Thursday, January 19, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott Awards Over $360,000 For Consumer Law Program At Southern Methodist University

DALLAS - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today appeared at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law to formally announce more than $360,000 in funding to expand consumer law services for the university.

The funds are part of the liquidation of Mark Nutritionals Inc., which is currently in Chapter 7 bankruptcy in San Antonio. The Attorney General sued the company in December 2002 for its widespread deceptive marketing and sale of weight-loss products known as “Body Solutions.” The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2002 seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11.

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The case was converted to Chapter 7 liquidation in April 2003, and the Attorney General ultimately persuaded the bankruptcy court that the funds remaining in the case could best be used to advance consumer law education in Texas.

“It is appropriate that we are helping Texas consumers with money we won in court from a company that defrauded Texas consumers,” said Attorney General Abbott.

The University of Houston will also receive an award to supplement its consumer law program, bringing the total amount of funding to $727,000. Since it was impossible to refund $727,000 remaining in the bankruptcy case to approximately two million consumers who were owed $190 million, Attorney General Abbott urged the funding of the law clinics as an alternative, beneficial use of the funds.

SMU’s Dedman School of Law Civil Clinic will focus its Consumer Advocacy Project on Spanish-speaking consumers, assisting them with specifics of informal dispute resolution to prevent possible fraud.

“My office has has been fighting scams targeting the Hispanic community since I took office in December 2002, and this development we are announcing today with the law school will enhance those enforcement efforts,” Attorney General Abbott added.

The project will also advocate for consumers involved in formal mediation to resolve disputes. The Civil Clinic has provided legal representation for low-income clients in the Dallas area for almost 60 years.

The University of Houston’s Center for Consumer Law plans to provide assistance to consumers in the metropolitan area who experience problems with defective goods or services, debt collectors and identity theft, landlord-tenant problems or bankruptcy. The center will establish an informational Web site for consumers and a telephone help line, as well as provide trained law student mediators to help consumers with disputes.