented arguments. It was originally filed over the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s decision to ticket tribal members for hunting without a license. Utah, the tribe, and the federal government argue that the NW Shoshone have the right to hunt and fish on their ancestral lands under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Bridger.

Listen to the KSL interview

Read the KSL article

Congress Votes to Block ESG Investing 

March 2, 2023

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn a Labor Department rule that allowed retirement-plan managers to consider Environmental Social Governance factors when making investment decisions. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has also filed a lawsuit on this issue, which could be important if the President vetoes the bill as expected.

Attorney General Reyes said,

“We applaud Congress for its resolution reversing an ESG rule threatening Americans’ retirement savings. And if President Biden vetoes the resolution, state AGs will push forward in the courts to ensure that hard-working Americans’ lifesavings aren’t used for political agendas.” 

The Department of Labor rule requires fund managers to consider subjective social factors, like a company’s position on climate change, instead of traditional return on investment criteria. This standard could reduce the retirement savings of more than 152 million Americans.

News coverage: Fox News, Reuters, and USA Today.

Tribute to Steve Mikita

March 1, 2023

With heavy hearts, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and former colleagues in the Utah Office of the Attorney General honor the life of Steve Mikita, our friend and inspiration for many years. His unique service to the state and the disability community is unmatched in Utah history. His absence will be felt by our office and all those he impacted.   

Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Steve’s muscles were very weak from the neck down and he was not expected to live past the age of two. Yet, Steve overcame those odds and other insurmountable obstacles time and time again. When he attended Duke University, Mikita was the first freshman in a wheelchair to be admitted. He later earned a law degree from BYU. Steve worked at the Utah Attorney General’s Office for 39 years as an Assistant Attorney General representing the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) and the Office of Public Guardian. Steve was the ADA coordinator and handled complex cases using his vast knowledge of disability law. He is also the published author of ‘I Sit All Amazed, The Extraordinary Power of a Mother’s Love.’ 

Remembering Steve Attorney General Reyes said,  

“Steve Mikita was a giant in the Utah legal field. His work in the disability community and expertise in related legal issues was unmatched in both significance and longevity. His life experience allowed him to serve the State of Utah with incredible insight and compassion.  

He was an inspiration to us all and a living miracle embodying grit, perseverance, faith, family support and unending optimism. Beyond his leadership as a lawyer and advocate, he was a very dear personal friend. Saysha and I send our sincere condolences and love to the Mikita family.” 

We will remember Steve most for his passion, sense of humor, perseverance, and positivity. May we all be and live a little more like Steve. 

“That’s what this life is for — for navigating and loving each other and serving each other notwithstanding what comes our way. If somehow you missed that memo, then it’s time you realize this is why we’re here, to serve others through the good times and the bad times.”

– Steve Mikita

AG Reyes Joins Lawsuit on Federal Authority Over U.S. Water

February 17, 2023

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and attorneys general from 23 other states joined a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that attempts to expand federal authority over nearly every waterway in the country.

The Environmental Protection Administration’s (EPA) Waters of the United States rule “goes beyond the power Congress delegated in the Clean Water Act, raises serious constitutional concerns, and runs roughshod over the Administrative Procedure Act,” according to the lawsuit.

The AG’s say the WOTUS rule oversteps EPA authority by claiming jurisdiction over water that’s separate from any navigable water. The AG’s say they’re trying to protect farmers and ranchers and other industries that might be harmed if this overreach takes effect.

The Trump administration replaced the Obama administration’s controversial 2015 WOTUS rule with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which was finalized in 2020 and created a clear distinction between federal waters and waters subject to the sole control of the states, their governmental subdivisions, and tribes.

President Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that began the process of rolling back the Trump administration reforms, which was finalized in December when the EPA issued its new rule repealing the NWPR and simply repackaged the 2015 Obama rule. The new rule redefines “navigable waters” to include ponds, certain streams, ditches, and other bodies of water under the CWA, as determined by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The attorneys general note in the lawsuit that the flawed and unlawful rule will affect farmers who may need to get permission from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to fill or dredge wetlands or waterways, depending on whether those features fall under the federal government’s purview. Developers, miners and other property owners wishing to make use of their land will face implications too.

The lawsuit states: “By implementing an overbroad and hopelessly vague scheme, the Agencies have toppled the cooperative federalism regime that Congress intended to protect in the CWA. Core state sovereign interests can be subjugated to the desires of two federal administrative agencies, even as to remote, non-navigable, intermittent, ephemeral, and purely intrastate waters. Meanwhile, if the Final Rule is left in place, then ranchers, farmers, miners, homebuilders, and other landowners across the country will struggle to undertake even the simplest of activities on their own property without fear of drawing the ire of the federal government. Landowning Americans of all stripes will thus be left with a choice: fight their way through an expensive and lengthy administrative process to obtain complex jurisdictional determinations and permits or face substantial civil and criminal penalties.”

The states also announced a motion for preliminary injunction to stop the Biden administration’s new WOTUS rule while it’s under litigation.

“The States need preliminary relief from all this now, before the rule goes into effect on March 20. That effective date will trigger significant burdens for the States, who administer costly and time-intensive permitting and other programs under the CWA,” the motion states. “The time and money to dissect the Final Rule and expand these programs to the new lands and waters it reaches will come at the expense of other critical state functions. That time and money can never be recovered.”

Click here to read the full lawsuit.