Iowa AG announces court order against fundraising company

By Bryan Cohen | May 13, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) -- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced Wednesday that a Polk County judge has barred a Michigan-based fundraising company from soliciting donations in Iowa until it complies with a subpoena.

District Court Judge Douglas Staskal, in a ruling Tuesday, said Associated Community Services Inc. refused to provide a representative to answer the state's questions after Miller's Consumer Protection Division demanded to question an ACS representative under oath.

The attorney general's subpoena demanded a response to a previous consumer fraud subpoena related to missing evidence of recorded solicitation calls.

"We found it curious that, after months of fighting over whether they had to produce recordings of phone solicitations, the company claimed that the recordings had ceased to exist," Miller said in a statement. "Then the company came up with recordings after all, but they were suspiciously incomplete. We issued a subpoena to put a company representative under oath to account for the missing recordings, and the company refused to comply.

"So we took it to a judge, and the judge rightly sent a strong message to the company by stopping it in its tracks."

In August 2010, Miller's office filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against ACS alleging its telemarketers tried to mislead Iowans during solicitation calls. The lawsuit alleged that ACS misled Iowans about the fact that only 20 percent of each donation went to the charity.

A judge ordered the company to change its marketing practices, pay $35,000 to the state's consumer fraud enforcement fund and comply with the state's consumer fraud laws.

In October 2011, Miller's office went back to court to enforce investigative subpoenas issued to ACS resulting from two complaints related to telephone solicitations to elderly Iowans. In March 2012, the court ordered ACS to comply with the subpoenas by producing evidence, including recordings ACS had made of its own calls.

"ACS has made it clear to us that they will continue to disregard our subpoena," Miller said. "That means that they are forever barred from calling into Iowa, which is a great development for Iowans who might have been victimized by their deceptive calls."

ACS has also been the target of law enforcement actions in Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Missouri and Ohio.

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