ALBUQUERQUE ― Attorney General Hector Balderas has announced that the New Mexico Court of Appeals issued an Opinion stating that New Mexico was not bound by the agreements ITT Technical Institute entered into with its students and that there is an important public policy in allowing the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against companies that violate the Unfair Practices Act (UPA).
The Court of Appeals said: “[t]he UPA represents New Mexico’s public policy in favor of preventing consumer harm and resolving consumer claims.” The court also confirmed the Attorney General’s “broad authority to enforce the provisions of the UPA includes the right to bring actions in [the State’s] name, alleging violations of the UPA, if such ‘proceedings would be in the public interest.'”
“Yesterday’s Court of Appeals ruling is a win for New Mexico and ensures that the Office Attorney General is able to protect New Mexico consumers from predatory businesses that seek to bind them to secret arbitration,” Balderas said. “We will continue to hold large, out of state corporations accountable when they harm New Mexicans and I am thankful for the Court of Appeals ruling in this matter.”
The Office of the Attorney General sued ITT Technical Institute for violations of New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act, alleging, among other things, that ITT falsely marketed it’s nursing program as holding accreditations that it did not have, misleading students into believing that their credits would transfer to other universities, and for misrepresenting the true cost of the program, burdening students with heavy debt and potentially worthless credits.
Through the course of the litigation, ITT tried to bind the State of New Mexico, saying that rather than litigating these violations of law, the Attorney General must instead arbitrate its dispute, like the students who signed ITT’s enrollment agreements. ITT also tried to keep the Attorney General from reaching important documents from former students who had gone through the binding arbitration process. These issues were decided in the Attorney General’s favor at the trial court level, but ITT appealed them to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The Office of the Attorney General was in the midst of its legal battle when ITT declared bankruptcy and shut its doors in 2016.