Bolstering enforcement of state laws through private actions

MinnPost.com, by Bob Moilanen and Harry Sieben February 16, 2011

MinnPost.com, by Bob Moilanen and Harry Sieben

Minnesota law permits private attorneys to bring claims against those who engage in deceptive trade practices.

In 2009, the Minnesota Department of Commerce brought 438 enforcement actions. Consistent with their mandate, other state departments also brought numerous enforcement actions. These actions were designed to protect Minnesota citizens and resources from various sharp practices ranging from financial fraud to adulteration of food to poaching. These enforcement activities involved criminal and civil actions, cease and desist orders, and license revocations.

In the area of consumer protection, this government-led approach to enforcement is complemented by private-sector attorneys advocating on behalf of the public interest. Known as the "private attorney general" statute, Minnesota law permits private attorneys to bring claims against those who engage in deceptive trade practices. For example, successful actions have been brought enjoining the fleecing of consumers by those who engage in false advertising or illegal bait-and-switch activities. Under the private attorney general statute, these "private" actions must confer a public benefit.

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