Defending Yourself Against CFA Cases by the NJ Attorney General (AG) or Other Governmental Agencies

Investigation and Discovery Powers of the Attorney General

If the AG believes that a merchant has previously or is presently or is expected in the future to engage in a CFA violation and/or that the public interest requires an investigation, the AG is statutorily allowed to undertake either a limited or expansive investigation and if warranted by the investigation to file legal action. The authorized powers of the AG include the following:

  • “Examine under oath any person in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise”;
  • “Examine any merchandise or sample thereof” or any “record, book, document, account or paper”; and
  • Pursuant to Superior Court order, “impound any record, book, document, account, paper or merchandise sample” produced and retain it “until the completion of all proceedings in connection with which” it was produced.

The AG is also authorized to:

  • Issue subpoenas;
  • “[C]onduct hearings in aid of any investigation or inquiry”; and
  • “[P]romulgate such rules and regulations and prescribe such forms as necessary, which shall have the force of law.”

When the AG investigates or files legal action under the CFA, it’s as if the AG is stepping in as an actual public consumer.

The names of the alleged victims are listed (i.e., John & Jane Doe) and on their behalf the AG will seek damages and/or other form(s) of legal compensation. The AG may also seek relief for the benefit of a class of consumers who likely to benefit now from its action and not only for those consumers named as plaintiff(s) who participate in the case.

Assessment, Collection and Enforcement of Civil Penalties

If successful and a CFA violation is sustained in court, there are statutory penalties provided by law. A penalty not to exceed $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and each subsequent offense is authorized. This penalty is in addition to any order of the court imposing restitution to the victim(s) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 56:8-14 et. seq. Note that under the law, a court may assess a penalty for each separate violation/transaction undertaken with a consumer.

Still it’s up to the trial court and not the AG to determine what sanctions, penalties or fines are appropriate.” The trial judge will likely consider whether it is the merchant’s first CFA violation, or has the customer been reimbursed for payments made to the violator. A court will consider the following factors to determine the amount of the civil penalty to be assessed:

  • Whether restitution was made to the victim(s);
  • Whether the state has successfully recovered its costs in prosecuting the CFA action;
  • Whether it is a first offense; and
  • The seriousness of the offense itself.

Being investigated by the Attorney General can (will) be very stressful. We are here to help you with experienced and trial ready assistance if a fair and equitable settlement cannot be reached with the government. If we can be of assistance to you now or in the future, please do not hesitate to contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.

Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

 

 

Consumer Fraud Act Attorney Serving These New Jersey Counties:

Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County,
Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County,
Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, Warren County