Capitol Roundup: Pa. attorney general announces new consumer protection unit

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Shapiro -
Rivera -
The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo) -

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced this week he is creating a Consumer Financial Protection Unit to better protect consumers from financial scams, and is appointing an experienced consumer protection attorney to lead the initiative.

Shapiro announced the appointment of Nicholas Smyth, who helped create the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as assistant director of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection with a dedicated focus on financial initiatives. The effort will focus on lenders that prey on seniors, families with students, and military service members, including for-profit colleges and mortgage and student loan servicers.

“Protecting the public from financial scams is a key priority of mine, and Nick Smyth will help us expand our capacity to bring complex cases against financial companies that try to rip off Pennsylvanians,” Shapiro said in a news release. “If you think you’ve been scammed, let my office know at 1-800-441-2555 or [email protected] Our Consumer Protection team is here to fight on behalf of Pennsylvanians and make sure they get what they paid for and get their money back if they don’t.”

In recent weeks, Shapiro filed a lawsuit with other Attorneys General against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, after DeVos announced plans to roll back a critical student lending rule, and he also took action with his colleagues, urging the Federal Communications Commission to allow telephone companies to block illegal robocalls.

Smyth brings expertise in auto finance, student lending, debt collection and issues impacting military families. At the CFPB, Smyth led the investigation of the sub-prime auto lender Drivetime, which resulted in an $8 million settlement in 2014. He worked on CFPB v. ITT Educational Services Inc., the CFPB’s first enforcement action against a for-profit college. Smyth also worked on an investigation of U.S. Bank’s MILES Program, a sub-prime auto finance program for military service members, which led to $6.5 million in consent orders.

Before joining the CFPB as its fourth employee, Smyth was part of a team at the U.S. Treasury Department that drafted and revised the CFPB’s enabling act, the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act).

In 2016, the Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau handled 19,727 consumer complaints and returned a total of $8,570,395.15 in restitution to the Commonwealth.

PennDOT Secretary

named first female

Pa. Turnpike chair

PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards, of Whitemarsh Township, was named chair of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as part of a reorganization commissioners approved this week during a bimonthly meeting of the five-member panel.

Pittsburgh businessman William K. Lieberman was appointed vice chairman of the PTC, and former senator John N. Wozniak, of Johnstown, attended his first meeting as a Turnpike commissioner. In addition, PTC Commissioner Barry Drew, of Mechanicsburg, was named secretary-treasurer.

Richards began her career in civil engineering and project management before being elected to the Whitemarsh Township Board in 2007 and the Montgomery County Board in 2011. A graduate of Brown University, Providence, R.I., and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, she was vice chair of the Montgomery County Board and chair and vice chair of the Whitemarsh Township Board. In addition, she served on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority board and was chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission board.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was created by the state legislature in 1937 to construct, finance, operate and maintain the Turnpike, which opened to traffic on Oct. 1, 1940. Four commissioners, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate, plus the secretary of transportation, serve on the commission for four-year terms. The commission oversees more than 550 miles of highway which carries about 550,000 vehicles per day. Learn more at

Pa. again recognized

for Disabilities Education

Act compliance

Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera this week announced that Pennsylvania has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its 10th consecutive year in compliance and performance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B.

As one of seven of the biggest states in the country, Pennsylvania alone has been the only participator in compliance with USDE’s standards for IDEA, Part B. In addition, this federal distinction was given to the commonwealth for programs that serve both school-aged children from ages 3 to 21, and children under age 2.

As on-going efforts continue to improve education standards for the nation’s 7 million children with disabilities, IDEA was amended in 2004 to expand state efforts and encourage accountability. IDEA now requires individual states to develop a performance plan and an annual performance report that evaluates the state’s continuous efforts to implement IDEA.

Pennsylvania was evaluated by USDE from data collected and considered from the commonwealth’s performance plan, annual performance report, student participation on statewide assessments, and participation data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The commonwealth has achieved satisfactory reports and is not required to be part of any federal assistance or improvement plan.

Education deputy

highlights importance

of summer learning

David Volkman, Executive deputy secretary of the state Department of Education, highlighted the importance of summer learning programs at the Summer Learning Rally in Reading.

Summer Learning Programs, like the Teachers in the Parks program, help combat the effects of “summer slide” by providing access to educational opportunities to students across the commonwealth when school is out of session, according to a news release.

Studies show that summer slide is exacerbated by socioeconomic status — and the gap caused by summer slide only widens over time. After just a few summers, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will see their reading achievement scores drop below national averages.

Wolf Administration

helps veterans needing

military paperwork

Leaving the military can be a hectic and stressful time and, through all the commotion, veterans often forget how important it is to properly record and safeguard their most important military paperwork — the DD-214.

That is where the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs can help, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

The DD-214 is issued upon a military service member’s retirement, separation or discharge from active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. It contains information normally needed to verify military service for benefits, retirement, employment and membership in veterans’ organizations.

The DMVA can also assist with locating the DD-215, which is used to correct errors or make additions to a DD-214, helping to assure that veterans have accurate discharge documentation.

Anyone needing assistance from the DMVA to locate their DD-214\215 or other military documentation can call 717-861-8910 or email [email protected]

More information about locating military documents can be found by visiting the Pennsylvania DMVA.



The Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo) Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg. (AP photo)

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.