|29th Attorney General of Minnesota|
January 2, 2007 – January 7, 2019
|Preceded by||Mike Hatch|
|Succeeded by||Keith Ellison|
|Born||December 16, 1966|
|Education||University of Wisconsin–Madison (BA)|
William Mitchell College of Law (JD)
Lori Swanson (born December 16, 1966) is an American lawyer who served as the Attorney General of Minnesota from 2007 to 2019. She was the first female Attorney General elected in Minnesota. In 2018, she ran for Governor of Minnesota with running mate U.S. Representative Rick Nolan finishing in third place in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary.
Early life and education
Swanson was born on December 16, 1966. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her J.D. magna cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul.
Early legal career
Swanson served as Deputy Attorney General during Mike Hatch's first term, and as Solicitor General during his second term. She also served as chair of the Consumer Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington D.C. in 2006. Swanson was appointed to the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington D.C. in 2004. Swanson was appointed as Vice-Chair of the Council in 2005. She was appointed Chair of the Council in 2006.
Attorney General of Minnesota
She was elected Minnesota Attorney General on November 7, 2006 and took office on January 2, 2007, becoming the first woman to serve as Minnesota's Attorney General. She also became the first William Mitchell College of Law grad to serve as the Minnesota Attorney General, ending the University of Minnesota Law School's continued streak of holding the office since in 1929.
After being sworn in as Attorney General, Swanson filed a series of lawsuits against life insurance companies that sold unsuitable annuities to senior citizens. She argued that the insurance companies were responsible for agents who sold long-term annuities with high surrender charge to the elderly. In 2007 and 2008, she sued several insurers, including Allianz Life Insurance Company, American Equity Life Insurance Company, Midland National Life Insurance company, AmeriUs Life Insurance Company and American Investors Life Insurance. The lawsuits resulted in settlements that provided for industry-wide reforms and hundreds of millions of dollars in refund offers to senior citizens. Swanson testified in the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging about the need for insurance companies to require sales agents to ensure the suitability of the sale of an insurance product.
As Swanson took office, the country was beginning to face a housing crisis and eventual recession spurred by predatory subprime mortgage lending. Before she took office, Swanson announced a predatory lending working group to make recommendations to legislators for reforming abuses in the mortgage industry. The group made a number of recommendations, such as the elimination of “no doc” mortgages in which a loan is issued without proof of a borrower's ability to repay it. Many of these proposals were enacted into law, and the Martin Luther King-inspired Drum Major Institute called them one of the 10 best public policy proposals in the United States. A New York Times editorial heralded the law in 2009. Swanson was asked to testify before the United States Congress  and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors about the Minnesota reforms. During the housing crisis, Swanson filed 19 lawsuits against mortgage foreclosure companies that defrauded homeowners by charging thousands of dollars and falsely promising to help save their homes from foreclosure. Swanson entered into settlements with a number of national banks for their role in the foreclosure crisis, giving the money back to homeowners who were victimized by the banks’ conduct.
In 2007, a group of attorneys working for Swanson attempted to form a union with the help of AFSCME council 5 to improve their working conditions and provide some protection from being asked to violate the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct by bringing baseless lawsuits against individuals and organizations to suit Swanson's political aspirations. As of April 2017, three months into Swanson's tenure, at least 30 members of Swanson's staff had left the office. On March 7, 2008, MinnPost reported on the internal fight for unionization that was still ongoing, including reports that attorneys who did not support Swanson politically were given punishment assignments or were removed from cases. Later on that spring, in May 2008, an attorney who publicly advocated for the formation of a union, Amy Lawler, was fired by Swanson without explanation.
In 2009, Swanson filed a lawsuit against National Arbitration Forum (NAF), at that time the largest consumer arbitration organization in the country. NAF had been criticized by consumer advocacy groups, U.S. Senators, and Public Citizen for bias against consumers. Swanson alleged that NAF was owned by a group of equity funds that also were simultaneously affiliated with a national debt collection agency, Axiant, and the administration of the largest collection law firm at the time, Mann Brakken. In July 2009 NAF signed a consent order with Swanson agreeing to stop arbitrating consumer claims. Shortly thereafter, Axiant and Mann Bracken went out of business. Swanson was re-elected on November 2, 2010, defeating Republican challenger Chris Barden.
In January 2012, Swanson sued Accretive Health, a billing and revenue consulting firm hired by two Twin Cities hospitals, for losing patient data on a lap top. At the time, Accretive was a multibillion-dollar publicly-traded company. The lawsuit expanded when Swanson discovered that, unbeknownst to the patients, the data was being used to calculate the “frailty condition” of patients, complete with a “complexity score” of the physical condition of patients. In April 2012, the lawsuit again expanded when Swanson alleged that Accretive embedded bill collectors in the emergency rooms of hospitals and demanded payment by patients before and during treatment. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel then intervened on behalf of Chicago-based Accretive to stop the litigation, which Swanson declined to do. The litigation ended with Accretive paying a $2.5 million penalty and being banned from the state. Accretive is believed to be the first NYSE company to be banned from doing business in a state.
In April 2013, Swanson intervened in a proposed merger of South Dakota-based Sanford Health and Fairview Health Systems. The merger would have included the control of the University of Minnesota Hospital System by the out-of-state Sanford. Swanson convened a hearing on the proposed merger in the State Capitol, grilling executives of the three organizations about the impact of the merger on the 23,000 Fairview employees in Minnesota and the $1.2 billion in assets held by the non-profit Fairview. The hearing was hotly contested. On April 10, 2013, Sanford withdrew from the merger discussion.
In 2013 and 2014 Swanson took on for-profit colleges. Pointing out that over 70% of graduates of for-profit colleges earn less than high school drop outs, Swanson took action against colleges who misrepresented job placement rates, who steered students to high interest rates loans, and who misrepresented the transferability of credits to other institutions. In November, 2013 Swanson reached a settlement that required a for-profit college to make restitution to students whom it enrolled in a medical assisting degree program costing over $30,000 that wasn't properly accredited to train medical assistants to work for Minnesota employers. In September, 2016 the district court in Hennepin County ruled that another for-profit college sued by Swanson violated the consumer fraud laws by enrolling students who wanted to become police officers in a criminal justice program that was not certified by the state to train police officers. In July, 2017 the Minnesota Supreme Court found in Swanson's lawsuit that the school made illegal usurious loans to students at interest rates as high as 18 percent. In 2015, Swanson became one of the first attorneys general in the country to file lawsuits against student loan assistance companies that charged students thousands of dollars for bogus help in supposedly alleviating student loan debt.
In 2014, Swanson issued a scathing report on charities that contract with Savers, Inc., a for profit company that collects and sells second hand clothing through the United States and Canada. Swanson said that the charities and Savers were engaged in deceptive activities because the charities received only a few pennies in exchange for the dollars received by Savers for the sale of donated clothing. Swanson settled the matter in 2015 when Savers agreed to disclose that it is a for-profit company, that it will no longer commingle goods donated to specific charities, that it will disclose the amount of the revenue it receives which is donated to charity, that it will compensate charities for non-clothing items donated to the charity, and that it pay $1.8 million to the charities it serviced in the state of Minnesota.
Swanson was active in pharmaceutical litigation. In June 2016, she secured a $10.3 million recovery from Wyeth Pharmaceutical for failing to properly issue rebates to the state. In September 2016, Swanson sued Indivior PLC, a manufacturer of the opioid withdrawal medicine Suboxone, for unlawfully keeping out generic competition by tweaking the drug's structure to obtain a separate patent. She also wrote to insurance companies that month asking them to remove pre-authorization approval barriers to prevent or delay patients from getting access to opioid withdrawal treatment. In November 2016, Swanson issued a report on the opioid epidemic, calling for legislative and regulatory reforms as it relates to protocols on prescribing pain killers. The Report received 2017 Notable Mention Award from the National Council of State Legislatures. In December, 2016, she filed an antitrust lawsuit against six major drug manufactures alleging they colluded to fix the prices of generic prescription drugs for widely used diabetes, antibiotic, and other medicines. The lawsuit said that a significant player in the litigation was a salesperson based in Minnesota. In June 2017, Swanson opened an investigation concerning the role of pharmaceutical manufacturers in the opioid epidemic. In May 2018, Swanson sued Insys Therapeutics for deceptive marketing of Subsys, a fentanyl painkiller. In October 2017, Swanson expanded her lawsuit against generic drug companies for fixing the prices of popular medicines by naming a dozen more companies. In July 2018, Swanson filed sued against Purdue Pharma, claiming that it misrepresented the addictive nature of OxyContin.
Swanson has also been active in cases involving deceptive practices aimed at senior citizens. She obtained a $7 million judgment  against a company that sold living trusts to senior citizens as a guise to sell them insurance products. In 2014, she filed a lawsuit against another company that sold “estate plans” to senior citizens costing $2,000 that it falsely claimed were prepared by an attorney. Swanson filed several lawsuits against outfits that bilked senior citizens with the sale of coins that were overpriced or not delivered. Swanson then worked with the legislature to secure enactment of legislation to curb abuses within the industry.
Swanson also brought a number of cases on behalf of patients who were harmed by various health care practices besides those listed above. In 2009, she filed a lawsuit against a major hospital system for charging 18 percent interest on unpaid medical bills in violation of Minnesota usury laws. The hospital settled with Swanson by agreeing to make over $1 million in refunds to patients. In 2007, 2012, and 2017, she renewed agreements first reached by her predecessor in 2005 with all Minnesota hospitals to reform the manner in which they collect unpaid medical bills and charge uninsured patients. In 2009 she took action against medical providers for signing patients up for health care credit cards without their permission and placing thousands of dollars in debt on the credit cards. In 2009 and 2010 Swanson sued several companies that sold phony health insurance coverage to uninsured patients. In 2013, Swanson intervened to assist rural critical access hospitals after a large insurance company cut their contract payments. Also in 2013, Swanson asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to investigate a large insurer that sold Medicare policies after receiving complaints about shoddy payment practices. In 2016, Swanson required Minnesota hospitals to refund rape survivors who were improperly charged for sexual assault exams. In 2017, after the Minnesota Legislature authorized for-profit HMOs do business in Minnesota, Swanson sounded the alarm about the need to protect the nonprofit assets held by Minnesota HMOs from being acquired by for-profit companies. After Swanson pushed for legislation to regulate such nonprofit conversions, the legislature enacted a two-year moratorium on such transactions. In 2017 Swanson intervened after the state's largest insurance company and children's hospital failed to agreeing on a contract, bringing the two chief executive officers together to help forge a solution that would ensure continuity of care for 60,000 child patients. In 2018 Swanson filed a lawsuit against the federal government for cutting over $100 million in year in funding for MinnesotaCare, the state's 25 year old bipartisan health care program for the working poor.
During her tenure as Attorney General, Swanson received recognition for bringing a number of cases to hold bill collectors and predatory lenders accountable for unlawful collection practices or other illegal practices. She brought the first lawsuit by a regulator in the country against one of the nation's largest collection agencies for “robo-signing” thousands of legal documents without verifying their accuracy. The alleged debts were often 10 years old or more and brought against people who did not owe the money. In a settlement with Swanson's office, the company agreed to reform its practices and substantiate that debts were owed before filing collection lawsuits. Swanson later got enacted bipartisan legislation that required debt buyers to provide evidence they are targeting the correct person in the right amount before filing collection lawsuits. Swanson also got millions of dollars of bills written off after suing a Minnesota collection company that added 22 percent interest to old bank overdraft fees. In 2017, she sued an outfit that got senior citizens to sign over large portions of their future pensions at high costs for military benefits in exchange for small loans. Starting in 2011, Swanson filed suit against many online “payday” lenders for making high-cost unlicensed loans to Minnesota residents, winning an $11 million settlement against one such company in 2016. In 2015 Swanson secured a favorable ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court that Minnesota lending laws apply to online lenders against a lender that claimed that the Dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution prohibited the application of such laws.
On February 1, 2017, Swanson joined the attorneys general of the states of Washington, New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts in bringing a lawsuit against the administration of President Donald Trump. The suit challenges the president's executive order that bans refugees and travelers from a list of predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. The suit alleges that the order is unconstitutional and should not be enforced. Swanson issued a statement saying restricting people from certain countries "does not pass constitutional muster, is inconsistent with our history as a nation, and undermines our national security." 
In February, 2018 Swanson reached a settlement of a major environmental lawsuit she filed in 2010 against a large company over its disposal of chemicals for several decades into the drinking water in the east metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. The lawsuit was settled for $850 million, or 100 times more than the next biggest environmental settlement in Minnesota history. Under the court-approved settlement, the money was to be used to clean up the drinking water.
On June 2, 2018, Swanson withdrew from seeking the DFL endorsement for Attorney General despite receiving 52% of the endorsement vote in the first round of balloting (with 60% required for endorsement). Her opponent, Matt Pelikan, had received 47% in the first round of balloting. After her withdrawal, Pelikan was endorsed as the DFL candidate for Attorney General.
2018 Minnesota Gubernatorial election
During her campaign for Governor, Swanson was accused by staffers in the Attorney General's office of having tasked staff to do political work related to Swanson's political campaigns. Swanson denied the allegations.
Awards and honors
Swanson was named one of the "Top Ten Lawyers in America" by the national publication Lawyers USA in 2009. In December, 2012 Health Leaders Magazine named Swanson one of 20 Americans who is making a difference in health care. She also received the Robert Drinan "Champion of Justice" award from the National Consumer Law Center, a Washington-based non-profit organization that acts as a national clearing center and publisher for consumer lawyers and other legal advocates. She was also a recipient of the Pro Patria award by the Department of Defense for her work on behalf of armed service personnel. In 2010, Swanson was named Public Official of the Year by the Minnesota Nurses Association. The Drum Major Institute of New York designated Swanson's predatory mortgage legislation on one of the ten top public policies proposed in 2008. In 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism awarded Swanson the Distinguished Service Award.
- 2018 Race for Governor - DFL Primary
- 2014 Race for Attorney General – General Election
- Lori Swanson (DFL) 52.6%
- Scott Newman (GOP) 39%
- Dan Vacek 2.99%
- Brandon Borgos 2.31%
- Mary O'Connor 1.56%
- Andy Dawkins 1.49%
- 2010 Race for Attorney General – General Election
- Lori Swanson (DFL) 52.9%
- Chris Barden (GOP) 41.27%
- Bill Dann (IP) 5.06%
- David Hoch (Resource Party) 0.69%
- 2010 Race for Attorney General – DFL Primary
- Lori Swanson 85.61%
- Leo F. Meyer 14.39%
- 2006 Race for Attorney General – General Election
- Lori Swanson (DFL) 53.24%
- Jeff Johnson (GOP) 40.72%
- John James (IP) 4.05%
- 2006 Race for Attorney General – DFL Primary
- Politics of Minnesota
- Washington, Minnesota attorneys general's lawsuit against Trump immigration ban
- List of female state attorneys-general in the United States
- "Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson". Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Swanson Debuts First TV Ad of Governor's Race".
- Coolican, J. Patrick. "Johnson and Walz to face off in Minnesota governor's race". StarTribune.com. Star Tribune. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- "Attorney General Lori Swanson – Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Minn. Attorney General settles annuity lawsuit with Allianz Life".
- "Swanson sues Iowa insurance company over senior annuities".
- "Swanson, Midland reach annuities settlement".
- "State, two annuity firms settle".
- "Minn. attorney general settles annuity lawsuit with Allianz Life".
- TESTIMONY OF MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL LORI SWANSON (PDF)
- Star Tribune, January 3, 2007, Taking Action Against Predatory Lending.
- Lori Swanson Predatory Mortgage Lending Reforms
- Lori Swanson
- Common Sense in Lending
- Testimony of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson Regarding Predatory Mortgage Lending and Use of the Board's Authority Under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA)to Curb Abusive Mortgage Lending (PDF)
- Testimony of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson Regarding Predatory Mortgage Lending and Use of the Board's Authority Under the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994 (HOEPA)to Curb Abusive Mortgage Lending (PDF)
- Minnesota attorney general targets new foreclosure schemes
- "Union's feud with Attorney General Swanson escalates". Winona Daily News. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- "Staffers detail climate of stress, politicization in AG's office". MinnPost. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- "An explanation for recent agonies in attorney general's office: Mike Hatch's traumatic reign". MinnPost. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
- Swanson v. National Arbitration Forum, Hennepin County District Court, State of Minnesota, file #27-cv-09-18550
- Berner, Robert; Grow, Brian (June 4, 2008). "Banks vs. Consumers (Guess Who Wins)". Businessweek.
- Hopkins, Jamie Smith (February 26, 2010). "Mann Bracken put in receivership in lieu of bankruptcy filing". The Baltimore Sun.
- Switzky, Bryant Ruiz (February 1, 2010). "Demise of Axiant, Mann Bracken means chaos, lost jobs". Washington Business Journal.
- "Ritchie, Swanson re-elected in Minn. SOS, AG races". Albert Lea Tribune. AP. November 2, 2010.
- "Minn. Minnesota sues consulting firm over lost health data".
- "Debt Collector Is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals".
- "Despite Chicago mayor's intervention, Minnesota AG says she won't back off Accretive probe".
- "Accretive is banned from Minnesota".
- "Minn. AG to investigate Sanford's proposed takeover of Fairview".
- "Attorney general questions proposed Fairview-Sanford merger".
- "Questions remain about Sanford-Fairview deal".
- "Sanford withdraws from Fairview merger talks".
- Swanson, Lori (March 12, 2015). "State needs to make for-profit colleges more transparent". Star Tribune.
- Halperin, David (April 22, 2015). "Abuses at Corinthian Are Mirrored at Other Big For-Profit Colleges". Republic Report.
- Lerner, Maura; Walsh, Paul (November 24, 2014). "Lawsuit, Minnesota School of Business, Globe University, Misled Students". Star Tribune.
- "Minn., Herzing University reach deal over program that lacked accreditation".
- "Globe U and Minn. School of Business must close, state says after fraud ruling".
- "Minnesota Supreme Court says Globe, School of Business issued illegal student loans".
- "Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sues company allegedly promising student loan debt 'forgiveness'".
- Bjorhus, Jennifer (November 25, 2014). "Minnesota AG: Thrift Store Giant Misleading the Public". Star Tribune.
- "Minnesota Attorney General sues Savers for Misleading Donors," KARE Television, May 21, 2015
- Bjorhus, "Savers Stores Settles with Minnesota Attorney General Lawsuit," StarTribune, June 25, 2015
- Electionresults.sos.state.mn.us/results/Attorney General
- Kather, Kathy (November 5, 2014). "Lori Swanson wins 3rd term as attorney general". Pioneer Press.
- "Minnesota to collect $10.3 million in drug company settlement".
- "Minn. AG sues drug companies over opioid treatment".
- "Lori Swanson sues to expand access to opioid addiction treatment drug".
- "Attorney General Swanson examines problems fueling Minnesota's opioid epidemic".
- "LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH LIBRARIANS NOTABLE DOCUMENT AWARD WINNERS".
- "Lawsuit alleging price-fixing of generic drugs points to Minnesota saleswoman".
- "Minn. AG joins probe of drug makers' role in opioid crisis".
- "Minnesota attorney general sues maker of fentanyl spray over 'brazen,' 'crass' marketing tactics".
- "Minnesota sues OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma".
- "State of Minnesota by its Attorney General, Lori Swanson, Respondent, vs. American Family Prepaid Legal Corporation, d/b/a American Family Legal Plan, et al., Appellants, Stanley Norman, Defendant".
- "Is American Family Legal Plan duping Minnesota's elderly?".
- "State accuses Shorewood firm of 'trust mill' fraud".
- "Minn. Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Local Coin Dealer".
- "Attorney General Swanson sues another coin dealer, seeks legislation".
- "Editorial: Elders too easy a mark for coin fraud".
- Minnesota sues over Allina's 18% interest rate
- Allina to refund $1.1 million to patients
- Minnesota Medical Billing and Collection Agreement Extended
- Health care credit cards draw ire of Minnesota Attorney General
- Swanson accuses companies of health insurance fraud
- Attorney General Swanson files lawsuit against 'health discount' companies
- Rural hospitals in Minnesota protest Blue Cross reimbursement cut
- Minnesota attorney general asks U.S. to investigate Humana
- Minnesota hospitals told to refund sex assault victims billed for exams
- For-profit HMOs: Minnesota is poised to fall in a trap
- Law blocks HMO sales to for-profits in Minnesota
- Blue Cross and Children's Minnesota settle contract dispute
- Minnesota sues Trump administration over Minnesotacare funding
- State files suit against debt firm
- Minn. AG reaches settlement with big debt buyer
- Minnesota looks to toughen laws for pugnacious bill collectors
- Minnesota attorney general sues Plymouth debt firm over 22% bogus interest
- Minnesota attorney general accuses 2 lending firms of scamming seniors, veterans
- State bars internet lender, wins $11.7M settlement over 'rent-a-tribe' loans
- Minnesota Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of Minnesota's payday lending law
- Nelson, Cody. "Minnesota AG Swanson joins suit against Trump's immigration order". Retrieved February 2, 2017.
- "Minnesota suing Trump administration over refugee order". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
- "3M settles groundwater lawsuit for $850 million".
- Magan, Christopher (June 2, 2018). "Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson drops out of DFL endorsement race". Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
- "Another Swanson office staffer says she was asked to do political work". Star Tribune. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- "Lori Swanson hits back at former aide who says she politicized Minnesota attorney general's office". Star Tribune. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
- Scheck, Tom (December 21, 2009). "Swanson picked as one of "Top Ten Lawyers of the Year."". Minnesota Public Radio.
- "HL20: LORI SWANSON—TAKING A STAND ON BILL COLLECTION EFFORTS".
- Ziegler, Suzanne (October 22, 2009). "Attorney general honored for consumer advocacy work". Star Tribune.
- "Attorney General Swanson Receives "Pro Patria" Award". April 21, 2009.
- "The Attorneys General: Lori Swanson (D)". National Association of Attorneys General. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- "UW-Madison journalism school celebrates alumni achievements".
- "2014 GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS". Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
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