Legislation

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces $1 Million Grant to Benefit California Homeowners

March 28, 2013
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a $1 million California Homeowner Bill of Rights implementation grant to The National Housing Law Project.

“Californians were hit hard by the mortgage crisis and many people are still struggling to stay in their homes,” Attorney General Harris said. “The California Homeowner Bill of Rights gives borrowers more opportunities to stay in their homes, and this grant will help make sure the law is applied across the state and that everyone gets the protection they are entitled to.”

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights (HBOR) is a set of landmark laws that extend key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers. The laws, which took effect at the beginning of this year, restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender, impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents and require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.

This grant will maximize consumer benefits from the HBOR, while minimizing abuses of the law by providing training to California consumer and housing attorneys from both private and non-profit firms.

The National Housing Law Project will partner with Western Center on Law and Poverty, National Consumer Law Center and Tenants Together to implement this grant.

The National Housing Law Project and its partners will use the grant to:

  • Provide high-quality, on-site trainings and webinars to consumer and housing attorneys on how to maximize the HBOR’s protections.
  • Train more than 800 lawyers.
  • Provide support in cases that raise important legal issues or have potential for broad impact.
  • Create a library of litigation materials to help attorneys maximize the HBOR’s benefits.
  • Produce a report that analyzes the HBOR’s statewide impact and identifies compliance problems.

Funds provided through this grant were secured by Attorney General Harris through the $18 billion National Mortgage Settlement.

Established in 1968, The National Housing Law Project seeks to advance housing justice by advocating for affordable housing, litigating to uphold homeowners’ and tenants’ rights and offering technical assistance to legal aid attorneys who work with low-income families.

The State Bar has partnered with the Attorney General’s Office to administer the grant and monitor compliance. The National Housing Law Project will provide quarterly financial and program reports to the State Bar and the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Funding to Double APPS Program Passes State Senate

March 7, 2013
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today applauded the California State Senate’s bipartisan approval of a bill to increase funding for a Department of Justice program that takes firearms out of the hands of individuals who are prohibited from owning them.

“Taking guns away from dangerous, violent individuals who are prohibited by law from owning them is smart and efficient law enforcement,” said Attorney General Harris. “I commend the State Senate for strongly supporting this critical investment in public safety. Senate Bill 140 will allow us to double law enforcement’s efforts to take guns off the street.”

California is the only state to have an Armed and Prohibited Persons program (APPS), which identifies people who have a legally registered gun, but are later prohibited from owning it. A person becomes prohibited if he or she is convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, is placed under a domestic violence restraining order or is determined to be mentally unstable.

Senate Bill 140, by Senator Mark Leno, passed the Senate on a 31 to 0 vote. The bill would appropriate $24 million to the Department of Justice from the Dealer Record of Sale account to allow for 36 additional agents to be hired for the APPS program. In 2012, DOJ agents investigated 2,148 cases and seized 1,963 weapons, including 261 assault weapons, and 117,887 rounds of ammunition.

“As we continue to debate how to best curb gun violence, this part of the solution is a no-brainer,” said Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. “When we know thousands of guns are in the wrong hands, and we know who those people are, we need to eliminate as much of that danger as quickly as possible. This is a small but vital investment to protect our communities.”

“When it comes to preventing gun violence in California, we are at a distinct advantage because we are the only state in the nation that utilizes a unique system to identify persons who are barred from possessing firearms,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “However, we have only been able to confiscate a small number of these illegally possessed weapons due to lack of resources. Our reinvestment in this statewide identification program will help eliminate a troubling backlog and growing mountain of illegal weapons, which threatens public safety in our communities and prevents us from enforcing existing firearms laws.”

Upon taking office in 2011, Attorney General Harris added 10 agents, making a total of 33, to the program in order to increase the number of guns confiscated from prohibited persons. Over the last two years, DOJ agents have investigated nearly 4,000 people and seized nearly 4,000 weapons, including nearly 2,000 handguns and more than 300 assault weapons.

The APPS database cross-references five databases to identify those who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.

The database was completed in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007.

When Attorney General Harris took office, she directed Department of Justice agents to conduct daily enforcement activities with the support of local law enforcement.

In January, Attorney General Harris sent a letter to Vice President Biden urging the APPS program to be considered as a national model. Last week, she announced her support for U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson’s legislation to create a national grant program that will allow other states to start their own APPS programs.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Federal Assault Weapons Legislation

January 24, 2013
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s federal assault weapons legislation:

"Senator Feinstein's renewed call to reactivate the federal assault weapons ban and to ban high-capacity magazines is in the best interest of public safety. These weapons of war are too often used to take innocent lives and do not belong on our streets.  I was proud to stand with Senator Feinstein when she fought to restore the ban in 2004, and I am proud to stand with her again today."

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget

January 10, 2013
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement on Governor Brown’s proposed budget:

“Today Governor Brown proposed a balanced budget that avoids the deep cuts the state has suffered for many years. Voters placed their trust in state government by approving Proposition 30 and it is important that their trust is honored and their money is spent wisely. This includes smart investments that benefit Californians, such as restoring funding for the state's prescription-drug monitoring program and support for law enforcement programs that reduce the number of illegal firearms on our streets. It also means sending resources to our schools in a way that ensures all children, especially those in our poorest communities, receive a quality education.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces the California Homeowner Bill of Rights to Take Effect on January 1

December 20, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a landmark package of legislation that extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to California homeowners and borrowers, will take effect on January 1, 2013.

The new laws restrict dual-track foreclosures, guarantee struggling homeowners a reliable point of contact at their lender and impose civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents. In addition, homeowners may require loan servicers to document their right to foreclose.

“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said Attorney General Harris. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”

Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Homeowner Bill of Rights into law to bring fairness, accountability and transparency to the state’s foreclosure process. As a result:

  • There is a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home.
  • Struggling homeowners are guaranteed lenders will provide them a single point of contact with knowledge of their loan and direct access to the banks’ decision makers.
  • The statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage-related crimes is extended from one to three years, allowing the Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute complex mortgage fraud crimes.
  • The Attorney General’s office can use statewide grand juries to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.  
  • Purchasers of foreclosed homes are required to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. If the tenant has a fixed-term lease of one year or less, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner can prove that exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply. 
  • Local governments have additional tools to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes in their neighborhoods.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights marks a significant step in Attorney General Harris’ response to the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force was created in May 2011 to investigate and prosecute misconduct at all stages of the mortgage process. In February 2012, Attorney General Harris secured a commitment from the nation’s five largest banks of up to $18 billion for California borrowers.

For more information, see http://oag.ca.gov/hbor.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Suit Against Delta Airlines for Failure to Comply with California Privacy Law

December 6, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today the first legal action under California’s online privacy law against Delta Airlines, Inc. for failing to comply with the state’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Delta, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, was among the companies given 30 days to conspicuously post a privacy policy within their mobile app that informs users of what personally identifiable information is being collected and what will be done with it.

“Losing your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is,” said Attorney General Harris. “California law is clear that mobile apps collecting personal information need privacy policies, and that the users of those apps deserve to know what is being done with their personal information.”

The California Online Privacy Protection Act requires commercial operators of websites and online services, including mobile and social apps, which collect personally identifiable information from Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy. Privacy policies are an important safeguard for consumers. Privacy policies promote transparency in how companies collect, use, and share personal information.  If developers do not comply with their stated privacy policies, they can be prosecuted under California’s Unfair Competition Law and/or False Advertising Law.

The complaint alleges that since at least 2010, Delta has operated a mobile app called “Fly Delta” for use on smartphones and other electronic devices.   The Fly Delta app may be used to check-in online for an airplane flight, view reservations for air travel, rebook cancelled or missed flights, pay for checked baggage, track checked baggage, access a user’s frequent flyer account, take photographs, and even save a user’s geo-location. Despite collecting substantial personally identifiable information such as a user’s full name, telephone number, email address, frequent flyer account number and pin code, photographs, and geo-location, the Fly Delta application does not have a privacy policy.

The suit seeks to enjoin Delta from distributing its app without a privacy policy and penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.  The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court and a copy of the complaint is attached to the online version of this press release.

This action by Attorney General Harris follows an agreement she forged among the seven leading mobile and social app platforms to improve privacy protections for millions of users around the globe who use apps on their smart phones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Those platforms – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research in Motion – agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the industry in line with California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy. The agreement allows consumers the opportunity to review an app’s privacy policy before they download the app rather than after, and offers consumers a consistent location for an app’s privacy policy on the application-download screen in the platform store. 

The California Online Privacy Protection Act is one of the privacy laws that the DOJ’s Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit is charged with enforcing. Created by Attorney General Harris in 2012, the Privacy Unit’s mission is to enforce federal and state privacy laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes laws relating to cyber privacy, health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches.

The October 2012 press release announcing the notification to mobile app developers can be found here: https://www.oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-notifies-mobile-app-developers-non-compliance. The February 2012 press release announcing the apps agreement can be found here: https://www.oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-secures-global-agreement-strengthen-privacy. The June 2012 press release announcing that Facebook joined the apps agreement can be found here: https://www.oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-announces-expansion-california%E2%80%99s-consumer.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Homeowner Assistance Grant Program

November 21, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a $10.4 million grant program for organizations that provide housing counseling and legal services to homeowners.  The grant funds were secured through the National Mortgage Settlement with the goal of providing assistance to homeowners impacted by California's foreclosure crisis.

The California Department of Justice will award Consumer Assistance Grants for housing counseling and legal service providers ranging from $150,000 to $750,000 per organization.  A Homeowner Bill of Rights Implementation Grant of approximately $1 million will also be awarded to assist in the implementation of California’s new homeowner protection legislation sponsored by the Attorney General this year.

Grant applications must be received electronically no later than January 14, 2013.  Details regarding the application process can be found at http://oag.ca.gov/grants.

The California State Bar, under the leadership of Executive Director Joe Dunn, will work with the Attorney General’s office to administer the grants.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights, signed into law earlier this year, restricts dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home.  It also guarantees struggling homeowners a single point of contact at their lender with knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers, and imposes civil penalties on fraudulently signed mortgage documents.

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights expanded Attorney General Harris’ response to the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. Attorney General Harris created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force in March, 2011 to investigate and prosecute misconduct related to mortgages and foreclosures. In February 2012, Attorney General Harris negotiated a commitment from the nation’s five largest banks to dedicate an estimated $18 billion to mitigate harm to California homeowners caused by bank conduct in the foreclosure process.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Notifies Mobile App Developers of Non-Compliance with California Privacy Law

October 30, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris this week began formally notifying scores of mobile application developers and companies that they are not in compliance with California privacy law.

The companies were given 30 days to conspicuously post a privacy policy within their app that informs users of what personally identifiable information about them is being collected and what will be done with that private information. Letters will be sent out to up to 100 non-compliant apps at this time, starting with those who have the most popular apps available on mobile platforms.

"Protecting the privacy of online consumers is a serious law enforcement matter," said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. "We have worked hard to ensure that app developers are aware of their legal obligations to respect the privacy of Californians, but it is critical that we take all necessary steps to enforce California’s privacy laws."

The letters are the first step in taking legal action to enforce the California Online Privacy Protection Act (Simitian), which requires commercial operators of online services, including mobile and social apps, which collect personally identifiable information from Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy. Privacy policies are an important safeguard for consumers. Privacy policies promote transparency in how companies collect, use, and share personal information. Companies can face fines of up to $2,500 each time a non-compliant app is downloaded.

This action by Attorney General Harris follows an agreement she forged among the seven leading mobile and social app platforms to improve privacy protections for millions of users around the globe who use apps on their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Those platforms – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research in Motion – agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the industry in line with California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy. The agreement allows consumers the opportunity to review an app’s privacy policy before they download the app rather than after, and offers consumers a consistent location for an app’s privacy policy on the application-download screen in the platform store.

The California Online Privacy Protection Act is one of the privacy laws that the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit is charged with enforcing. Created in 2012, the Privacy Unit’s mission is to enforce federal and state privacy laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes laws relating to cyber privacy, health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches.

The February 2012 press release announcing the apps agreement can be found here. The June 2012 press release announcing that Facebook joined the apps agreement can be found here.

A sample non-compliance letter is attached.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Final Components of California Homeowner Bill of Rights Signed into Law

September 25, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the final parts of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights have been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

"California has been the epicenter of the foreclosure and mortgage crisis," said Attorney General Harris. "The Homeowner Bill of Rights will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone."

The Governor signed:

  • Senate Bill 1474 by Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, which gives the Attorney General’s office the ability to use a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in multiple counties.
  • Assembly Bill 1950, by Assemblymember Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, which extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting mortgage related crimes from one year to three years, giving the Department of Justice and local District Attorneys the time needed to investigate and prosecute complex mortgage fraud crimes.
  • Assembly Bill 2610 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which requires purchasers of foreclosed homes to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. If the tenant has a fixed-term lease, the new owner must honor the lease unless the owner demonstrates that certain exceptions intended to prevent fraudulent leases apply.

Previously signed into law were three other components of the Homeowner Bill of Rights. Assembly Bill 2314, by Assemblymember Wilmer Carter, D-Rialto, provides additional tools to local governments and receivers to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes in neighborhoods.

Two additional bills, which came out of a two-house conference committee, provide protections for borrowers and struggling homeowners, including a restriction on dual-track foreclosures, where a lender forecloses on a borrower despite being in discussions over a loan modification to save the home. The bills also guarantee struggling homeowners a single point of contact at their lender with knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers.

All aspects of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights will take effect on January 1, 2013.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Bills to Combat Human Trafficking Signed into Law

September 24, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that two bills that will make it more difficult for human traffickers to hide their assets have been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 2466, by Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking will not dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims. Senate Bill 1133, by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking. Both laws will take effect on January 1, 2013.

"With these new laws, California prosecutors and law enforcement officials will be able to seize assets of human traffickers, cripple their operations and aid victims," said Attorney General Harris. "Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California."

Assembly Bill 2466 (Preservation of Assets for Victims of Human Trafficking), will help to ensure that more victims of human trafficking receive restitution. Under California law, victims are entitled to mandatory restitution; however there are no laws to help prevent human trafficking defendants from liquidating and hiding their assets before conviction. Assembly Bill 2466 will allow a court to order the preservation of the assets and property by persons charged with human trafficking.

"We need all hands on deck to confront trafficking," Blumenfield said. "Trafficking is slavery. Now, the perpetrators of this despicable crime cannot game the system and keep their money when caught and convicted. Justice will come for victims."

Senate Bill 1133 ensures that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from their unlawful activity. The law expands the scope of property subject to forfeiture and provides a formula to redirect those resources to community groups that aid victims of human trafficking.

"Today we are one step closer to dismantling the economic infrastructure that convicted child sex traffickers rely on to continue to lure young people into the sex trade," said Senator Leno. "In addition to taking away the lucrative profits from these horrendous crimes, we are providing much-needed financial support for increased investigations and victim services."

Attorney General Harris is committed to the fight against this fast-growing crime that deprives persons of basic human rights. Harris co-sponsored the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005, which made human trafficking a felony in California. Attorney General Harris has also served on the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force.

On Friday, Attorney General Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an accord to expand prosecutions and secure convictions of criminals who engage in the trafficking of human beings. The accord will increase coordination of law enforcement resources targeting transnational gangs that engage in the sale and trafficking of human beings across the California-Mexico border. The accord also calls for closer integration on human trafficking investigations between the two offices and the sharing of best practices for law enforcement to recognize instances of human trafficking and provide support and services to victims.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world’s third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking. Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude. While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year. Human trafficking strips people, especially women and children, of their freedom and violates our nation’s promise that every person in the United States is guaranteed basic human rights.

For more information on the trafficking of human beings, go to www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking.