National lawsuits don't necessarily wind up righting consumer wrongs

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: December 5, 2012

Fortunately, Oklahoma has been a more responsible steward of tobacco and mortgage settlement funds. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Oklahoma ranks seventh in the nation in the amount of state spending directed to tobacco prevention (measured as a percentage of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended funding levels).

Oklahoma's tobacco settlement funds are governed by a constitutionally created Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust; only interest earnings from settlement funds may be spent on health, education and tobacco prevention programs. The trust determines how 75 percent of funds are spent, with the Legislature controlling the remainder.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt negotiated a separate, single-state agreement with mortgage lenders. Oklahoma got $18.6 million and is in the process of providing payments to families legitimately harmed by lending abuses. Those families are expected to receive between $5,000 and $20,000 apiece, which is up to 10 times more than the direct payments made under the national settlement.

Pruitt's office also is partnering with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Bar Association and Oklahoma Lawyers for America's Heroes Program to help families successfully navigate mortgage issues.

Even with Oklahoma's better management, the evidence from other states suggests these national lawsuits, touted as a way to right consumer wrongs, were falsely justified. As time goes by, the lawsuits' benefit has accrued less and less to allegedly victimized citizens and more and more to enriched bureaucrats and lawyers.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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